The other day, during an impromptu lunch with my sister, I mentioned these spates of sadness I've found myself in lately, working through the loss of a relationship that's taking me a long time to put down. Over heaping bowls of Greek salad, she asked me if I knew about the 5 stages of grief, and though I hadn't thought to name what I have been going through as "grief," it turns out this is EXACTLY what's been happening. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Having already processed my denial and anger, I've been hovering somewhere between Bargaining and Depression, something of me still clinging to the idea that I MIGHT MAKE IT WORK though all prior attempts have proven otherwise, and at the same time knowing deep inside that I will be much better off just letting it go.
It's a tough place to be - not quite here, not quite there - but it was helpful to identify where I was on that particular map, and I was enormously heartened by the fact that "Acceptance" was around the corner, at least at some point. Because I hold no illusions about the time this will actually take. I don't think a magic pill is available to bypass any of the stages, and I see that the way grief is working itself through my body is as unavoidable as breathing.
Still, I am thankful my head is above water enough to be able to distinguish some light when it comes through, whether it's walking the length of a half-marathon one night or hopping on a plane to Houston to visit two women I'd never met in person but whom I knew through an online class we took last spring.
So here I am, two time zones away, having landed last night and greeted at the airport by Kimberley C. and Tina B. I felt instantly at home the moment I saw them, something about their welcome and their energy and their being so immediately familiar. I felt like I was in the best possible hands. They whisked me off to a Jewish deli and by then we were talking a mile a minute, blitzing past the social niceties and straight into the guts of our lives.
There are few things more healing than company. I can feel myself soften and yield in a way that's different from doing my work solo because there's something about being witnessed, and held, and asked questions, and being responded to, that unsticks me, that breaks up the tangled ball of whatever I'm carrying. Piece by piece, conversation by conversation, the landscape changes from a minefield to something resembling a road.
We were in the Arboretum today, which lies smack dab in the middle of the very concrete jungle that is Houston. We walked on one of the trails and through groves of trees that somehow kept out the noise of the freeway. A sign was posted - "revegetation in progress" - to warn visitors to keep on the marked trails, and I thought of what it takes to get things growing again in a place that's been hurt. "Keep out" the sign continued, and I saw the wisdom of that for myself too. I have to be kind to the earth I'm tending. I have to give it space to mature. I have to create boundaries to keep it free of trespassing. And I have to let it heal in its own time.
This is the nature of our nature. We are delicate ecosystems. We have to take care. We have to be vigilant. We have to be patient. Because underneath it all, we are hungry for oxygen. We are yearning to be set free. Our roots are so deep and so wild, wanting to grow with everything they've got.