Claiming the Will to Live

February 23, 2011

How can you use your anger to empower and fuel your will to live and help you feel driven to actualize in the world?

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that my biggest breakthroughs in healing my grief over John’s suicide and my own longings to take my life to be with him in death, happened through my anger.

Back in June 2009, I was at one of the lowest points in my grief. I desperately did not want to continue on another day without John. I was too tired and in too much agony. It was a series of  things though, that collided at the same time and snapped me out of my depression and my longing to die.

The first thing was that I had been working with two different therapists. One was a transpersonal therapist trained in grief and loss, and the other was a Jungian expert who helped me understand the imagery behind the vivid dreams I was having. For several weeks, with both therapist, we talked about the patterns I have in relationship with men: my tendency to overextend myself to take care of and to meet the man’s emotional needs while my partner rarely tends to my feelings. We explored how this was the case with John, as I was always trying to rescue him, and this was the case in other past relationships. In relationships, I was rarely attended to on an emotional level and we fleshed out what it might look like otherwise. As an exercise in tending to my own needs, the Jungian analyst had me call a friend at the end of the day and tell her about every little thing I did that day, and every piece of food I ate. She told me to baby myself to someone else in this way. {Me being the overly self-reliant independent person that I am- of course I didn’t bother a friend with the minutiae of my day (we have Facebook for that), rather I journaled about it to myself…}

The next thing that happened was my friend Ben came over and played a recording he’d found where he interviewed John and me about our relationship for a Couple’s Therapy class. At first I was nervous about hearing John’s deep rumbling voice again, thinking I might lose it and never find my way back to wholeness again, but as we listened to the audio together, something shifted. I listed with a clinical distance and rather than being absorbed in the pain and loss, I was able to observe the process of John and my communication and the subtle nuances in our dynamic that I had never noticed before. In hindsight, given his death, I, ironically, had a better understanding of his words and the gaps in between his words. What he didn’t say spoke more to me than what he did say.

It was quite an awakening to observe and really hear in the recording how passionate and committed I was about our relationship. I could hear the love and enthusiasm in my voice. But what about John? He said some nice loving things but for the most part his answers were short and guarded and seemed to be dancing around really saying what he truly felt. I could hear his fear. I noticed he avoided making a direct or complete and honest statement about us; I noticed his lack of commitment to me and avoidance of planning a future with me. As I had been talking about in therapy, I was giving 100% and he wasn’t matching that, let alone meeting me halfway.

I had been willing to give up my life- to kill myself, for a man who could not honestly tell me what he was feeling, and speak with vigor about our relationship while he was alive. Clearly he would not have reciprocated my passion and given up his life to be with me, as is evident by the very fact that I was not enough of a reason for him to stay. How’s that for overextending myself? How dare he take his life and leave me behind in so much pain? It was then, hearing me talk with such love, that I realized how worthy I am, how I deserve so much more than what I’d received. I resonated with the self I heard on the audio and felt appreciation and compassion for her and all she had given to her beloved, all her love and efforts that had gone in vain, and for the pain John’s dishonesty and fear had caused her. I saw clearly how all the qualities that he lacked: passion, honestly, courage, commitment, devotion, dedication…. are the qualities that I have. All that time, I had been idealizing him and imbuing him with qualities of a saint, when the evidence in front of me did not accurately reflect the truth. Hell no was I going to throw my life away for someone who did not meet me half way, who did not consider my feelings when he took his life, and left me behind to deal with the devastating aftermath.

The third thing that happened, and this one is kinda quirky, was that that very week Michael Jackson passed away. I was shocked to hear he died, but I was also more shocked because three months earlier I had a dream that he died. In my dream he died in a football stadium due to a heart attack. I have this dream written down in my dream journal from March 2009. It is plainly documented in between other dreams. And as it turned out he died of a cardiac arrest and his memorial was held at a stadium.

So it was like  “holy shit, what the –?” And then *snap- I felt fired up, confident, and refueled with my own self-worth. I do have gifts! I do have talents. I always knew I had some psychic abilities, and during the course of that year I had several very significant dreams that came true, but Michael Jackson’s death was confirmation of my abilities for me. Maybe there is some reason why I’m here, why these things are happening, that I’m of value. And if I have these  extraordinary kinds of gifts, am I really going to go giving this all away, continue my negative patterns with men, overextend myself to meet them and be with them, and in the extreme version of this- give up my life? Hell no!

These three revelations slapped me back into life, cementing my boots to the ground. As much as I love(d) John, there was no way that what he did was going to take me down too. I had too much to lose, too much I had been given, to much to give and too much that he didn’t have. I was not going to give it all up to be with a guy. I knew I deserved to be with a man who could match my qualities of love, commitment, passion, and care; a man who would willingly meet me half way or even overextend. A man who would never leave me this way. This I knew I wanted and owed myself.

And it was with that, that I got serious about myself and about my life. I got focused, disciplined, and rolled up my sleeves to get cracking on using my gifts to do whatever work I can do.

So ladies (and men – if relevant) – if you’ve been left behind by suicide, or broken-hearted in other ways, get self- righteous, get self-indignant. I bet the qualities lacking in your men who left you behind are the very qualities that you embody and the gifts you offer to the world. Do you also have the tendency to give up whatever you can for the man you love or to be with the man you love even though knowingly or unknowingly- he doesn’t meet you half way? And in fact walked the other way? Is it really worth sacrificing all that you are to follow a man into death? Don’t you think he should have at least stopped to consider your feelings for just a moment before he did what he did?

Dig in to your life; investigate the truth. Get angry and stake your claim in this world. You deserve to get what’s yours. Don’t give it up for anyone. Get what you came for.

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sweet acceptance

December 10, 2010

I know some of you out there reading this are in the thick of your grief and can’t imagine life ever getting any easier or your pain subsiding. I remember being there: feeling that my wounds would never stop oozing, my tears would never stop flowing, and I would never feel complete without my beloved. I would never have imagined that I would be ok again.

Over the course of this past  month-and-a-half something has shifted in me in an enormous way. I wrote in an earlier post that I was suffering from what I called the second year anniversary blues. The weeks and months before the second year anniversary were fraught with much anger, chaos, stress, and constant low-grade irritation. Then it was the anniversary of John’s birthday on November 1st. He would have been 32. A close and dear friend visited and stayed with me. I was able to shed some tears over the loss of his beauty and how hard it has been not seeing his kind of beauty replicated anywhere in the world. How hard it is to begin dating men again when no one compares to his inner and outer beauty. My friend shared of her own loss of how his special, kind, loving nature had affected her so deeply.  We stood in the middle of Barnes and Nobles as she held me in her arms and I cried.

We saw the movie The Hereafter together and that helped me understand at a greater level that the grief and loss that we experience when a loved one dies is such an excruciatingly painful part of life that we all experience. It’s not just me and a few people I know experiencing the sadness of a death. It’s all of us. All around the world, people are crying, missing, and longing for their loved ones. We are not alone in our grieving. The Hereafter also reminded me of what a sweet feeling of relief it is to know that our loved ones are still alive, loving us, always with us, and even a part of us.

On the day of John’s birthday a state of grace set in. The week between his birthday and the day of his passing (November 7th) was an unusually hot one here in Los Angeles, with temperatures up in the eighties. It was a week full of warmth, peacefulness, and gorgeous sunset drives home on the freeway with palm tree silhouettes back-lit with yellows and blues.

That weekend I spent at a buddhist monastery in the mountains near San Diego. I turned off my phone, retreated from the world, and rested. During my meditation on sunday November 7th, through tears of love, I heard guidance telling me to rejoice and celebrate the day as the day in which John was finally released from his pain. The day he found the freedom he had always searched for. I could choose to commemorate the anniversary of his passing as a sad, lonely, depressing day or I could choose to celebrate it with him and feel joy about his release. I didn’t have to miss him or feel separated from him because he is with me and always will be. So go down the mountain and celebrate and have fun together, is what I heard. And so I chose to celebrate. I left the monastery and drove to the ocean ( i love california!). It so happened that there was a village fair going on that day in the town I happened to drive right into. I wandered through the fair in a state of peace, joy, and gratitude for all the beauty in my life and most of all for John’s companionship and love.

That day was a miracle – a shift in my perception – and since then I have let go of the past that I used to have with John. I have let go of my grief, my sorrow, and my loss. My perspective in my life and the world has changed so dramatically from a few years ago. My life and my place in the world feels exciting. Time is moving fast (and I love that) and I am more conscious of the gifts in my day to day life and the gifts that I have been given in order to be here and be of service.  I am excited for my future and the possibilities that lay ahead.

I know that what I just described may feel far off or impossible for some. I offer it here as a possibility; an invitation of hope. I never thought I would feel this way. And here I am. Let me hold the space for the possibility that one day you will feel infinitely better than you can imagine right now.  Things will get better in time, I promise. Keep grieving, keep processing, journaling, dancing, moving, meditating, and healing.  And in whatever it is that you do – don’t forget to pray for a miracle.