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Jack Fruit

When I entered adulthood some really horrible things happened in my life and I suffered an incalculable loss. I don’t want to get into specifics because it won’t serve me any more than the events did themselves, but to be succinct and vague, a pillar of my life was gone and I was reduced to rubble on the street.

What I do want to get into, however is grief. And how it lives inside of us like a parasite who eventually becomes a vital organ. Nestled between the ribs and heart. Or tucked behind the liver. Rooted in veins and tied up in nerves.

At first I was incredibly angry. I would have these dreams where I would scream. I’d be in a gym, or a grocery store or my friends driveway and I’d just start screaming. It was the kind of dreams you’d wake up from and your throat would hurt from holding so much tension.

I was angry for a long time. I could feel it bubbling under the surface of my skin. Constantly making my temperature raise and my anger flare. I carried it around with me like a shield over my heart. It kept me rigid and cold and unfeeling for many years of my life.

Eventually that anger faded - as it’s meant to do - and I was met with an overwhelming sadness. Like I had been swept under a tidal wave. Unsure where the surface was or if I’d ever see it again. My shield slid off of my body, like my internal temperature had finally melted the metal and caused it to slip onto the floor, and there I was, naked and hollow. Unable to support the weight my body, I fell to the floor next to the molten puddle that was once the barrier between myself and my grief.

And I stayed there for a long time. Peering up at the world wondering when I would join it. And if anyone had noticed I was gone.

But that can’t last. The world demands participation, so I eventually made my way to my feet.

Not without scars. Eventually your body adjust to the positions you contort it into. My knees felt warped from being curled under the weight of my thighs. My ribs were bent at strange angles. I couldn’t fully open my eyes. My throat was dry and 50% it’s original size from the lack of speaking and sharing I’d done the past couple years.

But I did rejoin the world, a slightly sharper and smaller version of myself, but myself all the same. And I learned a lot during my reentrance. There’s a certain level of grief you’re allowed to share. Not have. You can have an unlimited amount of grief. You can go home every night and sob yourself to sleep. You can stare at a TV for hours on end, not quite retaining anything but not comfortable enough in your own silence to turn it off. You can sit on the floor of your shower and let the hot water burn your skin. You can have as much grief as you want, but you can’t share it all. There is a limit to that. People don’t like to think there is, but I promise there is. And it’s different for everyone, but everyone has their limit and once that limit is reached you are painfully aware of it.

I couldn’t walk around the world in pain, I’d have to save that for the floor of my shower, so I started practicing something called ‘deflective vulnerability’. It’s the practice of being almost uncomfortably honest about certain parts of your life so that people don’t question the hidden and shadowy parts of you that you don’t want to share. It brands you with the illusion of being an ‘open’ person. No one feels the need to dig deep because they figure you’ve done the digging for them.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most people who walk around with the adjective ‘vulnerable’ painted on them are deeply not so. Maybe that’s a projection on my part, but I’m only sharing what I know and what I’ve experienced. I think we witness it a lot in online spaces. That’s why we’re always reminded that social media is a lie. You aren’t entitled to every part of everyone life and the parts that they share with you may not even be true. It’s like a slight of hand trick. I share this part of myself so you don’t even notice the other half of me that’s quickly slipping away offstage. Ready to collapse in a dark corner of the room.

Part of why I do this is from experiencing shame or rejection. Being misunderstood. Realizing I gave too much of myself to someone who wasn’t going to hold it the way they said they would. And part of it comes from wanting to protect myself. I feel like I’m constantly trying to decipher the difference between self-preservation and ego. It’s a thin line. If you’ve figured out the distinction, please let me know.

All of this to say, right now in my life I’m experiencing a new kind if grief and a new kind of sadness. It’s confusing and sharp and familiar. It was a big reason I wanted to start writing again. And writing in a way that was honest. And not deflective.

So far, it’s been difficult. I feel nervous and exposed and very susceptible to pain. But I also feel relief and catharsis. I’m glad I’m sharing, and I’m glad I’m sharing with you.

So if you’re reading this and you’re a part of Jack Fruit, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be open and thank you for your kindness and your patience. I hope it helps if you need to be helped and if not, I hope it gives you something to read while you sit on the subway tomorrow.

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