Embrace the Flounder

As I navigate through various forms of grief and loss this last month, as the season finally changes from winter to spring (or summer? I don’t know if the seasons exist anymore), I try to approach this latest life shift with a little more grace than usual, because maybe, finally, I have the tools to do so. This is not to say I am not floundering, just that I am trying my best to embrace the flounder instead of fighting against it. The question I keep asking myself is: how do you heal with the least amount of destruction?

It seems that recovery so often involves some amount of destruction, an overcorrecting. Loss, grief, change, it all causes such a sudden imbalance, even when we try to be prepared for it. We are reminded of just how little control we have. We rail against this as we best know how, which usually involves dismantling our routine, our relationships, ourselves. That feels easier than nursing the sadness. But isn’t there strength in admitting defeat? Sometimes this life just obliterates you. Sometimes you have to nurse “the soft animal of your body” (Mary Oliver). Sometimes you have to trust that people will still love this broken version of you. Sometimes, they will not be able to. That’s okay too. We can forgive them for this, while keeping our distance.                                                            

The why is where we tend to get caught up. Because sometimes there often isn’t a digestible reason for loss. There is no reasoning with sadness. Sometimes I find my brain stuck trying to logically understand the source of the pain, but there is no logic. Just acceptance. And acceptance, I have been learning, is not always about understanding. Sometimes it is just allowing the feeling to be there. Feeling is not a weakness, though the way people throw the term “sensitive” around like an insult sometimes makes you think it might be. I beg to differ. To survive this life while letting all of the feelings in and inflicting minimal amounts of pain on the people around us is an accomplishment. There is strength in softening yourself to the world. 

In the days before my grandma died she kept telling everyone: “Be happy. Be happy. Be happy.” and it didn’t feel like a command but more like a blessing or a prayer or like she was giving us permission. Of course, happiness is not a simple thing. What if happiness is just doing your best to enjoy all of it? The things that are there, the things that are lost, the utter frustration at how little control you have, the warmth of kindness, the anger you feel when you see someone denied the love they deserve, the comfort of knowing and loving someone, the discomfort of rejection, the joyful loneliness of loving yourself, all of it. I think that’s what she meant, that this is all a gift, regardless of if we wanted it, even if the packaging is shitty.

It is easier to endure sadness knowing it is a part of the whole experience. It is easier when you open yourself up to it and to everyone else. Always, it is easier to share than it is to keep it all for yourself. Even if sharing is painful and risky. Sometimes we just have to embrace it all and weep.