Saying yes to life. . .
The Thing Is. . .
To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
― Ellen Bass
I really am not sitting around ringing my hands, going through old pictures of loved ones who have passed, reading depressing poetry, and otherwise looking like an old haggard lady. Yesterday I write about death, grief. Today I post a poem about suffering. BUT – in the poem and in the post we say “Yes to life!”
I’m wondering if some of you think I am stuck grieving? Or feeling sorry for myself? The thing is I think for a whole bunch of years I had a pretty charmed life. I actually had a pretty horrific young life, and a dangerous adolescence, but in my mid-twenties, I started “living right.” I got in with a group of folks who were also “living right,” and this is when the charmed life began. I married my soul-mate, had two lovely children, lived with my mom to help her avoid financial difficulties, she helped parent my kids, we had gardens, we had a wealth of friends, good health, employment.
Unfortunately I began believing that as long as I am living right bad things won’t/don’t happen. Delusional? Defense mechanisms? Humanbeingism? When I began suffering with all this loss and grief, I was living a life that didn’t allow for much “numbing.” So I was feeling everything – I was absolutely not in control – paradigms were shifting all around me – I was full of fear – and I was feeling everything.
I thought if I just prayed enough, or tended to others enough, or was honest enough, or was good enough, or surrendered enough, or let go enough,. . . that it wouldn’t hurt so bad. I didn’t know that many human beings approaching 50, raising teens, losing loved ones – hurt so bad too. Everyone else just looked like they were reading (or writing) the rule book on life, and to me it was all Greek (which I don’t understand).
My head knows all the right sayings – “Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” or “Let go and Let God.” I knew all of this stuff intellectually, but none of it stopped the hurting. In fact it was really enough to drive me mad, because I KNEW IT and yet it didn’t work! At least not in the magic wand sort of way.
Somewhere along the journey, I got the message that it was easy to suffer, that deep meaningful writing and art came from suffering. That suffering builds character and makes us interesting characters. It does. . .eventually. Suffering can really only be treated by going through it. I can’t pray it away, I can’t work it away, I can’t gamble it away or drink it away or sex it away or buy it away. Well – I could, but it all of these things would ultimately create more suffering. What I can do is say yes to life. And learn how to say no often! Suffering finally helped me to tear away the formalities in life – saying yes to obligatory parties and commitments. Suffering taught me to preserve my energy, and to choose carefully where I expended that energy. Suffering taught me not to feel guilty about not writing a thank you card or forgetting a birthday. Suffering taught me how to say shocking things for the pure sake of shocking people. Suffering also taught me to laugh, and laugh and laugh. Mostly at really irreverent things. Suffering taught me not to be afraid to say irreverent things – especially if it makes people laugh.
People think I am pretty messed up for some of the things I say. Someone will say, “My sister and I went to the movies yesterday.” And I will say, “That’s nice – my only sister is dead.” Someone will mention their family coming in for the holiday, and I will say, “Most of my family died over the last 2-1/2 years.” No one quite knows how to act when I say that. To be honest – I’m just saying it. Saying it doesn’t make it any more or less true. Saying it just puts it out there. One could argue that I say it because misery loves company. But I will argue that I am not really miserable. In fact, most often when I answer the phone or run into someone the thing that happens is we laugh. I think I say it because I want you to know that I have suffered and am still standing. I am still here saying difficult things, saying ridiculously stupid things, saying poignant things, saying important things, saying useless things. I’m still here, and I’ve started writing a BLOG!!!!