I don’t “suffer” from the optimism bias that most non-depressed people enjoy. This means I don’t tend to look the bright side or attend to the positives in tragedy. I spend a good deal of time on this blog making space for my efforts to find that for which I’m grateful; for me, it has to be an intentional and deliberate process or it won’t happen. I firmly believe, though, that finding reasons for joy and laughter need to exist alongside, not in replacement, of the ability to feel sadness as it happens.
My grief at this moment is a witnessed grief more than a personal one; I am not in mourning for the ways in which I’ve been personally impacted by the pandemic, but more for the global losses that have happened and the havoc it is beginning to cause in the lives of people for whom I care. What I lack in “be hopeful” I replace with “be prepared;” I tend to lean too heavily into the idea that, as long as all contingencies are measured and mitigated, true tragedy can be averted.
I’m living in a moment, however, where this can-do attitude is failing as my national leaders prioritize the wealthiest among us over the rest. Horrible, unfathomable and potentially preventable things are starting to happen to good people on a scale I didn’t know could occur, coupled with with no one in leadership providing comfort and guidance. This is both the oldest story of my life and also the one that feels freshly terrifying; I knew this could happen to me (childhood trauma), but I didn’t know it could happen to everyone (save the moneyed).
All I know to do when loss occurs is to make space for it, to honor what is being missed and to mourn with those from whom treasures of love are being pilfered. Grief, in my mind’s eye, is a well of cold water, into which that which we deem precious can sink but from which no reflection gleams. I know that, in due time, some will find renewal there as they reconstruct their lives. Maybe bearing witness to grief is nothing more than keeping a fire going by the depths, allowing for the awareness that rage and fear and all the strong feelings that make us want to flee that place of loss are allowed here and matter here. What are you grieving today? What is fanning the flames of your emotions? What is slipping into the bleakness?
Autumn is a season of contraction in my mind; a pulling inward of impulse and energy in order to prepare for the bitterness of winter. I tend to find my emotions trending more negatively and my outlook on life a bit dimmer as the sunlight arrives earlier every evening. Autumn is casting off, letting go and a hiding of secret treasures.
I released my given name a few months ago, replacing it with a chosen name of my own. Many days since have involved calling and emailing and mailing all manner of companies, telling them who I am now. I’m excited for the eventual newness, but am more in a place of reminding and replacing each piece of my life right now.
For my daily work of art, I collected a leaf that had been dropped by a tree. It was a strange find in that it was still green and soft, whereas most leaves at this point in the season are brittle, brown and fading. It felt like my previous name in a way, not retired because I died, but ensconced into my history as a memento to who I was while some of the life was still in it.
I am still who I was, but there will likely be a richness and fullness of presence I’ve only been able to achieve by transitioning to a new name that represents myself past, present and future more robustly. It’s bittersweet, in the way I’m sad to see the trees become barren, but yet I hold a tiny flame burning in anticipation of the explosion of green the spring will bring. What is autumn to you? What are you letting go of or secreting away, knowing it is necessary for growth?
I drew a card from my In an Open Hand deck that I have been creating. The card was Calm. For each card, I’ve created a series of questions to connect with different parts of self in relation to the theme, so I sat with those questions today. The focus for the Calm card is on change, loss and a sense of control over life situations.
One of the questions I developed related to exploring where life is causing me to change and where I am active in changing my life. I see these areas intertwining in that much of my life in recent years has been about acceptance. I’ve had to try to come to terms with my limitations as a person, the losses I’ve suffered and the fragility of my successes. I still do not do very well in the moment when life presents me with unanticipated stressors, but I do think that I show more resilience and a faster recovery than I did in the past in areas such as an unexpected financial setback.
At the same time, I’ve used up my reserve of faith in others after one relationship after another failed. I have a much thinner capacity for hurt when it comes to dealing with people, and each “lesson” seems to push me farther into myself rather than to help me move forward. I expect to be betrayed, used, abandoned and taken for granted by every person I meet, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in many cases.
Sometimes I worry that I am not in touch with how alienated I am. I can’t solve people the way I solve other types of problems because I cannot tolerate hypocrisy, a lack of integrity or poor follow-through and I give up when they show up. I don’t think I expect more than others than I do of myself, but rather I cannot seems to find people who hold themselves to the same set of standards to which I hold myself. I’ve been changed by my experiences and I’ve stopped my effort at changing them. I feel adrift, floating from one insufficient island of connection to another, no longer charting my path towards relationship.
The theme of the Calm card is the gut, which I view as the seat of intuitive knowledge as well as a change-maker for taking chances. I do not know what form it will take, but I want to try yet again in some form to find relationship. It feels hopeless and I feel helpless, but there is no way through unless I keep my boat moving, landing on each new shore and perhaps finding, at least for a time, respite. Where in your life are you being moved? Where are you moving yourself? What does seeking calm mean to you?