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My Year in Grief


Ruins of Olga's Diner, South Jersey, October 2017

Most people haven’t heard a lot from me this year. My reflex would be to apologize, but this time I have to recognize that there is no reason to be sorry. In many ways, 2017 has been the hardest year I’ve lived through. This has been a year marked by profound grief.

Relationships change. That is an axiom of the nature of life, to be sure, and for the most part, there’s nothing special about the circumstances I’ve found myself in. I fell more in love than I’ve ever been, and that relationship hasn’t played out as one might hope. So what else is new? The truth is, though, that it is never so simple. This hasn’t been simple at all. No details need be shared here. I will just say that I wish this one I love all the increasing health, awareness, clarity, and positive action I’ve witnessed recently, and more. May that continue to grow, and may we continue to remain open to a better future. There is love and there is hope. I try my best to hold that thought in conjunction with an absence of any such expectation. It is a real life Zen koan that I struggle with daily.

So, I found myself in a house of mirrors. The only thing I could really do was to leave the house. I suppose now, at “a certain age,” I recognize that some of the things that I have held closest to me as what I wish for my life – perhaps even some of what I’ve allowed to define me – just simply may never come to pass. I don’t believe this is pessimism or depression speaking, but realism. It is an awful reality to confront, and I imagine everyone gets here at some point. I have been sitting with this. I have talked about it with friends as I was able to articulate it, and I have backed off talking about it when it appeared to be the best thing to do.

I have spent a lot of this year in near solitude. For the most part, I’ve kept up with obligations to others. My non-musical work life has been very positive and I am grateful for new opportunities. I have felt almost completely estranged from music. That has been a frightening part of this journey. When I realized I couldn’t bring myself to care about music, it was a signal that it was time to pay attention to self-care. My love of music had to come back online. It has. I am glad about that.

Things I’ve learned:

  • There can be a lot of learning within grief. What may look from the outside like wallowing in tears and isolation might be a crucible for new growth. I have taken a lot of time to step back and observe myself and others. I have read a lot about the particular set of personal and relationship issues that led to this emotional devastation. If nothing else, I know more about human nature, psychology, how incredibly far people can stretch without breaking.

  • Grief takes its time. It is on no one else’s schedule. Whatever time frame I or anyone else thinks is appropriate is out the window. I can do my best to deal with despair and whatever is next while they are present.

  • I have been good to myself. I haven’t been perfect in terms of the diet and exercise choices I usually prefer. I’ve not worried about that so much, and will make different choices when it is time. I’ve honored my need for company when that showed up and I’ve honored my need for quiet. I decided that it was ok not to book a bunch of shows like an automaton when trying to perform would have been too much. I went to a counselor for a while. She turned out to be polyamory-clueless and re-traumatizing, so I stopped. I have found that other types of self-care are priority now, but when I want to talk to a counselor again, I will. Mostly, I haven’t forced my emotions down or out. I witness them, and take time to sort out what’s real, what’s helpful, and what’s not.

  • There is courage at the center of this grief. Someone pointed out to me that it took courage to step out of a relationship when its circumstances became damaging. Many people stay forever, choosing dysfunction over setting off on a better path. I didn’t choose to stay indefinitely. Even if the path before me is opaque, I’d rather that than emotional death or emotional control. I hadn’t thought of myself as courageous at all, so I am glad to have been given that thought.

  • It’s ok to be changed. All of this emotional upheaval has stirred up profound shifts. I do have a penchant for even more quiet in my life than I did before, and that is fine. Change in my life is evolving and my priorities are shifting. Some of this is hard to qualify right now, so I’ll just let it be. But it feels good to gain an inner understanding of what is important, and to let go what isn’t.

  • Creativity is brewing. Even in the times when I have been doing nothing, seeming not to function, healing and creativity have been at work. I didn’t always understand this, and couldn’t express it to others very well. Poetry is stirring.

  • I have community. I do have friends in my corner, and I am grateful. Thank you especially to those who have trusted this process at work in me and have acknowledged my awareness and wisdom about the life circumstances in which I found myself this year.

So… 2017 – a year of separation, sadness, and the seeds of new growth. There has been so much more than I’ve written here, including the daily insanity of the political climate and the loss of my dear friend Glenn Walker, who has been written about so wonderfully by others (Biff Bam Pop!, Nerdfect Strangers) while I haven’t found the words. It has been a difficult one, to be sure. I can’t declare grieving to be over at the stroke of midnight, but I can say that I already have plans to be a bit more in the world, both musically and socially, in 2018, and that feels good.

Love and Blessings to you, and Happy New Year.

Robin

Samhain tarot card reading, October 31, 2017

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