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.