When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran
We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. ~Kenji Miyazawa
It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ~Colette
Kris has tagged me with a meme which asks me to reveal seven strange things about myself.
Well, shortly before I switched to the new blog, the Miracles tagged me with that same meme. After much thought, I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that I had already revealed every last strange, odd and quirky thing about myself. Every...last...one!
There were, quite frankly, no secrets left to tell. The writing’s on the wall: I have officially over-shared. TMI on an epic scale.
Instead of revealing my overexposed oddities, I chose to fulfill the tag by revealing seven burning issues that were on my mind at the time. I think I was about five in by the time I shut down the old blog. One was the evolution of motherhood, another was the environment, and the other three...well, the other three must not have been very compelling issues after all, since I can’t remember them a week later.
At any rate, I will not go back and revisit, but I WILL continue with my series of burning issues that have been keeping me up at night.
Next on the list: Grief and Grieving.
Now, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I’m a bit of a Pollyanna, in the old-school, Depression-era sense of the term. I NEED to see the silver lining in every situation, no matter how grim. My optimism is so essential to the core of my being that I’m a little OCD about it.
Some people deal with stress, fear or grief through rage, snarkiness, or righteous indignation. I deal with stress and fear with optimism. (And yes, I realize how annoying that can be).Those who know me in the real world (the “analog world”, as my friend in NYC calls it) will know me as having a sarcastic sense of humor and laying on the irony with a trowel, but that’s the surface layer. Underneath, the deepest, darkest part of me wallows in compulsive optimism.
So it is that this particular burning issue is really my boogeyman - the hardest thing for me to face. I shrink from the very words “grief” and “grieving” - and it was very difficult for me to type them at the top of this bullet. I am not comfortable with the emotion. Not in the least.
Oh, sure... I can cry buckets at a movie like King Kong, Charlotte’s Web, Bambi, or Dumbo. In fact, the reason I used the illustration of the little elephant is because it reminds me of the scene in Dumbo where his mother is thrown in jail, and he goes to visit her, and she sticks her trunk out through the bars and rocks him in it, and sings a song to comfort him. Heck, my tear ducts are swelling just from typing that scene!
That scene (animated though it may be) pushes my buttons like no other, because - and here’s another heavy confession - I have always feared losing my mother. Always. As long as I can remember. Even as a toddler, the idea that my mother would some day no longer be with me would pop into my head at inopportune moments, and I would weep...on the spot. I had no fear of my own death, or of anyone else’s, for that matter. Just my mother.
But here’s the thing: as a child, nothing else - and I mean nothing - could crack my composure. I was one cool customer. When I was in third grade my mom decided I was old enough for romance stories, and took me to a drive-in in Taos, NM to see Franco Zeferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. By the crypt scene, she was a puddle of tears, and I was...utterly...unmoved. At that moment she decided that I was a cold-hearted child, an impression that was only confirmed for her a few years later when our favorite dog died after eating an entire bowl of horse medication, and I didn’t shed a single tear. Not only was I apparently unmoved, but I was actually a bit put out by her open grief.
My side of the story is, I did not see the dog die. I came home from school to find my mother so torn up that she could barely speak, could hardly get the words out to tell me what had happened. There it was: my boogeyman - grief, right out in the open and inescapable. And I froze up. By the time my mother was able to explain what had happened, I had erected so many inner layers of defense that I couldn’t even react to the dog’s passing. The problem? I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t fix it for her. Nothing I said stopped her crying. There was no way for me to find a silver lining, and that made me feel very, very out of control.
Recently, there has been a great deal of sadness in the world around us. I won’t go into all of it, but I’ve talked about some of it on my old blog. There has been illness and there have been many losses among our circle of friends and family. Some of these things have happened to people we know, and a couple of things have happened directly to us. As you can imagine, this has posed a whole new level of threat to my optimistic nature.
At first, I tried to resist it. I tried to stay positive and believe that things would turn around quickly, that bad news would turn miraculously into good news, that there would be a silver lining to all of it in very short order.
When a few weeks passed, and the bad news just kept coming, I knew there was a lesson here that I was going to be forced to learn, and I had better gird my loins and go forth into the breach. I think the lesson is that bad things happen, and sometimes we do experience (my hackles are standing up at the very thought) grief. Sometimes, grief is even (ghasp!) an important thing to experience. Sometimes grief teaches you things that you would not be able to learn in any other way (Notice how many times I have now typed the word “grief” with my very own fingers). Sometimes, grief teaches you lessons (here I go, finding the silver lining again..but I think I’m gonna go with it) that you urgently need to learn in order to proceed with your life and grow as a person.
So, I am going to go forth and embrace my own grief. I’ve had to face this eventuality with the recent illness of my own dog, my companion and road trip partner and touchstone, my Sam.
M. pointed out to me recently that my problem was not just that my dog was ill (we still don’t know how ill, or how likely or unlikely he is to survive this current episode) but that I was not able to accept the fact that my dog will someday pass on, most likely before I do. And he’s absolutely right. I was not willing to accept that little fact of human/dog life. And I will have to accept it, if not now then in the near-ish future. Gulp.
Even more recently, just when I thought that the bad news had played itself out, my mother was faced with an even more difficult eventuality. When she talked to me about it, I realized that having gone through all we have been through in recent weeks allowed me not only to empathize with her difficulties, but to recognize that I might not be able to find a silver lining for her. I was able, for the first time in my life, to admit that I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t find a silver lining. But what I COULD do for her was to join her in her grieving process.
Sometimes one has to be able to admit that it might not, in fact, “be alright”. That’s the way the world works. The trick is to recognize that fact, and move on, and find ways to learn from the experience, and find ways to see the joy in life once again - not today, not tomorrow, maybe not for the next few months...but eventually. Life is a cycle of birth and death, joy and sorrow, fear and the ability to find new strength within ourselves.
It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. It's often messy. But that’s life, and aren’t we glad that we have the privilege of living it, and learning from it?