A Valentine

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such fine hands

e. e. cummings

I love you, Master!

About Grief

Today I have been thinking about grieving.

It’s one of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in life: everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Nothing is permanent. Whether we are talking about a relationship, a job, a feeling, a possession, an experience, or a life, you will lose it eventually. No matter how deeply we love them, no matter how hard we try to hold on to them, no matter how perfect they are, situations change. People leave us. Things come to an end.

Learning to accept that truth was very hard for me. When something is good, naturally I want it to stay that way. When something good comes to its inevitable end, I grieve. That is completely normal. But I also tended to get angry about it. I could not understand how or why something so good could just… end. It seemed to me that good things should go on forever. I wondered what had gone wrong. I wondered how I had failed. I would be resentful, as if life had cheated me by taking away something, or someone, dear to me. That anger would smolder inside, on top of the grief. And I couldn’t let it go.

It took a long time, and surviving many losses, before eventually I began to accept that there wasn’t anything wrong. Loss is what it is. It is simply the way life works. It is neither bad nor good. I don’t like it, but it’s just how things are. When things end, it does not necessarily mean failure. It does not mean that someone did something wrong. Loss is not a mistake. Loss is natural. It is normal. It is inevitable.

I fought that truth for a long time. But eventually I accepted it. Once I did, a large burden was lifted from my soul. I stopped being resentful and angry that I should have to face loss. I got it through my head that facing loss is a universal human experience, and that I was in no way exempt… nor was I being singled out for suffering.

The next step was learning how to grieve. Not to be resentful, but to allow myself to feel sad. Just as loss is natural, so is grieving. In fact, if you don’t grieve, it seems to me more likely that something is wrong. Strong, healthy people grieve and feel sadness. There is no shame in sadness. In fact, sadness honors the memory of your lost one. And I think that the size of your grief reflects the size of your love. The more you loved the person, the more you grieve. You honor them with your grief.

But most of us don’t like grieving. We try to talk each other out of it. When someone we care about is grieving, it makes us hurt for them. We don’t want our loved ones to hurt, and naturally we don’t want to hurt either. We tell them to “be strong,” or we look for something to say to them to “make them feel better.” Perhaps “feeling better” is not what they need. As long as the grief is not debilitating, rather than trying to get the person to stop grieving, perhaps we should give them the freedom to feel, give them permission to honor their loss with their sadness, and simply be with them in their grief, support them, and care for them while they go through it naturally. And perhaps we should care for ourselves the same way, giving ourselves permission to feel.

The last thing I had to learn was how to grieve, and then… let it go. This was probably the most difficult part. For the longest time, I had no idea how to let something go. Was I supposed to just decide not to feel something any more? Who can turn their feelings on and off like that? I’m still not certain when or how I learned it. It wasn’t a matter of ceasing to feel something. It was more like continuing to have the feeling, acknowledging the feeling, but deciding to turn my attention elsewhere. I have learned to allow myself to be sad, and then to turn and focus on something else. Not to bury it, but to acknowledge it and then move on. I say to myself, “It was wonderful, and I will always honor and cherish the memory; but now the time for it has ended.” In my mind, I create a memento, and set it on a shelf in memory, where I will visit it from time to time, remembering the wonderful part. Then I allow myself to not think about it all the time. And somehow, eventually, either the sadness gradually subsides, or else my capacity to bear it increases; but one way or another, it no longer weighs upon me as much.

Grief is complicated. Everyone grieves in their own way. Even for one person, grief might be different from one situation to the next. However it goes, grieving is an important part of living. Knowing that all things end should make us appreciate and honor each precious loved one, and each present moment even more. Feeling grief reminds us that we are human. Without loss, there could be no change; without change, there could be no renewal, no growth. And our ability to change and grow in wisdom is part of our humanity.

And, after all, one day, even grief will be no more. Grief, too, will end.

.

Wake Up!

What are you longing for? Where do you long to be? 

I went to see Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, the epic opera electronica by noted composer Eric Whitacre. This amazing piece of musical theater weaves together techno music, anime, manga, martial arts and Asian drumming with awesomely beautiful music. As a purely sensory experience, it soars. And for the past two days, I found that the memorable music stayed with me, haunting me, nagging me to remember the story it told.

In the story, lost angels are trying to get back to Paradise. They have been marooned for 17 years, since they were children. Two friends, a young man and woman, sing, 

“All they ever think about
is being any other place than this…
They remember being home,
but they’ve forgotten what it’s like
to feel a paradise of bliss.”

In the end, they don’t make it. But just on the verge of death, they suddenly see what has been right in front of them all along. Realizing their love for each other, they finally embrace and sing,

“If there be a paradise of bliss,
it is this… it is this.”

This could have been my story. I am going through some difficult things in my RL right now. No paradise of bliss, to be sure. There are times when I can’t even remember what it was like not to be weighted down with stress, worry and pain. I find myself wishing, longing for peace. Someday, I think to myself. Someday I will find that happiness I yearn for. It seems so elusive. It is out there somewhere. Like the lost angels in the story, I can’t seem to find my way home.

The song. The song was just so beautiful. It kept spinning in my head. Trying to get my attention.

It was some time this morning when I finally woke up to the message of the song. In the cool of the early morning, the sun streamed through the trees, creating a golden glow in the humid air. Everything around me was green, and so beautiful, bathed in golden light. As I thought of how much I have to be grateful for, even in the midst of trouble, and of the One who loves me, I realized that the bliss I long for is not “out there” somewhere. It is here. Now. Right in front of me. I don’t have to go searching. I just have to open my eyes.

If there be a paradise of bliss… it is this.

Don’t cry

With Jonah gone, the color seemed to drain out of the world. Without him, I had trouble finding pleasure in anything. Through force of habit, I continued to log on to Second Life, but shopping, building, meeting people and exploring just seemed less interesting. I moped for days without relief, until one day, I happened across words by, of all people, Dr. Seuss:

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

It might sound harsh to say this, but uninterrupted bliss is simply not the way of human existence. Normal lives are a continuum of routine, boredom, stress and frayed relationships, punctuated by injury and illness, failure and disappointment. That is just how things are. What makes it bearable? When the tedium is suddenly interrupted by brilliant flashes of joy. Stolen moments of happiness. The first flush of love. Surprising beauty. A realization of contentment.

Any of us are really, really lucky to experience any of these things, even for a moment. The secret of survival is to be on the lookout for them, and when they do happen, allow yourself to be in that moment, fully appreciating and enjoying it. Really taste the chocolate. Smile when your cat purrs in your lap. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Notice your lover’s tenderness. Delight in his little quirks. Be fascinated by the creativity of an artist. Be grateful for laughter. Let yourself be in awe of beauty, when you find it.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a platitude, because the truth is that living into these fleeting moments of grace has a transformative power. Practice it, and one day in the midst of heartbreak you will be able to notice healing, and be grateful for it, which will, in turn, heal you further.

When Jonah was gone, I cried for days. At first, I could not bear to think of any of the things I loved about him… his tenderness, his creativity, his passion, his quirky wit, his handsome charm… without being grief-stricken by their loss. But slowly, I began to understand that I grieved so much because I loved so much. The depth of my grief honored the depth of my love. I allowed myself to honor that love, and feel the enormity of its loss… but also to feel deeply grateful that I had been lucky enough to experience it. If I had not been so lucky to love and be loved by someone like Jonah, I would have no reason to grieve. And I would be so much poorer for it. How incredibly fortunate I was to have known this man! In the continuum of routine that is life, how extraordinary it was that we shared two and a half years together! And to think that he loved me… that I was able to experience such a remarkable love. Not everyone gets to have that… but I did. How lucky is that?

Little by little, I began to smile because it happened.

Next: Into darkness »