Monday, March 27, 2006

A Time to Grieve...and Celebrate

Monday, March 27, 2006 ~ Santa Fe, New Mexico

As I drive home from the UPS Store to pick up my mail, I find myself in tears over A Year to Live, a Year to Die, a radio feature on National Public Radio. It's the story of how a man's diagnosis and ultimate death from cancer affected him and his family.

It's a difficult, heart-wrenching story, one easy to cry over.

But even as I cry for Stewart, Rebecca and their two children, I know the tears are really for me.

Stewart's audio diary records the gradual loss of life as he knew it. Rebecca's commentary records the gradual loss of a life partner.

The key word is loss. And what their story, so different from my own, triggers for me is grief over my own losses.

I wrote yesterday about letting go the past, about facing forward with a fresh start in every moment.

What I didn't speak to is the fact that letting go the past is a form of loss, even when it's the kind of conscious choice it wasn't for Stewart and Rebecca.

As far as we know, snakes shed no tears over their old skin. Nor does a butterfly mourn the loss of the caterpillar it was.

Humans are different.

Someone once told me that all change is stressful, whether it's change for good or ill.

Loss carries a similar dynamic. When we shed an old skin, even if it's an old skin we're happy to be rid of, there's still a mourning period. When we sprout the wings of freedom, we still grieve the loss of the cocoon's protective embrace.

Without fully knowing where I'm going or what I'm becoming, I know that who I was is falling away. Without fully knowing what my work will be, I know that much of what I have done is also falling away.

Through all that is a profound sense of loss.

Grieving the old is part of how I embrace the new. It's an honoring of all that I have been and all I have done, an honoring that celebrates the past rather than tossing it into the nearest dumpster. It's an act of true self-respect and self-love, for it says that who I was had value.

If I value who I was, I can't help but value who I am. And if I value who I am, I can't help but value who I am becoming, which makes it easier to welcome the new, however scary it might be.

The tears are done for now, but the grieving continues. So does the celebration. For the best memorial is the promise of continued life, continued evolution and continued joy.

I'm committed to all three...and to the tears, when they come again.

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