When we get our hearts broken, when we lose someone we care about, when we lose our jobs, lose our vision, lose our faith, we can feel our running-stitched seams–the ones that hold in all that weird, fluffy emotion stuffing inside–being severed.
And when this happens, we become consumed by the pain of our missing stitches.
Inevitably when we’re in such an undone state, the world won’t seem to let us be. Up pops a work project, or a professional meeting, or some distant acquaintance whose presence demands that we somewhat keep it together.
Like how people you haven’t seen in ages have a way of turning up at funerals. Or how the neighbor wants to chat about HOA dues right after you’ve had a gangbuster of a fight with your spouse. Or how work is always there. The client is waiting. The boss is waiting. You have to go in tomorrow and do your best to be whole.
It’s terrible when we’re prevented from doing what we think we want to do, which is to pull out the rest of our stuffing, and pancake onto our beds. Not talk to people. Not catch up with some friend of your mom’s you haven’t seen since you were five. Not be expected to appear as a functioning human in front of people, when all we want to do is be left alone to lie flatly.
“Can’t you see I’m not even a person right now??” We want to say. “Can’t you see I have this big, ripped seam? Can’t you just let me be??”
When we’re the furthest thing from okay, there is an ironic way in which the inclination to seem as though we’re okay in the presence of others pushes us in that direction.
That detestable interaction or responsibility or commitment can be what saves us.
It reminds us of how we were before. It allows us to reoccupy the role of who we principally hold ourselves to be. It tells us, even when we can’t hardly believe that such a thing could be true, or will ever be for us, that life continues.
Meaningless small talk, unrelenting work projects, even discussions about the record-high temperatures in Arizona, these things help us begin to feel whole again.
The presence of others and of routine responsibilities invite us to reconnect with life, ordinary as it may be at times, and with vitality in the wake of sorrow and despair.
The people in our lives with ripped seams need us to stay close to them, not timidly fade into the background for fear of saying the wrong thing. Because the truth is, it doesn’t matter what we say, whether it’s blathering on about career plans and deadlines and the weather and stupid TV shows, or just sitting in silence on the other end of the telephone. What matters is that we don’t leave a ripped-open person alone with their pain.
Our presence may be their best reminder at what normal feels like.