About a year ago I stopped writing. No poetry, no blogs, nada. I became isolated and depressed due to a hail storm of loss. I thought about ending my life. Looking back I know how close I was to giving up. This, however, is not a sad story. This is a love story about a fierce embrace and how pain can be an ally.
The Recap = June 2015 to June 2016 was by far a poop-fest of loss. Four friends died (from various sudden and not-so-sudden cancers and a car wreck) and then, without any warning, my boyfriend ended things with a blind-sighted breakup while we were living together. I don’t even know how to describe this amount of heartache.
It was crushing.
I cried everyday, all day, for many days not just about him, but about the loss of friends. More people kept dying. Famous people (Prince, Bowie) friends of friends. Past colleagues. It felt like life was stopping at every turn.
Then, two weeks before moving out I tore my bicep muscle on my dominant arm due to emotional stress and a few too many pushups. The physical pain was excruciating. (I’ve had kidney stones that were easier.) All at once I became a wonderful smorgasbord of grief, heartbreak, and physical agony. It was the physical pain that finally popped me into a new dimension. I heard the words “surrender or suffer” come out of my mouth while I was sobbing for hours.
Keep in mind I couldn't lift a cup or a pen with my dominant arm, which meant I couldn't pack my any of my belongings and couldn't write or type. I sat back day after day semi-helpless in a sling. Finally, I called friends and asked for help. Asking for help was a gift of it’s own. I had to be vulnerable enough to swallow my tears and reach out.
Perhaps what does not kill you does indeed make you stronger. I hadn’t realized how isolated I had become over the last year and all at once I was surrounded by good friends who were happy to help.
I kept telling myself I was lucky. All I had were a few dead friends, a breakup, and an injury that would heal in 6-9 months. I kept telling myself that many people had it much worse. I kept diluting my own grief as if doing so was going to make me feel better faster. It didn’t.
And this is what I learned:
You cannot speed up healing from grieving, heartbreak or physical injury. I had to learn a lesson that is counter-intuitive to our culture. I had to learn to slow down to a snail’s pace and be in the pain. It was then I learned that the slower I went the better things felt and the more I was able to acknowledge the deaths and the heartbreak. Also, when the emotional pain would hit my arm pain would flair. In order to keep the physical pain at bay I had to give up resistance. I had to let the feelings wash over me and plunge into the shadows of grief. When I leaned into the discomfort I was surprised how each time it dissipated.
I also I realized I could feel two completely paradoxical feelings at the same time. Gratitude and deep agony.
This simple realization, on such a magnified level, caused me to start a very daring and fascinating meditation. I decided my meditation practice would be to take every morsel of my life, every waking breath, every traffic jam, every line at the grocery store, every tear, every ache and pain, every smile, and every belly laugh and become present hundreds of times a day. Minute by minute. Motion by motion. Each time I found myself present to the moment I would express internal gratitude. I re-learned to love each part of this mystery. I surrendered to what was in front of me, just as it is, and learned to use each moment as a way to feel my feelings - for better or for worse.
I’m learning to be myself again, to let go, to love, and to embrace all of my imperfections and all of the world's imperfections.
And I’m writing again. :)
I love the Sloths from Zootopia. Can't believe it's a tattoo.
Me and Dan rockin the silly.