Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Coming Up For Air*

Like a swimmer coming up for air after a long dive, I fill my lungs and look around.

What can I say about loss that you do not already know?

The thing that amazes me most is how surprised I am, every time.

Is this innocence or arrogance- this forgetting that all things will pass- that we do not control the world- that other’s have their agendas, their struggles, their choices, even as we have ours?

Grief is as kind as it can be, coming in waves instead of all at once- surely a flood that would drown.

It’s hard to predict when the next wave will hit. I miscalculate and have to abandon a shopping cart in the middle of the supermarket cereal aisle to dash for home and lay down on the cool white tiles of the bathroom floor.

All those years of meditating and praying, studying and reading allow a kind of holy curiosity. I do my daily practice and I rest in the arms of the Presence that is always with me, and watch the ache change from one day to the next.
Like shadows moving over the landscape as the sun traverses the sky and clouds come and go.

I notice how the body continues to breathe even when I cannot remember how, and I am grateful to be a living organism. Survival is built into our cells, our DNA. An aching heart still pumps blood.

Off the coast of Louisiana an oil rig explodes and the ruptured sea bed bleeds thick black oil into the blue water.

And I wonder: what have we done with the precious and fragile gifts we were given?

Friends call. It is good to know I have not been forgotten.
Private pain can make the world shrink.

Some bring cooked rice, spiced salmon and fruit-filled muffins. For the first time I understand why people bring food to the bereaved. The smell brings me back to my animal body, reminds me to eat. The taste says, “You are not alone. You are not done. You are alive.”

And still the oil spews into the sea. Two hundred thousand gallons a day. Experts begin to speculate about the damage to marine life, bird life, human life. No one seems to know what to do. The company that was doing the drilling says they do not know who is to blame.

The trouble with lies is that they stick to the stories that give us meaning, they contaminate everything, make us doubt our own experience of what we thought was good and true. We stop trusting our memories, our ability to tell truth from lies.

I outrun the pain with work. This has always been so, but I am more aware of it now- I watch myself sort and pack and unpack without pause, knowing that when the work is finished the emptiness must be faced.

Time works its magic. Healing happens when I’m not looking, and I’m pulled back into the warm chaotic mess of life. I notice the children running in the playground, the tree by my window in bloom. I am surprised how life works within me, on me, without my conscious agreement.

We are life, choosing life. That is how we are made.

Engineers and crew work to find a solution, to stem the flow of oil, knowing the destruction is worsening with every day that passes. Minutes are gallons. Time is not on their side.

Shifting perspective I can see my loss in the bigger picture, can see the opening it creates in my life and my heart for being more of what I am. I feel something working in me, and dare to think of transformation. Faith carries me.

The oil slick is visible from the space satellite. The big picture is grim. Wind and wave carry the black cloud throughout the life-giving waters. Rescue workers try to reach oil soaked birds. Already they are predicting a “dead zone” in the ocean. The question now is how large it will be.

Will I have a “dead zone?” Or will I keep my heart open to myself and the other, to the world, to the oil soaked birds, the blue black waters, and our human weakness for half-truths, for short-term pleasures and profits?

We have a choice. We can shrink in the face of wounding- personal or planetary- or we can inhale deeply, link arms with each other and enlarge our capacity to meet it all- the joy and the sorrow.

I am alive. This breath, this moment. It is good.
*For those who do not know I have recently experienced the dissolution of my marriage and the loss of my home in the woods.


  1. Here's to all that is--it makes us who and what we are, and always there, the benevolent Presence that allows us to be exactly as we are and as we choose to be. It is good.

    Blessings to you. Your words have often led me to a place of peace, a place of remembering who I am and who I belong to; I thank you.

  2. Beautiful post Oriah. I have experienced much grief and loss in my life and your post here caused me to reflect on it - and feel better about it.

  3. Waves of sorrow and loss do transform us. Your reminder that we have a choice in how we face ourselves, our losses and one another defines how we will transform. Thank you for your words today, reminding us to choose carefully and remain open to all life. I love your posting today and the woven threads, again calling us to look at connectedness, our oneness. Blessings and love to you today.

  4. Thanks for the reminder that although there are no shortcuts in grief or life itself- that sometimes with grace we can still see the goodness and the joy- the baby and the flowering tree and the smile.

    Wishing you all the best Oriah in this painful journey.

  5. I just found you on Facebook. I love your heart and mind. May you find peace as you wade through your grief.

  6. Thank you for your words. Yes they touch my heart too. I am amazed how over the years your words have always spoken to some need I am dealing with.
    I have become aware that there is a need for us to acknowledge gratitude for those who have not been able to love us. For without this experience we would not know how important it is to love.

    My heart is warmed by the care and love that has been extended to you.

    Yes today is good.


  7. Just sending love Oriah - doing or collapsing, you're following your way of survival for now. Big hugs along the way. xx

  8. Oriah, I am so sorry for the loss you are experiencing. I wish there was a way to collapse space and I could knock on your door, hand you a little bouquet of fresh-picked flowers and a bottle of wine and give you a hug.

    I left my husband and told him I wanted a divorce last summer. It is something I now regret more than I have ever regretted anything in my life.

    I don't know, and I don't think I will ever know, the full extent of the pain my husband has gone through and continues to go through as a result of my choices. But I want to try to understand it. I think reading your recent blog posts helps me "get" even just a corner of his pain. Thank you for the raw honesty you are sharing, even in the middle of your own heart breaking.

    I don't know what to say...perhaps the one who I hurt in the way you are hurting now could offer the right words for where you are. But what comes to mind for some reason is a picture:

    There is a Love That Will Not Let You Go. It is starting down the path that will ultimately intersect yours. Even when you feel there is no hope, keep walking your path, for that Love is on the look-out for you, looking forward to the day when you will finally embrace and look deeply into one another's eyes. You will know this Love when you see it. You will still be wounded, but somehow the grooves pain has worn in you will become reservoirs for this Love to puddle in and you will be more able to experience love -coming and going- than you ever could before.

    I will carry you with me as I go through this day, Oriah. Please know my spirit is sending comfort to yours even now. You are a beautiful person and it was your poetry that brought me here today for my first (but not last!) visit to your blog. Keep writing as you can.

  9. I needed this post world is small with pain..and I guess you were a warm muffin :)

  10. Beautiful message.

  11. Oriah,
    A beautiful message, especially profound with the interweaving of personal loss and damage to our environment. The grieving process is the same. We offer our song and story of grief called "How Quiet the Night." In this case it was a child moving away. There is a common thread that binds them all—and us as well.

  12. 1st thought: I have no words.
    2nd thought: Take that and that sentence for Oriah quote book.
    3rd thought: Why is the oil spill not a trending topic on twitter.
    4th thought: I am happy to see Oriah "back" at least once a week on this blog space. Just write that. Welcome back, Oriah.
    5th thought: Yep, I have no words. Sign off.

    Final thought: What kind of human being--in the midst of their deepest pain--offers their words and pain and themselves so completely for another to possibly benefit? Like Oriah just did. Reading through the responses. Like Oriah just did. Without sensationalism and self-indulgence. What kind of a human being? Oh an angel! Yes, an angel. Okay that sounds I conclude I don't know. But I do know you offer the best of what being human can be and that is angelic on all levels.



  13. Many Blessings to you, dear Oriah.

    Far away, in London, in the midst in the drama of our general election, I am sitting in a moment of stillness, thinking of you with gratitude, and wishing you well.

  14. I lost my mountain home a year and a half ago; I believe I lost my marriage before losing my home. From the good work I am doing with my counselor, I realize that losing my home is the consequence of a troubled relationship. I've begun a practice of zazen meditation, healthy nutrition, and exercise. Sometimes the grief overwhelms me. Your words have reached me and given me support for today. thank you.

  15. Beautiful Oriah,

    You rock, you know? Good for you! *big hugs* You are a strong powerful woman. True strength shows itself when everything inside of our heart and around us is breaking and we ache so much that we think we cannot go on for one more second. But we can because we simply need to and at one time we even want to. It is our choice to go on, to keep on keeping on even though it really sucks right now. But life keeps going on, too, no matter how much our heart breaks. There is beauty and there is hope still around even in the midst of horrible loss and destruction.
    You sure are the phoenix rising from the ashes and now you are even more beautiful because you are less fearful. Because what's to fear? You have lost so much, you have hurt so much, it can't really get more worse. It can only get better and it will, it already does.
    Give yourself a pat on the back. Not every woman has the courage and the strength to go on after she has been "hit" by so much and still give hope to others with her magnificent written words. Good for you beautiful Oriah :-) Yayyy, you rock!

    Sending you so much Love & Hugs & Sunshine & Rainbows from my heart to yours,
    Sabine xox

  16. Oriah - When my husband, my best friend, the love of my life, died this past October, I had known him just less than two years. We read and re-read The Invitation and quoted from it in our wedding announcement. The Dance followed but we were unable to finish it together in quite the way we had intended. I am now reading The Call on my own, believing he also hears. Your words here at this point in time, echo the ache I have felt as well as the rebirth that I struggle both with and toward. Thank you for again joining my Dance with profound inspiration and deep understanding. Blessings, Gloria

  17. Oriah,

    Your grace even while being in pain is admirable. And I'm sure you see how much your words speak to people far out and wide. I wish you strength and fortitude and love.
    This too shall pass and with this, you will discover more of yourself than you did.
    Love and prayers for you


  18. in this moment where you find yourself i wish i could help you -ease the pain make it more bearable,just as your writings have helped me but i can not because this is your moment this is where you are in life and only you can make that first move.just remember you are not alone.

    Blessings and love for you

  19. I read The Invitation years ago now. Have a few copies of my own. More than a few purchased to give to those I love. I am pleased to say the Universe nudged me today to read it again and eventually lead me here.

    This particular post touched my heart very much today. My husband and I split 2 years ago now but the seeping still exists... though not nearly as profuse as before. I wait for healing and focus my steps forward, onward, toward healing and away from regret.

    Sending many wishes for much healing and grace for you. I've felt you are my friend for years. I feel much the same today. Sister of my heart.