I wrote the following essay in fall of 2006. I didn't feel capable of sharing it then but here it is....three years later. :)
My Dad called this week. I haven’t talked to him in a very long time. Can’t bring myself to call for some reason. I listen to the message, thinking it would be nice to chat with him, but I just don’t want to…there is some resistance within.
Driving to work today, feeling a bit down already about money issues and relationship issues and just general life stuff, a Nickelback song comes on. It’s called “Photograph” and it takes me back into my past in a very real way. This line especially:
“Every memory of looking out the back door
I had the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor
It's hard to say it,
time to say it
Every memory of walking out the front door
I found the photo of the friend that I was looking for “
And I realized what the resistance is. Talking to Dad is a reminder of what I don’t have anymore. A reminder that everything in life I trusted as a child, is pretty much gone. The beliefs that were ingrained in me…gone. My mother….gone. Having family nearby at all times….gone. The house I lived in through high school was sold last month, my Dad and Stepmom are living in their RV and traveling. The anchor of a hometown and family is floating about, more of an idea than a reality for me.
The song was playing and I started thinking back to high school and the goodbyes I said before it was time. Kathy, Bill, Dennis, Eric…names of those that died my very strange senior year. Kathy was only an aquaintance, but her face has stayed with me, longer than many of my friends. She was murdered one night, taken from the parking lot of our school. Stacey and I were hanging out and drove right past school that very night…oblivious to the unfolding events. Kathy never got to live many of the dreams I have. She never had children of her own, never got to graduate or move away from home. She remains an image to me, of a pretty girl down the hall, putting on her brown leather jacket after school, smiling to everyone and speaking softly. Life became fragile that year. We felt adrift and alone, a band of prisoners that nobody really understood. School does that to people. Kathy’s death drove the message home.
I think about her every so often, like when that song plays on the radio. She is the symbol of “goodbye” for me, the symbol of how fleeting life is and the unknown events that play out in each of our dramas. I believe there is a place in each of us that desires the kind of security we can never have in this journey. A place that wants to know something is sure. But nothing is. The only constant is change. All that we know today, may be different tomorrow and will most definitely be different if we live long enough.
We will lose people we love. We will have goodbyes that need to be said. How well or how poorly we navigate these changes is the only thing we have control over. Letting go is an art form. I’m still learning to perfect it. Apparently I’m not doing as well as I thought…since talking to my Dad brings up resistance that is hard to understand. I have a good relationship with him. He is kind and supportive. It’s not like I have a good reason to avoid him. I think I’m just avoiding anything that reminds me of loss right now, anything that makes me feel more fragile than I already do.
Markus and I have dealt with some pretty big goodbyes, even in our relationship. I feel like so many things have happened that I’ve learned to ignore some of my emotions. Stuff them down, turn them off. Pretend I don’t care when I really do. I know it’s temporary and tomorrow I might feel differently. But for right now, I just need to feel sad for the past I can never have again. I need to open my heart to all the Kathy’s of the world that never got a chance, I need to connect with the positive parts of my life that will never be again.
I need to grieve.
I’ve been missing my Mom more every year. It’s supposed to get better, but it doesn’t. There are questions I need to ask her, so many ideas and thoughts I have to process on my own. Her own writings that I seek to interpret and understand. So many pieces of the puzzle that made me understand her better, and so many that I can’t fill in. I thought there would be more time. There’s never enough of that.
Loss is a powerful issue to face in this life. No matter who we are, or what status we hold, there is one guarantee…that we will face loss at some point. The grief that ensues can rend us powerless, gripped in emotions that are nearly impossible to define and physical pain that grips so tightly it feels as though it will suffocate. Coping isn’t on the horizon, yet cope we must. For we will face this again most likely, and again, and again. Growing old doesn’t scare me. Saying goodbye more is the thing I fear. I’ve already said goodbye more than I ever wanted to…but it will continue. Knowing that it’s part of birth and rebirth, part of the cycle we all entered at conception, does not help assuage my sadness. It just is.
I feel like I’m losing parts of myself, through the goodbyes. I had places that were sacred to me I can no longer access, people I loved I can no longer access, (sometimes I still want to reach for the phone to call my Mom) and events that will never be again. We all have those hollow places, those unreachable bits. I carve my space within that grief in order to feel more deeply. The sadness allows me to feel more joy…to feel MORE. In feeling more, I am more fully alive. So I grieve, I rage, I cry, I laugh and shout and I keep living, filling the hollow parts with more life.
I’ve tempered my passions all too often, for the sake of conformity, for the sake of not looking too crazy. To hell with it. I’m not going to worry about other people’s sensibilities (or lack thereof), that’s their issue. I am Ren. I am strong and weak and passionate and angry and deliriously joyful. I make big messes and colorful places. I am too quick to speak and slow to listen, but I’m pretty sure I love more deeply than most. I cry for the past sometimes, and even for the future, but I live for the moment. I’m pretty sure I’ll die disorganized, but definitely not unfulfilled.
Sometimes I just want to sit with a cloves and some rum, forgetting what it feels like to sorrow…sometimes I meditate instead. White sage or cloves? Which smoke will help more at the moment? Drifting smoke seems to wend it’s way between worlds, giving me a chance to feel spirit. Whatever form it is, matters not. Tonight I sit with Enya and kids, unable to fulfill the part that wants heavy metal and a run in the dark. Instead, I kiss a sweaty forehead, and listen to the shouts of angry siblings.
I curse the fact that I can’t sit here and write, uninterrupted and thank the universe for hearts that still beat. At least they’re alive to be pissed at each other.