Have you ever felt that way? That you were hiding, but in plain sight. I have been feeling that way since around November 2011. I’ve been working just as hard as ever, attending and giving lectures and workshops, immersing myself in work with my clients, preparing for changes in the future, growing my business, continuing my studies. Sticking to my big plan.
But, I noticed something the other day. I’ve been hiding the non-professional part of myself. I’ve been hiding in plain sight. I’m still around, still visible, still accessible—but I’ve been hiding.
Let me give an example. I keep all of my social media sites active. However, I have other people help me keep them updated with professional stuff and like with Facebook, I no longer post personal items at all. And I’m not talking about ridiculous updates people post about whatever personal issues they’re having, but more like things just about my life and not about work. Maybe that I’m having a rough day because of whatever, or I’m having a good day because of whatever or here’s a picture of this really cool thing I found at a really cool place. You know, snippets of life.
‘Where did Cole go?’ I thought. I peeked through my Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. And I discovered it was all mostly professional-type updates.
I never advocate publicizing your whole life on the internet, but I do think there is a certain amount of healthy sharing. Sharing about things that are important, and true. Life is interesting and joyous, and so should that be reflected.
I realized why I’ve been hiding, though.
I’ve been grieving.
Grieving for a lot of things, all at once. And I decided I’d like to talk about it here a little.
In November, my Aunt Susan passed away very suddenly. She was also my Godmother, my Mom’s best friend, and one of my more regular pen pals.
Do you know how awful it is to lose a pen pal? I’d never lost one to death before. It is a really awful feeling to send a letter and know you’ll never get one back. It is hard to flip through my pen pal log and land on her entry and to realize, again, and painfully, that I’ll never again update that page with an item received or sent. That is one of the saddest, deepest, empty things I’ve ever experienced.
Her death has been very hard on me, as it has been on everyone else she left behind. I think part of why it has been so hard is because she knew so many of my secrets. Secrets I shared with her in letters. Nothing major, just little things you don’t really tell anyone unless you know they’ll understand. She is one of the few family members I had that knew so much of me, and now she is gone.
All of this hiding, even in plain sight, was–is–just false protection. A way to make myself feel a sense of safety, even if it is not real. And that is what happens when people grieve. They may seem the same as ever if you bump into them, but look close and you might discover that they are hiding in plain sight.
You see, when people grieve, they have a hole. A hole where whatever was lost, once was. Sometimes they sit next to that hole and stare into it and can’t look away at anything else. Sometimes, they protect that hole. They protect that hole by hiding themselves. If you don’t see me, you won’t see my hole. Sometimes, people quickly fill the hole up with other things, stuffing everything in and packing it in tight.
Grief, friends. Grief. It is ugly, and sad, and messy.
I’ve been doing the second thing—the hole is there, but I’ve been hiding it by hiding myself.
You know, it’s funny. I’m working towards a Thanatology Certificate (Thanatology is the study of death) and so through my grief studies, I’ve learned all these things. It sure took me awhile to identify these things in myself and to connect the dots.
I also lost my ability to have children. I mean, I didn’t lose it like I woke up one day it was gone, but it is not an option for me and I’ve known about it for years. I am at the age in life where my peers are going through and experiencing the joys of having children. And I get to experience it with them, and be joyful about it with them, too. It’s just I realize I still have a hole there myself. At the time I found out about this years ago, I was very sick and dealing with health issues spiraling out of control. This particular hole, I realized, I just filled up with stuff to make it go away so I could focus on everything else that needed my attention. But, it’s still there, you know? Even though it’s filled in, it’s still there. I need to empty it.
And, my life has changed since November. My husband and I had to move suddenly, abruptly and without notice. We had a building we were purchasing luckily, but the group we were purchasing from essentially disintegrated, leaving us house-less. We are in flux, and have been in flux for awhile. And I really don’t know where we’ll land. I am grieving the loss of my rock-solid, organized, planned-out life. You know, that’s not totally true. I’m still organized, my day is still planned….it’s just that the form that it took is gone, and I didn’t have time to prepare for it. So I feel it. I feel it when I wake up.
Holes. I think we all have them, don’t we? I do know that hiding, even if you keep yourself entirely visible, is not a solution and will not make that hole go away. It just kind of preserves it.
That said, grief is, well, it’s heavy. Thanks for letting me lighten my load. My holes aren’t as ugly as I thought and I’m betting some of you have similar holes of your own.