Hello! Happy New Year!
I hope you are finding peace and joy in this New Year. 2017 is bound to have some surprises in store for us (I think it's safe to say that is already the case).
I will be honest: the last two years have been tumultuous over here, so I am grateful for this new beginning and I welcome it with open arms. The extremes have been intense from both ends of the spectrum. I've experienced some of the lowest lows and the highest highs. Ever. In as much as trying to ride these waves has been challenging, I know the extremes are real and true to the nature of life. I am even grateful for them.
What I didn't expect, is that all of it felt a lot like grief to me.
I have known that grief in and of itself is a universal experience. Every human will experience loss and grief as a result of that loss. Grief is so much bigger than that though. It is ongoing. There is always something calling to be grieved. At the same time, generally speaking, I've seen a lot of resistance to the word: grief. I understand it sounds daunting and is most often associated with death so not many of us welcome even the idea of grief at our doors. The word grief could be an onomatopoeia after all. It starts out strong with a fierce G in the same way grief can catch us off guard and then softens, potentially leaving a person in a puddle.
Contrary to what most would think, I continue to see how grief sets us free. Once one agrees to face the sadness, heartbreak, angst, and anger that comes with grief, and allows that grief to break her open, it is just a matter of time before spirits are lifted. Grieving is more like a release valve than it is an anchor.
With the release of my book My New Friend, Grief, I've had the extreme privilege of meeting and some awe-inspiring people. I've also connected with people I already knew in new and powerful ways. I wish I could transcribe each and every courageous conversation I've had with these lovely beings because there is so much to be gained from sharing our stories with one another. To me, the most important reminder I receive in each of these exchanges is that none of us is alone. We are in this together. There is some comfort in that.
At the same time, I am aware in every cell of my body of the emotional climate here in America. It is intense like the waves I, and many of my friends and family, experienced in 2016. Americans are on high alert and it doesn't even matter which "side of the aisle" we cast our vote upon anymore. What we're facing is not a matter of taking sides. What I see is a crisis situation where many of our citizens are feeling betrayed by the sides to which they have pledged allegiance. I have great compassion for that sense of betrayal and I cannot deny that in the midst of betrayal we will never know the true scale of the battles being fought by those on whom we depend. I do know there are some, really good people, fighting hard to defend basic human rights for all of us. Sometimes lately we cannot even seem to agree on what is basic though.
My faith lies in the balance between what is known and unknown and I believe that despite what we hear on the news each day and despite what we've come to believe about our leaders and each other, more good than bad is available to us.
In the meantime, we must learn to cope with the extremes and maybe even feel peace as we experience them. I think much of our challenge lies in a culture that tells us to "get over it". The only way I know to get over it, is to first feel it. All of it. Sometimes I fear it will destroy me. But, guess what, I'm still here. Only after the emotions have moved through me, can I let anything go. Sometimes what I've released comes back to me and the process of feeling it begins again. I don't know how Americans will ever move beyond this discontent we are experiencing without first feeling the betrayal, the anger, the fear, the sadness, and even the jubilation that some want the freedom to feel. Denying these feelings exist is holding us back.
We are entitled to our feelings.
As hard as I've seen people trying, none of us can deny how another person feels. It isn't okay to say another person can't or shouldn't feel the way they feel. Let's not do that anymore. Let's let each other feel what we need to feel. Let's hold space for those feelings, even when they are uncomfortable, knowing they are only feelings.
I dare you.
Just try it. The next time someone you know or someone you barely know expresses a feeling and you don't think that feeling is justified, instead of denying the feeling out loud or even in your head, simply say I hear you. Maybe even say that sounds hard.
You might be amazed. The power of making space for feelings lies in the simple effect it has on our bodies. We relax. We soften. We open. We develop compassion for person to whom we are speaking and, ultimately, we have compassion for ourselves.
Let it be known that grief is normal, natural, safe, and it can set us free.
Thank you for being here. Let's do this, 2017!