The word ‘loss’ is clumsy. Enough for the weight, the investment, and the clothes that won’t come back from the washer. It doesn’t express the decay of hope, the hole that is emerging within your mind, as if you are no longer a person, but a cross-stitched canvas, needles going in and out, following a pattern that you are not. Can see, can’t understand.
Over the past few months, the list of losses has expanded… the old, the expected and the very young. Some blaspheme against God, others seek the comfort of imagining many lives. I find solace in words saved in a folder.
As a child, my diary had a physical form, it was a black felt journal with orange ribbon and filled with sketches and poems—some classics, mixed in with mine. Eventually came the realization that although I am quite capable as a writer, I am a terrible poet. I was better off preserving in mind the verses that slid along iambic pentameter with the ease of Chaplin sliding on a banana peel.
The journal changed in size and form changed, turning into a folder on my laptop. Compared to its previous iterations, in bland aerials, it has lost some of its charm, with pencil scribbles, coffee stains, bits of banana chips, and dried clover leaves between its pages.
In the earliest entries, there was a poetry that I could climb into, pull myself up against, a blanket against all the dullness.
‘A few grains of happiness are measured against all darkness and yet the scales are balanced.’
Jane Hirschfeld wrote these words in The Wailing twenty years before I was born. How are these grains made, I wondered, writing down what came to me, less at my desk and more when I was walking my dog or pottering with milkweed vines.
Happiness is not a discovery, it is an accident.
an existential paradox. To feel happy, you have to forget yourself. Leave the neurotic, questioning mind behind. Liquids are forced down the throat and powders are sniffed are deliberate acts that often open the door to deep suffering. Real happiness is accidental. It’s the stomach rumbling laugh at a friend’s passing joke, the way you cross your legs so you don’t pee on yourself. It is getting absorbed in the motion of your hands, painting, knitting, cooking or walking aimlessly for long periods of time in the rhythm of your feet. It’s the feeling of both the thunder of the waterfall coursing through your chest and the soft humming inside your heart. Happiness hits you only when you are looking the other way.
respect the time stamps
Age is a mathematical problem. There are numbers that need to be dealt with. It is however not a split amount where we are reduced to a fraction of what we once were. This is a multiplier.
Even at the age of 40, you are the girl with the braids who used to climb trees and beat up all the boys. A girl with a disdain for convention. New mom with dripping breasts and fierce ambition. You don’t have a heartbreak, a breakup, a true love, a breakthrough; You have a mountain of them.
Yet we look at our puffy eyes, creaking knees, the slack of the skin as it separates from the muscles with despair. Instead, perhaps we should learn to respect our lines and folds, our aches and pains. The equivalent of a general’s medallion, pinned to our skin, is a reminder of all the battles we’ve survived, and those we’ve won.
love is in dollops not dribs
Evolution has programmed us to be afraid—of the dark, of strangers, of change, and even of love. We open the doors of our hearts because we are compelled to. But not completely. We keep it ajar. unable to exit. Let the light fall on the side of your arm and cheek as we stand in the shadowy doorway. Hinges are flaky with previous scuffs, door needs a firm push. we will wait. The sun revels in its light without us. Push the door, ignore the scorching thorns, love with all your heart, love generously, fearlessly, do it in dollops and not in drops.
accept that inadequate word, loss
“What is lost is because it is the most precious
What is most precious, because it has been lost.”
In the dark, at bedtime, further underscoring the fragility of life these past few days, I ask my daughter, ‘Promise me you’ll grow up, have children and grandchildren.’
‘Yuck!’ Fast is the answer.
The notion of reproduction, meaningless in his mind.
I make another attempt, ‘Okay, just promise me you’ll outlive me.’
‘I can’t promise that Mama, but I’ll try,’ she says with the uncanny sincerity of a nine-year-old.
I must admit that this is enough. In our fleeting time together, grains of happiness outweigh the darkness. This is the reason why we offer garlands of soft lilies and fragrant tuberose on our dead. A reminder, that the beauty of flowers is not diminished by their impermanence.
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