“At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves.”
You can call me depressed if you like, though depressed people do not usually run, write, work, and make music like I do.
You can call me morose. Gloomy. Moody. Oversensitive. Forlorn. Dour. Nervous. Fearful. Whatever. Lor’ knows I’ve heard it all before.
I understand. It can be frightening, to see someone bleeding in public. You don’t know how to respond. It looks messy. And it can remind you of your own wounds.
But you don’t need to face your own woundedness. Not on my account.
You don’t have to become conscious of how you project your own inner lives onto the people around you.
You don’t have to understand me. You don’t have to believe what I believe. You don’t have to know what I know.
And you don’t have to remember what I’ve already explained, even though I’ve told you in words so copious they would bury the Twin Towers, had those iconic structures not been so neatly dismantled; even though I’ve told you in metaphors as thick and creamy as melted cheese; even though I’ve told you in images that smell of magic markers and beef stroganoff, that sound like water dripping from a tap, that feel like wax on a coffee table…
…I’m grieving, and have been for a very long time.
It’s okay that you do not remember this. That’s the way with humans, it seems. In our fear, in our pain, in our own grief, our memories tend to grow dim and hazy, our focus turns inward, our skills with others diminish.
There is blood on the sidewalk. Quickly, we step around and make our way briskly beyond.
It’s probably a big mystery to you, after all; why have I stumbled into town to bleed? Here, where bleeding is done behind closed doors whenever possible? Here, where blood is so unwelcome? Here, where we would deny that we have blood at all, if only we could? Why?
I can tell you why: I have experience that tells me that it’s a way to find real healing. Maybe it’s a way that others can find the same. Maybe even you.
It’s a way I have found with Sally. When I tell her the truth of my woundedness, my losses, my grief, and she truly hears me – in that simple act (nothing else is required on her part… nothing…) the wounds begin to close.
It’s as if healing is naturally inside of me. All I must do is tell the truth of my wounds. The reason I must speak it to Sally is this: I need to see, to know, to feel, that even in my woundedness, I am still loved and accepted.
This is the same reason I tell you.
I know you have good intentions. I really do. But advice simply does not help. Neither does distraction. And neither does any attempt to “cheer me up.” Grief must run its course, you see. There’s no way through it but through it. My healing is inside of me. You don’t have to provide the bandages.
Which is a good thing to know, since we’ve all been born into a world where there is so much to grieve.
Perhaps we could get better at it.
Listen. The thing that helps the most is listening and hearing.
Which can be the hardest thing to remember to do, when you are caught in the fear and pain of seeing blood on the sidewalk.
But please, I beg you, do not try to take my grief away, or interrupt its progress.
Do you not understand? Grief is precious to me. It’s how I know what love is. It’s the only way I can know and trust that I do love. Grief is praise, as the shaman Martin Prechtel says. Grief is love.
So let’s make it easier for ourselves. Instead of hurrying past, stop and sit on the sidewalk next to me.
“You’re grieving today,” you can say, noticing the blood on the concrete below me.
“Yes,” I will answer.
You’ll nod your head in understanding, because you know grief as well.
I’ll smile, to see that you have not gone away, to know that I am not alone, even with my grief.
Already a bit of healing has begun. Already the bleeding has stopped. I can feel it. Can you? And with that, we can begin to notice the way the sun shines on Campobello Island, and how the crows seem to dance sometimes, and don’t the lilacs smell wonderful?
Grief and woundedness is not all there is, you see. We’ve also been born into a world where there is much to celebrate with gratitude and thanksgiving, where there is power and joy and communion. Grief is just a part of what is.
But it’s a part that, for me, must be tended regularly, like placing flowers against a headstone. If I try to go on with my life without acknowledging that it’s there, I will just bleed internally, and it will kill me. It almost did kill me.
Say what you will. Do what you must. It’s okay. I’ll do the same.
However it goes, we’ll be okay.
Think of that.
Thanks to Cabot O’Callaghan for the inspiration.