It’s been nearly a year of loss:
Of our lives and liberty; of dreams and plans; of the “normal” that with each passing day fades to times affectionately and hauntingly referred to as B.C. (Before COVID-19).
And of course, of loved ones.
Have you grieved?
I remember, many years ago, someone once told me that grief was not one-noted; that it was wild, like Isadora Duncan, and that has stayed with me since.
Maybe your grief weighs heavy like hope without wings. Maybe your grief has fog and numbness, like the rain-soaked, grey-skied day outside my window as I type these words.
Maybe your grief is volcanic and raging, burning your fingertips, mouth, and all in its way with anger, frustration, and helplessness.
Loss and grief go hand in hand with disappointment. How can they not? We can only feel grief and loss if something we actually care about or someone who we love is no longer there—has been taken from us—dissolved with the floods and tear-soaked drops of rain, soaking our written-inked words, turning our paper hearts to pulp, and ruining our mascara.
The “Oh, that’s a shame.” The lowering of our heads, chin hanging with a trembling bottom lip; throwing it off like a summer shawl with proclamations of, “It doesn’t matter,” “I’m not that bothered,” and “Never mind,” with a shrug that lies and betrays our wounded, tender hearts.
Because, we do care—we care a lot.
And, it hurts, disappointment hurts.
But, what do we make of this heart full of hurt? Do we place our shaking hands over our naked hearts and tenderly touch the tremble of its pulse? Can we woefully soothe the bruised bareness with benediction and bless that place that aches?
Will we allow the hurt to hurt, and in doing so, know, with each fibre of our being, that to live in this world and to care means that there will always be matters of the heart that matter more than we dare to say?
We can lift our heads and allow our hurt to be seen—by ourselves first. Then by others that we trust with such delicate matters. For are we all not made whole and holy by the sacredness of where we are torn and cracked open, wounded into the truth of vulnerability, of being human, being tempered by living life as fully as we can. As preciously as we are willing to risk, for it is a risk—to care is to risk.
To love is to risk.
And yet, risk we must.
We have to, need to, want to with every fibre of our striated being. For without care we wouldn’t feel the fires of passion, nor the well of heartbreak, and without these we wouldn’t dream of change: make it so, fight for it, bleed for it, cry out for injustice when we see it, weep for the lands we walk upon, and the people we walk these lands with.
We cannot know hope without the willingness to risk hurt; to risk disappointment; to risk it all.
We have all been living with disappointment: Missing the witness and joy of wedding ceremonies; bar mitzvahs without the mitzvah of gathering together in celebrations; jobs; the intimacies of gathering with loved ones.
There’s a heavy disappointment: for the distance from parents and children just born; for heady and frivolous first years of university, and the daily ritual of schooling and sitting in rooms with other human beings; for the curiosity of budding teenage years; for meals out and theatre trips; for gigs and clubbing and the sweaty wonderful compulsion of dancing in rooms with others; for travel and holidays; for visiting our elderly in places that were once the safest for them; for the times of not side-glancing others on the streets or in a supermarket in case someone might be carrying a disease we cannot see, that might kill us or our loved ones.
Disappointed for all of these loved ones, so many, no matter their age or circumstance, taken from us in such a cruel and inhumane way.
Then, there are the smaller losses, yet no less great: The loss of dreams, of plans. The forward thinking nature of us creatures, tripping over ourselves to get to that time off work, that trip with our friends, the festivals and events, the dinner outings and parties.
We are experiencing the loss of our autonomy, replaced with rules and laws that serve to protect yet threaten to separate us further—that toy with our freedom to do as we please, to live as we choose.
We live with great expectations. The greatest are those we impose upon ourselves, sometimes destined to fail, and thus to turn to helplessness and anger—inward cycles of judgement and disappointment. Self-hatred and punishment. Je ne regrette rien? What would Edith say?
When we have to face mortality and death in such a way that we are having to do so globally, right now, it isn’t surprising that some of us may have been questioning the meaning of our lives.
As the saying (often misattributed to Buddha) goes:
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
What is meant for us? How have we lived? Are we living? Are we wasting our lives in false expectations, in fear, in procrastination—in a half-life kind of way—waiting for something, someone, for it all to miraculously change?
Are we living our lives anchored in what brings us joy, full of love and generosity? Have we pushed the button on what we dream or are we blithely and bitterly pushing the one next to it, as it’s close enough?
Are we grateful?
What matters? What matters?
You see, the risk of feeling disappointed is part of the handbook of a life lived. By all means, hide away, be safe, close the door, only part the shutters or twitch the netting for that which is known and secure and probably controlled to some extent, nay, scrap that, controlled full stop!
I think I’ve discovered the remedy for disappointment; I mean, alongside lowering expectations and living more in the present moment, if those rock your boat. This remedy is simpler, plain, ordinary, small.
Small is powerful: Just ask David post Goliath, or ask a virus so small that you cannot even see it.
As our lives have been squished and squashed, compacted and constricted by the times that we are living through, how about celebrating the small in your life?
The small moments. The small wins in your day. The conversations with loved ones. The light of the sky. The meals cooked and eaten. Your health. Life.
Life is made up of the small moments that with our plans, we miss. We miss the moments here now, waiting for a better one to pass by, like a bus. And as time rolls past us like tumbleweed, we cannot realise that this—this now—is where the magic lies.
And yes, it might not be what we wanted it to be, it might not look like how we thought it should; we might be frustrated that somethings have been put on hold, but, you are here.
Breathing. Living. Dreaming. Hoping.
Maybe, that’s enough.
And the truth is that sometimes life just isn’t fair: Sometimes people die before their time. Sometimes plans get cancelled or collapse. Sometimes what we thought we had falls away from us, leaving us naked and afraid. Sometimes we just don’t get dem breaks.
Sometimes life will disappoint us over and over again.
Sometimes it’s all not fair.
What can we do? Feel it. Own it. Grieve it. Take as long as you need.
And then, one day, you just climb out of the disappointment-sullen cloud place, and you carry on.
You carry on.
Because you never know what’s around the corner.