This is a grief day. I am wandering around my house feeling things and people slipping away from me. I have learned to live with grief days. Ever since my stroke I’ve had a number of them. Days like this just materialize. Sometimes it takes me a long time to identify what is haunting me, sometimes I know. Today is more the latter, though I am sure that this inquiry will show me that I have only identified the tip of the iceberg. I am aching with the grief that always comes with the need to let go.
I am savvy enough by now, age and hardship have alerted me, and the world’s spiritual traditions keep reminding me, that I know I am perpetually having to let go. I don’t think I do it particularly well. I hear there are traditional people, like the Mayans, who have integrated the grief associated with letting go into a wider perspective, which has them using the same word for praise. Apparently, they know that what hurts helps, that loss equals gain, that things go — so other things can come. All of that wisdom lies heavy on my heart this morning.
I have to let go some more. I might as well be dieing, it feels the same, where is the elephant graveyard, the place where I go to lay down my hopes, desires, expectations, attachments and wishes? I don’t like this raw, more sensitive skin I am left with. Yes, I am sometimes lighter, but along the way, I always have periods like this, where I feel heavier, weighed down by grief. The world outside is coated with a kind of thin and pervasive sadness.
Letting go ruptures my life. It punctuates my certainty. I am always being re-worked, every time I think I’ve got it, having to let go lets me know I don’t. Sometimes, like today, I just get too overwhelmed. I just can’t let go of any more friends, identities or present incarnations. They say that hope springs eternal, well it seems to me, that paradoxically, letting go also seems to spring eternal. I am enlivened by one, but don’t seem well equipped for the other. I accumulate hopes relatively easily, but find letting go of them is much more difficult.
You would think that growing older, and entering the period of life where friends, marriages and lifestyles are passing away, would have taught me how to better accept the transience of everything, and maybe it has, but I find that some days, I cannot but be impressed by what passes so quickly beyond my grasp. Does this mean I am a half-empty kind of guy, who primarily sees the cost of life? No, I don’t think so. I do see the cost and it does hurt, but I know today, like everything else, will pass, I just can’t help from time to time feeling it, feeling the incredible poignancy that accompanies what goes out of the world, and sometimes out of myself. At those moments, like when its happening with me today, I am too full, overwhelmed by the room that Life has made for me.
I know that surrendering my attachment to some preferred outcome is the right thing to do. I know I can be that open to the moment. And I do want to be. And sometimes I actually can be. But being open to the moment, being non-attached sometimes leads me to feel this; a sense that death is a part of life, that loss is a part of gain, that Creation seems to thrive on destruction. I don’t know how it is for you, but for me, I often feel so full of regard for what is passing, for what is making room, for me and my changes, for life and it’s changes, that I simply am struck by the beauty and poignancy of such loss.
I can feel the love in it, the longing and heartache, the struggle to create what had never been seen before, or again. I can experience the heartache of parents, the vulnerability of caring, the sheer rigor of giving up. The world revolves daily, and each moment is an arrival and a departure. When these feelings come upon me, I know they are always present, and that I am just feeling them in this moment, that the entire drama is always occurring, making room for my temporary life. I wish I could feel it more. I wish I didn’t ever have to feel it. I wish I could make better sense of what I’m feeling. Sometimes I feel honored, sometimes I feel cursed, but always, like today, I am touched.
I don’t want to let go, to die, to feel things passing away, but what I want doesn’t seem to matter, things are coming to pass anyway. I am having an experience that is so much deeper than I am. If I open, and let go, I create an opening. Through this opening rushes the realization of all that is passing. For some time I am immersed in the feeling of going out of the world. I know that is my destiny. It is the destiny of everything that exists. My breath is taken. I am passing too.
I exist because I am fated to pass. I will be joining the river, the river of Life, the way of passing, this is my fate, the gift that gives me the freedom to be me, to be unique, to be the one and only, to merge and still be me. Today is a grief day. I am hurting with Life, feeling the overwhelming magnificence that both takes me away and gives me the opportunity to be here. I don’t think I can swim in this torrent, yet I don’t drown. I am being washed away and I am becoming a part of the river.
Letting go frees me. It feels like a loss. In fact it is. I can’t hold on! The tide is too strong. Thankfully, it overcomes me. Strangely, I am washed away, and I am delivered, not as a solid being, but as part of the river that rolls around in a wheel chair. Grief days seem to take away my certainty, they deliver me unwillingly to the realization of my transcience, to the very place where I merge with the river and become what I’ve always wanted to be — myself, and an essence of the Mystery behind it all.