Homecoming

I cry easily these days. My heart fills and overflows when I least expect it. I find tears streaming down my cheeks when songs I listened to the day after Rafa’s death come up on the collective playlist; when I read some random paragraph in a book that touches me in a certain way; when I am simply witnessing a near stranger lingering with love and intention over the candle on their birthday cake. Something about this yellow leaf floating slowly down toward the pond right now stirs a mixture of melancholy, acceptance, peacefulness and finality in me. It seems only fitting for these times we are living in. There’s a whiff of the “end of days” in the air. Can you smell it?

For many months now, I have felt exiled from this space. The exile is self-imposed. I admit to both feeling afraid of writing (which I’ll try to explain shortly), and a great deal of confusion and pain because I have not been writing as a way of metabolizing my feelings. In many ways, I’ve been avoiding looking at and leaning into the emotional shitstorm that’s been raging inside of me since last summer. I’m a stealthy expert at coming up with subconscious excuses and escape hatches to avoid being with myself and expressing how I feel and what I think. It’s exhausting.

One reason I have felt hesitant and anxious about writing and sharing is that several months ago, my husband Yeyo shared that my way of grieving and metabolizing difficult feelings may be an obstacle for him to process his own griefs. I know that much of this is related to how public I have allowed this process to be, how readily I share and talk very openly about my experience with stillbirth, miscarriage, deeply challenging relationship issues and many other sensitive themes. It led to a difficult conversation in which the phrase “profiting from pain” came up. I knew that this was not meant as a literal accusation but it hit me hard — perhaps because I sensed the truth in it.

This uncomfortable inkling got reactivated the following week while talking with a new friend with whom I felt an incredibly deep heart connection given their story, questions and forms of expression. The first thing that they said to me was that when they read this blog they wondered about who I was. Who I was really. This made the tears well in my eyes and I felt my tiny, trembling self was exposed (which I didn’t like one bit). They acknowledged the raw vulnerability, authenticity and openness of this writing… and they sensed something else. I acknowledge that sometimes the sharing is a shield. Does that make any sense?

Even now, I feel nervous writing this because I do not know if it is just more of the same hiding. I am afraid that this writing may be harmful to myself and others. AND I have come to see — over these many months of keeping a lot inside me — that I need this space. Expressing myself here creates some sort of a container where all the crazy, dissonant and resonant pieces of feelings, questions, interactions, reflections and inquiries can fall into some sort of place… make some kind of sense within me. I acknowledge that the times we’re living in are not asking us to coddle or console ourselves; I don’t think we should be trying to feel better. (In fact, the more I reflect on and lean into what’s needed in these times, the more convinced I become that some of the most useful skills we can develop have to do with developing our capacity to feel more discomfort and staying with what we see and feel, rather than escaping, ignoring or rationalizing.)

I suppose, however, that even this recognition of how helpful writing and processing my feelings in this way begets the question: why then share? This reminds me of the phrase “profiting from pain”. The profit is obviously not monetary but perhaps it is profit in the sense of visibility and even support. I do “get” something by being read, recognized and reached out to by many of you. Is there some ego in that? Most definitely. AND I also continue to believe that my sharing and opening myself here (even if it is egotistical and protective) can support other people struggling with grief and loss. Maybe this is self-delusion. Even so… I’m willing to keep going because I believe that, overall, writing here benefits me and I hope that it may benefit others.

I am who I am here; maybe it’s a swirly mix of some absolute AUTHENTIC ME (though I have many doubts about whether authenticity isn’t ironically part of the constant human striving in modernity to be more or different than we actually are) and some bits of inside-out paradoxical vulnerability shied. But whatever it is… I believe that this space serves. It has been suggested to me over the years that this blog: feeds my personal drama (yes, I too see that facet); might expose me to incredible pain and suffering because of the way the world could respond; and has, perhaps, prevented other people from grieving in their own ways. I aspire to be hyper self-reflexive these days. I see the “truth” in each of these perspectives, particularly the entitlement and navel-gazing that has been a part of how I have sometimes chosen to respond to life over the past four years. I also see how the exercise of expressing myself helps me move beyond entitlement and broaden / deepen my experience of what is unfolding in my life. I am sure that there are things I’ve said here that have likely harmed or offended people; and I know that things I’ve written have also helped people.

This week, I am returning from my first international trip in two years. During the past days, I’ve shared my story and talked about my writing; I’ve spent time with other women my age, some who have chosen to have children and some who have not; I’ve heard from old friends who think that human reproduction is one of the most irresponsible things we can be doing at this time and from new friends hoping to soon be moms. I’ve been touched and influenced by many other lives in this time. Here are a few insights I’m coming home with:

  • I still feel a deep calling to do the work of holding space for collective (and individual) grief and I sense that this is some of the most important labor to be done during these end-times we are traversing.
  • The “pendulum” phenomenon (which I wrote about here, very early on in this grief and gratitude journey) and my fear of falling into a deep, dark hole is worthy of my attention. However, it seems likely that life is calling on me to learn how to inhabit the dirty, cracked floor of my heart… that there will always be a little bit of sadness and depression with me and that that’s okay. I need not be terrified of this. I can live alongside it. I feel inspired by my alter-ego and secret super heroine, La Princesa Fartinela, for helping me to realize this. If you want to view an animated reading of this DIY comic book, check out this sweet video.
  • I will hurt other people. This is part of our experience on this planet. I hope to have enough self-awareness to have a sense as to when I am doing so and to take responsibility for myself and see beyond my own egoistic bubble. However, I believe that hurting and being hurt are just part of the human package. Yearning for perfection, acknowledgement and praise are tricks the modern cosmovision plays to make us feel we aren’t enough; but they’re really just fancy shields and ways to hide. I might be ugly, unpolished and even offensive in future posts. That’s alright. I am not afraid.

After a total nightmare of a year last year, I am easing into 2022 and going reeaaaal sloooow. During the fall and even well into January, I escaped from myself and my inner emotional landscape almost every day. I stayed so busy and caught up with (mostly stupid) stuff that I did not have time to be with myself. I realized that unless I make a conscious, even disciplined, effort to stay with my feelings, I will find an excuse not to. All that to say that I’m hoping to show up here a bit more frequently in the coming months, with the faith that this work is of some benefit. As always, if you have a story of grief and/or gratitude to share, I welcome posts from guest contributors. Just email me.

From a deep well of love… for myself and all those reading these words.

Thank you,

Photos by Mariana Guzman & Lauri Thompson (intervention by Aerin Dunford). Drawing by Aerin Dunford. Video by Marianthe Loucataris.

2 thoughts on “Homecoming

  1. Found this today in my grief folder and thought of you. ❤ Mary

    "Brown dwarfs, or pre-stars, have all the elements to become a star but for some reason do not. Most stars go through full lives from the hot, bright, white dwarf stage, to their aged, cooler and dimmer red giant stage, but brown stars only go so far. Instead of being born to live a normal star's life, they remain cool and dim. But their roles in the universe are very important. In fact, scientists believe they serve as a link between the small things and the big things, holding the universe together, as a mid-point between the beginning and the ending of our universal story. Perhaps our babies who died before reaching the full stardom of their earthly lives were also designated for this very special universal role."—Kim Steffgan, 1999

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    1. I love this, Mary. A link between the small things and the big things, holding the universe together… that is how my babies feel to me in my life.

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