Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflections at the Start of a New Year.

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.........Anatole France


A new year starts and we think, "a new beginning, the opportunity to change and to make things better."  We think, "This year, I will do better.  I resolve to do better.  This year, I will change my unhealthy eating habits.  I will change my slovenly ways and exercise every day, write every day, save more money, learn a new language, train for a marathon, devise a plan for lasting world peace."

This spurt of cockeyed optimism rarely, if ever, lasts.  In fact, there is that hint of melancholy followed by resistance to change.  Buddhist nun and author, Pema Chodron calls it "the fundamental ambiguity of being human"--we want things not to change but everything changes anyway.  Wanting things not to change causes pain.  No wonder it is so easy to abandon those lofty resolutions, so easy to go back to comfortable old habits.  

A year ago, I did not know that 2013 would be a year of huge change for me.  I have always mostly thought of myself as a progressive kind of person, one who is willing and able to embrace change more readily than most.  How easy to do when the changes to a good life only make it better.  How actually a kind of blindness.  A year ago, I did not have an inkling of the lessons I would learn.

Not wanting my life to have changed--yes, that is pain.  Everything changes and sometimes change means loss.  I did not see the loss of my husband
anywhere on the horizon a year ago.  I did not see the grief lurking in the wings of such a loss.  I did not anticipate the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll--the naked grief.

Everything changes and our control over that changing is an illusion at best.  I was pushed into vortex of swirling reactions.  I am carried down a river I did not jump into willingly, battered and bruised along the way, and not always able to grasp the usual safe holds to pull myself out.  Grief is a journey without any guide posts.  I have to make our own, as we all do.  We do learn along the way--sometimes the hard way, sometimes by lucky happenstance, sometimes by the grace of others.

I have learned to face the feelings as they may come, to really see them for what they may be.  It is, for me, the only way to figure out what to do with them and to make peace within myself.

I learned that I am quite capable of angry fist shaking and shouting at the unfairness of fate, of life, of God.  I also learned that is not an especially helpful reaction when you find yourself in a turgid river.  You are going to swallow water and sink.  Acceptance allows me to float for a while and renew my energy so I can keep swimming.  I have learned I do want to keep swimming.

I have learned that I can steel myself for the pain of the big things like holidays and then be completely dissolved by something as little as a strand of his hair caught in a hairbrush found unexpectedly in a suitcase.  Tears sneak up on you.  The one-two punch takes you by surprise.

I have learned anew that I have been greatly loved and that I am loved.  That is solace.  That is the life jacket thrown in so quickly.  That is the reason to find my way.  I did not know that Mike saved every single card, letter and note that I ever sent to him.  I found them in a file marked simply "O" when I was searching for his advanced directive.  That tidbit of news about the person I thought I knew best touched me to my core.  Now I am touched by the acts of caring from family and friends.  Nothing is too small or too slight to be appreciated.

I have learned that on this first day of a new year, I will not make resolutions to improve myself.  I will take myself as I am right now but know that, too, will change.  I will embrace change with sadness or happiness, as the case may be, but treat myself and others with kindness and affection in doing so.  That is my intention for 2014.





20 comments:

  1. Beautifully written, Olga. I wish you peace in the coming year.

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  2. And this is why I read your blog, because you are wise and have been tempered by the fire of life. You are here because we readers need your insight and your hand to guide us. Thank you.

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  3. What an eloquent and heartfelt post, Olga. We each travel a different (and changeable) path, but your feelings and what you have learned are a guide for the rest of us. Thank you.

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  4. Lovely, Olga. Thank you for this reflective post.

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  5. I agree with the previous comments, you've such an ability to express your feelings in words that touch my heart.Thank you for sharing.

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  6. Such beautiful words! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your insight!

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  7. What an intimate, lovely portrait of your soul, Olga. May you find peace and happiness in the months and years ahead. Blessings!

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  8. We all learn so much from you, Olga. thank you.

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  9. Olga, a very lovely poignant post. You touch our hearts. I wish you a better year than the last half of 2013.

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  10. What a beautifully written post. You are a wise woman. Thank you for sharing with us. While I can sense the rawness of your pain I also sense that you are doing amazingly well and hope you know that Mike would be so proud of you.

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  11. Olga, this is such a beautiful post. I am so very impressed with your strength and resolve. This post should be printed in AARP or anywhere to teach how to deal with grief and loss. I can't begin to tell you how much every word touched me to my core. Thank you. You are a beautiful, loved person.

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  12. Thank you for this touching reflection from your soul, olga. It made me cry knowing what you are going through. But it also gives me comfort......you have said it so very well for me too. The key word for me is acceptance.......i can feel it slowly seeping in; choosing to keep swimming as you say. Thank you and God Bless you with strength and hope this new year.
    Love, Joan

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  13. That is just a powerful post Olga. I agree with Kay, it is one we could all learn from but especially those in the middle of loss.
    I'm praying that 2014 brings you much less pain and even more discovery.

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  14. This is an absolutely beautiful post, Olga. I admire your strength and grace so much. Yes, keep swimming, it is the thing to do and makes us stronger in the end even though the effort can be temporarily exhausting. A blessed New Year to you.

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  15. So beautiful, Olga. Your strength, fortitude, positivity astounds me. Huge hugs to you and wishes for a blessed 2014.

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  16. This is such a beautiful post!

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  17. Following you through your journey is such a raw experience and I know I do it for selfish reasons. I am so afraid one day of losing the love of my life. How could I manage without him? Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings - and your progress, with us.

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  18. We are all here to help lend you a bit of strength and to learn from you and your strength. Thank you for sharing your journey so beautifully with all of us.You are very special.

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  19. You are brave and beautiful and I am reminded of this every time I read your writing. Am so blessed to have met you.

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I appreciate readers' comments so much. You don't even always have to agree with me.