Today I wanted to write about my partner, but what calls to me as a subject is grief. I have always hated the expression, “You don’t get more than you can handle.” I’m all for being positive, or at least balanced and at peace, but seriously? I have 3 cousins who committed suicide. I imagine their ghosts laughing their asses off at that one. I think they would say, “Dude, look, it’s patently untrue.”
Growing up, I had a super American attitude. Up for any challenge, ready to fight the good fight, thinking I could make it happen, go for it, be a go-getter. Developmental, to a certain extent, that attitude. Teenagers don’t know what they can’t do, and I remained a teenager into my forties. I say this now, knowing full well that I’ve had a life that contained more than I could handle. More deaths, more losses, more difficulties, more people with problems, including myself and everyone in my immediate and extended family.
I don’t have an answer for the losses that come one after another, without reason, as if we’re all standing at a huge craps table, and some people have dice weighted toward tragedy. I’ve experienced this, and I’ve watched it–my partner’s cousin lost her husband, her daughter and her mother all in the same year. I saw her rarely, but I was always studying her to see how she was making it through the days. I noticed how openly she spoke about the losses, how honestly she answered if you asked how she was doing. That seemed to be how she was getting through, and I admired and admire her greatly.
I know people going through this right now, and I suppose I’m writing this for them, or maybe just to say what I know, which is what it’s like to stand, bewildered by loss, unable to understand what it means, needing to find meaning, needing to lift the heaviness, if only for a moment.
The first 10 day silent meditation retreat I attended had, as they all do, dharma talks. They talked about how Buddhism was the bummer religion, starting with the first of the 4 Noble Truths: Dukkha is. Suffering is. I can’t tell you how psyched I was when they spoke about it. Because here is the down side of our American way–when you can’t make it happen, when it’s too much, when you don’t meet the challenge as you’d hoped, when the most recent loss brings all the others back tenfold, you feel like a loser, like everyone else is happy, pursuing happiness and getting it, while you flounder around looking for a tether.
My dead cousins are like, “Dude, not true. The ones who think they’re tethered are clueless.”
I think we fight the randomness of tragedy, because it strikes at our powerlessness. Of course the American way is to get up, fight through, not let it get you down. But it DOES get you down, sometimes. And it is worth it to admit, to surrender, to say, yes, too much for me. It’s nice to have something to believe in, at those times. Or at least to be at a silent retreat where the talking people are saying that we’re all in the same damn boat, and suffering is completely ubiquitous. Pick your poison. Or more accurately, it will pick you.
I have been trying to lean into my losses for years. I lean in, and then I go watch some more Internet tv. Because the pain hurts, and you know, I’m not so enlightened that I can sit with it for all that long. But I do go back–there’s that American thing–and I lean in again. And I find it’s true what they say–when you lean in, when you surrender, it starts to let go. It’s there, maybe, but a little smaller, and not a pall that lies over every moment, but a place you can visit and leave.
I want to be free. I want to honor my dead. I want to be a good and decent human. I want to create beauty and bring out what is inside me. I want to live from a place of peace. Those are my life goals, and I’m happy with them. Only, you know, easier said than done.
I now say lovingkindness every day, and today I say it for our losses, for all of us who are carrying more than we can bear, and struggling to bear it anyhow.
May we be well.
May we be free from suffering.
May we be safe and protected.
May we live with ease.
Or, as they used to say in the church of my childhood, Peace be with us all.
PS–Oh, and about my partner. She makes me believe in love. Need I say more?