I had breakfast with one of my loveliest friends today; we both suffered similar losses in late fall, but that is not why we relate to one another so well. This friend--who we shall call L.--renews my spirit. L. has a familiar feeling to me, like you have with a sibling or close cousin, as if we share a deep connection that is usually only found in the commonality of DNA. I find her a remarkable individual--inspirational to me. She cares for her family with utter and complete devotion. Throughout the years, L. has taught me a great deal. Today was no different.
L. has taught me, among other things, chess. Interesting game of strategy--I was a fencer before I became disabled and always thought of fencing as a more active form of chess--size doesn't matter in fencing, though it's a physical game, a woman may best an opponent with greater muscle mass if she has the right strategy. Just like chess.
But L.'s lesson today was not a strategic one, it was about friendship.
As humans, we all suffer loss. Impermanence is a basic tenent of Buddhism, which is in many ways about the human condition. In order to fully understand what we have, we must have loss, too. It's a Campbellian duality we have to transcend to survive...for if we don't, insanity awaits. And everyone deals with loss differently. In 2009, I lost eight people--all people I knew--two of whom were very close to me. In 2008, I lost a dear friend, also a cancer survivor, to suicide. In 2006, another special friend to metastatic breast cancer. In 2004, another friend dies, also of metastatic breast cancer. Death has been my constant bedfellow for a very long time, long before the deaths of good friends began. But that doesn't mean I'm prepared for death when it happens--in fact, after my 2009 losses--I not only feel completely unprepared for death, I'm beginning to feel as though I'm not always that prepared to deal with life either.
Life and death are like the Taoist concept of yin-yang--you cannot have one without the other because there are pieces of both in each. When we think of death, we think of it being a singular, traumatic event that happens spurratically throughout the course of one's lifetime. But imagine losing a whole group of people within a very short period of time--I imagine what I'm feeling is something similar to soldiers who lose many friends and comrades in a conflict. It's not really something you get over. There's no real way to "deal" with that kind of heaping death.
What my breakfast with L. taught me today was a lesson I already knew from Professor Einstein, or as one of my previous students is fond of saying, "Uncle Albert." Einstein showed that EVERYTHING is relative. He did that by relaying the simplicity of the universe. L. reminded me today about that simplicity.
The infamous Alcoholics Anonymous saying, "One day at a time," comes to mind, too. It's not always easy to do that--take one day at a time. I'm a goal-setter, a planner. I find that if I don't think ahead and get organized, I can't accomplish my goals with the same efficiency. But why do I have to be efficient in this way? This is my life, not a task set by an employer.
While dealing with loss isn't always easy, it is part of the life-journey of every human on the planet. If we remember the important things, or the simple things a la Uncle Albert--like family and friends--we may find that taking one day at a time is much easier to do.
I hope you learned your one new thing for the week, and will find time to connect with good friends--both will keep you on a positive path as you march forward on your journey in life...and perhaps beyond.
Until next time, dear readers--
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