I am one of those annoying people who always has advice, and who is always thinking about how to proceed with life.
When we lose people, places, things, etc., the challenge is moving forward. Sometimes it can feel disrespectful to move forward, as if we are not giving enough notice to grief, and what is gone. Also, though, I have noticed that it sometimes feels, when I am in grief, like I am a rock in a stream. I am still, and grieving, but everything, including the thing being grieved, is whipping past me in the current, and it becomes my choice, I often feel, to decide whether to stay behind, and if so, how long, or whether or not to move forward.
There is a brilliant chapter in the brilliant book, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, that covers this very point. The chapter, “Speaking of Courage,” illustrates quite clearly how a soldier, home from war, and in grief, is not only passed-by by life, everyone around him that he used to be in step with has moved forward in life, and his time in the war made him behind them, but his grief keeps him behind. He is grieving the loss of a fellow soldier, and feeling responsible for it, and he cannot let go. War, of course, is a shit-show, and none of the foot soldiers are really responsible for what happens after they find themselves in the meat grinder of war, but that lack of control almost makes them hold on to their position as the rock in the stream when they return, and they stay where they are, hoping for a way to affect a situation that they had no control over, and that, for them, is over. For myself, when a pet dies, like my cat Jones, see prior post, I often feel myself asking what might have happened differently to cause a different outcome. I think this double whammy of grief, and trying to control the out-of-control, keeps us still in the water, cemented, while everything alive and good rushes past us.
And, so, we must first (and here is the annoying advice part) tell ourselves that we are allowed to pick our feet up out of the riverbed. We are allowed to recline onto the water, and let the current move us forward until we can start paddling and directing our flow again. The first step to heal is to allow ourselves to move. It’s not disloyal, or shirking our duty, or unkind. There are so many living things around us, still needing and wanting us in our lives, that to stay still is the selfish part as it helps no one.
But how the fuck do you get yourself to loose your grip on the pain of grief, the pain of being out-of-control?
One thing that always helps me is to watch a funny movie, like really funny, can’t help but laugh even a little. Or my favorite movie, which is all about releasing grip, The Darjeeling Limited. That one always helps, even though it’s not funny.
Another tried and true way for me to become alive again is to create. When we lose something, and we respond by creating, we gain something. Maybe it is not as wonderful or large or etc. as what we lost, but it is creation in a space that is left bereft. We begin, in a small way, to fill the void.
So, today, I created my lunch. Homemade hummus (which makes it almost impossible to eat store bought), is what I have created today. My hummus has chick peas (garbanzo beans) in it, and also olive oil, and lemon juice, and tahini, and garlic, and cumin (I love cumin!). To serve my hummus I like to add some chickpeas on top, and some drizzled olive oil, and some ground salt, and… this to me is the genius part, some hand-chopped pistachios. You could make this with any bean of your choice almost (maybe pintos would be too soft), and any spice, and any nut or seed. It would probably be great covered in sesame, or served with little pickles maybe! I ate mine with some tortillas that I laid in a hot cast-iron pan for a minute to stiffen up.
I look out the window at the white tulips atop Jones, and I feel so sad, and I miss him. I told one of the other cats last night as we looked out the window that Jones was on the wrong side of the glass. And he is. But, he had a bad disease that I couldn’t fix, and it broke my heart to let him go. And isn’t that the best we all can hope for, that we break someone’s heart a little when we have to be let go?
But I cannot stop and be a rock in the stream. There are other people and pets I am supposed to be loving, and they deserve me too. I need to start moving in the water again. And creating, even a fancy lunch, is a good way to start.