NORA L. JAMIESON
Growth does not come from putting on any spiritual clothing. Growth comes from removing and removing, ceasing, undoing, and letting ourselves drop down or even fall into the core of our living being.”
Linda Hogan, The Stories We Hold Secret.
I’m sitting on the couch looking out into what my sister in law would call “another gree, gree, fookin day.” The fire is going and Roxie lies on her bed breathing heavily in sleep. I have a long empty day stretching out ahead of me, no one to love, no one to be loved by. No conversations. No embrace, or kiss. No mirroring that tells me, I am. When one lives alone it is easy to become invisible to oneself. Someone once defined grief as love with no where to go.
It is a bit over two years since Allan died and I am sensing an almost invisible imperative entering me, to be silent now. To not talk about my grief now. It’s enough now. I sense this in the way people don’t ask me how I am, and the cultural imperative to silence grief. It’s like a fog drifting in from the woods, that subtle. Perhaps arising from my own conditioning or the silence of the phone. Don’t you see the world is in such distress, stop being so self centered.
Perhaps it’s in the way people are overly enthusiastic when I’m having a good day, the relief nearly gushes out of them. Perhaps I am too much. “Childhood memories float back, being told you’re too much, you’re too sensitive.” But for whom? And how sensitive is too?
What I do know at this time in this descent, if I am open about how I am on any given day, is how little tolerance we have for sitting helpless with the that which cannot be fixed, analyzed, figured out and resolved. I’m including myself here in this, no shame, no blame. It is a cultural wincing for sitting with the primal, emotional, events of every life. EVERY LIFE. Everyone will die, everyone will lose a loved one to death. I remember how hard this is, having sat with women who had received a terminal diagnosis. What is one to do but be present? To be in truth with them as they face the impossibility of the end of their lives. We underestimate the power of Presence, that ineffable but powerful attention fueled by love that requires nothing of the one we are witnessing. Except to be in the truth of their experience. Presence is healing. Presence takes guts. Presence requires us to keep returning to the ragged one sitting in front of us, the snots, the swollen face, the wail, the rage, the helplessness. That one. Who is all of us. That one who is carrying now what we all have or will carry. Deep gratitude for those in my life who are able to hold such a Presence.
I watch myself closing in on myself, like a little hedgehog without the protective needles.
Okay, I’ll just withdraw. Tamp it down. But something in me refuses.
“ What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open”
I wonder what if a thousand women expressed the truth of their grieving? Would we split open the silence? Would the air fill with wailing, would rivers of tears loose themselves flooding our comfortable lives. Disturbing us. Grief is disturbing. It shatters and scatters and turns upside down the life of the one who is left. Or the many. It scoops out the heart into a hollow place, weighted with absence. Might it also be a hallowed place? Might it if we had the determination to learn Presence, to face all of life? What makes an experience hallowed?
When a culture, or enough people recognize that grief holds the potential to bring us to our human knees, to strip us of pretense, stoicism, roles, to test our faith and trust, to one of the darkest, deepest trials of becoming more human. To bring us to our true nature. Love.
Do I know this in my grief? Hell no. Only the older, wiser One knows this, the one who says, speak, don’t withdraw, open your heart to all of this grief/love. The One whom we all walk with. The One who Abides.
So I stay with myself. Mostly faithful to she who grieves. I complain, I cry, I yell and wail, I go numb. I miss him, I miss him, I miss him…unbearably. He is worth missing, he is worthy of being loved still. And I put my arms around myself, I lean on She Who Knows and I pray.
My prayer is that if you know someone in grief, even a couple years in, even three years in, even five years in, know that the pain is still present, the tsunamis still come, the loneliness
unbearable at times and Bless them. Because they’re living still, even under that weight, learning to carry their full precious humanity into the world. Like Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes,
“…if you go long enough,
stand the cold enough,
stay under and far enough down
…pure carbon crystalizes into regular octahedrons
…in the earth this phenomenon produces
Amongst humans, this phenomenon creates
a whole person.
Who is teacher?