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Feeling It All At Once

Updated: Jan 29

For months people would ask if I was ok and I would reply, “I’m ok not being ok.”

But recently something else is happening. There’s a kind of expansion afoot. A capacity to hold more.

Erik used to say, “You have to go down to go up.”

Meaning: once you’ve tasted the depths of despair, you have more capacity to know joy. The key was not to go numb. To let yourself feel wherever you are.

(I pass this on with full respect for the wisdom of numbness. Going numb for a time can sometimes save us. I remember my Dad asking in the early days of grief if I wanted to cuddle on the couch and watch the movie Crazy Rich Asians. And we did. And it felt like being pulled into a life raft.)

I think rather than “You have to go down to go up,” I might say: You have to go down to go wide. Or just: Be where you are. There’s a whole world in whatever is happening right now.

And of course there are days that are just an abiding sense of “meh”. That too is part of the mix. To just let that be true too. To just rest in the abiding nothingness of grey meh-ness.

Bless you all. I’m kind of in awe of the capacity of the human heart to hold all it holds in this world. And holy camoly, is there a lot to hold.

Here are two poems that speak to this moment for me. By Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and Mark Nepo:

I want a word that means

okay and not okay,

more than that: a word that means

devastated and stunned with joy.

I want the word that says

I feel it all all at once.

The heart is not like a songbird

singing only one note at a time,

more like a Tuvan throat singer

able to sing both a drone

and simultaneously

two or three harmonics high above it—

a sound, the Tuvans say,

that gives the impression

of wind swirling among rocks.

The heart understands swirl,

how the churning of opposite feelings

weaves through us like an insistent breeze

leads us wordlessly deeper into ourselves,

blesses us with paradox

so we might walk more openly

into this world so rife with devastation,

this world so ripe with joy.

(by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.

This is how the heart makes a duet

of wonder and grief. The light spraying

through the lace of the fern is as delicate

as the fibers of memory forming their web

around the knot in my throat. The breeze

makes the birds move from branch to branch

as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost

in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh

of the next stranger. In the very center, under

it all, what we have that no one can take

away and all that we’ve lost face each other.

It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured

by a holiness that exists inside everything.

I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

(by Mark Nepo)

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