How could I have ‘gotten over’ so much pain and hardship? Am I just apathetic or numbed out from it all? Or maybe… I’m winning. Maybe this is what winning really looks like. Perhaps the nagging sorrow that hangs around for so long after a relationship ends, a tragedy occurs or I just plain fucked up somehow is still here because I didn’t lose ‘properly‘.
The beauty of true dichotomy blooms from the fertilizer of emotional response to pain and pleasure.
In this scene from Money Ball, Brad Pitt elegantly illustrates exactly what I’m talking about. Losing isn’t fun and it’s not supposed to be…so don’t let it. Don’t rob yourself from the experience of having a tremendous real human experience. Sure there’s a call to filter or contain it until safe, but then really have at it. Cry your fucking eyes out, curse out life and love and god and everything. Sit in a withering slump of despair, you deserve it; just don’t forget that it sucks – bad, and you don’t want it.
The next time you walk out onto the field you might just be a little more determined not to lose. That smell of fresh cut grass may have a new pride of ownership in your heart.
I’m not trying to be a hard ass. You don’t have to sit at the table and finish your whole serving of pain before you get up. Every individual will have their own pace and path to trudge in getting one over on loss and tragedy.
If there are some leftovers for a while, go ahead and finish ’em. Rinse and repeat. Have a ‘pity-party’ but don’t get carried away; decide how long you’ll allow yourself to lose it; check the clock and knock it off when it’s time. When you’re finished, wash the plate and put it away. I’ve had the experience through studying mindfulness and practicing meditation that one can determine whether what’s occurring emotionally is organic or manufactured. I’ve also had the experience as a long-term addict of all emotions being manufactured. Our actions or lack of action in response is where the rubber hits the road.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who came up with the well-known ‘Five Stages of Grief” later regretted the written theory because of it’s misconceived perception by readers and doctors alike. She wasn’t trying to create a standard for grieving or suggest that people accept this as the right way to grieve, checking off the boxes in order of appearance. What a bummer if you’re just resilient or have sought the refuge and comfort of accepting a level of impermanence. Should you now adopt some guilt and shame over not grieving as long and hard as someone else in the same or easier spot? Fuck that, life’s short. If you’re over it, for real, then sort that energy where it will be useful to you and your world again. Maybe offer the findings of your path to someone stuck on the side of the road.
Giving credit where credit’s due:
I had once met a woman, the mother of the groom at a wedding I attended in Big Sur. We were there for a long weekend but I only saw her twice. She spent nearly the whole time in her room, comfortable as could be and attended to by her family and closest friends because she was dying. She had advanced stomach cancer and was in the final stages. Requesting to visit with each and every one of us for a moment before seeing her only son marry, I had my chance to congratulate her and… say goodbye, or whatever else comes to heart in a totally not-ready-for-this-kind-of-thing situation. I’d never seen someone so alive so close to death. The way she looked into your eyes and listened to every word, patiently and graciously just grabbed me and said; “pay attention here.” She was caged by a withering body but her soul danced around the room. My curiosity seemed to be coaxed out by her warmth and I just had to know; “You seem so happy, how do you deal with this?” The words were out before any hesitation of planning her response and her confident smile let me know I hadn’t trespassed. “Oh I have my moments” she said, “But I‘ve got a limited supply so I need to be careful with them. Mostly I enjoy life, seeing my friends, family, nature, listening to music, you know… and once a day I have a pity party. Fifteen minutes. That’s all I have time for. Usually when I get fed up with the pain and the pills and people feeling sorry for me. I set that little clock over there and when it’s over, it’s over.”
When someone dies and we have a ceremony we like to say and try our best to celebrate their life. We don’t celebrate a broken heart, difficult childhood, regretful actions (intentional or not) and our losses. Not only because it’s weird, but because they’re still alive and kicking. We can’t have a better past. So when will we stop wanting one? Just as soon as we allow it’s re-purposing process to complete.