Sunday, October 16, 2016

what lessons you prepare for us

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
-Mary Oliver, Starlings in Winter

Today is the final day of my three week fall observance, something I jokingly call Lent in September, an extension of my spring observance left over from my catholic youth. Fall is a rich time for digging in for me, the turning and change of the season providing a beautiful backdrop to explore.

Every year something big comes up, usually something overwhelming and huge that encases my thoughts for the entire journey. Last year it was finally mourning my dad after 27 years of not, that space larger and more profound with ripples I could never have anticipated. Lent in September stays with me long, long after it's over.

So I walked into this year with an open heart, wondering where it would go, only to be met pretty much on the first day with the loss of a friend. Not your typical loss of a irreconcilable fight or death or some ripping apart, but the void of just. total. absence. This, a new friend who I'd gotten to know over six weeks of deep sharing and connecting, a creative force in my life in a very short time, someone who I felt a kinship with and an affinity for, a deep channel, twinned in perspective and vibe. It was a deep dive of friendship and then they were gone, vanished, nonresponsive, lost.

I have lived my life with a lot of loss, people removed from my life quickly through all of the regular passages of sudden death and arguments and betrayal, sometimes buried by my inability to get past feeling hurt enough to extend the olive branch and mend things, sometimes my own clumsy failure to apologize for things I acknowledge I have done. It's a dance of getting past your own ego, understanding the perspective of the other person, being clear about what you want out of the situation (mending things? having your say? turning the knife?), humbling yourself to be vulnerable to offering and receiving apology.

Loss that has no closure is totally different. It feels like that feeling of walking into school in fifth grade and not knowing if you will have friends that day, it's the first time the person you feel for handled the leaving poorly, it's the emotional unavailablity of key relationships in your life. Because it's ambiguous and undefined, it's all of the things.

For me, it calls into question everything about how I operate in the world. I've had conversations with good friends about whether or not I provide unearned access to people and what that means, or with others, whether that unearned access is actually one of the most important, vital and beautiful parts of my being. One friend said "I'd hate to see you close this part of yourself down, Fran. It's what makes you who you are." And, they are right.

So this time has been about walking around in the space of grief, with a perspective, for the first time, through all of the loss in my life. It's being able to observe the grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and my experience of weaving in and out of each. I feel like I am watching myself work this from 30,000ft while being deep in it at the same time and it is simultaneously painful and fascinating. Painful because even though you may intellectually know what is happening, it doesn't take the energy out of the emotional feelings. Fascinating because we are soft creatures, we love, love is important and fear is strong, hurt is real, being gentle with ourselves sometimes sits in the smallest places.

At times, I think I'm insane to be this bothered by something that was short term, possibly not legit, a hoodwinking, being had. How could I have just spent three weeks thinking about a friendship that didn't exist for much longer than that same period of time. But these experiences come up in life for us to feel and learn, growing in our own awareness of ourselves and how we are in relation to others, so love ourselves more as feeling and loving beings, to understand our porous boundaries. We are put on this earth to love one another, so in that what is safety? I am still trying to figure out how to simultaneously keep my heart open and myself in check, how to share myself with others when the connection is there and understand that even in the possibility of pain, it's what I am meant to be. Love over fear, every time.