Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Grief and Joy

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.
- Mary Oliver, We Shake with Joy

I am in love with the Ocean
lifting her thousands of white hats
in the chop of the storm,
or lying smooth and blue, the
loveliest bed in the world.
In the personal life, there is

always grief more than enough,
a heart-load for each one of us
on the dusty road. I suppose
there is a reason for this, so I will be
patient, acquiescent. But I will live
nowhere except here, by Ocean, trusting
equally in all the blast and welcome
of her sorrow less, salt self. 
- Mary Oliver, Ocean

"I'm a believer in meditation that isn't thought of as traditional meditation. It can be in the form of music or painting or walking or anything else that carries you into the flow state. Getting lost isn't actually getting lost. That's the paradox: getting lost is going inward. Getting lost is finding ourselves in a deeper capacity. Getting lost is sometimes essential to growth and ultimately a greater understanding." Victoria Erickson

I'm sitting again amongst the trees, rock, grass, bluebirds, ants and mountains. I have felt so lost lately. Lost in myself, lost in this world, riding the tide of grief. Questioning the duality of feeling so much pain and wondering if happiness or joy will exist along side such pain. That's the question in grief isn't it? We will feel this pain forever and joy will exist along side such pain. His loss created such a duality for our life that we must accept at some point. We must learn to live and grieve and accept what each of those states shall give us.

And we become lost. To find ourselves after his loss. After his life. To find love again. 
Life again.
Soul again.
Joy again.
And how all of that will exist alongside our grief. We were permanently changed the moment his heart ceased beating. While the world moves on and everyone goes back to exactly who they were, we do not. We are permanently altered and must find who we are now, not who we were then. 

Knowing and loving Kreed changed me into a much better person than I could have ever hoped to be. And his death has left me shattered, grasping at the shards of myself, trying desperately to put them back together, but instead each shard stabbed me, drawing blood, dripping down and swirling into unending pain. 

Until I realized, I could not put the shards back together. I was never, ever going to be that person again. Grief is transforming us into someone new, someone I have trouble recognizing. But the trouble isn't recognizing so much because I'm someone I don't know, but because I fight so hard against the new beginning and accepting the last ending. 

It wasn't supposed to end that way. We fought and fought and fought and always assumed the storm would pass, his dimples would come again and he would be ready for the next adventure. Until one day it wasn't. And we were left.

No one realizes what it takes to accept the immense pain that will forever exist in your heart and then learn to allow happiness to exist next to that pain. Neighbors that must co-exist in some kind of neutral agreement that each will remain and live separate but equal lives. Our grief will rage on, turning and tumbling over and over, sometimes casting us to the larger waves and other times allowing us to float amongst the calmer water. But somehow, someway, as we continue on, a separate happiness and joy for life must exist. Each acknowledging the other.

I have struggled so long and so hard with accepting this duality within myself. Darkness comes over me and tells me this isn't so, that I can only feel this great pain and I must exist in this pain and allow for nothing else. The pain twists me.
Tortures me.
Empties me.
Buries me.
I fight and I fight against its completeness, the suffocating heaviness. But fighting only sends you deeper and darker. Until the day it comes. Acceptance. 
This is the new life.
This pain will always remain.
Happiness must exist with pain.
And that's okay.
And you stop fighting. You sit up on this ridge, feel the sun at your back, watch the bluebirds fly overhead, stare at the vast expanse of the mountains and revel in the beauty of this place. And breathe.

Because we can. Because we're alive. Because we still have this one wild and precious life to live. And love this world again in a new way- the world our boy so loved. 

Connecting Again

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude-
believe us , they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
- Mary Oliver

I climbed a new ridge today. Higher than the one before. And facing the sun, as it rises from the Earth. For weeks, I've sat on a ridge, contemplating my life, searching for meaning and feeling, with the sun at my back, burning and shining in all it's glory. I faced the mountains, staring at their majesty. I searched for

But every day as I left my rock seat thinking spot, everything went away. I take off my hiking boots, change into the work clothes and I entered the world just as unfeeling as I began the day.
Today, today I climbed a ridge, higher and higher and faced the sun. The mountains to my back. I watched as the sun came up from the earth, in all its majesty and rays of light and there are few things more beautiful in this world than a mountain sunrise, sitting high up on a ridge with just yourself and your demons and your heart.

I'm still searching for

The sun rose in all its brilliance and briefly I felt its warmth, before the clouds took her away again, leaving me just as I have been, cold and alone. And I wonder, where my light went, though I know the answer lies six feet under. I have been left shattered, struggling to pick up the pieces. I come to nature seeking the reason for everything, seeking a certain kind of feeling, seeking him. Nature was his sanctuary, where it did not matter what was wrong in his body, or that he had autism, or that he could not speak the language of the world. He spoke the language of the soul, which went straight into ours. For years there was no separation, if he was happy, we were happy, if his soul raged, so did ours. So I don't wonder why, when his heart stopped beating, we were left with ours stopped in that moment. While physically ours still beats to the rhythm of life, it stopped beating for the soul. And we're

Today, today I know, I need to change my life. Somehow, some way, my feeling needs to come back. It's not tied to him any longer and has just been cast out, left by itself flapping in the wind.
My tears softly fall upon the thick rock here upon this ridge. It's the only place my eyes leak and my heart is open and searching. I can't be all numb if I sit here feeling the weight of the world, the weight of his loss, the weight of my soul.
I long to feel the warmth of the sun beyond the clouds. But I know it's up to me to light that warmth inside again.
Today I sit on this ridge. And commit to changing my life. To find a way to connect again with this world and not with our child that lays beneath the earth.
This grief washes away everything you thought you knew about life, about love, yourself and your place in this world. Sometimes you feel caught up in the undertow, drowning and losing your place in this world. The pain will never go away, time doesn't make it better- you spend your life missing them and feeling the sharp ache of their missing. But I know somehow, some way, I have to find a way to shore again and accept and live this life with that certain kind of pain. Grief washes away who I was with him, but surely I am still somebody.
I miss you dear boy. I miss who I was with you and I don't know who I am without you. But I will try. For you. For me. For the fight of this life that you loved so wholly, purely and joyfully.

My Heart Beats On This Ridge

My heart beats up here on this ridge. I stare out at the vast expanse of the nature and beauty before me. But none of it can ease the ache I feel deep within.
The emptiness.
The missing.
The torture.
Of missing his presence. Wondering what he would be doing with me now, fifteen months later. We packed so much life into our time here and I made the mistake of thinking that would always be. We didn't have fifty years. He had 18. 18 years and 8 months and three days to be exact. That was the length of his life. And now I have the next 50 years missing him and feeling that ache, that emptiness, that missing, that torture. That's what I get to spend the next fifty years doing instead of running gleefully through the forest, tubing on the river wild, stuffing our faces with Five Guys French Fries and Sauce pizza.
Oh this pain is a sharp one. Cuts deep down to the soul. I am left shattered by his absence. All of our joy that was wrapped up in him is gone. Vanished in an instant. Our whole life was watching him experience this world with a certain kind of innocence and unconditional love. His wonderment over the way the water moves in a lake, the feeling of leaves across his body and the taste of the sweetness- and bitterness- of nature was a sight to behold. Getting to experience life with someone like that changes you.

And their loss changes you in an entirely different way. Life feels less joyful. Less alive. Less wonderful. Less innocent. Less everything.

My heart beats on this ridge but it feels so very hollow. No one can tell me how to live in this world after losing your heart and soul. And I'm left seeing the beauty of this world, but feeling none of it.

I hate these fifteen months. I hate this grief. I miss our boy.  And yes that is a hummingbird and the blue orb together in one picture.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver, The Summer Day.

I Miss You

Yesterday my sanctuary failed me. I could feel nothing. No words came to me. It was a certain kind of emptiness that was unsettling. All I could do was stare out, watching the clouds move and the darkness cover the sun.
Despite the troubles of yesterday, I still returned, hoping and pleading with myself. I was treated to some low lying clouds that made the mountains seem mystical. I hiked up to the ridge as the sun began to peak out from the clouds. This time words were coming to me. Thoughts were coming to me.
And so many memories of our boy. They came crashing into me. I turned the music louder trying to drown out the despair until I could breathe again.
I sat with my books and my writings. The memories continued to hit me and I sat with so much sadness and despair.

Morning Poem
Every morning
the world
is created
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches-
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it's your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead-
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging-

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted-

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
- Mary Oliver

Nature continues to call to me. Even as these memories slam against me.
I breathe.

A bluebird flies to a nearby tree and hops up and up. Oh how I love sitting in nature and witnessing so many beautiful creatures. And how these creatures can just be. How wild and free.
Despite all this beauty, there is still so much pain. Pain for knowing our boy should still be here. And how much he loved life. And how he taught us to be wild and free.
And to love.
And to live.
And to be kind.
He was our whole world. And then he wasn't. And here we are wondering what our world is now. I seek this nature and way of being in hopes of figuring out what is next. How our hearts will go on, how we can open ourselves back up to this world. How to honor his death and make sure his life is never forgotten.
And I cry. Nature brings these tears once more. I think I'm so numb and unfeeling and not for this world. But I sit here with the gentle breeze and the sun blazing against my back and I'm reminded I'm alive.
And maybe I'm not as closed off as I think I am. Maybe I'm not as numb as I think I am. But oh how I wish I could keep these feelings after I leave the ridge. And explain to people why I love coming here and how I find myself here again and again. How I try to live again. Love again.
The bluebird flies off, soaring high above in the sky. I crave that freedom. That wildness. If I crave something, then I must not be so lost. Am I?

I miss you dear boy. I miss you.

I Will Be Okay

 Yesterday I climbed up on the ridge in the pouring rain. I inhaled the scent of rain in nature, breathed in and out and just stood admiring nature in the storm. It reflected my own inner state and thus, gave me some measure of peace to have the outside world match my inside.

Today I climbed the ridge again. This time bathed in sunlight. And I thought how interesting nature can change so rapidly and every day is anew. One day dark and stormy and raging...and the next soft and bathed in sunlight. And I wonder if that can be me too? Can I be dark and stormy one day and leave it there in that day and wake up the next day anew. Bathed in sunlight. Back to peace. Back to calm.

And I think perhaps this is why Kreed loved nature so much. He always took each moment by itself. He could rage in one moment from the storm happening in his body, but be peaceful and happy in his next moment, the storm calmed and he feels back to himself. Bathed in the sunlight of his heart.

Why can't I feel that now? I lived in those moments with him and was able to shift as he shifted. I could go from protecting him with everything I had, to joyfully laughing as he stuffed Five Guys french fries in his mouth without ever giving another thought to the storm we raged against an hour before.

Now I find myself constantly cycling into the storm, sometimes without seeing a way out.  Then I climb this ridge and I think maybe.
Maybe it won't always be like this.
Maybe I won't always feel like this.
Maybe I can be bathed in the sunlight of my own heart.
Maybe I can calm the storm raging inside.
Maybe the pain won't be so great.
Maybe I can connect to this world again.
This nature provides a hope nothing else can. To see it rage with the storm and to see it heal with the sun coming up, lighting up the world.

"But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches...The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence."

"The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says,- he is my creature, and mature all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

And here I am mourning in nature. Feeling the sun trying to light up my dark, the cool crisp air wrapping me in a breezy hug and the beauty begging me to connect with the world again.
Will I connect?
How will I connect?
I don't know. But I will come here again and again seeking my own heart and soul in the places where Kreed felt truly alive and the pain and rage inside didn't matter. And I realize that I felt the same as him- despite the pain and the storm raging inside, nature always brought me back to myself- with him- and now with myself.
Yesterday it was dark with rain pounding down. Today the world is lit up with a blazing sun.

And I think maybe, just maybe, I will be okay.

Stay Wild With Me

"Promise to stay wild with me. We'll seek and return and stay to find beauty and the extraordinary in all the spaces we can claim. We'll know how to live. How to breathe magic into the mundane." -Victoria Erickson, Writer
That was my promise to you dear boy. We lived wild. We found magic everywhere. We found the extraordinary in every space we inhabited. You sought the world without limits, simply seeking to do more than exist but live. And to teach the rest of us that it's okay to love simply, live simply and live in this world as one big adventure.
Even as you sat day after day in the hospital searching for answers, you had a grand adventure and touched the hearts of everyone you met. Even the staff in the hallways as you went speeding down them on your scooter- they couldn't help but curl their lips into a smile and for a brief moment they felt happiness- watching you experience joy so simply and so free.
You taught me to be wild and free- to make sure you experienced this world in every possible way.
I watched the way you walked through nature, inviting the wind to embrace you, greeting the trees and leaves, sometimes with a little lick because you wanted every sense immersed in this world. Or raking your hands through the branches and flowers to say hello. I hope, dear boy, you were happy- I hope you felt wild and free. I hope you felt love- from us- from others- from nature.
Thank you- for your love.
                     Your life.
                     Your teachings.
                     Your heart.
                     Your soul.
                     Your everything.
I hope I can live as you did-
With love.
With everything I have.
I miss you. Here at 7am, high up on this ridge, I wish you could climb with me. To see how it called to you. To see how you felt it.
I sit here and FEEL you. And let nature catch my tears. And I just want to live this life and be good- and make sure the world knows how extraordinary you were.
And how to live this life wild and free.

To Go On As We Never Have

"It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have."
-Cheryl Strayed

And here I sit. Trying to find...what?
My grief?
My soul.
I sit high up on a ridge, letting nature consume me. Desperately seeking connection. Feeling. My tears fall softly and nature catches them. The tree's keep the secrets of my grief. This ridge gives me my feelings back. I sit in the world and just be. Nothing else exists in these moments but me, my body, my heart, my soul. Where is my soul?

I think of Kreed and the way he craved nature and the way he could just exist moment to moment. And he taught me that too- but I seem to have forgotten that lesson.

But- love- his teachings of love- I feel every day. As Carie and I navigate this life without him and carry this burden of grief, we still love.
Each other.
Our life.
And every day we breathe.
To keep ourselves present.
To stay above the currents of grief.
To find solace in each other.
And to remember-
I sit on this ridge and just exist. For myself. For him. For her.
And remember my soul can still exist. And I breathe.
He is no longer with us- now we must exist for ourselves. And decide. What will we do with our one and wild life. And I think- Kreed taught us it's okay to live this life wild.

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver

"To be fully human is to be wild. Wild is the strange pull and whispering wisdom. It’s the gentle nudge and the forceful ache. It is your truth, passed down from the ancients, and the very stream of life in your blood. Wild is the soul where passion and creativity reside, and the quickening of your heart. Wild is what is real, and wild is your home."
- Victoria Erickson