In Sharp Contrast

© 2003 Michele Toomey, PhD


September 25, 2003

We just came from celebrating your birthday with Bea and Lucy and Marion. Everything went so well. You were totally surprised by their presence, they even brought a cake, the spirit was warm and fun loving, the meal was delicious. Then you ask as we drive home, "Now just help me get connected. What day is it?" As you leave you somberly say you wish you could be more stable. It is a common occurrence, but a hard one. From total engagement to total disconnection in a flash. No warning. Just a query. Of course it dampens your spirit and sobers you. It sobers us.

I am used to reconciling paradox. It is my life's work, but this phenomenon is different. Paradox is not relevant. Contrast is. And one doesn't reconcile "contrast". By its very nature, contrast is a static state. So we must deal with this presence/absence differently. It must remain in "sharp contrast." What is there to do with that fact? Accept it. Learn to switch gears quickly. Deal with it.

Emotionally it's difficult to keep up with and harder to do quickly. Anger is a by product of sporadic disconnection. But anger ruins celebration. It even spoils acceptance. Sadness is a dampening factor, but not as aggressive as anger. Yet, its pervasive heaviness permeates our mood. Emotionally we are dramatically challenged to be mobile. Stability is tied to mobility. A strange realization. Now that is a paradox.

We are on an emotional roller coaster triggered by contrasting states of joyful connection or devastating disconnection. Anger and sadness, even fear are now added to the mix. How do we land on our feet without losing the joy or dismissing the disconnection and its many hard emotions? By becoming very agile and sure footed in the midst of spontaneous upheaval.

Psychologically we must become acrobats. Flipped around and up into the air, we must land on our feet. So, on this, your 69th birthday, when aging is catching up with us, we must psychologically be limber. The upheaval of going from focused attention and eagerness, to lack of recall and fearfulness, must be met by emotional agility and resilience.

Each time you lose your connection, we'll reach out to re-connect. Each time you're excited and joyful, we'll reach out and join you. Emotionally we'll hang on tight as the roller coaster climbs and plummets. It wouldn't be our choice, but we have no choice. We choose to be with you. That dictates living with sharp contrasts and emotional challenges. In a few short minutes we may go from light hearted laughter to sober repetition. And we will. Happy Birthday, Marlene! We are here to celebrate with you and if necessary, crash into disconnection with you. If mobility is a prerequisite for being with you and connected to you, then mobility it is! Happy Birthday!

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