Isn’t There Another Way To Learn This Stuff?

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, February 24, 2010

I’d rather write about that giant, 42-pound rabbit in the news, or Shaun White’s spectacular snowboarding performance at the Olympics last week, or even about our unseasonably glorious weather.  But the subject that won’t go away is loss.

I don’t do well with change. I like things in neat little rows, lined up for my perusal and comfort. But because I live and breathe, I, like my fellow planet dwellers, experience pain, loss, and sorrow.

It’s easier to not think about it, to lose myself in TV or online games. Because when I dissect it in my mind, I weep. It’s draining, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I just want to get to the other side of it, and on with however my life is going to play out.

Grief is tricky because it sneaks up on you. You can feel fine strolling down the toothpaste aisle in the drugstore when out of nowhere, sorrow (lurking just under the surface) washes over you and brings you into scary submission.  It has its grip on you again and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to ride it out. Or, you can deny it and soldier through. However, unacknowledged grief has a way of coming back later with a vengeance.

I know this because I’ve been there—many times.

It’s the compound levels of sorrow that get me. One major loss is enough for anyone, but when several life-altering events occur at once, you feel like the earth has stopped moving. But, of course, it really hasn’t and you wonder how those other people out in the world who don’t even know you, can possibly go on like nothing has happened.

At these times I can look into the eyes of others and know that they’re grieving, too. Or if they aren’t at that moment, they were, or they will be. To be alive means you’re going to probably, at some point, experience an aching, emotional paralysis.

I know it’s temporary. Soon a new “normal” will take the place of the old one and the past isn’t forgotten, but filed away, and if we’re smart, learned from.  But the transition is almost never easy. Each loss is like a death—all of which require healing time.

Without them, I’d never change. I wouldn’t venture into new lands or territories. I’d stay put and think my life was just fine, thank you.  But that’s not the way it plays out for any of us.  There’s always sorrow, just around the corner, ready to teach us something new, make us look at things in a different light, and if we’ll let it, make us grow into stronger humans.

I like comfort, ease and routine as much as anyone, but where does that leave me? Stuck in a life that requires little effort and keeps me wrapped up in myself.

Grief, loss, and sorrow can be our great teachers. They choose everyone sooner or later. There are no exceptions, and we never know when to expect them.

All I know is that when they arrive, they sear my soul and cleanse me with fire in painful ways I wouldn’t choose on my own.

For that reason alone, I don’t welcome them, but I appreciate the gifts they bear.  Now all I need to do is open my eyes and heart long enough to see those gifts and absorb the lessons.


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