Benny is a very jealous boy.
I picked up this tiny, pitiful creature last week. He was wandering around, crawling with fleas and covered in scabs, fur all gone from the shoulders down, and hungry. Now his name is Mankey and he’s getting food and soft place to sleep and a medicated bath every other day. And, he’s happy!
Benny hates him. He simply will NOT look at him. He turns his head and pretends that Mankey is not there. It’s not a bad coping mechanism, I guess… if you’re a dog. But it’s not a very fulfilling strategy if you’re a person. When you embrace denial, you relinquish responsibility for your life, your experiences and how you respond to external events not of your choosing. I’m thinking of two examples:
- Now more than ever we cannot afford to be in denial about the realities of the impending Trump presidency. We need to face it with eyes wide open; and
- (because it’s a running theme in my own life) Similarly, we cannot afford to reject grieving and loss. There is so much richness and strength in receiving it when it comes. You are only cheating yourself to push it away.
I guess there’s a reason Leonard Cohen songs never depressed me. I see these two things as completely related.
The impulse to denial is based in fear, and even the most trivial fear traces back to fear of the unknown, fear of death. Irvin Yalom’s existential psychotherapy is based on this tenant: Fear of Life is Fear of Death. To face a metaphorical existential crisis — a Trump presidency — is really no different from facing a real existential crisis.
So, FACE what comes from within and without. Face it knowing fully you will survive it—unless you don’t—and even if you don’t want to.
Here’s a thought: Like being born, grieving blurs the lines between before and after. You can find the elements of grieving even in your happiest memories, because isn’t the subtle or not so subtle awareness of the temporary nature of joy the very source of its poignancy?
Fear of death sounds so harsh. We aren’t consciously thinking of death in moments of joy, but we are very often aware that is doesn’t last. We are aware that it ends.
And when exactly does it end?
When DID the world change, exactly? 12:01 November 10, 2016? This, too, shall pass.
Joy and grief transfer from the present experience to memory. They stay in the body, in electrical impulses and chemistry, in our muscles and bones as much as our brains.
Grieving is the flip side of joy. And we embrace joy! We need to embrace grieving and all the battles ahead, for there are elements of joy, strength and empowerment in them as well. In grief, the memory of what was, the memories of future dreams and hopes. The memory of laughter and the subtle or not so subtle awareness that it doesn’t last. That it ends. And here you are, feeling the ultimate ending (though, not yours) and yet living through it. And laughter will come again and again until you die. This is the nature of grieving which is the nature of living.
Get INTO it. POWER up!