Why do gratitude and grief feel the same in my chest, in my throat?
When I was a child, I cried so often that it became a family joke: Dad said I even cried at supermarket openings.
As an adolescent, my tears had hallmarks: frustration, rage, hysteria, laughter – my almost-sister called it “laughing tears” – pain, desire, joy.
In that awful netherworld between adolescence and adulthood, I determined that I must live atop a well of sadness, there could be no other reason for the plethora of moisture that routinely depended from my eyes.
The next phases of life, too numerous to iterate, were filled with everything they could possibly hold and then some, all of which spilled forth. Until they didn’t. Until I learned to close my borders, to contain and become continent for fear that any small leak would burst the dam and destroy me.
And now, when a person I respect with everything in me shows me equal respect and approbation, I find myself crying again. I’m not quite laughing tears, although the gratitude that someone “gets” me and my work couldn’t be more positive, more superlative in every meaning of the word. Yet it also brings up the grief I’ve stored from a lifetime of lack of recognition – I’m not talking “public recognition,” I’ve been so very fortunate to have often been recognized by being depended upon professionally – but there has been such a notable paucity of meetings of work ethics, of senses of humor, of minds, that these are things I’ve learned to just suck-it-up and get on without.
They say that what you’re looking for often appears when you stop looking. I’ve always asked, how do you stop looking? And now I have my answer. Not everyone’s answer, more than like, but mine.
You put your head down and do your work. You do it with your heart and soul and mind, and when it’s done, you get on to the next job. And the next. And the next. If you’re very fortunate, the ripples that emanate from you will resonate somewhere.
And you’ll be left with that bittersweet dichotomy, the twinned emotions of gratitude and grief.