Great Loss, Great Gain
If you've ever experienced the death of a loved-one, you may have also experienced a subsequent deepening of your appreciation for life. This was certainly true for me many years ago when my then mother-in-law died. She had cancer and I watched her health gradually deteriorate over the span of a year and a half. That was the first time I had been intimately involved in the process of dying.
Being part of that process came with many emotions, from fear to anger to helplessness and resignation. When she finally left her body behind, I was filled with the deepest sorrow. I was also grateful that we had so much time together before the end. Plenty of time to share stories. Plenty of time to say I love you. Plenty of time to say goodbye. Not everyone is so fortunate.
Once the initial weight of grief began to loosen its grip on my heart, something unexpected creeped-in to fill the space between tears: an ardent desire to live. I expected to feel loss and sadness, but I did not expect to feel energized and inspired. I did not expect to feel a new and vibrant appreciation for simply existing.
I experienced a similar phenomenon after my divorce. Intertwined with my marriage was my fairly detailed personal life plan. When that relationship became untenable, suddenly that entire plan no longer applied. I was very attached to my plan because it was one thing I could control amidst a lot of other chaos. When it evaporated, I felt unmoored and adrift. So I mourned the loss of both that relationship and the hopes and dreams attached to it.
Once I processed through the initial onslaught of sadness, loss, shame, and failure, a new feeling emerged. A feeling of opportunity. I started to see the potential of the many options available to craft into a new trajectory for my life. Instead of wallowing in the feeling of ungroundedness, I could appreciate the untethered and unfixed condition as an opportunity for growth and redefinition.
Through those significant times of loss in my life, I grew an awareness of something I once took for granted and formed a desire to actively appreciate it instead. With my mother-in-law, it was a reminder to cherish each day I wake up to live on this planet. With my divorce, it was reframing uncertainty about my future into exploration.
This week I find myself wandering through a similar forest of feelings, this time brought on by my full vaccination status. I have always enjoyed in-person interaction and delighted in the physical expression of affection, appreciation, and attention. Now that I can safely interact with some people who also want to interact with me, it’s like I woke up in a whole new world. This pandemic lockdown has nurtured in me a profound appreciation for just being together with another human being.
I have also grown a more full appreciation for the myriad ways humans enjoy connecting. I am a hugger and many of my family and friends are as well, but even before Covid I didn't just hug every person I come across. I like to practice consent and honor body autonomy. I want to hug someone who wants to hug me. And I want to high-five or give a friendly wave to someone who prefers that.
Years ago when I started asking before going in arms-wide for hug, I learned a little something about each person I talked to. And they learned something about me. I got to see them more fully and connect in a more genuine way. That kind of hug is just a little sweeter. And when I high-five someone who doesn’t like hugs, it feels just as loving and connected.
My teacher always says that Taiji tells us we can know something by knowing it's opposite. The pandemic has given us time and opportunity to try expressing ourselves differently. For some people, a shift away from the predominate culture of greeting by touch has been the thing they have been waiting their entire life to experience. For others, the solitude allowed some profound self-connection and reflection (or at least the opportunity to avoid looking at some of those parts of ourselves we'd rather not explore).
I hope from this experience we all grow more practiced at consent in all the areas of our lives. The world needs it. I also hope we continue to appreciate the varied and nuanced methods of human expression in our local communities and around the world. Whatever the part of your Self that grew during the time of Covid, I hope you hold on to it. Just as I hope we can hold on to the societal strides toward justice that have grown stronger over this past year. Carry all those lessons with you as you go on living.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.