So I didn’t get a post in yesterday. It was a hot, humid day at work; thunderstorms arrived just as we were leaving. I got home at 6pm, put my feet up for a bit, made dinner, and then prepared packages for mailing for the book business. By the time we were done, it was 9:30, and my eyes were stinging. I closed them and fell asleep. I’ve been musing on an issue for two days, though, and since I don’t work today (except for a voice lesson), I’m ready to give it some time and work it out in writing.
It happened on Saturday. I burst into tears at work.
It was late afternoon, toward the end of my shift. Families had been coming through in dribbles to look at the church. Since it was hot, I put a chair out on the landing in front of the door so that I could catch the breeze. Sitting there in my bustle, I suppose I made a good picture of a prim and proper church lady. A father and his two-year old daughter wandered down the road, leaving Mom and older siblings at the General Store. I invited them in and showed the little curly redhead the pump organ. She liked the sound of her voice in the echoing chamber of the empty church, so I played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (a good Mozart tune) and let her sing along. She took a look at my pin cushion balls, too, and held one until her father gently took it and handed it back. She never left the safety of her father’s arms during the whole visit. I walked them out of the church and settled in my chair to watch them walk back down the road, hand in hand. She stumbled at one point, but Dad righted her gently. That’s when I lost it.That sudden, rising swell of heat in my nose and the burning tears tumbling down were totally unpredicted. Why these tears? Why now?
Driving home with Steve, I began to talk it out and answer his compassionate questions. Where were my thoughts? What were my emotions? I remembered that I had been bored, hot, and feeling a bit lost and alone: all dressed up in an empty museum, wondering how I got there. Kind of disconnected and surreal. That father and daughter reminded me of my late husband and our curly-haired youngest. Seeing them walk away together triggered a sense of devastating loss. I will never see Jim again; Emily, now 21, will never be that young again. That manifestation of life is gone forever.
But I knew that. Why the tears? Why judge that as something sad? Obviously, I am still very attached to that particular arrangement, and perhaps not so attached to my current one. “Attachment causes suffering.” Somehow, I came to believe that my life as a wife and mother was very meaningful, very important, and it became a “secure” identity for me. Not hard to imagine how that happened. The thing is, it isn’t the Truth, wasn’t the Truth, either. It was a temporary condition. I enjoyed that condition, but Change is the nature of life. Conditions always change. One condition isn’t more meaningful or important than another. To be able to think about every moment of life as a valuable moment is a mindset that can set me free to live happily. I think of Hafiz, the Sufi poet, and his exuberant joy in living, not dependent on circumstances. I get sentimental about family life, but I don’t want to be the mother of a two year old, now. Somehow, though, that sentiment suggests that there is greater value in that particular model of life than in others, and that I am “missing out”. It’s just not true. It’s a kind of cultural propaganda. Hallmark and Focus on the Family and organizations like that profit from supporting that way of thinking. I love my children, but our life isn’t Hallmark any more. It was, once. It was nice, but it wasn’t the only and most important manifestation of living. Conditions arise, conditions change. Judging that one is “better” thanthe other can get me stuck and cause suffering. That’s not to say that I can’t think critically about my life and make changes. But I also want to be able to be happy in any situation.
I like my tears, too. They help me learn about myself.
I can relate to your experience with the tears. I get the same way when I see someone who reminds me of my mother or hear a song that we enjoyed together. In fact there are so many things in day to day living that remind me of her that I seem to spend a lot of my time in tears. I haven’t yet learned to deal with her loss in such a philosophical light, I wish I could, but I guess it will come eventually.
Grief takes its own time, sort of outside of time. Hits you when you least expect it, goes underground, then sometimes surfaces long after you think it has been absorbed. I think what’s important is just welcoming it when it does surface, spending time with it, and learning about it, instead of shoving it away or avoiding it. It’s an amazing teacher, actually.
Scilla, I was just going to say what you did in your answer to Sue. But let me add this; I think that post 50ish, so many changes have taken place in our lives that we begin to revaluate, and look both back and ahead with new awareness and a little wistfulness.
Very true. I think returning to the present is important, though, rather like returning to your breath in meditation. Or like the Shakers’ “Gift to be simple” — turning, turning, we come ’round right.
Grief leaping up and biting you… tell me about it !! Beautiful, thoughtful writing as ever Scilla..
Pretty universal, I guess. Thanks, Helen!
I am possibly going through a bit of a change myself and I’ll admit I have break downs like that too, and change might not even be occurring yet. I just wanted to thank you for your story and reminding me that all change isn’t necessarily bad, just different. Your writing style is beautiful by the way.
Thank you Joshua; I appreciate the compliment, and I appreciate that change is something that is very culturally and emotionally charged. I do think that as you get older, you learn more how to dance with it. You are just learning the steps. You may fall hard sometime, but I can bet there will be someone to help you up. 🙂 (My son is named Joshua, too; I feel a Mom hug going out to you!)
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Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as clean as when I arrived. I’ll be back!
You’re welcome, as always, Russel!