Wednesday, May 17, 2006

You Can't Understand Your Heart With Your Brain

It's a January night. Mister J and I are lounging in his bed after reading several picture books. We've just told a story about his two favorite dogs. He wants another.

Me: Honey, I’m sorry but I don’t want to tell another story because I’m not feeling very good.

J: Where are you not feeling good?

Me: [pointing to heart] Right here.

J: Why?

Me: I don’t know.

J: I know why. Because you have the feelings like you need to go potty.

Me: It’s not that kind of feeling.

J: What kind of feeling is it?

Me: It’s a sad feeling.

J: Where’d the happy feelings go?

Me: I don’t know.

J: I know where they are. They’re in their beds sleeping. They went to bed because it’s dark outside.

His understanding is tied to his body and what he can see. He can understand a physical feeling, and really, that's where many of us grownups feel our emotions, too. We are just in the habit of using our cerebral cortex to analyze and evaluate them. [See Women's Moods by Sichel and Driscoll for lots of fascinating info on how memories and emotions are processed by the brain.] I try to make it so he can understand, but how can he really understand? And why should I burden him? He is three years old.

He wants to be sure I still love him, that I'm not going to leave him. That's what really matters.

So I try to find my love. I am so ashamed at how buried my love is, that this illness bedeviling my body and soul smothers attachment and affection. Even for my children. Where is it, exactly? I scan my organs for locations. The closest thing I can find is a small notion of gentleness in my shriveled heart.

I smooth J's soft brown hair. He wiggles with pleasure. I kiss him on the forehead.

"Goodnight," I say.


Vicki said...

You are an amazing and loving mother! Isn't it surprising how much those little touches soothe a little one? You are to be commended for your willingness to have a dialog about what is happening inside you.

susie said...

wow, thanks, vicki. I was certain I'd get more comments about what a terrible mother I am for yeling at my kids (not from my friends, though!).

Ellen said...

This is a beautiful little true story, a little "short story" all of its own. And your soft kiss at the end is the pearl coming through the fish shit!

Miss J said...

Susie- you are brave and amazing for putting these feelings to paper. I love reading about these moments, these "wisdoms" that you are finding along the path. Love you.