Some things simply cannot compare to others– like deep grief and big love– like before and after and other things that just cause sadness to make comparisons to, like happiness then and now. For this reason I really try not to make the comparison of life with and without Isaac. It comes up without effort for me everyday. There’s not much time that passes– a couple hours at the most– that I’m not thinking about his life or about his death. It’s never far from me even if I am enjoying the brevity of levity, even if my head is thrown back in laughter, even if my eyes are bright and my smile is big and my heart is full. Sometimes a single tear will fall in the midst of otherwise joyful repose. Sometimes many more tears fall, right alongside belly deep laughter. I am happy and sad at the same time, a lot of the time. It is not complicated nor is it simple. It is just not linear, and the world we live in likes linear. Feels comfort in order and in sensical ways. I can assure you that my mind craves this too; but I know now that contrasts coexist simultaneously– various shades across the spectrum rather than clear black and white–and so what might be easier to swallow– one thing /emotion/concept at a time– is simply not an option anymore. I am learning to accept it. I have to unlearn a lot and at the same time, there’s no learning curve at all because it is, already. Does that make sense? If you get it then I’m sorry, it likely means you’ve lived through your own version of surreality.
“Comparison is the kind of thing that eats you– and leaves you starving”
— Nayirrah Waheed
I may write about this a lot but I am dumbstruck so often by my own joyfulness– I feel gutted by loss AND I feel so fucking grateful for happy feelings. Sad and happy–I am both. And that’s where confusion begins to appreciate the tenets of enlightenment– because Truly, I can’t express it enough, going through hell seems to expand your capacity for all feelings– the trajectory OF EVERYTHING is vast-er.
I cleaned up my act a lot over the course of the past year. My lack of preparedness for the devastation of Isaac’s death lead me to rely on several unhealthy coping mechanisms. I’ll spare you the sob story, but I will say that despite the heaviness of grief that I wear like a cape, a fog I have lived under for 15+ years has lifted and I truly believe it’s because of a combination of factors I removed from my life– habits, relationships, dependencies– call them what you will, in their absence, I find freedom from a level of oppression/depression that I lived with far too long. I don’t know if this is serendipitous or some kind of cosmic benevolence offered to me as a consolation, if it’s as simple as nutrient density, if it’s from brain chemistry altering or if it’s from forming new neural pathways in my brain from changing routines, but whatever it is, it feels fucking good.
The problems start when I make comparisons. When I wish I had figured this out before and maybe Isaac would still be here. All roads lead to shit city when I do this to myself. Ultimately, I have to stop attempting to balance everything. This is my constant work. Allowing rather than controlling. Breathing instead of panicking. Accepting over deflecting. Being not doing. Again and again and again I have to release my unconscious pull toward solving the riddle that can never be resolved. But so too, do I understand this implicitly, pre-thought, instinctually– without effort, like so many things about this whole truth. And I can see my unruly mind for what it is– a relentless dreamer, a rambunctious child–of every possibility–and I can hold it back or I can love it wisely and tenderly, holding space for when it needs me to intervene on our behalf.
And sometimes of course I can forget– I can believe the story it’s telling me, I can go off on the wild goose chase. Factors of all form and function conspire at these times and I travel many miles forgetting, unconscious, haphazard–a tumble weed.
I stay present when I can. When I remember. I’m not militant with myself, just intentional when I intend to be. It helps. It all helps me navigate the still hostile terrain of my new country– the land of childless mamas. I am no longer a stranger here– I am finding my way around, yet still these wild eyes of disbelief look out from me. Visiting with a friend this week who grew up in Israel, she said they lived in a Kibbutz, an enclosure that kept them together but separate. I understand this as though my own bones were made of the clay in their walls. My child loss has made me different from almost everyone I know. But if I chose to live in that comparison I would be too sad and lonely to feel the tremendous joy and gratitude that I am capable of now. It is as real as my agony, and unexplainable yet prayed for, by me and countless others on my behalf. And so I toss my head back in laughter, beside you, even as one or many tears fall.
I never got to see or know or share the burden Isaac carried– for however long or short it was unbearable to him. For a short time after his death I thought people had no idea the burden I carry… It didn’t take very long to begin to notice– I have no idea what another carries– you can’t always see it in their eyes or behind their smile or the ways they may try to protect themselves or you from their pain. And if we can’t see it then anyone may be carrying a heavy load, so we must all just take great care of ourselves and treat each other with such tender compassion. People can’t always share their pain or their joy so openly. You can’t compare grief and you can’t compare pain endurance. Resilience is not always visible nor intentional. “Courage doesn’t always roar”– we do ourselves and everyone else such a disservice when we compare or assume to understand. Let’s stop. Just stop it. I am neither “ok/all better” because I enjoy myself nor am I “not moving forward” because I still grieve. I’ve been on the receiving end of both assumptions recently–and honestly, it helps me look within for clarity and while I don’t believe everyone out there believes one or the other of these, any more than I do (depending on the day), I do just want to clear the air, open the possibilities for deeper questions to explore– if you have genuine concern about how someone (me/anyone) is feeling/coping, stay open. Judgements create walls. Look for pathways. I share from my heart because it helps me to heal, it helps me stay connected, it helps me bear this, all of which helps me not feel so alone as I walk this wilderness of child loss. Thank you.
My hope for the new year is to embody expansiveness in heart soul action thinking being. To cultivate it like soil that needs tending to increase bio-availability & nutrient density. “God, make me an instrument of thy peace”– may I serve others and myself to my full potential, may my grief continue to teach and guide compassion for self and others. May I release all impediments to joyfulness, knowing that I can carry more than I once knew, and perhaps especially, help me drop the conditioning of comparisons which place limits on everything. Help me embrace limitlessness.