“Addictions are an attempt to cope with intolerable states. The meager lives we are asked to live, in which we are often reduced to ‘earning a living,’ are themselves intolerable. We are meant to have a more sensuous, imaginative, and creative existence.” –Francis Weller, in “The Geography of Sorrow,” written by Tim McKee from The Sun, October 2015
This quote comes from an interview with Francis Weller, a California psychologist and author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief from an article my brother recently sent me. Zoltan texted me last week letting me know to expect something in the mail he thought I’d be interested in. Whatever magazines or newspapers he’s sent in the past have always been interesting and so I looked forward to getting this one. When the big brown envelope finally arrived, I eagerly ripped it open and settled in for the read. And then I read it again, and then once more. Each time, I kept circling back to that quote.
I love, no I crave, the idea of a more sensuous, imaginative and creative existence. Who wouldn’t? I don’t want to wait until I am old to wear purple with that red hat. Shake it up, shake it down, and shake it out. Boogie through your day. Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy? For some it may be, but for others, like me, not so, at least not all the time. From experiences in my personal life to those I know around me, I’m no stranger to the irresistible pull of addictions used to numb, move on, and make each day—hell, each hour, palpable. The trip up is that it can get too comfortable being swaddled with a habit that digs its way deeper each day until you forget that you’re really only sleepwalking. You’re not really awake, you’re not really feeling, you’re not really living.
I feel that we’ve become numbed by the barrage of violence that daily fills our senses. Add to that feelings of discomfort about our personal lives, however deeply unconscious they may be, and we’ve created the perfect cocktail of addictions waiting to happen. We need to get dirty and live our lives as if our life depended on it. Because it does. The period of gestation to when we wake up to our lives can be a long time coming for some, but when we decide to emerge through the other side, to living juicy, is up to us.
I don’t think that we’ve forgotten how to but we’ve certainly become afraid of letting loose and living in the passion and the dirt because we have the car insurance, health insurance, the kids’ education and so on. So many of us have built up a life of what we were told we should have and so we wanted it by default but as the scales of intolerance and numbness tip, some people find a way to heed the siren’s call and throw off the mask. But it isn’t easy. It’s scary. And when we choose that moment to do it, to rip off our own masks, we need to be able to grieve for the loss of who we were, or more aptly, who we thought we were.
Unless there is a blatant loss of a life is no time to grieve or feel sorrow for what is going on inside us and around us. Even with the loss of a loved one, we’re only given a short time to process it before being required to pick up the pieces again and be back at our desks on Monday morning. We don’t allow time to process not just loss, but all that is making up the fabric of our lives and I’m not sure we know how to anymore.
Alternating messages of “Coming up at 11, the latest on the attacks in [fill in your choice of country, town, state, neighborhood]” immediately followed by a commercial for a new Lincoln Continental or the Super Sale Days at Macy’s comes at a rate faster than anyone can consciously register. The amount of time we’re given a chance to digest is only as long as a soundbyte.
How do you even start to grab the edges of that mask? Notice anything you read or hear that brings you up short; That grabs your attention and makes you come back. There are some whispering memes that are alarm clocks trying to get through the cocoon we’ve wrapped ourselves in. Listen for it and don’t hit the snooze button. Experiencing loss is a part of life, which no one is immune to. Loss constitutes more than the physical death of someone you know. Loss is missed opportunity, personality, a past place or a regret. Without allowing ourselves to grieve over a loss, it will never go away but will only bury itself deeper until we are lying in our own trough of despair and what I call, “Eeyorness” of how our days have become. (Eeyore, the Winnie the Pooh character was always gloomy, depressed, and a woe is me. The only thing bright about him is the pink bow on his tail!)
Find something to remind you of the spark and make time for yourself to grieve and even wallow, just for a little while, in whatever sorrow you’re carrying. I hope you find the inspiration, the red velvet and lemonade, in that space and wake up to the siren call of the life you were meant to live.