I said goodbye to some things over the past few days, and it has been less than fun.
And I’ve been thinking about loss in various permutations.
The loss of something that can’t come back.
Someone asked me this week what I did when my friend died.
And I didn’t really know what to say because it’s been almost two years since I found out, and I’m still not doing so great.
I still cry. A lot. I still talk to him. I still can’t listen to music. Or not look for him in crowds.
Also: I still do a practice that Sivan, one of my best friends (and my first real yoga teacher) taught me: naming things.
It’s a way of reminding myself to come back, a way of letting all that grief be legitimate while still saying I am here.
And so I name things:
I name the things that I see.
Wood floor, white clouds, large book, blank wall, tall tree, cracked sign, orange blanket, old clock. I am here.
Moving train, yellow box, strong wind, silver clasp, dusty floor, empty corner, happy tulips. I am here.
Morning light, crinkly eyes, red mat, brown mug, hot tea, wool gloves, crisp apple, hard ground.
Hey, guess what. I’m still here.
It doesn’t stop the hurt. But it brings me back to here.
I want to let both my pain and my need for the pain to subside be equally important.
Death is about as final as things get, sure, but there are so many kinds of loss that have that similar sense of being disconnected from what was.
Disconnected. No way to get back. Like breaking up. Moving away. Being done.
Everything that has been helpful for me while being in the pain of loss has been about two kinds of acknowledgment:
Acknowledgment of the pain. This hurts so much right now. And acknowledgment that things move/flow/continue in their different ways. I am here.
Naming things helps me bring attention to everything that is still here. Even if or when those things seem trite and useless. Back to present time.
This is what helps me do just one thing.
And this is what helps me give permission for things to be the way they are. To soften resistance.
To let both my pain and my need for the pain to subside to be equally important, equally legitimate.
And then there is “I could have done X but I chose to do Y.”
This kind of loss has its own seemingly endless variations.
Sometimes it’s the loss that holds regret:
Why didn’t I choose X?
Or it’s the loss that lives on in curiosity. The unfollowed path of parallel lives:
What might have happened if I had wound up doing X instead?
Or maybe it’s that not getting something you know you didn’t want is still a form of loss.
Even though I don’t regret my choice (I’m happy I went with Y, and I know there was nothing to be gained by X) — there is still the residual sadness of having said no to something.
The thing I keep learning about loss.
I don’t really know how to put this, but it’s kind of like this:
Loss is sometimes like our monsters, in the sense that when we acknowledge that it exists, the pain can … soften.
And, despite having learned this repeatedly over thousands of experiences of loss and acknowledgment, loss and acknowledgment, loss and acknowledgment … my tendency is STILL not to acknowledge the pain.
My tendency is to do whatever I can to avoid pain. Which is funny, because I know that acknowledging the pain lessens the pain.
So there’s the paradox.
I know what needs to be done: allow the pain to be painful, give it permission to exist, remind it that it will not always be a part of me, find out what it needs.
And I know that doing this will let me step away from it enough to get closer to myself. Enough so that the pain can begin to move and flow and find its way out of my heart.
But acknowledging the existence of my pain seems like such an uncomfortable thing to do that I absolutely don’t want to.
Where I go from here.
Permission to not want to.
I don’t have to want to acknowledge my pain. It makes complete sense that I wouldn’t.
And so I remind myself that it’s natural and normal to be in avoidance.
I remind myself that this is human. This is okay.
That I don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone.
And that even though I don’t want to interact with my pain, I can acknowledge my pain’s existence without having to go inside of it and experience it.
I can give myself permission to not want to be in the pain. And permission to be a real live human being who has pain.
At the same time.
Slowly, slowly I get better.
I can drink chamomile tea without crying now. See a kid with a guitar and it’s just a kid with a guitar. I watched a film and someone was hanging from a noose and I didn’t completely fall apart.
Warm tea. Concrete step. Old movie. Sad heart. Leaky pen. Crumbly soap. Scratchy towel. Sore shoulder. Dog-eared book.
I am here.
And maybe this whole life work-process-thing of meeting myself where I am, with all my stuff and all my hurt, is — at least in part — why I’m here.
Learning that things change. Learning how they change. Rewriting patterns. Deconstruction and new creation. Taking things apart and rebuilding.
Taking everything apart. Finding the essence. Building beautiful new things from the pieces.
Comment zen for today.
This is hard, hurt-ey stuff.
People vary. Grief varies. Needs vary. Here’s how we respect each other’s pain: No advice. And no saying “my way is better than your way.”