Friday, July 10, 2009

The summer of grief, part II

The first time I read "The Wisdom of No Escape" I remember being relieved about the concept that no matter how you are feeling, it's important to honor those feelings. So if you're angry, or sad, or feeling hopeless, it's quite all right to sit with those uncomfortable, annoying emotions and let them live inside you. You don't have to feed them, but you don't have to work on getting happy, or upbeat, or cheerful either. It isn't about wallowing as much as it's about feeling the feelings and sitting with them in your meditation, or your daily life for as long as they last. And knowing that eventually, they pass, just as everything life changes.

I was so accustomed to trying to numb those feelings by a) eating b) shopping c) watching television d) exercising and whatever worked at the time. I hear lots of people talking these days about wasting time on computer games or on Facebook. But when you're feeling grief over deeper losses, I find that nothing really works to alleviate the feelings. Certain things help - but unfortunately, this is what grief feels like.

And believe me - I know it could be far worse. It's just that pain is pain and so I'm not going to minimize mine.

The problem is that right now I don't enjoy eating, although I try to give myself healthy meals and sometimes a little treat. Actually, often a treat. (But nothing tastes good except fruit.) Last week when I was in Connecticut, in the woods taking a fantastic hike with my dear friend Julie, I kept thinking, "Wow, this is the most beautiful forest. Look at this, look at the sunlight as it shines through the trees. Look at this lovely, peaceful pond and the birds." Honestly, I couldn't take any of it in. The fourth of July party was really fun and I enjoyed talking to people, but I felt outside of myself sometimes, thinking, this is nice, I'm having a good time, wow, look at those fireworks!

Sometimes I feel like I'm just going through my day feeling disconnected, unable to take a deep breath, feeling like there's a bowling ball sitting on my chest, or in my chest. Sometimes I have a good cry and feel better and sometimes it doesn't help at all. I have to say that the times I've felt best in the last few weeks were when I did have some good cathartic cries, when I heard from someone who really cares about me, and particularly when I performed the opening of my show on the retreat, making people laugh. And for that five minutes, I was out of my body and my mind, just having fun and moving through the fear.

If I could skip all of this I would. But since I can't, I'm going to allow myself to sit with it and write about it and share it and just keep moving my feet, except when I can't. Then you'll probably find me somewhere in Central Park or Fort Greene Park, sitting under a tree. I have watched enough friends deal with really catastrophic challenges and I know how strong we all can be. It's just a matter of allowing oneself to sit with the pain and practice acceptance, I believe.

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