Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Damaged Goods

Hello. My name is Natalie and I am broken. (You all say: "Hi, Natalie!) I have a few different posts in the drafts department addressing this issue. However, it wasn't until a couple of comments from my hubby this week that I have finally decided to throw this subject out into the blogging universe. I have never broken a bone in my life. I do not have any chipped or cracked nails to speak of. I barely even have any split ends. The harsh reality though... I am utterly broken. For all of my pseudo outer strength, it has become clear that my insides are something like scratched Teflon. Black, things rarely stick, and the few areas that things do stick are because there's some sort of damage that makes me hold on to things that are in fact not supposed to stick. I've "scrubbed' and "scrubbed" to get rid of the stuff that isn't supposed to stick (like priding myself on my lack of tears) in order to make room for the stuff that is (like being able to cry), but sometimes I think that all of that scrubbing is just making my Teflon more scratched. And I really don't want that because as bizarre as some people may think that having a slippery black heart may be, it's REALLY convenient. My Teflon has served me well, People.

They say that admitting to weakness is really a sign of strength. You're supposedly "strong in your vulnerability". So, I envy other people who can just be emotional. I have NO CLUE how to do that. For a long time, I prided myself on my lack of tears. I thought it meant that I could handle anything that came my way. My husband says that it means I'm cold though. I said, "Of course I'm cold! It's freaking 26 degrees out!" He didn't laugh. I guess because I've also always prided myself on laughing things off. Humor helps. Or at least that's what I thought. He just looked at me with this face that said, "You sad, sad, creature. You don't really know how pathetic that is, do you?"

I feel somewhat defensive about these accusations. He makes it sound like he thinks I'm some weird, psychopathic monster. After 13 years of marriage, you would think he would know me better than that! I'm not incapable of love. I can sympathize with the best of them. I just have a tendency to rationalize why things aren't a big deal. Other people allow themselves to be overcome with emotion and act on impulse. When they feel angry, sad, scared, etc. they scream and cry or act out one way or another. I usually just go, "Oh, okay..." and deal. Now, whether the way that I "deal" is healthy or not... I'm not the one to say. It FEELS fine. It apparently freaks my husband out. He listed off a whole bunch of examples of times that I have been inappropriately stoic. Who knew I was scaring people with my lack of emotion?

This week, when my grandpa died, I was sad. I calmly talked to my mom on the phone when she told me, then came out and calmly told Dustin the news. I got out some old pictures and looked through them and then wrote a blog about him. Dustin kept coming up and hugging me tight and (with tears in HIS eyes) surveying my face for some sign of emotional breakdown. After a while, he asked me why I wasn't more upset. I told him because we mourn for those of us that are left behind, not the ones that pass on. My grandpa is in a better place. I think that the hardest losses to take are when you had unfinished business with someone. The wife who just had a fight with her husband and said some cruel words as he drove away before getting in a car wreck. The mother who lost a child and wasn't able to experience all of the stages of raising them. I didn't have any unfinished business with my grandpa though. I had already gotten more love and support from him than a lot of people receive in a lifetime. I have nothing but gratitude for the time that I did have with him. So, why would I NEED to put on a big display of grief?

Now, Dustin is concerned that I may not cry at his own funeral (barring an unexpected turn of events resulting in unfinished business, of course.) He pointed out that he's never seen me cry at a funeral. I NEVER cry during movies. I NEVER cry when I get bad news. So, he thinks it's probable that my eyes will be dry when he dies. Obviously, I can't predict how I would react, but I'm assuming that losing my spouse would probably spur tears. But even if I DIDN'T cry... that doesn't mean I loved him any less. It probably just means that I'm mentally checking off all of the reasons why it's going to be okay & making mental notes of all the things that I appreciate or want to remember. That's how my mind works. I usually step back and assess the situation and find the solution or at least the positive before I bother waisting any energy freaking out. I REALLY hate the way it feels to freak out. Alternately, I love the empowerment of being able stay calm. There's a certain confidence in being pro-active about things instead of well, just crumbling. I hope he realizes someday that it's a useful trait when he's upset and I'm able to handle things for the both of us. Seriously, it's people like me who can stay cool under pressure that can act as crutches for the people who are falling apart. So, call it psychopathic or cold or whatever you want to call it... I still really like my Teflon. Oh, and my heart really isn't black. I swear. Certain individuals just assume that because I have a good poker face and prefer to analyze things.

Maybe that does mean I'm broken. Maybe I'd really be "living" if I just threw caution to the wind and went through life FEELING my way through situations rather than strategizing and interpreting shades of grey. I'm sure I could pick up a Dr. Phil book about this or something... but damaged goods or not, I dunno. That's what he says.


  1. Oh my goodness! I totally understand! My grandpa died this week, and I haven't cried either. However, I am actually a generally emotional person, but this was a happy thing for our family. He didn't have a quality of life anymore. And while I'm said he's gone, I'm not sad he's not on earth anymore.

    And I'm not sure if I will cry at the funeral either. In fact, most of my family is OK.

  2. Maybe it's related to the non-broken bones. I've never broken any either, and I'm not altogether emotional. (Although, unlike you, movies are my crying outlet:) ).

    If you break a bone and all of a sudden are more emotional, let me know.

  3. You are just a stoic person with inner strength, I am a big blubbering too emotional person who would love a wee bit of teflon!!

  4. This is so funny to me, because when you put it this way, I realized this is my most favorite "Natalie" quality. You seriously are a rock. No matter what irrational thing happens, I never have to worry that you'll get offended, upset, hurt, or otherwise, because I know you'll first think through all the "other" possibilities, and develop a few likely scenarios that abolish the need for negative reactions.

    And you're right - this is one of the reasons you two are so perfect for each other!