at a loss

I often dream of loss.

I have dreams where I’ve lost something tangible, like my wallet, for instance.

Or I’ve lost my way and am trying to get back on the path.

Occasionally, I’ve lost my footing and have that unsettling falling feeling that jerks me awake as I try to protect my real self from the pretend fall.

Or most often, I dream that I have no quiet space or privacy and I am eagerly searching for a place, any place in the oddness of the dream world, to find solitude.

You don’t have to have a Jungian certificate in dream analysis to see what is going on in any of those dreams.

But what am I looking for in my waking life that compels my sleeping self to create these nightly searches for that which is lost and cannot be found?

Poet and philosopher, David Whyte, says that half of all human experience is mediated through loss and disappearance.

Whyte ponders the impact of loss:

“if you have a really fierce loss, the loss of someone who’s close to you, the loss of a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a friend, God forbid a child — then human beings have every right to say,

Listen, God. If this is how you play the game, I’m not playing the game. I’m not playing by your rules. I’m going to manufacture my own little game, and I’m not going to come out of it. I’m going to make my own little bubble. And I’m going to draw up the rules. And I’m not coming out to this frontier again. I don’t want to. I want to create insulation. I want to create distance.”

So with what do I create that distance in my life? With what do I fill my moments, my hours, and my days to enable me to avoid the conversation with myself about those painful disappearances, those deep vulnerabilities and the big and even little losses?

How challenging it is to turn off and turn away from the numbing distractions and look into those dark, vulnerable places where I genuinely live in a life where half of it involves some kind of loss.

  • Can I notice that what I hope for is not always what can be and not despair?
  • Can I despair and not close my eyes, my heart, my skin to the groaning discomfort?
  • Can I acknowledge the inevitably of my own demise and of those closest to me, without shutting down or numbing out?

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.”

Here’s to finding the courage to look into the dark eyes of loss and bravely return its unwavering gaze.

 (Check out Krista Tippet’s conversation with David Whyte at On Being)

little discomforts

 

In three seasons out of four, I most often read and write under an espresso-brown fleece throw in my overstuffed living-room chair. Especially on the chilly days, I even have a space heater at my feet as the winter wind whips around the bare branches of the tree right outside my window.  Inside, my home is dressed in a warm palette, with textured and inviting fabrics, round edges, fresh flowers and candles waiting to be lit in most rooms.

 

ingredients: novel, chair, pillow, sunlight

 

My place is a pillowed sanctuary from the occasionally-harsh conditions of the world for an introvert and one with more than her fair share of sensitivities. Too much light, noise, extreme temperatures, too many demands, stress, drama or chaos can all have me diving under the fleece for a reprieve.  Can you say ‘high maintenance’?

While having this place of serenity has been my sanity saving grace on many occasions, I’ve recently discovered that I may also be using it as a form of self-medication. Not only to soothe my weary psyche after a long workday but to also wrap myself in a cocoon of self-talk about why it is unnecessary to indulge in anything that makes me feel bad.  Uncomfortable.

 

Most recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve become quite elegant at avoiding the following:

  • Beginning a task with a long-term deadline where progress is not quickly noticeable.
  • Initiating a conversation with someone involving me asking directly for what I want.
  • Allowing myself to fully express a hard, vulnerable feeling even when I’m alone.

 

Because of my well-developed verbal reasoning skills, I’m able to convince myself that I’ve been through enough stress through the working day so when I get home, I don’t want to deal with more drama. I simply want the comfort that is due me.

The problem with this approach is that the challenges I avoid only appear to disappear like a parent does to a toddler when his pudgy little hands are covering his eyes in a game of peekaboo.

 

Peekaboo!

 

So where do the hard things go? According to my bodywork therapist, I have a few holding points for them in my shoulders and lower back that are asking for my attention often.

Beneath the layer of avoidance of uncomfortable things, there is a deep river of grief and fear. Not having to wade into those waters is so much easier if I choose instead to focus on procrastination, choose solitude over relationships and talking myself out of feeling feelings even though I’m standing hip-deep in them. Grief and fear. The Big Discomforts.

 

River Clare Water Cascade

 

Since storing unprocessed emotional material in my body’s cells is hardly a positive long-term solution, it seems that engaging in little discomforts might be a start. Breaking it down into manageable chunks. Looking beneath the surface irritation, panic, procrastination, the avoidance and the desire to cocoon for a glimpse at the dark flowing waters below.

This week, I began by allowing some little moments of uncomfortable, raw, exposed vulnerability in the safety of my sanctuary.  Without trying to self-soothe and negotiate an express trip through the process.  As unnerving as it is to begin, initiate and feel deeply, little by little, I’ve found surprisingly, they don’t consume. Under the panic, grief and fear are feelings. Just feelings. Feelings asking to be felt instead of hidden away as muscle aches and pains, physical tightness and exhaustion.

They exist whether I give them room to breathe or not.  But what could be released, opened and nourished as a result of opening the door to little discomforts?  Capacity to sit with The Big Discomforts?

I guess I’ll see.  Little by little.

 

the habit of love

Without exception, she consistently, unabashedly expressed her joy daily when seeing me. She listened to my rants and rages without judging. Remained impartial and didn’t give unsolicited advice.

With her, there was always a freedom to be my odd, obsessive self. Her stellar level of intuition meant that she most often knew I was sick well before I did.

For fifteen years, this fellow introvert and I connected daily. Affectionate greetings. Shared silences. We were each other’s love habit.

My friend was not human, much more of the feline persuasion, yet she has been a hard habit to break. She was a rescue cat who shared my home for this most recent third of my life. Even though it has been two months since she passed, as recent as yesterday, I instinctively spoke aloud to her in a moment of happy expression.  An excitement to share.

Porch 020
 

 

 

 

The weight of grief has lessened considerably but I now realize how much I learned from loving my furry companion.

She softened my once-sharp edges. Gave me space to risk a deep love. Taught me to listen more than speak. Revealed a surprisingly deep desire and ability for affection and connection. Showed me that isolation is not as nourishing for me as I had once thought and that two hearts have an abundance of energy.  I discovered as much about myself in loving her as I did in losing her.

And I learned that the habit of love, in whatever form, is one well worth developing and only hope that I can follow her example of what a good friend could be.