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Archive for the ‘Self-Reflection’ Category

Forgetting Is the Hardest Part

In Relationships, Self-Reflection on May 31, 2013 at 6:55 am
Two peas in a pod.

Two peas in a pod.

April is a hard month for me. I can say this now because it’s May and because May is almost over, meaning that I’m moving farther and farther away from April. If you had asked me in April, I would have pretended that things were fine and that I was managing well. What really happened in April was this: I entered into a period of sadness, fueled by the 10-year anniversary of my Dad’s death. I stopped waking up early and meditating. I stopped writing. I couldn’t even pick up my journal to sketch out a few sentences on how I was feeling. I didn’t make any cookies or scones. I stopped calling my Mom and sisters. I avoided social gatherings and became a social recluse.

Ten years later, the power of grief still surprises me. Grief at this stage is much different than it was five years ago, much less eight or nine years ago. It’s less acute, having been tempered by time and experience. In the ten years since my Dad’s death, I’ve lost other loved ones, both friends and family. I’ve had more ups and downs in my own life. I’ve grown-up, at least a little bit, and learned more about what it means to be myself.

What I increasingly struggle with every April, however, is the sense of permanence. With every day that slips away, I lose more and more of him. It’s becoming harder to remember what his face looked like when he laughed. I begin to forget the exact timber and tone of his voice. I can recall some of his infamous puns, but for every one that I recall, I forget two others. I’ve begun forgetting some of the happiest memories I have of him, or at least they are becoming more blurry in my recall. At the same time, some of the unhappy memories I have, like the times we would get into arguments on the basketball court, have also faded into the recesses of my brain. It’s hard enough losing someone you love once. What you don’t realize, however, is that you lose them over and over again as the years go by.

The act of forgetting is necessary and very human. After all, how would we be able to forgive each other and move past difficult life events were it not for the powerful drug that is forgetfulness? Yet, every year I find myself lamenting this necessary step, wishing it could be otherwise. What I’m really wishing, though, is that he could come back and that everything would be as it once was. But the strangest part is, once I admit to this, I realize that I don’t actually want it.

Yes, I wish he could be here to see my life and share in the happiness, but I would never take back the past ten years. The past ten years, and all that has come with them, have brought me to this place. Sadness, grief, laughter, growth, happiness. I’ve moved away from home, found my life partner, read good books, walked and biked hundreds of miles, and have found my own place in this beautiful and terrifying world. And I realize that none of this, absolutely none of this, would have unfolded in the same way if things had been different ten years ago.

I can admit to all of this because it’s the last day of May, and because once April’s sadness gently rolls away, I am reminded of how blessed my life has been. I’m so grateful for my Dad and for the years we had together. I’m equally grateful, however, for the life I have now. Forgetting really is the hardest part, but it’s also a gift in disguise because it allows me to embrace my new life without living each day in constant grief and regret.

Me, the Subway, and the Universe

In Mindfulness, Self-Reflection on April 2, 2013 at 7:07 am

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I’ve had a different commute the last week or so, which has opened my eyes to new things. For instance, there’s the young man who sits in the same subway car every day. He’s always sharply dressed in a suit. I noticed him the first day as we simultaneously exited the subway. Seated, you wouldn’t think anything of him. Once he stands, you realize there is something different. He has a condition of some sort, the type that makes it difficult for him to use one of his legs and one of his arms.

Even so, he’s one of the first people to stand as we near the station. In his suit, he could be mistaken for any other office worker. The car comes to a sliding halt and the heavy metal doors slide open with a bang. He walks through, his gait uneven, his head held high, and power walks through the crowd, leaving the other commuters in his dust. He doesn’t hesitate as he reaches the stairs, taking each step with gusto, as if savoring the chance to move higher and higher.

I’ve watched this man for the last week. Every time I see this scene, I feel moved. It’s beautiful. His fearlessness and resolve, his disregard for what other people would consider a debilitating condition. His refusal to take the elevator, or stand to the back so that others can pass him. I see him and I think to myself, This is someone’s child. Someone loves this man, someone helped him grow up proud and strong. Someone taught him that the world was his for the taking, and now he’s doing precisely that. I wonder if he ever stops to think about fate, about parallel universes. Does he wonder if, somewhere out there, he’s leading a different life?

I know I do. The universe is so vast. And there’s so little that we really understand about it. My own life is less than a blip on the cosmic screen. It makes me wonder about the possibilities, about the realities that may exist out there that we’re not aware of. But that’s thinking too big. I’d go crazy if I spent all of my time thinking on that level. So I think back to that dirty subway car and I wonder to myself, Does anybody really see me? Then I realize, in a moment of quiet clarity, that before anyone can see me, I need to be able to first look at myself and recognize the beauty and purpose therein.

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Currently Reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book chronicles the year she and her family spent trying to live as locavores. This is the first non-fiction work by Kingsolver that I’ve read and it’s taken me some time to warm up to it. The message is hitting home, however. I visited a grocery store this past weekend for the first time since starting the book and nearly had an existential meltdown when I spotted the mountains of watermelons, canteloupes, and pineapples.

Coming Clean (I’m Not a Professional Tap Dancer)

In Mindfulness, Self-Reflection on January 30, 2013 at 7:22 am

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I’m afraid that I may have given the wrong impression over the last few posts. The truth is that I’m no happiness expert. I’m a regular person, one of millions on this planet, just trying to live out a peaceful life. We all like to think we’re special, and I am no exception to this rule.

If self-importance were a drug or a disease, its prevalence would easily be classified an epidemic. I’m not certain whether Washington D.C. suffers especially from this syndrome or if it just seems that way to me because I know it best. It isn’t hard to find multiple examples each day that speak to this point.

Speaking of unabashed self-importance, I wish you could see or hear the things that pass through my brain all day long. You’d possibly be shocked or at the very least would realize that I’m no model of perfection (or sanity, for that matter).

Just this morning as I was shampooing my hair in my warm shower, a thought came to my mind: “What if the world were to end today? What would I do?” I spent the next few minutes exploring possible scenarios.

Scenario #1: Go to work anyway and just pretend everything is normal. Maybe have a glass of wine or two with lunch, just for the hell of it.

Scenario #2: Grab my partner and head for the hills – neither one of us is much of a survivalist, but we’ve got a lifetime supply of granola bars, which has to count for something. When considering this scenario, I rued my recent crossfit flunk-out (yes, it’s possible, but that’s a different story), thinking it would have been helpful to have serious muscles for end-of-the-world survival.

Scenario #3: Run out into the streets and begin a spontaneous tap dancing flash mob. I’ve wanted to do this ever since the urge came to me one rainy Friday morning a month or two ago. I should note that my tap dancing credentials are woefully lacking, but in the event of imminent apocalypse, I’m pretty certain that no one would bother to judge. Well, maybe a few people, but it’d be on them if they chose to spend their last few hours of existence judging mad tap dancers.

I probably could have spent all morning coming up with similar scenarios, but the fact is that the shower started running cold and after all, I had a bus to catch and memos to write. Oh, and it turns out that world isn’t ending today anyway, so it probably wasn’t the most useful exercise to begin with.

But enough of that. What I’m trying to say here is that if sometimes, in the course of these posts, I wax a bit too rosy or project an all-knowing aura, please forgive me. I’m just an imperfect person. I’m an idealist, an incurable optimist, and a quirky thinker (witness my end-of-the-world plans), but I’m certainly not a saint or guru.

Every once in a while when I start feeling a little too smug, I have to take myself down a notch (or else life gladly does it for me). In these moments, I remind myself of how little I know and of how much I have yet to learn. It’s a comforting, yet terrifying realization, knowing that the world can and will go on without you.