“If you can live with the sadness of human life (what Rinpoche often called the tender heart or genuine heart of sadness), if you can be willing to feel fully and acknowledge continually your own sadness and the sadness of life, but at the same time not be drowned in it, because you also remember the vision and power of the Great Eastern Sun, you experience balance and completeness, joining heaven and earth, joining vision and practicality.” ~ Pema Chodron
During the summer I hold a lot of sadness. Partly because I always have—it seems to be the hardest time, emotionally—but also because a lot of trauma has happened during the summer months in the past, and I think that plays a part, too.
Last year, my therapist who I was working with said that there’s all this pressure around the summer to have fun, be out there, be raving it up in the sea or the music festivals or the BBQ’s and actually the summer can be a time of real darkness because the sun shines light on the dark.
When she said this, my struggle with the summer felt seen, rather than something that stayed tucked under a layer of judgement from my critic.
“You shouldn’t struggle, you should be just having fun, you shouldn’t be stopping myself doing what you love doing, you shouldn’t be afraid, you shouldn’t have trauma here to handle and hold and heal, you should just be out there doing what everyone else is doing. You should be doing what is you, not what is trauma. Get a grip, girl, you’re fucking yourself over and not helping yourself at all.”
I long to ban the word “should” from the dictionary.
Even before the challenging three years that have just passed/are still passing, the summer’s have been hard and so what my therapist said was resonated as truth.
The sunshine brings focus to the pain and the things missing from my life, now, but before it used to bring sadness, sorrow, grief, and an aching isolation, a deep rooted pain, despite how much fun or how many adventures or what beautiful country I was living, it was there. It was here.
But the difference this summer is that I can sit with this pain, the grief, the ache for something different, the ache for more, the sadness in a way I wasn’t able to last year, or the year before, or the year before that.
Reading that quote from Pema this morning, it resonated with all that I’d been realising over the last few weeks. I can hold my sadness as I would hold the sadness I would a child, and tell myself this isn’t forever. I can feel my frustration and still get out and do. I can feel my fear and hear the concerns parts of me share with me, and still get out and do, in a wholesome loving way.
I don’t shut down.
I remember being told last year that healing is just that—being able to sit with feelings and not shut down. To be able to hold ourselves, and hold our experience, and find the seat of non-judging compassion, and witness and provide unconditional love and support to the parts of me, of us, hurting.
A lot of my grief comes from not living near water. Water and me are lifelong companions. She’s been here in times I’ve not known what else to do except to go and lie with her, in her, surf alongside her, dive into her. She’s been the friend by my side despite whatever has been happening and how lonely I’ve been feeling. She’s brought a comforting shoulder and an opportunity for a world full of fun and adventure.
She’s my mother, my sister, my daughter.
She’s an innate part of me, and I need her just like I need food, I need water, I need people.
So to not be near her deeply, is so incredibly painful that until this summer I’ve avoided talking about her, talking about my pain and my ache for her. But this summer I can. I can hold that a little bit more and feel the aching pain. I still can’t feel it all, and I still don’t feel it all, and that’s okay. Because to feel it all would be to really open myself up to wounding and sorrow that feels too big to handle completely.
So I go stand in a river that passes through near where I live. I have baths. I have showers. I honour my need for water and I feel the sorrow that it’s not here in the way I want it to, the way I need it to. Something I’ve learnt over the last year and a half is that needs feel so great, so acute, and so incredibly painful or desperate, that to meet them feels like climbing a mountain with no shoes on, no backpack, and no-one to guide you.
But needs can be met slightly, gently, in halves not wholes.
I can meet my need for water in the ways I describe above, and I can hold her with me even when I’m not submerged in her, or dancing with her. It doesn’t quench the thirst in the way I want it to, but it quenches it enough to make me feel like I’ve come home.
I’ve come back to my mother, my sister, my daughter.
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Editor: Editor: Renee Picard