I found myself on the highway tonight, listening to Zap Mama, Brrrlak. The sky was perfect and blue. An American Kestrel flew overhead. Everything should have felt right, but it didn’t. Something was moving around inside me. From my Solar Plexus, something was stuck and aching to get out. It moved, climbing it’s way up to my throat. The trees looked like they were painted green–distant, systematic and uniform. I drifted off to my father’s life, hanging in the balance, his struggle to come to this country, the racism he endured, and the pain that has weighed heavy in my heart over this past week’s senseless tragedies.
Some days, grief feels like it could consume me. There is a strange, overwhelming space when the tears come in. We try to fight it off. A shaming voice says, “just be positive”. But then it comes out sideways–impatience, bitterness, control. Part of you feels like you are going to fall off the earth if you really let that core come out. If you really reach in and touch it, it’s going to hurt like hell. And the truth is, it does. Grief sometimes feels like the center of your body might implode.
Just to be clear, I cry a lot these days. I cried watching “Inside Out,”, I sometimes cry at the piano. I cry during NPR podcasts. I saw a puppy kayaking with its owner the other day, his big floppy ears in the sunshine. I cried. I cry when I dance. I also sweat when I dance. Sweat and emotional tears, turns out, both contain stress hormones. But the past week, two weeks, two years–there are just no words. It’s really fucking Armageddony around here right now. I try to stay positive. I practice impeccable self-care. I exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, meditate, write, make music and yet, I turn on CNN for five minutes and feel like we’re all just falling apart. I speak my rage. I voice my anger. I’m not allowed to fall apart though. Right?
But it hurts. Grieving. You can’t shut it down. You can try, but it will always come out. It will come out–sideways, backwards, upwards, over-the-hill, through the woods. It will find you. Maybe you can prolong it with numbing. Maybe you can shove it down temporarily with a bag of Cheetos or whiskey or a tinder fling, but it’s sort of like a band-aid. You get stuck in a tunnel of band-aids covered in cheap adhesive and the only way out is through.
To be sure, if you’re blessed enough to live past 21 years old, which I never thought I would, you’re probably going to experience the death of someone really close to you. I pray it’s not the way Cameron Sterling lost his father this week, and part of my ache is that I’m also aching for my father. He is the first man I ever knew. The first man that ever loved me. Your parents are your core relationships. They were the first to hold you. And when they slip away, it fucking hurts.
How to make sense of a senseless situation? So many senseless situations right now–I’ve lost count. I’ve been instructed, however, to share my grief, to let it find its expression. I’m not writing to compare my grief to anyone else’s. Everyone’s grief is different–it is your very own, but it helps to know you are not alone.
Being alone in the dark with your grief hurts even more. So I am sharing my ambiguous grief. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But I hope we can show up to the easel, the dance floor, the page or the piano. Let the pain burn purely through us, so we can come out on the other side.
I read a beautiful a letter a while back written by Ram Dass to the parents of a child who was brutally murdered. It always stuck with me. So I’m sharing it. Along with a video about a teacher (who lost 19 people during the Fukushima Tsunami). He finally braved sharing his story with his student and together they moved through the pain.
Let us stay connected during these treacherous times.
Stay true, beautiful ones. xoxo