Today I Light This Candle For Myself
I hate it when I feel sorry for myself. Every once in a while that flood of memories that I can’t stop washes over me and invades my emotions. It makes reasonable thinking virtually impossible, so I have to get through the emotions, allow them and then move on and forward.
The worst of it is that I’ve learned so much that leads to acceptance of loss that it should be easier for me to move on. It would be good to have that happen and, to some degree, it has happened; but there are times when all I can consider is regret, loss, the end of things rather than the beginnings that are left wanting.
The Landslide Brings Him Down
Here are some lyrics from Stevie Nicks’ song, Landslide:
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing ‘cuz I built my life around you / But time makes you bolder, even children get older and I’m getting older, too.
It’s so true that most of us do not welcome the critical changes that we must make a part of our new selves when we experience loss. Humans in general do not enjoy change. Change is confusing, it’s work, it’s trying. For me it means letting go of a past that, even though much of it was reason for strife and pain, much of it was wonderful, comforting and productive.
But change comes, like it or not, and those who do not adapt cannot withstand that change. Those who do not adapt don’t make it. Those who cannot adapt wither.
I have been lucky in that I was brought to a team of people that are to this day helping me to understand loss, to place that loss within the limits of proper perspective, to learn what I can from that loss and to move forward without dragging the emotional weight along with me.
But as with all paradigm shift and with sweeping change true changes rarely come into your heart and mind when you’re still in the throes of experiencing loss. Those changes are rarely of the ‘eureka’ kind. They do not cause us to leap and shout in instantaneous and total understanding. Instead, the changes wait for the emotional responses you are producing to slack off a bit and then you get the paradigm shift one piece at a time, but only if you are open and you agree to accept the change.
Death Is Only One Kind Of Loss
Everyone has lost someone to death. It is one of the defining and undeniable elements of our lives. Our species, at once temporal and timeless (to us), moves into death for a variety of reasons that range from making way for new mutation and better genetics in our species to simply wearing out from the act of living.
But death does have its comforts to those of us left behind. What could be comforting about death? I believe that it has to do with a forced acceptance. With death we are saddened, we are distraught, but over time we come to know that there is nothing that can be done to revive our loved one. The knowledge that we cannot is what forces us to move forward with life in the best way that we can. It does not change our loss, but it requires that we accept the fact.
It Is The Death Of Relationships That Hurts Us
When you lose someone to death, you lose the relationship you had. When you lose someone that’s not dead, it’s as if they were in one sense, but not in another.
If a relationship fails, and we have invested everything we had in that relationship, then we have no final rationalization. That person isn’t dead.
In his novel The Road Less Traveled, Dr. M. Scott Peck described the meaning of being cathected (cathexis) :
We must be attracted toward, invested in and committed to an object outside of ourselves, beyond the boundaries of the self … once cathected, the object is invested with our energy as if it were part of ourselves, and this relationship between us and the invested object is called cathexis.
That ‘object’ can be anything and for the purposes of this blogpost that object is a person.
When you give someone that kind of power over you, you should not be overly surprised when that person leaves you and the grief you experience goes beyond the grief of death. If that person lives in your heart and you know the person lives in the world at large it sets up a situation that is virtually intolerable if you are cathected.
Overcoming Sadness Is Lots Of Work
Radical Acceptance is a rather unforgiving if necessary part of my therapy. I’ve spoken many times of this but as with all good things it bears repeating: acceptance is the only way out of hell.
For me it is hell that I cannot have those relationships that brought me the most pleasure. Those relationships have died, but in most cases the person has not. How much of this is the result of my bipolarity I cannot venture to guess. I imagine that quite a bit of my unmedicated, unregulated behavior was a factor. As for those who have died in the literal sense, were it possible for them to speak beyond the grave we’d be having a hilarious time chatting. But these things are vain hope and impossible to realize.
I very much like this idea. We cannot bear the sins of others, we cannot make loss our focus and we cannot allow grief to rule us. Yet there are times when, it is said, the flesh is weak even if the spirit is willing.
Grief and loss are the center of my therapy. Guilt and shame feed the grief and loss, enlarging them to insensible proportion. But this is done by allowing it to happen and now that I am learning how to move past those sensibilities the impact of these emotions has lessened.
Still, I cannot but at times grieve. Grief is natural to humans. And so is guilt, shame, loss. To quote a line from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan: ‘How we deal with death is as important as we deal with life, wouldn’t you say?’
Yes, I would say that. Both life and death are formidable to deal with. There are those that can make a success of it and those who are not able to make it. But this is not a film, not a game, and the only ‘win’ there could be is our forgiveness of ourselves.
If it is peace I need, then I will have to work very hard toward that idea. As my therapist has said, it is not peace we need but rather the balance in our life that brings both the ideal and sense of peace. I believe that pain brings us growth and that pain is the price of peace.
To be human is to question all these things, to question everything. To be divine, well, that is something impossible for humans. But what we can be is better, and being better has to be enough for us because it is the only thing we can attain and it is a worthy thing to be.