Tag Archives: Loss

Assaulted by Memory

This morning, driving home from errands, I rounded a corner on the road.

I saw drenching April rains, grey skies, newly awakened bright green trees and grass, and the dark black asphalt cutting across and into the bright green.

In a moment, out of nowhere, I was assaulted by a memory from this same road.

Driving home at lunchtime to walk my new dog.

Same rains, same skies, same bright green tress and grass, and same dark black asphalt cutting across and into the bright green.

Pinned down and overwhelmed by the memory, I am unstuck in time.

Is it 2002? Is she waiting for me at home with her brother?

Or is it 2013? And she’s nearly two years gone, leaving just me and her brother?

As a youth, I wrote once of “Memora constantly encroaching upon reality”.

I’ve lost the pretentious words of youth, but the experience remains the same.

Sometimes, we are assaulted by memory.

The past overwhelms and overlays before we know what’s happening.

And as we reorient, reground and come back to present, we feel all we felt in between then and now in an instant.

All the joy, all the sorrow.

All the things that happened that you didn’t know was coming at the time.

I continued on the road, riding it to home.

I greeted her brother, remembered her and missed her.

I thought about how much longer he and I have together.

And then I walked him, because I refuse to let memory or fear of loss keep me from living now and building new memories.

Even if one day those same memories may assault me as well.

Rejection

It has been a while since I’ve done a word meditation. For a variety of reasons, the word I’m focusing on today is “rejection”

Rejection” combines “Reject” with “-ion“: the latter is a standard suffix used in English to make verb, adjectives and past participles into nouns, specifically to show action or condition.

“Reject” is the key though. “Reject” comes to us from Latin and is formed with the Latin prefix “Re” added to “ject”.

“Re” is a heavy-lifting prefix in English. Even though it comes from Latin originally, it’s well ensconced in English such that it may as well be considered a native (kind of like me and the Pacific Northwest). “Re” conveys a sense of “return” or doing again.

“ject” comes to us from the Latin past participle “iactus”. In classical Latin, there was no “j”: an initial “i” before a vowel was pronounced like a “y” in “yes”. By the middle ages, the convention of indicating that “y” sound by adding a tail to the “i” created our letter “j”. Over time the “j” transformed from a “y” sound to the “j” (as in “jack”) sound we’re familiar with today and so what was once pronounced “yact” became “ject”. Frankly, I’m not sure about the transformation of the “a” to an “e”, but it is a consistent transformation.

In Latin, “iactus” is a particle of the verb “iacio” which means to throw. That verb is used in one of my favorite classical Latin sayings: “Alea iacta est”, which means “the die is cast” and was uttered by Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon and irrevocably set in motion the Civil War. Iacio as a verb conveys a sense of throwing and hurling and the many words in English that have “ject” in them convey that sense of propulsion (project, deject, inject). So motion and propulsion are important elements in any word that is constructed with “ject”.

Bringing this back to “reject”, then, we have a word that has a very clear sense of “throwing back” and that’s key to this word’s power. When you reject something, you are throwing back something that was given to you. You show that it’s not wanted in your act of throwing it back. Rejection adds in the “-ion” suffix to describe that act as a state.

Rejection is a very powerful, negative action and emotion because it almost always inherently points to an imbalance between the giver and the receiver. The giver wants to give. But the receiver doesn’t want receive. In its most powerful and painful uses, “rejection” is a word associated with love and emotion and describes what goes on within unrequited love. Perhaps the most powerful visual illustration of rejection is this short scene from The Simpsons where Bart experiences the rejection of unrequited love and in a dream sequence shows what he feels is is happening.

In some ways, “rejection” is one of the most painful and horrible things to experience. When you are in a state of rejection, you’re not wanted, thrown back, thrown away. What you have to offer is refused (sometimes very cruelly). The imbalance inherent in rejection also has an inherent vulnerability on the part of the giver and a hurting on the part of the reluctant receiver. Rejection is such a painful experience that the fear of it is codified in our language as a stock phrase: “fear of rejection”.

Sadly, rejection is something I’ve known a lot of. I’ve talked about abandonment issues and rejection is buried in there as part of that. For myself, the greatest rejection was my father who I never saw in person after age six and never spoke with after age 12. He made no efforts to see me and so I felt that a very deep, thorough rejection. It made me believe that there was something wrong with me because why else would he want nothing to do with me. Rejection poured over me like acid, burning and scaring me on the outside, and seeping in and destroying and corroding my stability and structure on the inside.

There have been other rejections in my life and one reason I’m writing this is I’m processing another one (as is someone very close to me even more so). No matter how familiar you are with rejection, it still hurts. It’s one of those things that it seems no amount of exposure or experience will dull or lessen.

And yet, if we would give, if we would love, if we would do anything other than sit behind our walls and be safe, we have to risk rejection. We have to go out there, put ourselves out there, open ourselves up….and get the living shit beat out of us on a regular basis for doing so.

What else can we do if we would truly live? For just as we experience rejection there is also acceptance. And so perhaps one of those paradoxical things about being alive is that to be alive, we have to accept rejection rather than reject rejection. In a way, this acceptance strikes me as inline with some of what Buddhism talks about in regards to the role of suffering in life. Specifically, that suffering is inherent and just part of the price you pay for being alive. Part of the Buddhist path is accepting that reality rather than rejecting it.

8400 Days

On this day and date, Thursday April 21, in 1988, I lost a friend to suicide.

I think it’s important to remember those who have gone: we who carry their memory ensure a part of them is still alive.

So, I always try to mark the date of her passing (as I do all those I have lost). Being a bit superstitious about days and dates, I consider anniversaries that fall on the same day to be particularly special. This year, the day and date coincide with that day twenty three years ago.

In reflecting on this, I realize that she’s been gone now longer than she lived. And I find, interestingly, that it has been exactly 8400 days that have passed since she passed.

I note this here not out of sadness, really. As I get older I am more and more reconciled with death as a reality. My readings in Buddhism over the past year, my experiences of multiple hard losses in the space of a year: all of these have made me find a new accommodation with death. I take very seriously the idea in Tibetan Buddhism that at the end of each day we die when we go to sleep, and at the beginning of each day we are born anew when we wake.

And so today I reflect not just on Kathy’s passing twenty three years ago: I reflect on the 8400 times I have died and been reborn since that day. I reflect on the unknown numbers of deaths and rebirths that await me yet in this form. I work to look forward rather than backward, for I have lived my life in a melancholy past for much of my life and want instead to live in a joyful present and a hopeful future.

I am listening to Arvo Pärt’s work for organ, Trivium I – III. Its sparseness has the proper reverent tone for a reflection like this. But, too, it has a delicate beauty that mirrors life. Beautiful, fleeting, passing in the blink of an eye.

In addition to keeping alive the memory of those who have gone, perhaps the greatest honor we can do them is to simply live and feel all that beauty that life has.

Perhaps the most poignant statement to that effect is made by Kevin Spacey at the end of American Beauty.

So today, I honor the memory of Kathy: I think back to her dark and blasphemous sense of humor, her beautiful dark eyes, the skirts and the hat she always wore, and I celebrate it all. And I celebrate the joy of my life, all the good in it, all the joy and pain and aliveness I have been gifted with these 8400 days.

The Fall

It has been some time since I’ve written and to say that much has happened is an understatement of the highest order.

At its simplest, I finally accomplished what I set out to do: I walked out of that poisonous, abusive, unhealthy work environment on my terms, my timeline, with my head held high, much love and support from friend inside and out, and no small amount of envy from those left behind.

For the past eleven days now, I’ve been coming to terms with the separation, learning what it is to not check e-mail every 30 minutes unless on vacation. Most of all, I’ve been recognizing that a number of issues I had when I was younger haven’t really gone away: they were just pushed to the back of the closet. When something takes up nearly 90% of the available space in your life and your mind, you shove a lot to the back of the closet.

I expected that what I feel now is what I would be feeling. In a way this reminds me of my skydiving experience. You’re falling from a great height, fast, the air is rushing loudly and feels like water, you’re thrilled and scared all at once, you’re flying and falling and so alive and could well be dead if it all goes wrong.

And then….

…you’re on the ground, it’s quiet, there’s no movement, no danger, no excitement, no sound. It’s just you, where you are, with what you have with you. That’s it.

I’ve been watching the scene in the new Galactica where Adama enters the boxing ring and fights well to a point, at which point the fight becomes just a beating, a punishment, something that shows how much he can take until finally, he can’t take any more. And then, he falls.

The idea of falling is very prominent in my mind as I grapple with the new reality. I have had to cope with the idea that I have fallen, that I had to leave that job because I took it until I couldn’t take any more.

I always said that the difference between a setback and a failure is whether you get up again. And I am determined to get up again and move on.

But first, I have to heal. First I have to gather my strength before I try to stand once more. But I will, and I will move on to new and better things.

For now though, I am taking stock of where I’ve landed, what I have and who I am. That last perhaps is the biggest thing to work out, because I am free for the first time of the conditioning and conforming expectations of others. And while that’s wonderful, it means that it’s up to me now to fill all that space myself that others were happy to fill for me.