This Is Our Unmasking

In those moments I permitted myself to feel the discomfort of all that has changed around me, all that has changed within me, and to grieve all that will never or cannot ever… be returned to me.

I approached the doors to the funeral home to find a young staff waiting with a thermal scan aimed in my direction. I leaned in slightly and on gaining her nod of approval of my afebrile status, was ushered forward to share my personal info with the woman behind the plexiglass window. This was my first celebration of life during these unusual and confusing times.

And it changed me.

Moving to the left I found myself staring into a space where seating was paired, two side to side with six feet to the next set, on both sides and behind. The stagger of the chairs bewildered me for just a moment, due in part I suppose to my expectation of how this should be. I stood there glancing about the room, not certain what to do in the absence of a grieving family standing to greet those who were there to pay respects to their loved one. I will admit to a pang of panic in not quite knowing what was expected of me in that moment. My husband indicated the familiar face of the Reverend officiating and I found myself steered in her direction with some relief that I could comfortably stand close without fear that I was encroaching on a bubble I didn’t belong to. The presence of another known friend found me taking the seats that sat six feet behind his own. The arrival of the widower permitted me my need to reach out, to return the requested hug and to share my sorrow at the loss of his beautiful spouse. I will admit that I have never been a fan of the family greeting line; to me they force the grieving into a position of accepting touch and comfort in a time when they are most fragile and at risk of shattering. It was a surreal realization for me to suddenly recognize that despite my distaste of the typical practice, I still stood there seeking its tradition.

Taking my seat once again, I glanced about the room finding only eyes to greet me, the masks dutifully drawn to the bridge of the nose, glasses perched and clouded or raised to sit on the head to clear the vision of the breath that steamed it. I felt that I had landed in a different place, a different time with a brand new set of rules of both behavior and engagement. I peered into the eyes of the older lady seated six feet to my right and smiled quickly realizing she wasn’t aware that I had done so at all. I felt sad in that moment that we had missed the opportunity to meet on that smile. Perhaps she had smiled my way also, and I missed it too.

My dear friend the Reverend stood to take her place at the podium, and I fell silent to listen to her words. As she moved through her eulogy, and the children stood to speak, I was quite stunned to find myself reaching up to wipe away tears that have never come easily to me. I am not that person. I am not that crier; I share in painful expressions of loss and pain on a daily basis, making this a highly unusual occurrence. I sniffed deeply back to pull it together and immediately found myself right back to tears dampening the cloth that covered whatever facial expression existed beneath it. I could feel the familiarity of the trembling lips, the attempt to then pull the lip between my teeth, as if that motion could stop the flow of fluid now freely escaping my lower lids. But this time the attempt ended in failure.

And then it hit me.

My mask had afforded me the vulnerability to be honest. Yes, I was pulled into the stirrings of emotions listening to a family share stories about a wife, mom and grandmother whom I respected deeply for her love of life despite her egregious health battles, yet a woman I hadn’t been blessed to know well at all. Her story and her fight to live shared over social media by her loving husband whom I knew well enough to be honored to be asked to share in the celebration of her well lived story.

In the short time that followed, I allowed myself to both partake in the words I was hearing, and in the thoughts of the losses I had encountered myself over the year(s) that just passed. With eyes dampened in tears, and the stain of eyeliner marking the trail, I glanced again around the room and found a comforting reality that I was not at all alone. Without the expressions to guard the tears, the tears were more truthful than I have ever witnessed. I felt each one, and became part of a whole in a way I could have never imagined possible. In those moments I permitted myself to feel the discomfort of all that has changed around me, all that has changed within me, and to grieve all that will never or cannot ever… be returned to me.

During a 45 minute celebration of life, I cried for the year(s) that I lost. The year(s) that we lost. Seated hidden beneath my mask, I bade farewell to the experience of what once felt real and felt a stir of hope that something better will fill the holes that these losses have left behind.

Behind my mask I found my pain, and I gave it permission to leave me. My wish for you is that you find your own, that you allow yourself to let it free to absorb into a piece of fabric that protects the vulnerability beneath. My wish for us all is that on the day that this ends, that we can turn new and beautiful faces to the sunshine.

My hope is that you find yourself immersed in the opportunity to understand and know yourself entirely before these strange times come to an end. My hope is that you find solace enough beneath the mask to give truth to what you grieve.

There is no joy to be found in the heavy loss of precious life during these present times.

But there is joy ahead for those that will understand why we have shared this together.

No one can see your lips trembling. Go ahead and grieve.

With love and light

Tania

It’s Time To Let Go Now

September is no longer peering into August, but now standing at the open door. The breezes will cool, the rains will wash out what was stuck with humidity, and the days will grow shorter. What must soon die will first delight us with its splendor and then without resistance will fall to the earth to create a vibrant blanket of mosaic influence.

There are some that are struggling with releasing the summer sun, with letting go of the waters edge, of the sunsets and the barbecue. More so this year than any other, I have noted the shrill sound of discontent as the rains start to move in and the temperatures dip into hoodie status. We complain as if we are being further punished after a less than typical summer; as if the usual swing of the seasons should instead stand back until we have received what we feel we deserve.

It’s time to let go. Time to release the notion that we are owed anything more than what the universe is capable of providing.

Take a moment over the coming weeks to walk among the trees before the hues herald the end of this cycle. Don’t wait for the colors before you decide to look closer. Go now. Stop and peer into the branches, note the leaves and how they have dried, have cracked or have broken under the weight of the summer sun. Hold a leaf between your palms and note the bumpy texture where the tree tried to heal the small holes created by the insects that could only live by taking life. See the wonder of how this living thing tried to pull the edges together to be whole once again.

We are not so different as humans in our attempts to soothe what has created our cracks, to want to keep it together. To want to band aid our holes, to airbrush our pain, to stand strong and tall in the face of all adversity. What makes us different is that we add to the weight by holding on to what drained us, what drew from our roots and what took small pieces of our whole. It’s as if we believe we might be stronger than the oaks and that everything that is broken is ours to keep.

Are we smarter than the mighty oak?

Maybe its time we take a lesson from the tree.

The trees have so much wisdom to impart if we would take the time to listen. The trees intuitively understand that in order to nourish the seasons ahead they must release that which no longer serves them. To continue to be an integral part of the eco system, of the universe, of the air that we breathe, the trees must let go of all that they have experienced in the season before. How long would our world survive were the trees to grown thick and gnarled with what harmed them? How much nourishment could possibly be left to nurture the new while the parched drinks so deeply from the well?

What do we lose if the trees stop letting go?

What do you lose if you stop letting go?

So like the wise tree, take time over the coming months to reach down into the roots, to bring sustenance to the experiences that have grown you. To acknowledge each one lovingly with a splash of color that reminds you that each and every tear and fracture has its own role in creating what you are becoming. Paint brilliance to each moment. Bring life to all that you have given of yourself to sustain another, for all the times you curled away from the harshness of the winds.

The timing of nature is perfect. As the tree begins to wane from the weight of giving life, the cool rains appear to release the pigments of the palette. The tree now stands in the splendor of what it has learned for a short time before the winds move in to pull away each broken tendril and drop them to the earth below.

Oh the things we can learn from the tree. From the cycle of natural. To understand that what grew us must go below us to now act as a foundation on which to stand. Forever a part of our system but now giving of nourishment not draining.

Take a stroll once the colors drop. Jump into them, crunch them into the soil. The trees are gifting you the beauty of what they have given of themselves to make way for the new growth to come.

Be like the tree. For a short time stand in the brilliance of what you have given and stand proudly.

Be like the tree. Drop what you no longer need to make space for more life to follow. Crush what parched you and create a new layer of root.

And lay bare for a time to the cooling winds to soothe where it still stings.

The tree of life is every tree. The cycle of life is etched into its trunk not into the fresh shoots that appear in the springtime.

It’s time now to let go. To release the notion that you owe anything for a time.

Be a tree for the season and heal for awhile.

In love, in colors, in light.

Tania

Grieving The Distance

“Sometimes I feel so- I don’t know – lonely. The kind of helpless feeling when everything you’re used to has been ripped away. Like there’s no more gravity, and I’m left to drift in outer space with no idea where I’m going….”

“Sometimes I feel so- I don’t know – lonely. The kind of helpless feeling when everything you’re used to has been ripped away. Like there’s no more gravity, and I’m left to drift in outer space with no idea where I’m going’
Like a little lost Sputnik?’
I guess so.”
― Haruki Murakami

This is a lengthy writing and I thank you for taking the time to read it. Before it continues I want you to try to find something positive from the journey we are currently on together. Stop and reflect on how this may have altered or will alter the person that you thought you were. From my own personal pages I have discovered a remarkable “lacking” on my own journey that has deeply surprised me. But that is for the next blog. For today let’s talk about the grief in our distance. 

If I can predict and assure you of one thing it is that at the end of this discomfort you will remember the pain of lonely and it will make you a better human.

I can say with complete honesty that prior to this current place we are in that I don’t really think I understood loneliness. Which means I couldn’t construct empathy for the lonely as effectively as I will following this experience.  If anything, I think I may have envied them slightly the freedom to be alone.  As a natural introvert I love being by myself…

But not this time.  This time the loneliness feels like crippling grief, an emotion I have adapted to through my work, and one that I can place aside at the end of the work day.  Yet how do I put it away in its tidy box when the entire world around me is grieving.  Grief naturally comes in waves, it affects one person one day, another the next but in the middle of it all is that energy of peace that allows us to breath until the next roll crests. But not now. Not today.  Today we are all collectively as entire populations toppling about on the lifts and the crashes of a tidal wave that doesn’t appear to be descending to something manageable enough to swim in.  If I can frame this for you from the position of fresh grief, from a place of just having lost someone you love; we are in that first few days through the mourning period where time stands still, where nothing feels natural and auto pilot has engaged to get us to the other side of it safely.  But in this moment exists one major and influential difference in how we heal our respective pain. This time we cannot reach for each other to console.  And that’s making this experience unlike any other you will have been through or may go through again.  This is grief at its profoundest state and nothing in our lives will ever feel so uncomfortable after this is over.

To those that shy from human touch I now understand how painful that might be for you, and I want to learn who made it that way for you.  The soul, the very basis of what makes us human requires the act of connection.  Physical connection. Whether it be sitting across from someone in the coffee shop, walking with a friend, or sharing a hug…it is a natural need to feel closer than six feet away.

I stood in the cemetery the other day at the end of a row of headstones.  Six feet apart and six feet down. I believe that the basis of this is more logical of course in that most caskets are approximately 6 feet in length or more. That six feet down is more appropriate so that the earth doesn’t give up what is buried below.  All set out for geographical reasons. But as I stood there staring I wondered…why doesn’t this place feel as lonely as the world feels outside of it today? Here in our resting spots we are six feet apart. Why do I feel peace here but not out there? And then I realized.  We’re not six feet apart underneath of it all. We are head to head, toe to toe. Mere inches separate us even if on the ground above it seems farther.

Here and now we are separated by six feet painted on a sidewalk. Taped onto a grocery store floor. Our soul energy that lives in our hands is trapped into latex gloves, and our reassuring smiles are hidden in masks. The only thing we can connect to now is the eyes. Eyes that are tired, are vacant and are lost in the same grief as your own.  No one in the crowd knows when the discomfort ends. No one can tell you that it’s going to be OK.  No one can pat your hand and say it all ends somewhere soon. And there is nothing lonelier than living that.  Nothing lonelier than not being able to connect in the support that only another human can provide.  We can talk about connecting energetically but when it comes right down to it…we didn’t come to live together as humans to only connect this way.  We cannot, it’s impossible to fully feel the energy of a soul when the human body is tucking it away behind individual walls created in our own unique life stories.  We came together on the human journey to feel the beauty and the love that comes with physical touch. To remember that behind every facade exists something we know already. Something we’ve shared space with in another place free of our physical restrictions.  Maybe we all forgot about that. Maybe that’s what this is all about after all.  Maybe we needed to remember that we all need to feel loved.  We just couldn’t possibly have known the experience we would have to share together, the losses that we would accumulate together or why it would happen the way it did.

I have witnessed something remarkable this past few weeks.  In the lineups of people standing  six feet apart I have seen less and less of us looking down at our phones.  Instead I am seeing the bare naked souls standing behind another with a strange and wistful stare. It didn’t take me long to figure it out.  It wasn’t boredom. It wasn’t frustration.  It was the sound of the soul speaking in the silence.

“I need to be closer. It hurts to stand alone”

I don’t have to hope that we all one day need to try to remember this feeling. I know without a doubt in my mind, in my heart or in my soul that we will never forget this feeling. And for that part I am grateful.

Because this isn’t at all about changing things. This is about remembering what we came here for.

We came here to touch each others lives.  We came here to learn love. We came here to remember how beautiful that truly is.

And a special note for all those grieving the loss of someone to this illness, I want you to know that they were surrounded and touched by immense love in your absence. That your pain in being kept from their side was reflected to all those that went before and they stood in to bring your loved one all of the love that you wished you could give in those moments.  My heart aches for the grief you have experienced in this and I send you comfort over the journey from here.

In love, in light and in the power of human connection,

Tania