Recently I lost my father to old age, my almost fiancé to untreated alcohol addiction, and stopped talking to my mother over politics. Now who says the Universe doesn’t give with both hands?!?! Compounded losses have a way of making themselves felt, immediately causing a significant and depthful life review. You know the kind, “Who am I?” “What am I doing with my life?” and my all time personal favorite, “How the hell am I gonna survive all this?” And in the moment, there are no answers, or at least that’s the way it feels.
With so many losses piled high I found my emotional life turning off. Total shut down. No more tears. No, I didn’t suddenly start using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, my tears just dried up. Suddenly, I felt like a vacant wasteland inside myself. It’s all a bit apocalyptic, and how often do you get to use that word in your normal everyday communications?
I recently wrote about this process in a piece I did titled, “Waking Up in Florence – An American Renaissance.” I think these big, terrible, challenging, and painful life events are my personal “dark ages” just prior to my personal renaissance. Another great word, by the way. It sounds so elegant, but growth has a way of bringing us to our knees, and there’s nothing that feels elegant about that. So, as you might imagine, I’m really looking forward to the Renaissance part, but unfortunately there’s no skipping steps on the dark ages piece of the path.
Walking through the darker times ain’t easy. Not that anyone said life was going to be a cake walk, but now that I mention it, why aren’t there more of those? Have you ever done a cake walk before? We used to have these at my grade school fair every year. All the parents would bring in home baked cookies, cakes, and pies for this attraction. I remember one year by mother made my favorite dessert – white cake with a whiter, fluffy frosting. And my mother can bake, it runs in our family. So does alcoholism, but that’s another conversation. We’ve got generations of bakers on my mom’s side, but back to the cake walk.
This game requires participants to stand on a numbered grid, usually laid out in a continuous circle. Ours was spray painted on the playground blacktop. Music begins playing and participants walk until the music stops. A number is drawn, and if you’re standing on that number you win your choice of goodie. This particular year I remember so vividly the winner heading straight to my mother’s big, beautiful, fluffy white cake. If I’d had a gun, well, needless to say, there were tears, and a little life lesson about sharing.
Losing my favorite fluffy white cake pales in comparison pain wise to my recent losses. Losing a parent is surreal to say the least. It’s so many things, a change of guard, a loss of parental love, and ultimately a seismic shift in family dynamics that takes the entire family structure off balance.
Then, a month later, the man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with made a choice not to look at his drinking levels, as in he drinks a lot every so often, like every day, and on weekends he drinks so much he gets sick and has to recover and never says a word about how it might just be his drinking. Instead, he blames his recent round of antibiotics, last night’s dinner, or not getting enough rest. But he never mentions the obvious culprit – the alcohol. When I asked him if he was open to looking at his relationship to alcohol, he walked out of our relationship – literally – choosing his relationship with alcohol over ours. Shit. A second loss, this one not to death, but to alcohol which I suppose could be considered a slow death over time. It certainly killed our relationship.
And then there was the stupid argument over politics, conservative versus liberal, between my mother and me. It got ugly. Nothing worse than two deeply hurt individuals lashing out at one another. Sorry, Mom, I have to own my part here. This also felt like a tremendous loss, as in where is my mother’s love when I need it most. Okay, cry me a river, I know. Just saying, a younger part of me was hurt. It got primal.
After fifty years on this planet and many years of coaching, I’ve learned life is our master teacher, and like it or not, the lessons come like clockwork, though I’ll admit not usually at a time that’s convenient for me. There’s a well-known quote from Rumi about, and I’m paraphrasing here, how life sometimes sweeps our proverbial house clean to make way for the new. Well, folks, my house is empty. It’s been swept, and I hope I’ll find my tears sometime soon to get on with my grieving process. Sometimes tears can be so cathartic.
I get it, I’ve been in what I’d describe as a combination of shock and survival mode. I noticed the other day when looking in the mirror, something I’ve been trying to avoid recently, I had that deer in the headlights look, and major bags under my eyes. Not my best look, though I think it may have a slimming effect overall.
Pain sucks, loss sucks, fear sucks, and they all feel like they’re sucking the life right out of me. But I know that’s not totally true. I’m still standing. A friend even asked me if I’d been working out. I mean, what guy, and specifically, what gay guy doesn’t like to hear his biceps look bigger. It’s a clear sign of hope.
I will survive. I am surviving. All these kick ass catastrophes haven’t killed me. I’m still in the game. And isn’t that what it’s all about – staying in the game? I’m pretty sure it is.
My father spent a life time loving me, caring for me, and teaching me about living with joy. My ex has shown me that as much as I loved him, I love myself more. And my mother has shown me just how ridiculous politics really are. They’re such a shitty game fraught with deception and greed much of the time. And not worth one copper cent in terms of ruining a cherished relationship.
I’m gonna start healing now. I think, and more importantly, feel, that it’s time. I’m sure there’s some significant life lessons available to me, a great ongoing opportunity to be incredibly compassionate to myself and others, and while the end of one chapter, it’s undoubtedly the beginning of another new one.
Soon I’ll be writing my own new narrative. This piece is most likely my starting point. But for now, I’m gonna eat pizza, smoke a few guilty cigarettes, and start cutting up lots of onions to get the tears flowing. It’s time to leave the desert, in search of my own greener more verdant pastures or at least a really good coffee shop.
Barry Alden Clark has coached thousands of individuals in connecting more deeply with their hearts, their life purpose, and helped create a pathway for these folks to move forward in a direction more aligned with who they truly are. He & his creative partner Eliza Swords are currently delivering uplifting content on social media every Wednesday via “Best Day Ever with Barry and Eliza”, a Facebook and You-Tube phenomenon reaching thousands of people around the world. They are also inspiring love and joy through creating heartfelt and entertaining content via their production company Pure Honey Ink. Currently they have projects in development for social media, film, television and publishing. You can reach Barry at www.barryaldenclark.com.
Image courtesy of Karen_Nadine.