Last week was a low spot in my life. Within four days, I had to say good-bye to my beloved pet, and my ninety-year old mother fell and broke her hip. The combination of these two events happening within days, dropped me into a place of sorrow and grief.
I vacillated between quiet, gentle crying to giant sobs that racked my body and made me feel I was being ripped apart in my core. During one of those moments, when I was holding my cat and crying into her fur, I suddenly saw the naked reality that life is a banquet and, as such, the menu changes. Some days the table is laden with delicious desserts and bowls of hot, buttered popcorn, and others it has liver and onions, rhubarb pie, turnips, and oily fishy, fish.
Last week, the table seemed to have more liver and onions than chocolate cheesecake. I understand that whether I like what’s on the table or not, it is for my benefit to partake fully of whatever is present.
I sense the wisdom of complete participation in the experience of the death of my loved one, and the pain of my mother’s state of being. I feel both pulled and pushed to give myself over, unconditionally, to that which is before me. I see the redemptive value of crying until I have no more tears, and of not trying to get rid of my sorrow, but instead, to walk through it with dignity and peace.
I understand that the menu of life can switch in an instant, from joy and exuberance, to doubt and anxiety, to clarity and excitement, and sometimes to sadness and pain. Often, I like everything on the table, and I eat with gusto and joy. Then there are those times, when what’s placed before me is something I don’t really like. Though I may want to leave the table, I see how important it is to pull up a chair, and with a heart filled with gratitude for life, to eat and drink what is being served.
To refuse to partake in what is set before us, is to deny life. In the grand scheme of things, it’s all good because it’s all part of the whole. To attempt to differentiate between what’s good and what isn’t, is a waste of energy. When we can experience all of life with gratitude, whatever is set before us turns into a blessing.
There is no cure for sadness or grief. Working longer hours, entertainment, travel, an affair, or any kind of busyness, only prolongs our pain. I read somewhere that if we do not go fully into our sorrow, it will be waiting somewhere down the road for us. Going head first into the process moves us closer from the dark night of the soul to the morning light.
By making a conscious choice to walk all the way through this valley, I have been blessed beyond belief. Mixed in with my grief is such a depth of gratitude, because I feel I have been wrapped in a sacred presence. The more I show up for the meal set before me, the stronger the presence of that which is larger than me.
In this valley, I’ve learned what it feels like to have another reach across the aisle to take my hand and share my pain. A few of my friends who knew my cat and the love that she and I shared, called me so they could cry with me. These beautiful women had a need to share my sorrow, and as we sat crying together, the geographical distance between us was bridged by the gift of loving support.
Many, some whom I’ve never even met, have reached out to me with messages of love and concern. All of these people, in their own devotion to life and consciousness, sensed my grief and wanted to share their love and compassion.
Fully participating in the highs and lows of life has given me a new definition of the power of being present to each moment. I know that it’s okay to lay on the floor and cry, to feel the rawness of the pain, and to break open with laughter as I jump to the heavens with joy.
These experiences are all part of what’s being served at the banquet table of life, and I intend to be present to whatever is put before me. I trust in that which is greater than me to know what I need at any given moment.
I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. What do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Please share your comments with me.
An Excerpt from Miriam Greenspan’s book:
Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair
Fear, grief and despair are uncomfortable and are seen as signs of personal failure. In our culture we call them “negative” and think of them as “bad.” I prefer to call these emotions “dark,” because I like the image of a rich, fertile soil from which something unexpected can bloom. Also we keep them “in the dark” and tend not to speak about them. We privatize them and don’t see the ways in which they are connected to the world. But the dark emotions are inevitable. They are part of the universal human experience and are certainly worthy of our attention. They bring us important information about ourselves and the world and can be vehicles of profound transformation.
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