Being Southern makes grieving a whole lot harder.
Grief isn’t nice.
Grieving is so not nice.
Those of us reared down in the Deep do things because we know we should, because we were taught we should.
Those of us reared down here know not do other things because we were taught we shouldn’t.
It isn’t nice to be ugly to people.
It isn’t kind to refuse things people offer.
It isn’t appropriate to interrupt someone when they are speaking.
It isn’t acceptable to say that you are mad as hell when you really are, mad as hell.
It isn’t polite to use more than a “Bless your heart,” when what you really mean is, “You are a blooming idiot.”
It isn’t even remotely close to being even near to okay to say, out loud, that you just may not know what you believe anymore.
So trying to grieve authentically and being authentically Southern at the same time is a mixed gift pack.
It keeps you from being as raw as you feel when you are in public. That is a good thing.
It keeps you from being blunt when you can be soft and basically say the same thing. That is a good thing.
It keeps you from blurting socially unacceptable thoughts in social situations. That is a good thing.
It keeps you from hurting the feelings of someone who is genuinely trying to be loving. That is a good thing.
Because all of the above is not about you.
It is about who is in front of you.
And I don’t care what part of the country or world you live in: You can’t control the people in front of you, but you can control your reaction to them.
And being polite and kind and having manners is important.
Sincerely, it is.
That is one thing I can get behind, even still.
I do know that to be true.
So, though in many private moments, I tell myself that I don’t have to care, no matter how Southern I am, I do.
Because I am.
And because, I actually do.
But because of that, I can’t say a whole lot of stuff that rolls around in my head all day and all night.
And because of that, I have to restrain my reactions when I’m faced with a situation which, if I reacted naturally, would make someone feel really, really terrible.
Or would make me feel really, really terrible.
It has taken my mother a very long time to realize that I get really, really, really, REALLY mad about things. And sometimes, I say, out loud, just exactly how mad I am.
I don’t put them on a billboard.
I don’t publish them in the paper.
Usually, I don’t write them on Facebook. Sometimes I do. I do when I feel like my really really really really mad is probably universal. Or at least statewide.
I usually just say them to the people to whom I am the closest.
On my back porch.
In her den.
On her back patio.
In a group message.
Nobody else knows. Just the people I tell.
Just the people I know I can tell.
But, as I’ve gotten older, I have become much more vocal about things that just fly all over me.
And if I am confronted with someone who doesn’t adhere to the same core values of just be nice right this minute and you can go home and cuss them out later so that they can’t hear you, I don’t always do so well.
My mama hates that.
My daddy hated it, too.
They really like nice.
They really like appropriate.
Because they are both really nice and really appropriate.
And they expect that of me. I get it. I want to be nice and appropriate. I do.
But sometimes, the moment calls for being not nice and inappropriate–and I have searched and searched and searched my soul, way, WAY before I became The Destroyed–but I can’t find a place inside me that can reconcile being nice when you just freaking don’t feel like being nice because there is nothing nice around you and somebody has got to say something.
Kinda like that show What Would You Do? Well, I pretty much know what I would do.
Because sometimes, the moment calls for not nice and inappropriate, and I don’t care how Southern that moment is.
Sometimes, your passion is just that great, and you can’t hold it in, because whatever touched the nerve is seriously who you are.
Mess with that kid? You are probably not going to walk for very long.
Hurt the elderly? Enjoy being crippled.
Talk ugly about someone I love, especially when you don’t know that whole story? Well, I wouldn’t grace you with the whole story, but let me just say this….
Have no manners? Let me show you all about some manners….
There really are some situations, even all the way down here, that just call for being honest.
They call for being transparent.
They call for being real.
They call for being mean as hell.
They call for being sad as hell.
They call for being confused as hell.
Because that is How. You. Feel.
I would love to apologize for my feelings–all of the ones you have read here–because they are not appropriate.
I know that. Believe me, how well do I know.
I can’t serve these ugly, broken, insensitive, garish feelings on my Nana’s china.
I can’t, and I won’t.
What is here is what I reserve for here.
It is no where else. It is not with my children. It is not with my family. It is not with my closest friends. It isn’t with the people I encounter on a daily basis. It isn’t with my pastor. It isn’t with the people who make my day miserable because they take too long or they drive too slowly or they don’t hold the door open for me or they don’t say “Excuse me,” when clearly, they should. It isn’t with anyone who works for Comcast, though they would be a phenomenal target.
It is not with anyone.
It is HERE.
And there is a good reason for that.
Because if it wasn’t here, it would be trapped inside of me.
And if it stayed trapped inside of me, at some point, in some way, it would be with my children. It would be with my family. It would be with my closest friends. It would be with the people I encounter on a daily basis. It would be with my pastor.
And it would most certainly be with all of the people who take too long, drive too slowly, don’t hold the door open the door for me or don’t say, “Excuse me.”
In that scenario, I would open an account that I didn’t need with Comcast just so I could yell at each and every “customer service representative” (and I use that in quotes purposefully) all day long, every day of the week.
My feelings, which run the gamut every day, all day long, would get spewed on everyone with whom I came into contact.
And I do not want to do that.
I am way too Southern for that.
I am way too loving for that.
Despite what you read here, I do care how people feel.
My parents taught me well.
Most of it took.
But despite what you think you may know about me, I am not afraid to stand up when I know how I feel.
And right now, today, this minute, I am flat mad as hell.
But I am also sad as hell.
I’m so mad because I loved that much.
I’m so mad because I was loved that much.
I’m so sad because I miss the love that much.
And I’m confused as hell, because it is just confusing.
It is brain-twisting, heart-wrenching, there-is-no-answer-but-there-has-to-be-an-answer confusing.
And I think I can deal with the sad, and I think I can deal with the mad, but you toss the confusing in there and my brain just can’t function on any normal level.
It just can’t.
I just can’t.
And I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not.
Because I’m mad, sad, and ridiculously confused.
The South has produced glorious, beautiful, genuine people who live their lives making sure they play by the rules.
It has also produced glorious, beautiful, genuine rebels who can’t stand to play by the rules.
And then, there are those of us trapped somewhere in between.
Grief is an animal from a whole ‘nother planet. It makes you not who you are, not who you were, not who you ever thought you would be, not who you ever wanted to be.
It exposes you from the inside out, and when you have to conceal that rip down the middle of who you are, you take it somewhere else.
You take it where it can be exposed, or the wound will seep and bleed everywhere…everywhere the gore doesn’t need to be.
I take my rip here.
Southern grief is not just from another planet.
Southern grief is another planet.
And we do the best we can, y’all.
We do the very best we can.