Frida Kahlo’s “Girl with Death Mask.”
Lots of deathly thoughts today.
First, some insightful quotes from Reverend Dr. Kenji Akahoshi that I came across earlier in the day:
“There are two undeniable facts of life: ‘interdependence’,’ where everything is inter-connected and nothing can exist separately, and ‘impermanence,’ where everything changes.”
“Awakening to this rare gift of life, we can accept, endure, and enjoy the wide spectrum of human grief and bliss.”
“Of all the conditions and situations that constantly affect us, the Shin practice focuses on appreciating the many things that support us. This balances the insatiable desire of the ego wanting things its way.”
I realized that I’ve been attracted to Buddhism more strongly now because it’s all about life and death. I apparently think about death all of the time. That’s the thing when death strikes earlier than you should have to deal with it. It lingers in your mind. I seriously think about whether or not we’re just cursed, and if I’ll die early too, and how people will think “oh how sad, they were just a sad family.” I mean, I hope not. But once your eyes are open to the possibility of death happening when you least expect it, you start to expect it. Then it becomes all about how can you live the rest of your life balancing a normal attitude about death vs. borderline paranoia and all-consuming grief.
I used to let Kenneth take Ethan to dharma school 80% of the time and I’d stay home. I had no interest in any of the traditions. I liked it. I believed in it, but I wasn’t going to spend too much time on it. I’d rather stay home and have time to myself. But now I really enjoy going. Every time I go they talk about something worth thinking about. I like thought-provoking. I crave thought-provoking.
It’s especially helpful in moments like this. I can feel the tide of grief approaching. This new tide was triggered by my birthday, which invoked all kinds of thoughts about birth and life and age and death and being alone.
The tides get better over time and less vicious. You get better at your mental self-control and you can stave off the tsunami-effect, and/or you get better at letting the feelings come as visitors, and then ushering them out of your mind when they’ve overstayed their visit. You also get good at recognizing when they’re coming.
But basically, it sucks. You just learn to live with it. It’s always there. The sadness and feeling of being overwhelmed is only a trigger away. It doesn’t help that as I type this I’m listening to Clair de Lune, which was played at Kenneth’s funeral. It always manages to turn me into a mess. I try to avoid these triggers. But sometimes it seems like I want to surf those waves of grief.
“Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetime.” -Dalai Lama
I know it’s hard for people to understand. It’s basically most people’s nightmares. I can always spot people who have real experience with grief. Not your-grandma-died kind of grief. Life-altering grief. Those people get it. I was wallowing in my misery last Friday when I read the article My Mother Was Raped at 88. Wow. That was horribly sad. I am not alone in my grief or pain or sadness. There is a lot of it in the world. Kenneth used to get mad at me for reading/watching sad stories. One day he asked my angrily “why do you have to find sad stories? It’s so depressing!” I told him “it helps me put my life in perspective.” And I’m still drawn to sad stories. And happy stories. And every kind of emotion stories, because those are the threads of life.
I often find myself thinking about how I wish Kenneth could see something, or read something, or know something. Then I think, well, I guess that means I’m still amused by life. I guess it’s worth living.
“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” -Leonardo da Vinci