Let each quiet breath bring these feelings together the way rivers merge into a sea.
The Book of Awakening
The river of my life and the river of C’s life merged at the sea.
Back in January, when the pain was the rawest, and silence began its reign of terror, a friend introduced me to Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening. It has, and consistently is, the most useful book in maintaining perspective on my pain, loss, and confusion.
It is offered me insight and challenged my arrogance.
I cannot recommend this book enough if, like me, you recognize that happiness and joy cannot exist without sadness and despair. For me, Mark gives voice to that which I have felt, thought and breathed.
As part of that experience, it’s turned into a running joke between me and a friend, how Mark’s Writing Elves sneak into my book every night and write exactly what I need to hear that day.
The necessary privilege
Not to feel is to stop the heart from breathing.
So often, we war against sadness as if it were an unwanted germ, and pine after happiness as if it were some promised Eden, whose gate is key to the one secret of flaw we need to rectify in order to be worthy. Even our Constitution attempts to rescue us from the hard full journey of individuation, ensuring what no government can ensure, the soul’s contentment; suggesting that happiness is our inalienable right, why implying that to experience sadness leaves us somehow deprived.
Yet it is no mistake that to suffer means to feel keenly. For to feel deeply and precisely with full awareness is what opens us to both Joy and sorrow. It is the capacity to feel keenly that reveals the meaning in our experiences.
If you are thirsty, you can’t dip your face to the stream and say, “I’ll only drink the hydrogen and not the oxygen.” If you remove one from the other, the water cannot remain water. The life of feeling is no different. We cannot drink only of happiness or sorrow and have life remain life.
The truth is, that as the lungs make use of the air we breathe, the heart makes use of the things we experience. Thus, to be alive is to feel. This is our right. To feel keenly is are necessary privilege.
My heart breathes in the loss of my life, C’s trust, and her love. I feel keenly, and yet I live. I live more fully. I live more honestly. I can never go back. I don’t want to go backward in time…I simply want to move forward across undiscovered seas.
Not being honest and true about the sorrow is to hide the piece of experience that gives happiness and joy meaning. If you only see me because of what I’ve written, or because of what others have said, or because of what you think of my betrayal, you don’t really see me.
You never have.
There is a place and time to be real and there is a place and time to fake it until you make it but these principles cannot exist in the same place and time at the same place and time.
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