I've learned a lot this year about grief. Sometimes it loiters around, overstaying its welcome until we wonder if everyone will abandon us for our perpetual talk of sadness. Other times it gives us a respite, and we enjoy a window of Living As Usual before it returns from its cigarette break and resumes its perch on the bar stool in the corner. It makes it hard to say how we really are, because we can be fine and not fine at the same time, or in alternating moments.
This is a hard time of year because melancholy stands out in such relief against the celebrations that twinkle like so many lights on the tree. Today is the darkest day of the year, but I have already felt the light returning for some weeks now.
Still, there are overcast days, often when I am weary. I wrote this on one such day:
My yoga teacher spent an entire class
on a flow of poses to untangle
the knots around our hearts.
It was so hard.
Then later a healer told me I had
something tied up in my chest.
None of this is news to me.
There has been so much sadness this year
that I can barely breathe through its thickness.
I tell my mom, It's been a hard year,
and she says something like she's not so sure,
something like I'm just getting older and
learning the sorrows that are
always and ever with us.
It is a mercy to be young.
I remember my friend's mother
who lost a son this year, and
how my friend says she keeps going through
the motions of living,
like some daily act of faith or hope
that someday she will be okay again.
What else is there to do, we say,
as we try not to lose each other
crossing a crowded street in Times Square.
It tempts me so often to lie
and say that I am fine,
to tell a story about how I am strong
so it could be true in at least
But here is what is really so:
I am trying to be brave
and looking for sprouts of strength to break through.
I am trying to keep my heart
open to new friends,
even though my smile has dimmed.
I get tired when I don't leave enough space for
my sadness to lay down and stretch out its limbs.
But mostly I keep going through
the motions of living
as an act of hope that someday I will
be okay again.
UPDATED! You can celebrate the Winter Solstice tonight by downloading Solstice: Stories of Light in the Dark and giving them a listen in a quiet moment before you lay yourself to rest.