Two halves of this achingly full and short life

Yesterday was a tough day. I was sad and tired and emotional. Midmorning, driving home from an errand, I instinctively turned into a big cemetery near my house. I love this cemetery; I grew up visiting it with my mother. We’d walk around, admiring the trees and flowers in the various seasons. I have also attended many funerals at the chapel in the middle of the cemetery. It is a hushed and private place, with beautifully tended landscaping interspersed with headstones and formal tombs of weathered white marble. It is big and rambling, and it is easy to get lost. I drove around today until I found my favorite spot, by one of several little ponds.

I parked my car and walked to a stone bench by the pond. I was alone and didn’t see another person for the whole 45 minutes I sat there. It was cold and gray, and I shivered in my Juicy sweatpants and thin fleece jacket. I hunched over, shoving my hands deep into my jacket pockets for warmth. I kept my sunglasses on even though it was spitting rain, mostly to hide the tears that were rolling down my face.

Even on this resolutely, steely gray day, spring was apparent everywhere. The trees are bursting into bright green bloom, and the bush on my right was dotted with tight, bright pink buds. Two ducks, a male and a female, swam in the reeds at the pond’s edge right by my feet. In the rough patch of grass and wood chips where the lawn met the pond, a few tightly curled fiddleheads emerged. Their luminous greenness stood out against the dull brown of the wood chips.

Every single thing I could see, even the very place I had come, bidden by something I can’t name, sang of the interconnectedness of birth and death. Of beginnings and endings, wound together into a tangled knot. Impossible to separate. I sat there and felt the waves of emotion rising in my chest, trying to regulate my breathing but failing, nature’s insistent nascence in front of me blurring with my tears. I thought about Elizabeth‘s words: sometimes the big picture is more than I can carry. Sometimes – yesterday morning – I know this feeling intimately..

Loss haunts every single moment of this life, even the most suffused with newness, with birth. It is undeniable. The reality of this is sometimes more than I can bear. The awareness of loss, of death, of endings bangs around in my chest like a moth trapped against a screen window. Sometimes so powerfully I can’t believe I’m not visibly jerking around. Impending loss pulses in every single moment, throbbing like a heartbeat, making me think of the way you can faintly feel blood pumping out of a papercut.

Maybe it’s not a knot, though. Maybe it is simply two flip sides of a single reality. As we say goodbye to things, so we welcome new ones. I wish I could trust that. Or that it somehow mitigated the searing pain of the loss. That is so hard for me, who is so very attached. I know I should be less attached. I don’t know how, though. I realize that these are just the two halves of this human experience, of this achingly full and short life: beginnings and endings, birth and death, loss and life. They are as inextricable as night is from day.

And so I sat there. Trying to do as I have been trying to do: to feel my feelings, to sit with them without panic (so hard for me) and to just be patient. I looked at the water and the life bursting forth everywhere. I felt the roaring inside my chest and the raindrops on my skin, watched the ducks, tried to believe in the little green shoots that were so valiantly growing up through the ground. As I felt the tension leaving my body my shoulders fell and my back sagged into a comma, and my racing heart finally slowed. I began to breathe as I noticed that even in a place defined by death, and endings, life pushes through. I am trying to trust that. Really, really trying.

24 thoughts on “Two halves of this achingly full and short life”

  1. Sweet Lindsey. I so understand. Bravo for sitting with it and for letting it guide you–as your post points out, we transcend through pain to joy. Achingly beautiful and tender.

  2. It’s an interconnectedness we’d rather disconnect from, isn’t it? Sometimes,as they say, the only way around is through. And I’m glad you took the time to feel your way through.

  3. thank you for this beautiful and honest post. this resonates so deeply with my soul right now, trying to trust that life pushes through, feeling the intensity of my emotions without burning up, holding the painful and beautiful together. wish you ease as you dance with this enormity and truth.

  4. Oh, those raw and emotional days where you just feel like a big, gaping wound. I hate those. But at least you toughed it out and found some meaning in it, rather than just hiding on your couch at home (my preferred method of coping).

  5. My baby turns one tomorrow and my cousin sent him a lovely children’s book: Peaceful Piggy Meditation. In it, a young pig pig learns how to meditate in order to calm himself and to find peace with the things that happen in his life.

    That sweet book and your remarkable post help me realize that I spend a lot of time wishing for a perfect life that is devoid of loss, sadness, or conflict, rather than accepting the real life (the really very good real life) that I have.

    Oh, to be the peaceful piggy who can breathe his way through just as you’ve written your way through in this post.


  6. What a fabulous, intimate post. Thanks for sharing. I can relate to the instinct to panic rather than sit through the pain. But I know when I can sit there and BE it will dissipate and peace even for a second will come. I needed that reminder thank you!

  7. So beautiful is your expression, that I often feel it in my bones. My toes are cold reading this post this morning, as I feel myself in the steely gray day with you.

    Life is always ready to move forward, to push through, even when we are not.

  8. In reading the comments, I see Kristen’s son turns one tomorrow. My grandson turned one, yesterday. Two new little ones…and many in the span of these few days will pass on. It’s a circle. We’re always facing this. We know it, yet we avoid it. Being with this is turning to face the truth of what you are…the totality of it all. You have entered into beauty’s lair. Blessings to you, dear one.

  9. It’s so lovely when we can focus on the sprouts. When the sadness and loss can become a part of us instead of a fight against (I’m not wording that well… but I think you’ll get what I’m trying to say)
    Giving into those days and sitting with them is so important. Good for you 🙂

  10. i find cemeteries are wonderfully accepting, understanding holding places – and that’s why i love them so. when i get lost, foggy, or all kerflunky, i take myself to a cemetery where i have not once failed to find remedy.

    cemeteries are also where i took my young chiclets to learn about multiple-digit math functions, spelling, epistemology, history, art, and various and sundry other important things. we still love to create character sketches. oh, and just 2 weeks ago . . . well, i think you’ve just helped me conjure tomorrow’s blog post. thank you for that, and for such soothing, quietening words.

  11. I feel the tension within me, Lindsey, to speak of life, to offer hope, to bring perspective; but more, I just want to sit with you in death.

    We sit in those spaces – minutes, days, seasons, relationships – and still, we still breathe, still, our hearts beat, still, we live.

    Excruciating and simultaneously more beautiful than we can begin to comprehend.

  12. You are on the right track, brave and meeting the bitter as well as the sweet, willing to feel and be alive in your body and your spirit even as it hurts… When you actively love the suffering aspect of the totality this way you struggle to solidify and hold the opposites within the self. There is an organic soul-making process going on here, even if it feels at times like you are torn by beasts, buffeted by winds and spit at by clouds—maybe it’s nature’s way of dipping your pig-tail in the ink well because it likes you.

  13. I have been unable to keep up with your posts, and sadly watched some go by without reading, just because there is not enough time in the day (and capacity in my feeble brain) to read everything that calls to me and still master the tasks that I have committed to finish. Last night I stayed up until 3 am working on the program for my mother’s memorial service. She died in February; my siblings and I opted to hold the memorial in May so more people could attend without concern of inclement weather. This has stretched the grieving process in an odd way – not that grieving doesn’t continue for months and years, but that there’s still an “official” grieving point we have not yet passed. Buried in the details of the event, I am also moved, many times a day, by the emotion that accompanies the dance of these inextricable partners that you speak of: birth and death, loss and life.

    This morning, despite the backlog in my in-box, I said to myself I’m going to read something from So Vast – I’ve skipped too many, lately. Isn’t it beautiful, then, that this latest post was just what I needed to read. I thank you.

  14. I’m reading this a little late, but I’m so glad I did. I was drawn in by the first few sentences sitting in my reader. “Yesterday was a tough day. I was sad, emotional and tired.” I can say no more except that I know how this feels. Your post touch me on a primal level, they usually do, but particularly so just now when I deal with a few of my own demons and fears. Thank you.

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