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.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

After the Holidays

The holidays are finally over. We probably partied too much. Ate too much. Watched too much TV. We’re lethargic and exhausted. Yet, if we’re grieving, we finally no longer have to pretend that we’re happy and that life is a fantasy land of happy-happy. But now an unstructured year stretches out before us like a big lump of dough. What will we do with it? More to the point, do we have the energy or desire to cross grief’s boundaries and make any changes?

Rather than compile a list of things I SHOULD do to better myself (the Resolution Conundrum), I want to make a list of what I feel drawn to do, and what will expand my heart with compassion for others. I want to take risks again and be challenged to grow in new ways. I want to confront my fears so boldly that I will go where I have never gone before.

Too often I say “No” to what is new and stay comfortably settled in what is familiar (and boring).

Yet each day I will encounter new people and new opportunities. If my life is filled with how I lived in the past, I will have no room to say yes to them.

At home, the past is stuffed in drawers and packed in the closets. It’s stacked in the pile of boxes from my last move years ago. Every New Year’s I think I should do something about them.

I value simplicity, and I know from camping in the mountains how little I need. I also admire the habit of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania who give away everything they haven’t used in the last year, feeling that someone else needs them more because the world’s resources are limited.

I don’t need physical things to have a happy life. What I need are people. Grief taught me that.

A year ago, both of my parents died. Besides that being incredibly depressing and heart wrenching, I gathered with my siblings and we spent weeks sorting through a lifetime accumulation of stuff in their house. It felt like we were taking their lives apart and throwing pieces out. Without them around, it was hard to know which items were important enough for us to keep, and then figure out who had room to store them.

When I die, I don’t want to leave a house of mysterious kitsch and knick-knacks that someone else has to clean up. When I returned home from my parents’ house, I began to take extra clothes and appliances to Goodwill, recycled what I could, tossed what was worn out, and gave away books. Getting rid of books was the hardest because good books are good books, and I’m sure that I will read them one day. Ha!

People make our lives memorable. Our possessions won’t be coming to the funeral.

I want to adjust my habits so that they bring me life, not take up free time maintaining them. Last year, I began to rise an hour before the rest of the household to have a quiet time to center myself and write. I will continue to do this. But every night I still watch a talk show and then go to bed. I would rather use the quiet hour at the end of the day to review what has happened and let it go, so that I might start fresh in the morning.

I want to spring clean the cathedral of my heart so there is space for the unexpected to enter. I want to reserve a place in the dark cloisters where the light of mystery can burn.

Things don’t matter. People do.