It’s only 3 PM.. I am seated at my desk, looking out into the yard. The terraced gardens that brightened my day not so long ago, and were once filled with flowers, are full of dead stems and brittle, brown leaves.Today is a very foggy New England day. A thick, grey curtain hangs over everything. I keep trying to push it aside so I can accomplish something. It feels heavy and unpleasant.
I went to a meeting early this morning and then set some goals for my day’s work. I had no other appointments to occupy my time today, though, or to make me focus my mind on the needs and problems of others. I have been lethargic all day. The air is pretty warm, but it feels damp and uncomfortable. My Scottie is snoring softly, curled up on one of my office chairs. I want to take a brisk walk with her to wake us both, but my limbs feel leaden and my brain feels as though someone is standing nearby with am old flit gun, pumping the fog into my head. I realize that sadness has crept into my heart along with the fog. I stop and let myself feel whatever I am feeling. I stop trying to resist it. I acknowledge and embrace it. I know too well that refusing to acknowledge it will do no good, and will only prolong the feelings.
The tears begin. I don’t seem to cry often these days. Is that a good thing? I remember times when I could have filled oceans with grief and with longing for those who were no longer in my world. My sadness today doesn’t seem to have a distinct form. I can’t identify it at first. There are vague silhouettes floating around my thoughts. They don’t take shape so I can easily view them, or can decide once and for all, what I am unhappy about right now, or who it is I am wishing were here with me.
Then I remember it’s December 5th and in two days it will be my late nephew’s birthday. He has been dead since November of 1981. I got through the anniversary date without much difficulty this year, but he has been skipping in and out of my mind since before Thanksgiving. I haven’t ever really stopped missing him. When he was a small boy, he saw me through innocent eyes and believed, erroneously of course, that I could do no wrong. Our friendship as aunt and nephew, from the time he was born, was not complicated or burdened by rules or restrictions that come with parent/child roles. Therefore, my relationship with this young nephew was unique. I taught him, played with him, bought him gifts, listened to him and was often inspired by him. I could be a child with him when I wasn’t ready to be an adult just yet. Then there came a time when I could no longer look away from the ways he was damaging himself and wasting the gift of his young life.
The Chinese poet, Tu Fu, knew my feelings.There are days when I, too, feel….
“old, ill and tired, blown hither
and yon; I am like a gull
Lost between heaven and earth…”
Fortunately I don’t have a lot of these days. I have learned through difficult times, that I must return to earth. I mustn’t remain lost for long. I know that sometimes understanding things about our lives and the people in them, requires looking back, but we must always also look around us too, and then ahead. When the fog is so thick, as it is today, we can’t see very far ahead of us. We slow down, and we proceed cautiously but we still move forward. I know that we cannot hold back our feelings anymore than we can hold back the seasons that repeat the cycle of life. I know that this fog will lift, and even though winter has sent out subtle announcements that it will soon make an appearance, I know there will be days with clear skies. Eventually, the sun will succeed at warming up the ground, new pink buds will appear, and the trees will burst out in celebration of more sunny, happier days.
I refuse to stay in the land of sadness and difficult memories. It is not easy for me to emerge, but I know what to do to pull myself out of this. I begin the steep climb to better, more joyful thoughts. I refuse to be burdened. This is not who I am now. My heart needs to fly, not to sink into darkness.
What does your heart need?