Thursday, June 6, 2019

enough-ness ...and your astonishing power

-Hans Christian Anderson

I am writing this because I'm someplace I've never been before and I sense the importance of remembering every moment of this breathless, stunning trauma that I'm living with each day. 

And even though I still can't believe it. It's real. And I'm trying like hell to be fully present for all of it, so that maybe, by piecing together these fragments of feelings and experiences, I can somehow remain intact, even though my world as I once knew it has been obliterated.

I sense it in my deepest soul.

There is value in remembering what it feels like to be in the middle of this dark, bewildering tunnel without any sign of light at-the-end. I don't know. Maybe someday I'll wonder how I survived this catastrophic loss of Patrick, and in the process, maybe I'll learn how I endured a pain I once believed would kill me.

In the meantime, I'm still here. Although every part of my body, mind, and soul seems to be in the process of recalibrating and I feel strange, as if I'm viewing the world from inside a cocoon, separated from you by an undetectable space that feels gauzy and distant. And I suspect that you and I no longer share the same sun and the same moon.

The specialist in trauma and grief says that all my feelings are normal.

That a traumatic loss results in traumatic grief. And losing a child--at any age is always a trauma. But especially when the loss is shocking and swift and unexpected like Patrick's.

Joanne Cacciatore stresses that losing a child is different than losing a husband or anyone else for that matter. Because the very idea that your child should precede you in death is so outrageously unnatural and wrong and horrific that it produces a kind of "mental-mind-fuck." Where your entire belief system is shaken to its core. Your trust in the world as-you-knew-it, is destroyed. Your spiritual practices, in question. 

And the ONE question you want answered--as if that will give you some peace of mind--dangles silently in the air, taunting every breath you inhale.

Why am I still here when my child is not?

Of course, none of this inner turmoil is noticeable from the outside and if you saw me in person you would probably catch me smiling. Tossing my computer case into the back seat on my way to work or maybe hanging a fresh wreath on my door and waving to neighbors. 

This is what life looks like when you are a mother who has lost the most extraordinary son she could ever have--but has another precious son still here.

This is the paradox of mothering; it requires a love so profoundly giving that it actually evokes miraculous powers in the giver. At least it's kept me upright and moving. Especially in those moments when all I feel like doing is laying face-down in the damp earth, paralyzed with a wild and primitive grief. And wailing from a pain so heart-shattering that I recently had to see a cardiologist.

But instead I run to the store for milk.

Everything considered you might expect that my first Mother's Day without Patrick-and both my boys being together-would be an excruciating affair.

But it really was ok. In fact there were many beautiful moments.

Like when I went looking for the tape measure in our garage and discovered the hot-pink balloon peeking out from the shadowy corner next to the fridge. Big, giddy letters screamed out "Happy Mother's Day" and when I saw it I instantly understood the tender hesitancy that led Michael to leave it there. 

Later he confirmed it. "yeah, I wasn't sure how you'd be feeling so I left it there just-in-case,"

Then he forgot about it as he scurried about, pulling the kitchen table outside under the pink bougainvillea, and placing a bottle of champagne and orange on it while he made breakfast.

All this would have been an overwhelming gift, but later there were the smells of sausage and eggs with avocado and Michael in the kitchen blaring music. There was happy chatter and the table set for four so that when we made our toast we could include Patrick of course. 

On the counter, instead of finding my sons' handwritten notes tucked inside two bright Hallmark cards, I saw a long white envelope with the word Mom scribbled in pencil on the front.

And I still feel the power of his words.

See what I mean?

How do you get through these dreaded first milestone holidays and special occasions when there is a massive void in front of you?

 Oh God. It's so hard. But I can tell you what happened with us.

How Jim and Michael were struggling with ideas for this Mother's Day, and how we all felt unsure of what options would feel less sad.....and how helpful it was to have a conversation beforehand, about expectations. Mostly mine. 

But we all feel it. This new and strange and gut-wrenching hole where Patrick's big physical body would normally be, with his magnetic energy, his loud laughter and his ever-churning mind that I was always so fascinated by, as his mother.

Because all three of us had recently completed an intensive 8 week course on grief, I knew we were all on the same page when it comes to talking openly about our feelings.
And we talk about these hard days.

Michael's approach to this Mother's Day was the simplest and most honest. And I loved his idea. Instead of tiptoeing with delicate feelings around Patrick's absence, we should just lean-into Patrick's presence and acknowledge him directly. From the beginning of our day when we went to Mass--and throughout, over cocktails in the Greek café, it was important that we include him as if to say,

 "We love you Patrick. You are here with us Patrick. And we know it."

Did my heart ache for my missing son on this day?  Of course. But this is the way it is now.

Although I should tell you that all the dread I'd been expecting in the days leading up to this day never quite materialized in the intensity I expected. All that crushing sorrow as I hurried past the card aisles, with all the glossy Hallmark signs reminding me that I would be missing my homemade card from Patrick, had led me to expect the worst.

Only the worst didn't happen.

And this is the part I never want to forget. The part that might be helpful to you.

Because after being stunned by the unexpected emotion I felt on Easter morning, I decided to try something different. I woke up determined to:

1. completely let go of any expectations
2. and to make a point of finding the "enough" in each moment.

on having Enough vs Abundance

In the yoga world I hear the word abundance a lot and it's always evoked such positive associations. But when you're--like me- and going through a time of unimaginable suffering, the idea of abundance, with it's imagery of excess, feels like an extravagance. 

For me, the difference can be understood with the metaphor of food. I think of it this way.

If "enough" is the simple meal of a Buddhist monk, then "abundance" is the gourmet dinner with dessert.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't embrace abundance in your life. I'm just saying that when you're in the midst of a pitch-black forest, focusing on those tiny, nourishing crumbs can lead you toward the light where abundance suddenly seems more possible.

On Mother's Day I was determined to approach each moment with the intention of seeing the enough-ness in it. I talk about moments a lot because right now I just can't imagine a future without Patrick in it, so living moment-to-moment is how I survive. It makes the pain more manageable.

And because the very definition of enough is the bare requirement, I think it's much easier to attain than the idea of abundance, which seems loaded with flowery imagery and possible expectations.

For me, seeing the enough in each moment means being content with simple and small. 

The flash of smile that's easy to miss. A brief exchange of kind words. A thoughtful text message that suddenly pops up on your phone. Or a single Mother's Day balloon, purchased and then hidden away with tenderness.

 On a day when I felt raw and unsure, focusing on being content with just enough-- felt right.

In one of those interesting synchronicities, my meditation teacher happened to do a guided meditation this morning on this very topic. And I liked his words. He said that our lives are unfolding moment-by-moment and in each moment, everything is available to us. No matter the situation, there are actions and steps and re-framing available to us and each choice will lead to different options. 

I survived this past mother's day. 

Because I was reminded that I have this astonishing power that actually makes my grief journey a little lighter in spots. But we all wake up with this same power, to be a seeker of enough-ness instead of a demander of all-ness. 

And this simple shift in perspective can help us find those moments of joy no matter what we're going through. 

* It takes a lot of courage to enter the orbit of a grieving mother.
Thank you for your courage. I'm so grateful for your visit here.


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