If you want to find out how powerless you are over the winds and storms of your emotional life, try to avoid the feelings after you lose someone.
I know about grief. I have these profound statements I say, like, “Learning to grieve is the great task of adulthood.” Or, “We lose everything, and then we lose our own life.” (People love how upbeat I am with that one.) Or, “You can feel your grief, and open to more life, or you can avoid it and become bitter.”
Which is to say, that I am familiar with loss. As I’ve mentioned, I think, my grandfather had a heart attack and died when I was four; I was sitting next to him on the couch when it happened. And loss continues–in the early and mid 1990’s, most of the gay men I knew died of AIDS. I still have trouble, sometimes, talking about my friend Rick without crying. And, my partner tells me to say, that’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Loss isn’t just death…there’s the friends that have relapsed and disappeared, the people I’ve lost touch with because of moves, family fractures….
So. If you wonder why I haven’t written on this blog, it’s because I miss my friend Don, and this grief is a storm, and I haven’t wanted to talk about something so private and so very, very hard.
But here’s the general–it’s hard to feel connected to anyone when you’re grieving. It’s kind of like you’re on this planet–the planet of grief, of whatever grief is doing to you–and everyone else is on some other planet, where daily life is just daily life. Sometimes–yesterday was a day like this–everyone is on the other side of this plexiglass screen. And of course, I’m not saying anything about it–I’m trying to do my job, get through the day, crying a lot, as if I’ve just realized I’m never going to see him again…which might be true. I might finally know that, in my heart. Not just a Don-shaped hole in the world, but the never of it.
Then my partner holds my hand on the way to the theatre and breaks through the isolation of knowing that.
The touch of the long married. The wonder of this one person, who drives me crazy, who I have lived with, known, for over half my life, who knows the story of all the griefs… and the screen evaporates. Not for long. But enough to remember the world. Which grief can make me forget. Has made me forget. These last months…sometimes I forget I don’t usually feel this way. I forget I don’t always have these questions, that I don’t always wonder if life has meaning.
When you really grieve, every loss gets rediscovered. It’s unpredictable–I’m laughing, hard, and suddenly it hits. I’m looking at someone, and suddenly whoever it is just isn’t Don. I’m wishing for kindness, and remembering how I trusted him for that.
I’m thinking of the other time grief was like this–the darkness of it, the not being able to see anything but loss, knowing that being with it is carving out something in me I don’t even understand. That I have to make the time to let it do its carving, that busyness is bullshit.
Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey…entering the darkness, the unknown, being in it, absolute surrender, and then when you come out, you’re new.
But when you’re in it, that’s what there is. The nothing, nowhere, unable to speak, the shadow, the engulfing, knowing, I am alone and there is no remedy for that now…
Yesterday was a hard day.
And as everything comes up for review–because Don was younger than I am, because I, too, will enter that dark, no avoiding it–I look and wonder what I do, what I choose, that has meaning, and what must be let go of in order to live better, now, while I can, in this one moment, which is what we all have.
I don’t know what I’ll choose when this current project is over. Time off. Yoga teacher training. That’s all I know. And I know that while I thought the current play was a remedy and a remembrance, it has been more of a test, and the remembering has been unexpected and not always welcome. My character says, “Thy will not mine be done,” and every time I say the words, I know what they mean for me…what I did not will or want, which is loss.
I don’t know what I’ll change, now. Everything? Nothing? But I know to say thank you to my partner. With whom I’ve struggled. Who I have not lost. Who looks at me with 25 years of knowing in her eyes, letting me know I am not alone.
I am so grateful for those five minutes in the car. I know she’ll read this, so here it is…thank you. May you be the one I see, when you need someone to see you.
May I help you to remember the world, when the storms come in, and storms are all you know.
Maybe that’s what love is. Not the helping…but the seeing, the wanting to reach out and remind. My open heart, grieving though it may be, but open, at least to someone. Because there she is.