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What if grief is a heart that feels it can fly? Living through loss when the world is full of loss
From the Journal | October 2023
For those new to this e-community, I periodically offer my readers & clients snippets from my daily writing (tidied up a bit ;-), intermixed with topical and Q & A articles. Here are three snippets from October.
I’ve been on a publishing hiatus for some months, and now emerging again with my regular e-Journal. So, “Hello again, Dear One,” and “Welcome Here” to the 700+ new beings who’ve come into my world recently.
October 12, 2023 | Thursday
I’m in pre-dawn dark, looking at the moon through an opening in the redwoods. Its round face is densely grey, with just a sliver of light at the bottom.
I can see it as a smile, that crescent of light, which seems to say, Hello you, looking up at the sky at the start of a new day, we’re both still here.
I can also see it as some brightness wanting out, wanting more of itself, a hint of desperation, as it’s slowly being consumed by shadows that in two days will win.
The moon, if you strain to look for it then, will be just a dull pebble. We call it a ‘new’ moon, because it’s in darkness that we begin again.
Right now, this is what our planet must look like from a far, the darkness so much bigger than the upside-down arc of light.
If you’re grieving, you understand this image, the light in you eclipsed by loss. Hard to imagine it’s all a beginning and not an ending, yes?
We miss our beloved others profoundly, their physical presence, their luminous eyes finding ours across a room, the electricity of loving and being loved. Tangles of pure energy connect us. The happy-sad truth is how that tangled energy continues even after they are gone.
Then, there’s all this death happening on a little screen in our hands or a bigger one perched in our living rooms.
Hmmm, living room, ironic. Though if you’re reading this, you are living.
You are your breath, rhythmically letting in and letting go. Could you be a little intentional about what you let in and let go?
You are your animal body, that despite how hard being alive can feel at times, is genetically designed to keep on going, because it knows in it’s cells you have more to do and to be.
You are your curious human mind processing these words, wondering ten or a hundred things at once, from Why is this coffee cold? to How can people do this to each other? to Where is she going with all of these words?
You are making of whatever room you are in a living room, because you are in it.
Don’t underestimate the importance of that.
The private loss and the shared, public losses have a way of holding hands. Can you feel what I mean?
In the midst of wars, shootings, earthquakes, extinctions, overdoses, and the hidden violence that happens behind closed doors, you are the crescent of light, still here, a so-needed persistence, pushing back against the shadows.
October 14, 2023 | Saturday (Annular Eclipse)
Is there anyone not grieving right now? I hope so.
That said, grief is not a bad thing. It’s not even one thing. Think of light through a prism—not enough words for all the colors you see. That’s grief. It’s a kaleidoscope of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, even the spirit shifting about (if that’s part of who you are).
This morning grief looks like curiosity and wonder, even a huge grin, as I stand in my robe and felty owl slippers looking up. Who else is seeing this annular eclipse, which is happening above my neighbor’s house?
There’s the usual odd dimness that eclipses create. No shadows anywhere. The birds and the bear who’s been grunting in the distance, suddenly quiet.
The new, dark moon is passing over the sun. Now the sun is only a ring of light, as if a portal to some bright place that I just get glimpses of between breaks in the grey, fluffy, fog-clouds.
The ring appears because the darkness is smaller than the light. Remember that.
If you are feeling lost or broken or helpless against all the bad news about the the dark side of human beings, please know that, like this morning’s ring of light, every day contains a portal to a bright place.
The ring of light is you.
What if you set aside whatever dark, heavy stone you carry, and sat calm, breathing slow and deep into your belly, intentionally looking at or listening to whatever is around you?
Can you see how your sheer attention illuminates whatever your eyes or your ears land upon?
Now, tell me, can’t you can’t find at least one lovely or lilting thing?
For just this small space of time, as you look or listen, noticing how your body breathes, how it breathes you from one moment into the next, for just this little while, can you sense that you’re okay?
Try it again, then later, again, and again. This is how you get through until it gets better.
October 26, 2023 | Thursday
I’m tired and I feel lost. My husband has been hovering at his end-of-life for more than 5 years, well past what hospice expected. “I’m on my way out,” he says each day, or “I’m fading,” or just, “I’m dying.”
I actually looked up the word, dying, such a dramatic word, in the dictionary, and read, “gradually ceasing to exist or function; in decline and about to disappear.” Okay, I guess he knows what he’s talking about.
This blunt-spoken man reminds me of someone I used to know, but is no longer quite that person. But then, that’s true for me, too. The spectrum from wife to caregiver, a shifting sea.
Still, he’s here, meaning in this house with me, and in this life, and in the 30+ years that lives like an another being in my mind that I call, Us.
Remember when? The Us-being asks. Yes, I think-answer.
Every day I look into my husband’s eyes, the wet blue of a biologist who spent years looking into the sky, into that vast sapphire ceiling, scanning for hawks or the rare glimpse of an osprey heading for a nest with a fish in it’s taloned feet.
I see him. I touch his cheek, then reach and hold the hand of his tired and lost body.
“Well look at us,” I say loudly, partly because he’s missing so much of his hearing, and also as a kind of personal defiance against the daily dying, reminding myself, We still have this moment. Don’t miss it!
This may sound sad from the outside—empathy in your ears hearing those sentences, seeing these words your eyes have pulled into your mind. Oh how the mind wants to make sense of what the outer world brings into your inner world.
Maybe sometimes it is sad. Certainly there are moments of sorrow, but also real joy always woven in there. What is joy without that poignant ache of living in and through some moments that can feel hard, like now?
Here’s the thing. There is a bird in my chest. Its wings beat against the cage that are my ribs. Sometimes I think it is just my heart fluttering along, but no. The bird is more than the fleshy, hidden fist grasping and letting go, the pulsing that right now strikes me as, keep-going, keep-going, keep-going.
If I close my eyes, I can open my body, and there is light that pours out, and the bird flies in it, and the bird is it, the light.
It actually takes very little to sustain possibility, if you allow it, let it loose, believe in it. I’m smiling. No, I’m not lost, I’m right here, where I’m supposed to be.
Just now, I put on an obscure Richard Stoltzman digital album, and there’s his jazzy, clarinet version of Blackbird. No voice, though my mind sings the lines:
Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise
How does that happen? A sudden bird song as I write bird words?
I worked with a lovely, artsy client who called me “synchronicity sister,” because of the way I appeared in her life and she in mine at an auspicious time.
Poking around a new app called Threads, I’m chiding myself for the distraction, though the first post that pops up is by author and qigong teacher Mimi Kuo-Deemer. Suddenly, I’m grateful.
She’s sharing that the Chinese word for grief, bei (悲), literally means ‘heart that feels it can fly.’
Synchronicity is real. Created by psychologist Carl Jung from Greek roots meaning ‘together in time,’ the word embodies what he called a ‘meaningful coincidence.’
It’s our superpower as human beings to be meaning-makers.
Above my window, there is a string of colorful paper birds, wings outstretched as if flying, and now seemingly flying, bobbing about in a current of warm air from the furnace. A beloved friend gave me this gift of indoor, birdy prayer flags years ago.
Between the birds are hearts, and they remind me we love each other, my friend and I, though more than that, too.
There is a delicate red thread that connects the birds and the hearts, and it connects me, as I write, with you, yes, you reading this, wherever you are, whatever you are going through, happy or hard.
It’s a form of love, this delicate thread. It says, Hello, we’re in this moment together, part of the same fabric that’s heartache on one side, celebration on the other.
When you get to the end of this story, look up, and smile at the very first thing or being you see, even if you aren’t in a mood that feels all that smiley right now.
Know that you are part of a thread and it always connects through love.
After you’ve drawn your face into a smile, which is not just emotion, but also biochemical signals leaning your animal body towards something better, repeat after me, “I still have this moment. Don’t miss it.”