I’ve just finished She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb for the second time. And for the second time, I am amazed that a man wrote this book with such clarity about a woman’s struggle to find herself. The book is excellent, as is the writing. The story is riveting and haunting.
Also, for the second time, I am touched… and pissed. Why am I pissed? Because her story is universal… a tale of loss, neglect and abuse that happens to too many of us.
It is also a story of hope and love… and (spoiler alert) it ends on that note. For that, I am grateful.
This second reading went a little differently than the first and because of it, I am left with a different conclusion… and yes, the answer to my questions about anger and forgiveness… and what it means to come undone.
I have to begin with my health anxiety and hypochondria. You’ll wonder why. Here’s the answer: People like me (with health anxiety and hypochondria) do not understand the concept of “normal”. (You will find my previous posts about this subject HERE, if interested.) Because of this, every symptom and physical feeling comes under scrutiny. Is this real? Is this serious? Is this deadly? I think there is an underlying question that’s just as likely: Is this normal?
As a lifelong asthmatic, I struggled with this question early on. I’d be running, riding my bike, or swimming, when suddenly I’d become short of breath. Later, I’d be jogging, helping my dad in the yard, riding horses or dancing the night away and suddenly become short of breath. Sometimes, I’d be sleeping and dreaming of sand storms, then wake up short of breath.
In all cases, I’d get my asthma inhaler and take a puff. All might be well… or not. Sometimes, it just didn’t work. Was it asthma? Was it an allergic reaction? Was it something more serious? Or a normal reaction to exertion?
When I started getting migraines, you can imagine the scenarios that went through my head (pun!). Brain tumor? Brain tumor? BRAIN TUMOR? The thing about migraines is that they are originally diagnosed by symptomology, not medical tests. I didn’t have a brain scan until I was in my 50s, when they found spots on my brain that proved I had actual migraines.
Anyway, point is – normal. I had trouble knowing what it looked like, especially when it came to my health. Except, it wasn’t just my health. It was everything.
Which is how I came undone.
The last twenty years have been filled with ups-and-downs. All have been written about in passing or in detail throughout this blog so I won’t delve deeply here: Infidelity, divorce, leaving a job I loved, moving thousands of miles (and into another country) from everything and everyone I knew, remarriage, financial ruin, loss of our home, separation from my husband for six months, death, a suicide attempt, major depressive episode, the birth of my grandson, getting and then leaving my dream job with cats, another major depressive episode, cancer, more death, unemployment, another death, loss of my closest friend by an email goodbye, and another death, Dad’s fall and more death, and yet another cancer scare in the family that has yet to be resolved, another significant financial surprise and finally, Dad is still not out of the woods though we’re all trying to remain positive and upbeat.
Yesterday, as I was going through everything, I thought of my former son-in-law. I remember crying when he and my daughter divorced because… I loved him. Things like this do not make the list but they’re there. Do you know what I mean?
Love. Hurt. Hope. Fear. Humiliation. Anger. Grief.
I think of my former therapist, Amy, who used to say, “The pain you feel is real. But I also want you to know, many of the things you’re struggling with happen to everyone.”
I remember feeling… embarrassed… then relief…
“Why embarrassed?” Amy asked.
“Because I should have known,” I said, hanging my head.
“Forgive yourself. You know now,” she said. I looked up. Her warm brown eyes were filled with kindness.
I know now.
It’s normal. I’m normal. Yeah, I’ve got some issues – for sure. But… for everyone… life is not always easy. In fact, it’s often difficult.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” ― M. Scott Peck,
I’d come undone because I forgot that life is difficult. Simple. Yet, so profound.