A nearby neighbor died night before last, ending a painful vigil for his family and ushering in a new reality for them. Transitions of such magnitude can leave loved ones awash in grief, even when the inevitable end is expected and, in some sense, is a welcome relief. I suspect that the relief comes with painful guilt, though that relief arises from the fact his suffering is over. I do not know they feel relief; experience, though, tells me the emotion is a likely accompaniment to his death. Even so, the guilt probably will never fully recede; it will remain, always causing them to wonder how one can feel relief in such painful circumstances. There is no salve to deaden the pain of that guilt; time is the closest thing to an anesthetic.
Emotional pain is perhaps the most agonizing kind. It isn’t limited to a specific place on the body, a place centered on an illness or injury. Instead, it permeates every cell. It fills the chest full to the point it might explode. It inhabits every square millimetre of one’s head, replacing thought with immeasurable anguish. Time is only a slow-acting analgesic. Crying, unleashed from behind an emotional dam, can relieve some of the pressure. But when a solid emotional dam breaks, it can release a torrent of terrorizing sobs and tears so fierce almost everyone in its path sprints away, seeking safety from the flood. There’s a reason we tend to call such a stunning, unexpected emotional event by a descriptive name: emotional outburst. Emotional outbursts, especially those involving unstoppable tears and sobs that arise from deep within, can frighten people away. That’s why we try to stifle them. Even steadfast friends scatter in frantic attempts to save themselves from drowning when the dam breaks. Subsequently, the dam’s engineer and builder is judged weak and inadequate. It is a bit like finally crawling to shore, only to be crushed by a broken slab of the shattered barrier.
A single pill that would deliver instant serenity. A pill that instantly soothes the tense muscles in one’s neck and shoulders and jaws. A tablet that, the moment it is swallowed, drains cares away. A capsule that transforms anxiety into peaceful contentment. That’s all I want. Even if several pills were required to alleviate all the symptoms, I would take them. And I would offer them to anyone else who would benefit from the magic of the medications. I know a few people who need those pills. I do. My wife does. And there are others. Even if their effects were short-lived, the respite they provide might be enough to let one’s normal defenses take over.
I hear the sound of paper being torn. No, that the sound of a tear in the fabric of my thoughts. It’s like my thoughts are being run through a paper shredder, but the blades of the shredder are dull. Instead of slicing my thoughts into cross-cut squares, the blades are tearing them into irregular strips. This cannot go on. I can make no sense of these misshapen fragments.