Like savvy authors who write trilogies these days, I am writing my third and final post on loss. For now anyway. Of course there is much more to be said on the subject, but sadly, no matter how serious the loss, no one really wants to hear about it more than three times. And no one wants you to get over it and move on with your life more than you yourself. So, here goes.
On Saturday nights the thunder of stock car races in my town severely assaults the senses to the point that most Saturdays I leave town. But this Saturday I have chosen to stay.
The wisdom of this choice comes sharply into question as soon as the cacophony of calves weaned from their mamas and their mamas bellowing back in response gets added to the mix. Next factor in the incessant outrage of thoughts that have kicked in now that I’m in the anger stage of the stages of grief equation. The volume of competing noises quickly escalate to the intolerable point. Even my willows are weeping at the clash of these titans.
The only thing I know to do is to drown out these sounds with the sound of music, put on my walking shoes, and hit the road. So I sync up Battle Studies from John Meyer and let the games begin. It may take several trips around the block to tame these beasts, since I vow to return with a restored sense of peace.
I arrive home in a considerably less agitated state than when I left and discover my neighbors sitting around the fire having a neighborly night out. For years I was on the outside of almost every campfire because I was not around long enough to belong to anyone, anywhere.
But buying a home makes people think I might stay awhile. Working at the same job for five years makes people feel a little bit better about my emotional and financial stability. Having the names of the neighborhood watch on speed dial makes those neighbors more likely to invite me into their ring of fire.
So I join the the circle of friends for awhile and my intolerable situation temporarily feels like a thing of the past.
In his book, Let Your Life Speak, ParkerPalmer suggests, “There is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does-maybe more.” For some time I had been trying to make something work that ultimately could not.
What happens when you finally act on your truth is that a particular way closes. There is no doubt this will be debilitating. What you cannot fathom at the time but must believe is that another way will open.
One person may leave your life. Five faithful friends may show up with Blue Bell and a disco ball as a way of reminding you they never left. They may not know you as intimately as the one who left, but they may just know you (and love you) better.
One job may end without warning. One that’s meant for your brand of magic may take its place.
If you’re lucky, it won’t happen overnight. How can I suggest such a thing? Apparently I haven’t experienced the anguish you are experiencing if I’m not advocating for its immediate removal, you say?
Oh, grasshopper, that’s precisely why I am telling you to tough it out. You need time to figure out who you are in light of this loss and how you might want to reinvent yourself because of it. You can’t skip the hard part of determining the role you played in the demise of the relationship, the career, or your health unless you are willing to repeat the lesson later. As I mentioned in my last post, don’t just do something, sit there. Until, of course, it’s time to act.
It’s easy to believe that you won’t sleep through the night, silence your mind, or get control over your fear, loneliness, or shaken sense of self. Nonsense! You will. You encounter equally terrifying things every day at work, raising your children, or defending your pets, property, or political point of view.
Who says you don’t have superpowers? You most certainly do. Now is the time to activate them.
Maybe you’ll launch a website of raw poetry for rough times. Maybe you’ll paint a self-portrait. Maybe you’ll raise $5000 so people can have safe drinking water. Maybe you’ll train for a marathon. Maybe you’ll start a Firestarter Sessions group.
Convert the energy you have been expending on this loss to get on with your life. Not the life you had previously planned. But the life you now know you are equal to living.
The thing about loss is that there is always, every day, without a doubt a moment when you temporarily forget that something is amiss, amuck, or otherwise out of whack. In that moment, you might involuntarily smile, laugh, or be overcome with a sense of gratitude that you are indeed alive and capable of not only surviving but thriving. Build on that moment.
As my favorite poet David Whyte says in his poem, Sweet Darkness,
“You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes the darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.”