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In his lovely volume called The House of Belonging (Many Rivers Press, 1997), wiseman and poet David Whyte says, “…anything or anyone/ that does not bring you alive/ is too small for you.”*
Could it be that grief has become too small for me? That’s what it feels like. Which is astonishing, really, because for at least three years it has felt much too large. The sheer, random power of grief has overwhelmed me, sometimes for days or weeks at a time, rendering me unable to move with any sort of clarity or purpose other than trying hard not to expire on the spot.
But things are different now. I do not dread the occasional rush of tears that flood out of nowhere. In fact, I almost welcome them as a sign that I have encountered a deep truth about the inner workings of my heart, mind, and soul. Eyes welling up has become a sure response to beauty, and a catch in my throat means that I am receptive to the poignancy of life itself.
These are all good omens that point to a new life dawning out of loss. I am grateful to see them because I am not by nature a sad person. While I have tried not to rush through grief’s ineluctable process, I am very happy to recognize a bit of the old me resurfacing.
Of course, I will never again be the “old me.” How could I? The tapestry of my being will forever contain the golden threads of my late husband’s love, woven through with grey threads of death and crimson threads of unspeakable heartbreak. But it is not a tight weave. There are holes where rays of yellow sunshine break through and the cool, blue breeze of hope wafts in, calling me to a new life that is just beginning to glimmer with creative possibility. (read on for more about grief and change)
But what is that life? I feel its call into a cycle of change, but the direction is unclear. Of course, I remind myself. That’s the way it is at the threshold. Whenever we enter a new frontier, all the old familiarities pass away. Even the grieving process can become a security blanket once we are accustomed to the way it works in us. And for me, that’s a warning.
Life has never let me get too comfortable. So it’s really no surprise that just about the time I would realize a certain facility with the language of grief and loss, a new wave of thought and feeling should start knocking at the door of my heart, urging me to entertain a fresh adventure.
However, even that invitation sparks a certain caution. Despite my love of beginnings, I have also learned to appreciate endings. And the best lesson is that we don’t get out of anything unless we love our way through to its natural conclusion.
With an experience as painful as grief, it is all too tempting to flee at the first sign of relief. But that’s not the way it works. There is always a transition time in which we must cohabitate with both the old that is ending and the new that has not quite emerged.
Elsewhere David Whyte says, “What you can plan/ is too small/ for you to live.”
Drat! I’m sure he means that any future I can conceive of right now will pale before what actually unfolds in its own, sweet time. So, patience and more patience—and the familiar requirement of self-observation and attention to what remains undone in the current cycle of death and rebirth.
Gestation of anything worth living takes the time that nature proscribes, not me. Much as I would like, I cannot force the bud of new experience, especially when there is still work to do. In some ways, I feel like I have written to the very bottom of my own barrel of grief. That may be true, but other people have not. And other experts have much to say that I am now free to explore and incorporate into my work.
So I am comforted by an old Scandinavian saying I ran across this past week: “Faith is a bird that feels the dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark.”
The future has not yet dawned, but I’m singing away, even as I keep my ears open for the new melody. I know it’s coming soon.