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Tag Archives: grieving

A Whole New World

world

Life is not smooth sailing. In fact, if it’s to be the least bit interesting or meaningful, there’s going to be wind, rain and perhaps a perfect storm. If we survive the storms we’re usually left wondering; “what next?” Even if we’re not naturally inclined to ask such a question it is imposed upon us. Clergy, counselors, family and friends will sprinkle their cooing and nodding with talk of whole new worlds (which to me simply conjured Aladdin and/or karaoke.) There are oodles of talk and text that focus on “finding our place in the world.” Can you imagine anything more daunting? Finding my place in the world? That’s a lot of terrain to navigate. My guess is that like most platitudes, it’s best to extract the gist. I come to this assumption after a lifetime of being literal to a fault. In the past when my ship has been brutally thrown off course I have looked to straighten it from the outside. This is nautically impossible of course unless you’re Poseidon. My response to catastrophe has always been “Alright then, now what?” I think of it as a “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again” approach. And it works. It does. If you put one foot in front of the other you soon will be walking out the door. But is that really the point? Is there nothing more to gain from life than learning how to get from point A to point B?

At the risk of tooting my own foghorn, I’ve survived more than one perfect storm. Being “strong” (I swear to G-d if one more person calls me that I’m going to show them exactly how right they are with a swift kick,) is nothing more than survival instict. During my darkest days I got out of bed and showered, every. single. day. There wasn’t a fiber of my being that didn’t want to stay wrapped in the sheets that still smelled of my husband but I never felt that was an option for me. I distinctly remember my indignation upon viewing Lady Mary still in bed at Downton Abbey SIX MONTHS after her husband was killed in an accident. I believe I actually snorted; “aristocracy, what a bunch of p*&%ies!” Man up Lady Mary, man up! She did eventually get out of bed and like this viewer, heeded all the advice to find her place in the world. She did so by embracing her newfound wealth and power and insinuated herself into the running of the family business. I looked for a job. I had no interest in working but felt that was one way to be part of the world. I felt that the whole world was watching (okay maybe just the Facebook world) how I was going to emerge from the ashes. Finding a way to visibly demonstrate that life was more than simply a series of sh*tstorms felt like my charge. I needed to prove in the most visible of ways that it isn’t all just viciously senseless. So I took the job that got the greatest audience response and was freaking miserable. I hadn’t cried at work since 1987 when I got the call my niece was born. But there I was, a grown woman crying in the bathroom. My boss had raging outbursts about a dozen times a day. He would recover with seemingly no recollection of having cursed, shook, turned red, pounded the desk and thrown things. The man was a dry drunk. He also wasn’t terribly good at his job. So I left after 6 weeks, feeling battered, disillusioned and like a failure. It took another 6 weeks to get over that. I then embarked on a romance and the audience sighed. It was only after it ended cataclysmically that it occurred to me perhaps I was being a smidge too literal about finding my place in the world.

I’ve always been averse to anything that even hints of mysticism or spiritualism. I am a pragmatist and was force-fed far too many chakras and auras as a child. Anything involving remedies (unless it’s from those sisters on The Waltons,) smudge sticks, crystals (The Women and Dynasty characters excepted,) or astrological charts are out. Keep your “energies” to yourself please. The only people I’d ever known that indulged in such things eschewed the world I embraced. I had never known any city dwelling, champagne swilling, theatre going, four-inch heel wearing yurt dwellers. I did once meet a city dweller who embraced her connection to the earth by menstruating directly into the forest. Of course this meant she was outta the city and into the woods every 28 days for 3-5 days. So forgive me for having a permanently raised eyebrow. During the past few months however, it began to dawn on me that my life is too external for my comfort. I craved, dare I say, (gulp) a spiritual component. Through cautious trial and error I’ve discovered that there is a way to embrace spiritual elements while wearing heels and jewelry. I dipped my polished toe into the water with the purchase of a small set of wind chimes (I’m all about set design.) I’ve since bellied up to the buffet and filled my plate with little bits of this and that. I have discovered a dance class that makes my spirit soar while making me feel wonderfully grounded. I have learned that massage isn’t only for the fancy or bored, but when done by a mindful therapist can be transcendent. I have found teachers and practitioners wiser and more insightful than I ever knew possible. I am beginning to see that my place in the world has nothing to do with external hallmarks and everything to do with how I feel and understand. It is an incredibly liberating realization and for me it truly is a whole new world. I am choosing not to dwell on the fact that it’s taken me so many decades to come to this place. I suppose this time my ship set ground on a shore I was ready to explore.

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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Well-Being

 

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Nobody Knows Our Sorrow

Sally Field

Pain and loss are deeply personal states and often very lonely ones as well. We share in each other’s joy and accomplishments with ease. Happiness is not complex, it simply is. But pain and loss are layered and very specific. Despite our own personal experiences we can never truly know how someone else feels. This doesn’t matter when we are celebrating happiness. Nobody celebrating a marriage, birthday, or addition to the family needs empathy. It’s when our world has become small and dark and hollow that we crave understanding.

There are people who are comfortable with the loss of others. They are often drawn to professions that care for and about the bereaved. However the majority of people follow the evolutionary dictum of trying to avoid loss and pain. We shy from the enormity or contagion of pain and loss. Often we don’t know what to say, or in our nervousness spew forth a ridiculous (and potentially painful) cliché. Even people who themselves have endured their share of sh*&storms don’t necessarily know what to say. “I’m so sorry”, while honest and empathetic, doesn’t seem sufficient.

The throes of anguish and despair can feel very lonely. How can the world go on as if nothing has happened? The weight of the personal pain often wants to make its presence known. A stranger’s reflexive “How’re ya doing?” sounds like a serious inquiry. It may feel disloyal to a memory or oneself to answer; “Fine.” Expressing our loss and pain is important, but it can exacerbate the misery if we do so indiscriminately. We all want to feel understood and comforted. The former is far trickier than the latter. Only those who really know you can understand you,up to a point. Pain is personal. We can rail, blog, and rant about nobody understanding our specific hurt, and perhaps the very act of purging is of comfort. But expecting others to comprehend the intricacies of our experience while understandable doesn’t advance our own understanding. Self-care, and ultimately recovery necessitates that we understand our own pain. Fully understand it, care for it, and find a place for it.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Well-Being

 

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