<written Oct. 10/16>
It’s the Monday of (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend as I write this.
Thanksgiving weekend is emotionally …um … complicated for me. Mixed up. Messy.
It’s gratitude & grief all mixed up together … the way gratitude & grief are mixed up together – kind of two sides of the same coin. Do you know what I mean? Maybe this is not obvious to all.
They’re twinned, grief & gratitude.
This quotation kind of explains it:
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” – Kahlil Gibran
This one too, sort of:
“Life is a joyful participation in a world of sorrows.” – Buddhist thought (quoted in The Open Road – The Global Journey of the 14th Dalai Lama, by Pico Iyer)
“There is some strange intimacy between grief and aliveness, some sacred exchange between what seems unbearable and what is most exquisitely alive.” (Francis Weller in The Wild Edge of Sorrow – Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief.)
In my own case, regarding this Thanksgiving complexity, specific details are, I think, not important. Hmmm. Will this do? For many years it was the reminder of a very particular joy; a special weekend celebrating a wonderful constellation of things to be grateful for. Along the way some deep losses occurred, & now, inevitably, it’s an almost extreme (certainly unruly) roller coaster of gratitude & grief that always takes place inside me.
Thanksgiving weekend this year has been an exceptionally rowdy & exhausting play of moods: grief followed by gratitude, gratitude followed by grief. Again, “personal” details adding to the mixture, but not, I think, essential to explain.
I must add that I’ve long been a very big fan of gratitude – I mean the deliberate, active practice of gratitude. Because it kind of saved my life. Saved it? An exaggeration, perhaps. Transformed it, without doubt.
So, I “do” gratitude a lot. Very deliberately, mindfully, often.
But I also “do” grief. By which I mean, I “allow” it. I don’t deny it, squash it down, refuse to give it house room … as I believe many, many people do. Sweep it under the carpet, treating it like a smelly, unwelcome guest.
Because if we sweep it under the carpet…
It’s still there, after all, isn’t it?
Growing mouldy, getting bigger, becoming a little rotten
… maybe a little (or even a lot) unpredictable.
Unpredictable emotions have this nasty tendency to erupt on us, unexpectedly … when we least expect them to.
Like a pressure cooker … exploding out of “nowhere.”
Have I seen this happen? I’ll say! It’s happened to me (more than twice!), & I’ve seen it overtake others as well. I think the person exploding usually has no understanding (at that moment) of what led to the sudden, seemingly unaccountable outburst.
I think our grief, unattended (as Stephen Levine would call it)
… unrecognized, unacknowledged, unwelcome
will generally go on recycling itself almost endlessly
like a bad storm, inside one’s head (& heart)
&, as I say,
likely leading to occasional nasty outbursts
& surely … surely to goodness
It is better to simply call a spade a spade??
Allow the grief, allow the pain.
(“Honour your pain,” as Joanna Macy would say. Honouring it does not mean wallowing in it – but grief is grief, pain is pain – denying it will not make it magically go away!)
In a world with so very (very) much grief, pain, loss, loneliness, alienation, separation, violence, fear, tragedy, despair (etc.) swirling all around us, all the time (all the time, all the time, all the time)
How can it make sense to pretend, to act as though, our own little (maybe not-so-little?) bits of grief,
are not real, do not affect us, do not matter?
I think it makes more sense to make friends with them.
Well, that may be a bit of a stretch ... but at least acknowledge them.
& so, I do.
(Of course I wish these griefs would magically vanish. I’m no masochist. But in the same way a statue, damaged by gunshot or crossfire in a war zone, will always bear signs of the hole blown out of it, so do I. Pretending the scar is not there is simply a form of self-delusion. Like looking at the hole in the statue & pretending it isn’t there.)
Ahhhhhhhh, roller coaster Thanksgiving weekend rides, eh? This one was intense.
&, it is what it is!
Feeling super-grateful – for my life, for Life.
& for this beautiful spot I’m sitting in as I write this – on a stunning-stunning-simply gorgeous day – sitting by Lake Ontario
on a warm rock
on a secluded, peaceful, rocky beach
waves & sun & stunning blue sky showing themselves off like nobody’s business
Sun shimmering on the water…
Waves helping wash away my grief, helping cleanse it…
Until a loud, angry man I’d heard shouting up on the hill edge above, came down onto the beach…grumbling, then shouting
…scaring the daylights out of me!
sending me hightailing it out of there
leaving me very grateful for my legs, for carrying me out of there safely
(once my heart had stopped pounding, & I was able to calm down & feel safe again)
Ah. This life…
It certainly does have its roller coaster aspects, I must say!?
p.s. just ran across an old posting called 'Thanksgiving Paradox.' Yup. Thanksgiving has been emotionally ... weighty ... for some years now!
Quotes that come to mind:
“Her grief was dignified and hidden, as is most grief, which is partly why there is always so much of it to go around.” – The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers
“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” – Richard Rohr
“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” – Karen Kaiser Clark
** lots of quotations about gratitude here