The lessons and rhythm of life has changed once more.
Once a Maiden, fresh-faced and hopeful, learning who I was and what my dreams were.
Then the work of bringing those dreams into the world.
Babies and businesses and marriage and an acreage and so many adventures.
A Mother, tired eyes, a little more worn, a little more wane.
Teaching me how to be sovereign and strong, how to be compassionate and alive.
And as time passes, learning loss.
There’s still so many notches left on the lifeline of course.
My grandmother would have laughed at the very idea of 35 being in some way weathered.
She, the matriarch at 97. She, who would call people in their 70s “spring chickens”.
I’m one third of her, but already I can see that loss will be a continuing theme, something I need to get more comfortable with.
Loss of dreams.
Loss of times past and can’t ever be revived.
Loss of that wooden house in the rainforest and the feeling that I was living my dream on a patch of land.
Loss of that unshakeable confidence that was as much a part of me as my hands, my liver… now so much shakier.
Loss of unshakeable optimism in people, loss of trust that those I meet and love will always be kind and well-intentioned.
Loss of my parent’s marriage and the constellation of my family of origin. Do they ever talk about just how painful it can be, even as an adult?
Loss of people, the pile of memories accumulating at a faster and faster rate. The bigger the space where they used to roam this earth. It used to be just one-off incidences, but lately they seem to come faster, and it doesn’t seem any sign of letting up. The places where my brother used to live, my uncles, my grandmothers and great aunt and nan, my husband’s best friend, my friends’ husbands and parents.
Maybe my trio of elders held me back from the cliff march of time for a while. They took their sweet, luxurious time before they left – Nan at 102, Aunt Lucy at 99, Gran at 97. While they were alive, the years spread large and long, the great breadth of life assured. But now their generation has shuffled off, and our parent’s generation is next up at the cliff face. Some are beginning to fall too fast, too soon.
And I see it all now.
How, too soon, it will be our turn at the cliff edge too.
Those concepts of time passing and generations arriving and leaving in great waves and mortality, once so mystical and imaginary and far off, are now close and real and sobering.
I see what Granny was talking about all along. I can’t say I wasn’t warned.
The years go by too fast, in the blink of an eye. I still feel 18 inside. Children grow up too fast. Everybody dies, and it’s hard. Getting older is hard.
And I was young and said “Yes, yes, Granny, I understand” but I didn’t really understand. The world was at my feet and expanding with possibility and I thought I would be immune to all that, and even if I wasn’t it was a long, long way off.
But the years went by too fast, just like she said they would. And I am finally starting to glimpse just what she tried to tell me.
My brothers’ Dad died today, and it feels like there is a tall, lanky shaped hole gaping in the world.
It’s hard to explain our connection, just that when I saw him for the first time, it was a sweet relief to know my eldest brother was still somehow walking through the world on those long legs. He was a kind and good man, and we loved him like an uncle who’d given us brothers. Losing him is like losing my brother again, that incarnation, that archetype. Losing him shuffles us all closer to the cliff.
We made a trip to the river, as we always do, a trip that is becoming more regular.
Take flowers, place them in the river, give a silent prayer of gratitude and love for the soul making their rainbow journey.
Watch them float down the stream under a wide blue sky specked with gums.
I think of Glennon Doyle’s words:
“Life is brutal. It’s all beautiful. I call it brutiful.”
I wonder how I’m going to get good at this.
Get graceful at loss. Get okay with the pain of life.
Don’t want it to carve me up into jaded, shrunken, dried up, boarded in.
Want to be softer, wider, wiser.
Gently joyous even as the sand slips through my fingers.
I didn’t know what to do with this feeling. That brimming of emotions and memories all tangled and damp.
Write it out, I thought.
That’s what you used to do. Let the page make sense of it for you.
Or as Carrie said:
Take your broken heart, turn it into art.
My Grandmother told me how to deal with this too.
She would say:
I woke up this morning again, and I was still breathing, and I thought It’s a good day to be alive.
I’m still learning.