Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Necessity of Loss

The Necessity of Loss
I’m reading a book by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor called “Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story.” The authors are yes, mother and daughter, and much of what was said resonated with my own experiences as a mother- and as a daughter. I was deeply moved by an insight that Sue, (the mother) was working her way toward for the whole first part of the story-- it was about Loss.

Her ‘doorway’ is in examining puzzling feelings of loss regarding her daughter –while they are traveling together. At one point she says:

“I tell myself the bereft feeling that washed over me means nothing- I’m just jet-lagged, that’s all. But...I know the feeling is actually everything. It is the undisclosed reason I’ve come to the other side of the world with my daughter. Because in a way that makes no sense, she is lost to me now. Because she is grown and a stranger. And I miss her almost violently.”

The story is a travelogue full of intense dreams, joy, grief, conversations and mysteriously mystical occurrences. Underneath it all there is this edge...this impending sadness, like a minor chord in the soundtrack of a film. And then there is this aphorism, like a glossy, irregularly shaped pearl: Loss is Necessary.

Necessary. This really struck me. Loss is necessary.

It’s odd… I don’t know why this struck me with such impact. On the surface it doesn’t seem all that different from a lot of what I say. I’m always talking about things coming and going- arising and passing. I’m always encouraging people to notice endings. To notice loss, to make room for grief, to make use of all of the little endings in life instead of dismissing them or pretending they aren’t happening.

I’ve spoken a lot about how we never get to practice losings and endings because we are surrounded by a surfeit of *new things to buy* and an injunction to pursue the fiction of permanent, eternal youth. If you don’t like your (fill in the blank…anything from toothbrush to ‘significant other’), just get a *new* one! I rant at times about this cultural proclivity, and I crave an alternate approach.

BUT…This idea of “loss” as “ necessary” has really got me engaged. I guess it’s like any deep investigation into a truth that is HUGE. It’s not as if one can say “okay, I got that one. Give me another of the ‘Great Truths of Life’ to work on.” For the RBTs (really big truths), one could spend a whole life refining an understanding of them. It’s just that I never said it that way… “Loss is necessary”.

I’ve thought of loss as inevitable, yes. As something to adjust to, be present with, learn from, accommodate, acclimate to… Yes, yes, all of the above! Still, with this insight, “Loss is necessary” I can find in all of those actions a subtle reactivity to the feelings of discomfort around loss.…an overall grimacing belief that loss is a kind of emotional hurdle and that the value is derived in the integration of the ‘bad’ feelings. I am seeing how this assumes a pejorative nature of loss.

Loss as an adversary. When my mother died, I remember that at first I felt it was just somehow wrong to be in the world without her. It was a weird ‘biological’ thing…the person who carried me inside her body was no longer here…so how could I be here? Then of course there were many other ways of coming to terms with the loss of her … revisiting the losses that we experienced over the course of our relationship…the loss of future experiences. And the loss of the chance to ever make peace together for some of the more difficult wounds we dealt one another.

Accepting all of these losses as necessary is giving me another angle of perception. It’s a kind of ‘wide angle’. It goes along with a direction I give myself whenever I’m struggling too much with a particular problem. I say “Okay, Get Bigger, Marian”…get big enough to see this from a distance away. Get a perspective on it.

From the personal angle, the death of someone we love can just feel wrong….and in the case of violent deaths, “untimely” deaths, deaths of children, etc, it’s understandable to think that. But with time, and having the awareness tucked away in our psyche that ‘loss is necessary’ there can arise the holy balm of acceptance. It’s just what is. Blame is gone, shame is gone, denial is gone. It’s just what is. Loss happens. Surrendering to what is can be very freeing.

If I think about my own losses and my struggles with those losses, I see that accepting the loss as necessary clears the way for me to settle fully into the self I am now, without whatever it is that I’ve lost. This doesn’t mean I don’t hurt. It just means I’m able to relax and allow myself to move forward again…forward into the period of growth and fullness that inevitably comes around.

If loss is necessary then …we don’t have to struggle against it. How about that? We can skip the extra mental suffering that comes from seeing it as somehow wrong, and begin to see if as a naturally occurring phenomenon. Something that just is.

Maybe what Sue Monk Kidd meant about loss is that it’s necessary in order to make our passage. It’s necessary so that we can realize the full measure of our humanness. Loss is the coin we’re given to ‘pay the ferryman’ for the trip across the chasm to the far shore.

Comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about losses in your life.

Until next time…

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