Hello dear sangha members,
I have been coming face to face with the irrational ways I deal with loss lately.
While working in my apartment today, my landlord and the handyman she works with broke part of my bed. Even though it is a superficial part of the bed that can be repaired and goes in a spot that is out of sight, my emotional reaction to this was big. And this was not unusual. Damage to beloved objects can trigger intense and profound compulsive rituals to repair or erase the damage, or get rid of or replace the object altogether.
Accompanying these efforts to undo what cannot be undone is a deep feeling of melancholy. I am aware of how irrational this is, often even when it is in the midst of happening. I tell myself these are just things, destined to break and decay.
But I've realized that the emotion triggered by these small events is tied to something much deeper. I usually forget and move on from loss of physical objects after the initial fit of obsession. But something else lingers on. It is tied to the very fact of the inevitability of loss.
There is something painful, yet more than just painful, unsettling, about life in the face of loss. It is hard to think that some day everyone and everything I've ever loved will be gone. That all the things that held meaning for me, the objects so rich with associations in memory, will break or become inert objects, neutral, stripped of all the meaning they had for me.
The hardest thing is that the love built slowly over decades and through pain and sorrow will too end someday. I think this is where the human tendency to believe in an afterlife may come from, the almost impossible thought of death severing the bonds of love.
Life can be so hard at times, and loss makes all that hardship feel meaningless sometimes.
I think I may be feeling this so acutely right now because I am finally in a place, physically and inwardly, where I am ready to settle down, to build a life with the wisdom I have gained. But even this optimistic moment is tinged with loss. I am seeing my parents get older, and reflecting on all the ties I have already lost. So many of the friends I've had are gone. And as my own aging process continues, I am aware of the narrowing margin of time to meet someone and start a family. The job I have right now is a backward step in my career. The country seems to be going backwards politically.
The fact that nothing can be held onto is painfully apparent.
And I know the torrent of compulsive denial of feeling when I hold a broken object in my hand is bigger than that object. It is the pain of awareness that I cannot save anything I cherish from time, decay, and mortality. I cannot take a snapshot and freeze my life inside a favored set of circumstances. For every small victory, there is a greater context of loss.
How do we practice with this? Have others wrestled with this central issue of human existence? It just seems so hard to accept that as powerful as love is, it is to time what writing in sand is to the ocean.