As a nation, as a body politic, as communities and as individuals, 2012 was, for most of us, a pretty lousy year. The New Year brought a torrent of Facebook statuses that all said something like: Good Riddance, 2012. What did Queen Elizabeth say in the early 90's, that she'd had an "annus horriblis," …well, seems like 2012 was one of those for a lot of us. There is much to heal from, a lot of grief, a lot of violence and a lot of violent discourse. We all feel pretty beaten down, it seems.
This week the news is full of stories of how we've all already failed to keep up our New Year's resolutions. Since most folks' top New Year's resolutions revolve around the external – weight loss, dieting and physical fitness—I'd like to humbly suggest a more internal resolution:
What if we resolved to help ourselves toward emotional healing and grief recovery? What if, in 2013, we resolved to take a deep and thoughtful look at what pains us, what tears us from each other, what internal damage we suffer and cause to ourselves and others? I'm on a compassion kick for 2013, as seen in my last post, Happy New Year: Compassion for Self and Others a Top New Year's Resolution. In that post I suggested maybe we could work some compassion magic on ourselves this year, be kinder to ourselves and thus, to others.
Grief recovery plan
Now I'm hoping to dig in a bit deeper. I'd like to gently suggest what if on top of the 26Acts of Kindness NBC's Ann Curry has inspired us to commit, what if we turned that inward and tried focused on our own grief recovery, to heal our own wounds? It's been such a battle of a year for us as a nation and for all of us individually. We pulled together after so many traumas. Now what?
What if we took all the compassion, the reverence for community, the empathy for our neighbors and for school kids, teachers and police officers, fire fighters and paramedics, what if we took all that outpouring of love and motivation and tried to live within it?
The New York Times magazine had a terrific story yesterday about the writer George Saunders written by Joel Lovell. In the story, Saunders recounts being on an airplane and nearly crashing. He talks about that feeling you have after a life-changing experience, and how great it would be if we could actually live with that feeling all the time.
"It would be so interesting if we could stay like that," Saunders said, meaning: if we could conduct our lives with the kind of openness that sometimes comes with proximity to death.
"For three or four days after that," he said, "it was the most beautiful world. To have gotten back in it, you know? And I thought, If you could walk around like that all the time, to really have that awareness that it's actually going to end. That's the trick."
I love that idea, of living like everything really matters. I think that's one way to help heal our grief, whatever it stems from, whatever it looks like or however it acts upon us. Grieving is so, so personal. But in my experience, living in hard grief woke me up. What mattered became crystal clear. What didn't, also clear. Same with who mattered.
As I think about my own resolve to heal, to continue living with the deep, inescapable loss of my brother, I'm choosing to make one of my New Year's resolutions to pay closer attention, to tune more deeply into the tiny, almost imperceptible ways healing occurs. The best description I've found happened to have been written by a dear friend of mine. She has gotten me through it all so I thought I'd share her wisdom. Jessica Thebus is a magnificently talented theater director, inspiring teacher and mother, and a remarkable friend. Her most recent show, Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, explored a female soldier's physical and emotional wounds after returning home from war. In her Director's note, my friend Jessica offered her take on healing.
"The healing process is just that: a process. An intricate series of significant stages of pain, inflammation, expressing, fatigue, and bruising. It is ugly. It is scary. At times, it may even feel hopeless as you look at an open wound and wonder how it could ever close. But tiny strands of tissue and muscle link and fuse. Slowly, the body knits together that which trauma tore a part. Healing takes place. Although the body may heal, the ghostly traces of past lesions can still remain. To heal is not to forget, but rather a means to forge ahead."
So that's the New Year's resolution I think I can stick to: to forge ahead.
Who's with me?
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