Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sharing a Cup of Tea


We fill New Year’s Day with resolutions, or attempts to do so. We set up plans for self improvement, ideas for what we could do every day to make ourselves better and better until we’re perfect. Forget them.

We’re never going to be perfectly realized human beings.

Too much happens to us and our loved ones that is out of our control. As for reaching a state of complete happiness, that’s not going to happen, either. There will always be something else that we think we need, new foods we want to try, places we want to go, something that could always be better or improved. And just as we’re about to reach our goal, a stupid little health issue pops up, or our best friend moves away, or dies.

Life is messy, Jen Pastiloff says, and she’s right. We’re never going to get all our ducks in a row because they get distracted and wander off.

Happiness is not getting everything we want, because we’re never going to get any taller. And if our belly bulge gets smaller, our butt gets bigger.

Happiness is being satisfied with what this moment holds.
We notice what is here and make the most of it. Yet it’s hard to exist just in this moment without noticing what’s happening to the side, or thinking about an event in the past, or trying to anticipate what might be coming next and begin preparing for that, forgetting, of course, to live today. And then today is gone, and then the week is gone, and then it’s a year later and we’re still preparing for the future, but we can’t remember any special moments at all.

We could try an experiment and see how far we get — living an entire day moment by moment, being present to what we are feeling and to the people around us, staying with each moment until it ends, and THEN going on to the next moment. Would we make it to lunch?

Everything exists in this moment, all possibilities, but nothing becomes real until we acknowledge it.

If you go out on New Year’s Day (or any other day of the year), with or without a headache from the party last night, notice the people sitting in the restaurant by themselves, like the woman staring out the window. She is eating her food but no one is across the table from her. And at the bar a man is nursing his drink, but he’s not reacting to the ball game on the TV over his head, not wanting to return to a house that is no longer home.

Like us, they are wondering how they got here, and if they are doing with their lives what they wanted to do because reality hasn’t matched their expectations. On this first day of the next year, we are feeling a chaotic mix of longing, wistfulness, bitterness, anger, joy, happiness, compassion, and despair.

I write a great deal about grief, as well as about nature and Yosemite on my other blog. As I sit here in the restaurant and look around, I realize that the holidays are hard on everyone who is struggling. Grief is only one of these struggles. Other people are dealing with breast cancer, kidney or knee problems, with lack of money, food, or housing, or with disabilities and the rust of old age. Some don’t know how they are going to make it through another year.

I listen as strangers at neighboring tables casually chat, and discover mutual interests. I watch as couples laugh, enjoying their bonds. Some lean close and talk quietly. Others lean away and let distance fill the space between them.
I walk down the street and watch how people smile and interact with others, or hide their eyes. 

Life flows through and carries us, but sometimes, because of grief, we intentionally step to the side, close ourselves off, and let life flow on without us. The longer we stand on the side watching life go by, the more settled we become living with our shadows.

Often in grief we don’t want to bother our friends with problems that don’t seem to want to end. So we stay home and shut others out. Yet our friends are waiting for us. They are hoping that we will let them come over, share a cup of tea, and listen to us talk about what is clenching our hearts so tightly that we can barely breathe.

This moment right now can be more than blah, if we pay attention to what is going on and we leave space open for the unexpected to happen.

If you are grieving and people have offered to come over, or if you are just feeling lonely and think that you would enjoy spending time with them, call them up and tell them to come over.


Tell them you’re heating up water for tea.

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