to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.david whyte
This past week – hell, this past month – it has been intense. Everyone I’ve talked to says the same. Of the deep sadness and the storm of anger and the descent to the underworld. Of the tears and the anger and the heartbreak and the grief.
I don’t know if it is the stars or the planets or the gods and goddesses demanding our attention. I don’t know if we’ve held too much on lockdown or poured it out until we are empty or ignored the howl of the wild that has called us home.
But I know it’s been a wild ride. Disorienting. Dismantling. Undone and undone and undone. And I know that so many of us have been mired in the muck of it.
I know so many of us, myself included, still are.
For me, it was waters rising without notice and levees bursting and ocean rushing in fast and hard. And instead of swimming, like I always have, I went under, swallowed salt, spun in the surf till the kelp tangled my legs and held me under long past the point my lungs screamed for air.
No mistake, it took me out.
And I let it – because sometimes there is nothing to be done but let grief have its way.
Even when you don’t know precisely why you’re grieving, or why the ghosts picked just now to dial up their haunting. Even if you thought you were doing just fine and you had no idea that you were holding that much pain and that much lonely and that much empty locked up in your bones.
You don’t know until you do.
And when you do it’s too late for it to be stopped. And so you play the sad songs and you drive down the highway at 2am paying visits to past lives and you ask why? and what have i done? And ‘please, just bring her home’. You scream your loneliness and your rejection and your ‘it wasn’t supposed to be this ways’ at the moon.
And that moon? He doesn’t do a damn thing – just looks on with all his brilliant and steady wisdom – shining his light on all that hurts.
And when you stumble into the bathroom and gaze in the mirror, you barely recognize yourself. Eyes red and swollen almost shut. Body weary and aching and empty and yet so full of the deep well of sadness. Head screaming and heavy as if you drank your weight in whiskey instead of spilling an ocean of tears.
The only answer. We don’t.
We don’t, because we can’t.
This is what it is to be brilliantly, achingly alive. Alive in the shatter. Alive in the empty. Alive under that 3am moon – the one who holds all the answers and yet won’t answer a single question. This is what it is to belong to things we cannot possibly understand. This is what it is to trust in the terrifying wisdom of our own becoming.
And so, If you are alone tonight – like I am alone. If the ache and the empty in your chest feels cavernous and so vast that the words that could save you are ricocheting in deep space – no way out and nothing that that can fill you.
If you are crying or screaming or puking or on your knees, grasping at handfuls of dirt.
If you are emptied of all but the keen edge of longing. If you are unsure how you got here and have no idea how to find your way home.
If you couldn’t name a home on the map or in another to save your own damn life.
If you crave kind touch until the surface of your skin hurts. Crave it the way you you need air to breathe.
If it is dark and cold and time stretches before you impossibly open.
If he hasn’t called or she won’t return. If they said forever but they forgot to mention the expiration date. If you cry out in the dark and nobody responds.
If the one you love is in the next room, and still you sink into a loneliness deeper than you’ve ever known.
If you’ve crossed oceans upon oceans looking for what you’ve lost and the boat has capsized and there is no way to stitch old love notes and a pile of regrets into a life vest that will help you survive the storm.
If you have gotten in the car and driven for hours, visiting the signposts of your past like so many ghosts in the night.
If you have cried, these last few nights, the way I have cried.
Tears that open you ragged and raw, so many tears that they run wild, so many tears that they cover everything. Like the rain here in the desert runs through the washes because the earth is too parched to hold it all.
If you can no longer hold it all – like i could no longer hold it all. Then go ahead. Let it out.
Give yourself over to the grief. Let it bend you, the way only grief can bend you. Knees to earth and hands to heavens. Let it be hard and let it be beautiful.
Sometimes we are living and life is full and there is so much goodness and still – the hard hits and when it hits it takes everything we have. It does not need reason or justification. It does not fit in a container or explain itself. It is just is. The way only grief can be. The totality of it is the point.
Grief half-lived is grief unfinished. And make no mistake, it will return.
If right now this is how it is for you, know this.
You are not alone.
I’m right here with you. We are all in this together. In the sticky mess of it. In the ugly and the messy. In the wild spiral. In the inevitable path to acceptance that feels so far away from the sweetness of redemption.
You are not alone. In the weakest moments. When you know you shouldn’t, but you beg again. When you know you shouldn’t but you picked up that drink. When you know you shouldn’t but you send the text anyway because it’s the only honest thing to do – emergency flare into the dark. When that fight or that surrender is all we have to remind us we still have agency when it seems there is nothing left to choose.
Even then – there are candles lit in the dark for you. I’m playing the saddest song and it’s filling this space and I’ve saved room for you here. There are soft pillows and warm blankets and you can lay your head here on my chest and find my breathing to lull you to a place where you can finally rest.
Because in our pain we must find each other – mirror to mirror the grace of our shared humanity, the stunningly broken beauty of our shared grief.
And you can let your grief see my grief and let our tears mingle into some kind of healing alchemy, and you’ll know what i know.
That we are never alone.
I promise. You and me? We are never, ever alone.
“We’re all just walking each other home”