Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Strength, grace and wisdom

A woman brought her dead child to the Buddha and asked him to bring him back to life. The Buddha sent her to a village nearby, telling her to bring back a few mustard seeds from any home that had not had a death. If she did so, he would do as she asked. The woman went with hope but came back empty handed and enlightened. There was no such house in the village...

Like this woman I have spent the past twenty-one months knocking on illusory doors but although I have a quick grasp for intellectual concepts and rational thought, I am a slow learner of life lessons. Some lessons have been intuitive whispers, others gentle nudges but I have only listened to the ones that whacked me upside my head. I can understand God's frustration with me...

Someone once called me Nu Qian Ren, which in Mandarin literally means a strong female person. It gave me pause. The dissonance between my internal perception of myself and the external impression people formed of me was disturbing. How could they not see the doubt and uncertainty or the struggle and fear? I have heard the same words several times and in many different forms since Shekhar died. The dissonance is stronger and even more disturbing. Little did people understand that I felt like a boat that had lost its moorings, floating rudderless on the rapids of a life I did not recognize...an orbit-less planet in a universe where the star had died.

In the immediate aftermath of Shekhar's death, I would tell anybody who would listen that I had lost my husband. The words would fall out of my mouth unbidden and inappropriate... as a sort of apology or explanation for what I could not control, to make real the unacceptable truth of his sudden and inexplicable passing away but most of all to externalize and make visible my internal pain and confusion. The pain was so intense that I could not look beyond myself. Everything only made sense in relation to what was happening to me - I could not empathize, everything became distorted, at once magnified or made trivial by the strange prism of grief - I was both human and automaton. Slowly and painfully, perspective is returning...the other side has come into view despite the death grip of memory.

The truth is that this is my life and these are the circumstances, I am living it...strength has little to do with it. It is more about resilience...how much can you survive without breaking or falling apart? We all do the best we can, with what we know and understand and can bear...

A year is a wonderful metaphor for life. It begins with possibilities and resolutions, encounters the self somewhere in the middle when revisions and recalibration become acceptable and ends in regret and a still full in-basket...as one year dies a natural death, the new year promises rebirth and the cycle repeats itself.

Rumi, the Sufi poet and mystic, said, "Many demolitions are actually renovations." As I begin another year living in the rubble of my previous life and identity, I am renovating using strength, grace and wisdom - strength to meet the many challenges ahead of me, wisdom to embrace the new year and as Sarah Ban Breathnach says, grace to be grateful not only for what I have but also what I have escaped...but most importantly of all, I am rebuilding in congruence - where the inside is the outside and vice versa.


Memory is how we hold on to the past... Regret, hostility, anxiety, insecurity all depend upon trying to relive the past and change it. Therefore, memory blocks the flow of life in the present...The past is dead. There is no life there, even when you dwell upon a happy past.

Deepak Chopra

1 comment:

  1. Strength is not about muscles, or in standing upright whilst battered by adversity. Strength is being knocked over and getting up again, and again.

    Thank you for allowing us to share your journey.
    I'm full of admiration for your strength (yes, the term is valid!) and your grace and humanity.
    m xxx