Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Lament

I remember now.

I remember that the great sense of freedom, release, and gratitude - the invitation to new life - only came after and in the midst of grieving.  I had forgotten that part.

I had forgotten that part of powerlessness and how it ties in to the lament of Lent.  It seems kind of ridiculous that I would forget this component of the spiritual walk: Lent is renowned for its themes of suffering, death, and repentance.  Of course grief is a part of this.  And of course grief is a part of naming our slavery and its effects on our lives.  That is rather close to the point.  We grieve to "sober up;" it is one of the many ways we turn away from our addictions and compulsive behaviors, our way, our understanding.  We grieve to get in touch with reality.  We grieve in order that it might change us.  We grieve because grieving is a part of repentance.

We grieve because we care and we grieve in order to care.  If we give up grieving, we give up part of our humanity.  We deny our own fragility and we dismiss the ache of our precious hearts.  We say of our hurts, our experiences, and our lives, "they don't matter."  Our hearts become like a leper's skin; desensitized, numb, calloused, hardened.  We lose our empathy, and when we lose our empathy, that is when we become sociopathic - an animal bent only on survival and self gratification.  Literally, we have lost our capacity to connect or to love - ourselves or others.

There is a popular bumper sticker that says, "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention."

If you are not grieving, you are not living.

Did you know that you cannot avoid disappointment without also shunning excitement?  You cannot numb your pain without also numbing your ability to feel pleasure, to feel alive.  This is common knowledge in the helping professions.

More distorted thinking, relational dysfunction, and debilitating habits are created by attempts to disconnect from or escape hurt, pain, rejection, and disappointment than by any chemical imbalance in the brain.

Likewise, deepening your capacity for pain expands your capacity for joy - and vice versa.  In fact, in order to truly face your pain you need an expanded capacity for joy!  They go hand in hand and not one without the other.  Ultimately, to truly live, to truly love, you must feel.  You must embrace both the fears and the ecstasies of life.

But if in your fear you would seek
only love's peace and love's pleasure,
it is better for you that you
cover your nakedness and
pass out of love's threshing floor,
into the seasonless world
where you shall laugh
but not all of your laughter,
and weep
but not all
of your tears. 
Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet

And so we linger, revisit, and remind ourselves of our powerlessness.  We face it and name it and own it when we see it, because we need to grieve.  Grieving isn't a sign of failure.  Grieving is an acceptance of that which we cannot change so that we might change the things we can.

So, to any who embark upon the path of remembering, and particularly to myself, a note:  You will grieve.  Take the time to do it.  Acknowledge those things you cannot change - the past, others, your own character defects and slavery  - and let them go, let them be.  They already are, after all.  You're just recognizing and living in the truth.  Have a funeral if need be.  Write a eulogy.  Sing a song of lament.  Count the cost without judgment - for judgment will only lead you back to denial and the insanity of trying to change things over which you have no control.  And say goodbye to lost time, lost hopes, lost dreams, and unrealized expectations.  Say goodbye to the person you wish you were or could have been and accept the one you are.  Live in your own skin.  And grieve the childish notions that there is a world without grief - if you could just figure out how to live there.  Grieve the loss of the fantasy solution, achievement, or relationship that would eliminate the need for grief or growth or pain or regret or sadness.

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