A Time To Lament

The cat was grumpy. I was standing at the counter waiting to pay for the consultation and to get an appointment for the booster shot (Not-So-Little Cat’s jabs had lapsed). The receptionist was stood talking past me to the slightly older lady with two terrier type dogs.

“I’m like a radiator, honestly. In a way that my family doesn’t understand. Not an actual radiator, but it just feels like it.”

“Oh I know, I’m in my 50s and I still get flutters of it.”

Two late middle-aged women talking about getting hot? Not a conversation I wanted to hear.

“Okay, no, stop it right there. I don’t want to hear about it.” Not-So-Little Cat meowed her agreement.

“I don’t know what you’re on about,” said the receptionist oh so primly. The cat offered her opinion. The receptionist gave me an appointment time. The cat disagreed.

“Someone’s a little grumpy,” the receptionist observed. I decided to assume she was referring to the cat.

And when I got home I gave myself a think-over.

Because apart from the fact that I was obviously not supposed to act on my suspicions that they were discussing menopause symptoms (it was a public space, I’m not stupid, I really don’t want to know about women doing radiator impressions!), my response had definitely been more aggressive than I would like.

Feelings on the inside wanting to come out, and leaking through in a moment of impatience.

And not happy feelings either.

I know, because they have been dancing their way merrily up the stairs from my sub-conscious for at least a week (and probably longer. Some had been hiding a while.)

Loss. Grief. Sadness. Doubt. Fear. Brokenness. Missed opportunities and lost potential. Anger. Despair. Anxiety. Regret. Sorrow.

All those things we are not supposed to admit to feeling. All those things that, when bad things happen, we try to sweep under the carpet or stuff in a box in the cupboard and say that we’ve “dealt with it”. We are pushed to “move on” and “get over it”, and then we wonder why, months and years down the line we break down – except we never admit how broken we really are. Not to others, and more importantly, not to ourselves.

We go from feeling like a radiator – everything exploding with heat on the inside – to “I don’t know what you’re on about” as fast as we possibly can. Or faster, even.

But the title of this post is “A Time To Lament”, and lamenting, as a rule, is a vocal, expressive thing. In South Africa, the black population has a tradition of ululating at times of great emotion, including as a display of grief at funerals. Of course, it is sometimes excessive, and it’s definitely loud, but it’s also expressive. It’s a sound beyond words. It’s grief in loud moans, and it gets the feelings that are inside out. It’s the start of a process whereby you can acknowledge the feelings, and find a way to live with them.

*This is just an example I found. I’m not endorsing the website or anything. 

Acknowledging feelings. Talking about them. Being honest. Bringing uncomfortable realities out into the light of day so that we don’t have to deal with them on our own. Owning the sadness. So that is won’t own me.

Those are all skills I learned as a South African. I sure wish I could pass them on.

Perhaps that is my real lament.

But it’s alright, I understand. I know that you don’t know what I’m talking about.


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