There are some who suggest that how we experience the world is a reflection of ourselves; if we experience the world as a hostile place, it is because we are hostile. Conversely, if we experience the world as peaceful, it is due to our own inner peace.
I can see the argument for and against this and a host of other platitudes used to encourage or comfort or try to relate, daily, especially as a griever/seeker/wanderer/stumbler, and perhaps with what feels like an epidemic of recent suicides all around me, as new survivors attempt to make sense of their altered worlds.
I do not claim to know, understand or even intuit how the Great Mystery works. In fact I would say I am trying less to understand these concepts because I find it a little silly or even arrogant when others think they KNOW. The more information I cram into my mind, the less room there is for wisdom, and wisdom seems to rise from the void, the absence of knowing, or perhaps the merging of knowing and trusting? See, that rabbit hole is endless. SO, I am simply continuing forward with what has been essential since that day 2.5 yrs ago, when Isaac took his own life, one breath, one moment at a time. I’m not trying to perfect this so much as I have discovered that taking on more than this gets me into trouble. And by trouble, I mean feeling angsty, over attached, or chaotic.
SO when I read or hear things like the first paragraph, a couple of things happen. If Im caught off guard, I can quickly ride off on a balloon of hope that because I feel happy RIGHT NOW, then I am good and my world reflects that. On the other hand, that line of thinking can take me into the lions den if I am in one of my moments of despair and self blame for every bad thing, especially, for Isaac’s death.
If, however, I’m taking it one breath at a time, I can pause and reflect on whether or not this feels true for me, if it resonates, if I need to hold onto it or if I can let it go as it came in. Even if “I like it”, even if I want to believe it is true, this practice of reflection allows me an opportunity to choose how my energy is spent, be less reactive, listen to the person before me, listen to my own inner voice and back out of a firmly held stance when necessary. A few recent examples: I received a beautiful card from my little sister. It said All The Things one doesn’t even know they long to hear. It made me happy and I cried and I felt seen. BUT, had I attached myself to anything written in that card, I could see my mind want more of that–I could see myself strive for external validation, I could see myself snapping photos and asking the world, my world, to see. Instead, I placed it in a sacred spot and when I see it, I can have a moment of reverie, with all the feels, because I have learned to listen to what feels good inside, that does not fade with time, that is not beyond the breath, as I have come to call it. Another example and one I find myself in more since I’ve made an earnest attempt to challenge firmly held beliefs or opinions, is talking to someone about something and realizing the person knows more or that I’m jumping on to an opinion I heard or read elsewhere, without having all the information, without checking in with myself at all. I used to get into a lot of fights with my family of origin over this need to be right at any cost, in my lifetime. If I witness myself in this space, which is easier to do when I’m one breathing it, I can apologize & back out. I have even stopped a conversation by saying “Wait, I don’t know why i said that, I’m sorry”. Or even a total coup: “I’m sorry, I do not know”.
And the world doesn’t stop spinning!
Being wrong used to be really really really hard for me, especially because I didn’t even know that was true! I didn’t know I held that as a core value: Being Right or Having The Answers. But being right or knowing anything is attached to a world that was blown to smithereens. There is nothing truer than my deep understanding that I.Know.Nothing. And this is not sadness–you may already understand this, but if you don’t, please, don’t think I need to be elevated by anyone telling me anything you know I know or all the times I was right or whatevs. This isn’t a plea for someone to take away my pain.
I think it’s about acceptance. I think I am finally ready for it, today, in this breath, anyway. Perhaps the only way I could get here, the only way to accept Isaac’s death, was for me to learn– TRULY LEARN–the Serenity Prayer:
God/Source/Great Mystery/Benevolent Wonder Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
There is a real freedom in not being responsible for knowing everything, in just breathing through whatever comes up. Sometimes its the only option and sometimes it is a chosen default or reset button. Even when I forget and find myself in the chaos of overwhelm, all I have to do is check into how I am feeling and I know immediately that I need to breathe. That is the only thing I know, “All ye know and All ye need to know”– wherever I am, keep breathing.
This practice/process has helped me tremendously for when The Big One’s Come, as they frequently do. Like today, when the mail came. One thing from Zales for wedding rings for Isaac Ryan-McKinnon (a double whammy), the other was the fucking Gerber Life Grow Up Plan. The inner dialogue/spiral in my head goes something like this:
- Tears form in my eyes and slowly escape, down my cheek, thinking about a) How Zales got Isaac’s info, did he buy from them? If so, what? b) imagining Isaac getting engaged, married while simultaneously understanding that he never will, c) giggling, knowing that he would’ve gone all out and maybe even in debt to buy a ring for his love, giggling more knowing he did not get this from me, d) more tears.
- I begin to draft a letter to send in all SASE enclosed in mailings that come regarding Isaac in anyway; military, colleges, credit card offers, children’s life insurance policies…. that process goes something like this:
- A) Dear Sir or Madam, Frequently you send offers for your crap addressed to my son Isaac Ryan-McKinnon at our home address. He doesn’t live here anymore. And by here I mean on this planet, more than I mean at this address. If you could kindly remove him–and us–from your mailing list, I could stop being triggered to reexperience the utter devastation of my loss.
- B) I start to feel myself becoming ensnarled–yes, Im pretty sure that is a made up word, but a fitting description. All the stupid and inconsiderate and ignorant things that have happened over the last 2.5 yrs begin their loop on the slideshow that is complicated grief with resentment.
- C) I become aware that I do not like the way that I am feeling in my body, which reminds me to breathe, to be present. I acknowledge the truths of this situation; I am sad for the loss of my boy, I am sad for the future he will never have, these corporations have no idea or maleficence, and, perhaps most importantly, the thoughts that lead to the ammended letter I draft in my mind: To Whom This Concerns, Thank you for sending junk mail addressed to my deceased child. This reminds me that he was alive, not that I ever forget his life or his death, but that I look for evidence all the time, and your endless barrage of unneccessary mail is an unexpected acknowledgement from the world that a child, a young man, used to live here with me. Sometimes it feels like a dream where I am trying to hold onto water. The crap you send gives me something to hold in my hands, and I am so grateful for this, and you, once I can take a few breaths and recalibrate. Some folks in my grieving circles suggest that this kind of optimism is naive, but I find labeling any of this inaccurate– optimistic or naive really misses the whole point. This is about surviving what feels impossible. And whether I like it or not, my spirit fights like hell to survive a shitty hand of cards. Anywho, I’m sure you’re busy, I am not even sure you’re paying a person to read this. I don’t mind a bit that you send mail to my son who no longer recieves it. But I am concerned about the sustainability of this planet and that, because you are out of touch with your potential customers (some of whom have literally moved on), you are wasting resources, time and money and that benefits no one, except maybe other mums like me who, for a moment, close their eyes and smile to imagine their handsome son in a suit, marrying his best girl, and me, sitting in the front row, taking it all in with joy and pride and wonder. Thanks, but no thanks.
All of us at XXX XXXXXX Street Frankfort MI 49635
Breathing is really about connecting with yourself, seeing yourself through whatever happens, however you feel. Maybe breath is the only thing we can rely on to keep us sane. So I just keep breathing. Wherever you are, just keep breathing.