My last post, about losing our gardenia, made me think about loss again. It is an interesting concept, loss. I am going to chew on this for awhile. If it bothers you then for crying out loud, please do not read it.
What is this potent euphemism, loss? Can you really understand it if you have not had the experience of losing people, places, and things?
It happens to everyone, I am not special in any way. Many people have had more and worse loss than me. I am not feeling sorry for myself in writing this. I just want to step back for a few minutes and explore this thing called loss. Why not?
I have moved many times. Leaving one place for another is a special kind of loss. I am not only thinking about houses and people, I am talking about the land, the climate, the flora and fauna, the way a sofa might fit perfectly in one living room but not another. This is the loss of the familiar. Of course with this kind of loss (moving) you also gain something in the process, so the loss of the familiar is tempered somewhat by the excitement of the new. There is still emotional pain, but there is also hope. And, of course, you learn things.
As an adult I became acquainted with death. In early-middle age it seemed like people I loved were dropping like flies. That is when I figured if boys could condition themselves to stop crying, so could I. And I did. It was easier than you might think.
I thought maybe I was starting to get the hang of it after awhile. I imagined I was becoming accustomed to loss. I distanced myself from pain. Working and being busy helped. People in my life continued to die or move away and I handled the losses fairly well. I started spouting the whole “death is a natural part of life” line - as if that statement isn't just the most obvious thing in the world. I was beginning to imagine I was well-adjusted, strong even. It was great, too! I think of those as my glory years. Yes, I know that is a stupid thing to say, but I am not going to lie. I am as stupid as the next person.
There are people who read this blog who only know me from that long period of my life when I did not cry and I am quite sure they found me super annoying. I was overly proud of not crying, and when you are overly proud you are kind of begging for a slap down.
Death is uncomfortably personal and indelicate; we come up with alternate words to describe it because it is frightening. It is a little like Voldemort. We do not want to speak his name for fear that he may show up or exact revenge in unspeakable ways. We do not fully understand what he is capable of, so we fear the worst. Best to keep him at bay.
Losing someone to death begins a process for the living that is very similar to losing a place or a thing. We look for our loved ones but they are gone. We miss them deeply. We come to realize we will never find them again. We feel our loss and we mourn their passing. We grieve our loss. We change. We reluctantly adjust. Truthfully, I find the whole process infuriating. But whatayagonnado? I guess that is why it is so fascinating to me.
Since retiring and moving to Central Florida in March 2014, I have been reacquainted with loss. I retired and moved away, leaving my job, friends, gardens, home. I found myself missing many of the "things" I threw out or gave away when we were downsizing, preparing for the move. I lost things when we moved into our new place. I learned to live without these things and reluctantly adjusted. However, I am happy to report I finally found my black handled scissors! At least there is that.
The first year and a half after my retirement was fun. Everything was new. I was ready for change. I was happy and energized. I could not wipe the smile off my face. Then in March 2015, I "lost" my mother and all bets were off. Holy shit! Suddenly there was too much change and too much loss with too little time to process it all. I kind of overdosed on change. Does that make sense?
I am reluctantly adjusting to all this change. Reluctantly is the key word, and I think it is a reasonable adverb to use here. It kind of happens over time. It is fair to say that, more often than not, loss sucks. Loss is that empty hole, that endless tug, the searing pain, those burning tears pooling just behind your eyes. I hate losing people, places, and things. I totally understand why some people become pack rats and others stay in bad relationships. Change is a bumpy damn road.
Apparently loss must be felt if we want to be healthy minded. Or at least that is what society would have us believe. It seems to be one of those “you can run but you cannot hide” kind of things we hear so much about. And I (reluctantly) think that is true.
Shutting down is useful, pragmatic, and effective if you can manage to pull it off, but it is not strength. It is not that.
I never want to get too old to cultivate strength. It is a matter of principle and seems like a worthy goal, which is not to say that I AM strong. I often fail at being strong, sometimes in notably big and sloppy ways. I am not sure about you, but I am no Athena and I did not spring full grown from the head of Zeus.
We all get knocked down from time to time. There is no shame in that. Of course we all want to pull ourselves up by the count of 10. Sometimes we can and sometimes we can't, "there's the rub!" There's the humanity.
I am beginning to see that strength comes when we are willing to feel our pain, not in the overcoming of it. Big *$#@! surprise to me, by the way. I am not romanticizing or promoting this crap. I take no pleasure in thinking this is true. I take no pleasure in thinking of it at all.
|Demeter, in winter|