Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Feeling What We're Avoiding

I know people like to talk about "rising above," but more often I find we can't move ahead until we drop down.

Sitting down to write this week's blog I hit an invisble wall. There are nothing but false starts, ideas that fizzle on the page, observations that lay there like dead fish, the cursor flashing on the screen, taunting me, daring me to continue, (I swear, even though I know better, it feels personal,) the blank page a testament to a blank mind and mysteriously missing connection to what is going on at a feeling level.

Now, I’ve been at this writing thing long enough to know that when this happens- when I’ve not written in my own journal for four days in a row- some part of me is working very hard to bury or outrun something that feels too painful to face and/or too daunting to try to express (even to myself!)

So, I start with a writing prompt which, in moments like this, I can honestly say I’m not eager to use. I begin with the phrase, I don’t want to write about. . . . .

I don’t want to write about. . . . the decision I made last week to let go of someone in my life, to stop having contact, to not pick up the phone when she calls, to not dial her number or send her a note, to say a single prayer for her daily but stop all attempts at communication.

I don’t want to write about the years I have spent working to see, accept, and love this person for who she is, trying to let go of all expectations for our interactions or any desire to ever be seen and accepted in turn, only to find that the interaction continued to be draining and toxic for me.

I don’t want to write about my own hubris- my certainty that I could find a way for us to actively relate to each other (if only in a limited way) and not be drained and ill afterwards. The containment and healthy boundaries, the deepening of acceptance, the positive visioning and wishful thinking, the healing from past wounds and prayers for guidance – none of it has changed the reality of the effect our contact has on me.

I don`t want to write about how hard it is to accept this, how part of me rails on within, sure that even after all these years, there must be something I can do, something I have not tried. 

I don`t want to write about how I have been lying to myself about not being hooked into wanting anything from this relationship. Expectation is too strong a word for what I'd been carrying, but clearly there was hope. The grief I have been outrunning is for the loss of hope inherent in fully accepting what is.

That’s it: the molecular structure of the invisible wall I keep hitting each time I try to write around this event in my life, is composed of grief and loss. And, as author Ann Lamott writes, the only way through grief is by grieving.

And in writing just this. . .  something brittle and sharp in my chest softens and is released. The tears flow and I can feel my body here in this moment- supported by the chair and the floor beneath the chair and the earth beneath the floor. . . and I give into the gravity of what is, feel it pull me inexorably toward the centre of myself and life. 

Sometimes we just have to stop and feel the heartbreak so there's room to feel our own life again. In simply allowing the sadness we open to the possibility of joy once again.

This is what it is to be human: to learn again and again how to be with loss; to trust the very way we are made and the sacred stuff of which we are made, knowing that joy is in the fullness of life- nothing left out, nothing avoided or buried, all aspects greeted and made bearable with tenderness and mercy.
 
 Oriah (c) 2013

19 comments:

  1. Raw honesty. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Dear Oriah, thank you for this. I, too, have been grieving the loss of someone alive this week. And coming to terms with the absolute need to let them go, and to let go of how I have been with them.

    Throughout the day on Sunday, a day of intense grieving for me, I found myself remembering my mom's last morning in body. What replayed in my heart and mind was my telling her she didn't need to stay here any longer, for her to go where she needed to go, and that I would be okay. I realized then that I needed to give this to my adult son as well (who recently came back home because he's at the bottom of the bottom). There is a big part of him that is dying and needs to "go". And I need to let him go, and to be okay. I need to stand in a place of compassion and honor the choices he is making, his soul is making, for his life experience - even when it is hard to witness and I do not agree with nor would choose the same. I am in awe of this soul's choice of a life experience. However, that does not mean I will stand by and be abused by his raging and manipulative actions. And that is where it is imperative that I let him go. As Anais Nin so aptly says (thank you for that piece), "You cannot save people, you can only love them."

    Regarding grief... I was recently introduced to Stephen Jenkinson, the leader of a palliative care counselling team at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. In a documentary called "Griefwalker" he says at the very end...

    "Grief is not a feeling. Grief's not how you feel. Grief is what you do. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief, as a skill of life, is the skill of being able to praise or love life. Which means wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand. Grief and the praise of life side by side, the honored guests, room at the head table. And they are toasting you! Grief and the ability to love life, they're clinking their glasses and toasting the living. So here's to your health. Until the time comes we come to get you, live well."

    Here's to living well and letting go of that which no longer serves us, and honoring that which is begin let go with our grieving and our praising. Blessings, J*

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    1. Jennifer- ah how hard this must be for you with your son- makes my heart ache (sending prayers for you both.) I meet Stephen Jenkinson years ago and know of his work though a mutual friend- like the idea of grief and loving life being twinned guests at our table- because I think when we block grief we also block our ability to love this life fully.

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  3. "Sometimes we just have to stop and feel the heartbreak so there's room to feel our own life again."

    YES! There is patience and love that at times when our thoughts are separate from our deepest truth we cannot intellectually comprehend, yet our souls instinctively move towards that truth that allows us to FEEL what's authentic and know when to exhale, let go... This one is very tricky because at times there is the tendency to allow truths of past times and situations to govern new times, situations, and people and this causes suffering of the worse type for so many reasons. I have learned without deliberate effort but much heartache that allowing is so much better than manipulating because it gives me that freedom to feel the flow of life as it is intended. People enter and leave my life; some unnoticed and others with a deep cut to my core. But the more this process is allowed to freely flow the more keen my "vision" and discernment becomes. The better able I am to see the blessing of each crossing. The better I am able to see everything that person taught me...about myself, life, relationships and the bigger picture.

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  4. No, Oriah, there was nothing you could do to keep this relationship alive without the huge cost to yourself. I know because in the past I've been the demanding and draining boundary-less person, looking to someone else to fill the inner emptiness and insecurity and have caused huge damage to several people. Thankfully I also had a painful self-awareness of what I was doing, and eventually found a spiritual path that has helped me find my way out of this terrible trap. I'm still damaged too, and now am probably too wary of being open or getting close to people, so am sometimes very lonely and yearn for more intimacy in my life, but hopefully my healing will continue and one day that will feel safer. You did the only thing you could in the situation, and if the person concerned finds their way through,one day they'll understand that and honour you for trying. Bless you, and hoping your peace soon returns xx

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    1. Anne, thank you for your courage- in fact, I think we are all, at times, the one who lacks boundaries and so is having a detrimental affect on another. What interaction with this person has, of course, taught me- is how to create and maintain my healthy boundaries.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this. I have the same situation with someone I love deeply that won't do the work to look inside themselves. I know I have to let go and grieve. And it hurts. It feels empty just to say "I tried" but I believe in my ability to love and can hold on to that thru this process. Thanks again, this was much needed this morning.

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    1. And perhaps our "work" is to hold healthy boundaries with someone we see as not doing their "work." :-) Not easy.

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  6. Thank you Oriah, this is just the reading I needed this morning. And, Jennifer, you have all the truth inside you, and still it hurts. I know that place intimately. Another paradox, grief and life, love and pain, all wrapped up and tangled together. This gift of consciousness is also our curse. Putting words on paper, for each other to read, to reach out and know we are all in this rocking boat together, I am so grateful for moments like these. Thank you Oriah for continuing to speak to us. As I get older, I slowly loosen my grip to the sides of the boat and allow myself to lie and wait and wonder and be carried along. Some days are lighter than others, the weather is less daunting, the skies clearer. I step out of my own way and see I am part of the vast natural world.
    I wonder about the grieving for a child, alive. How it feels like, perhaps, the biggest test a person can face. How truly, deeply, we have to care about our own precious being, realize our right to live here fully too. Sending you both warm wishes for a sweet and simple day.

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    1. Alice- love the image of letting go of my death grip on the sides of the boat and laying down in the bottom of the boat to watch the sky- filled wit clouds or stars- drift by. And no where are healthy boundaries more important and more difficult than with a grown son or daughter. Every time I see one of my sons getting stuck, and desperately want to give advice (or more) I hear a small inner voice say, "See to your own stuckness, Oriah." Very humbling :-)

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  7. Thank you very much for your post. Some time ago, I also lost a friend who wasn't bad for me, but the friedship simply faded away from her side, and it took me very long to accept that. I still think of her from time to time and send her a prayer full of love then - that's all I can do. And to be patient with my grief. We really have had wonderful times.

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    1. Ah Nora, how strange it can feel when someone simply wanders away. Prayers for peace with what is.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this Oriah. You have given me the courage to speak my mind to my alcoholic father (well ... actually write it as I express myself better on paper)after many years (I am 52). It has been weighing on me and its something I should have done a long time ago but today is the day.
    Thank you,
    Vicki

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    1. Vicki, may you find the courage to write truthfully from your own heart. So glad this piece was helpful- thanks for letting me know.

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  9. Another very insightful piece. Yet I wonder what is "wrong" with me when I so easily let people go. I can no longer invest the emotional energy I did when I was in my 20s (and 30s, 40s). I find too much joy in books, films, nature, my work, solo travel, animal companions and one or two people. Our emotional resources are limited just like our physical resources. Once I learned that lesson from a wise teacher, my whole perspective changed on serving as the rock/shoulder/sounding board. S.

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  10. How is this that you wrote this just for me? Thanks for sharing!

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  11. amny of these words also seemed.....just for me.....thanks.:)

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  12. Reading your writing my whole body relaxes and I start to breathe deeply....
    You are truly gifted. I am so grateful to have stumbled upon your blog and honored to be sharing your thought filled words.

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