I am invited to grieve with every change in life. Often I ignore the invitation, deciding the particular change is “no big deal” or telling myself “I can handle this.” Sometimes the culmination of all the “little” changes I haven't addressed hits me all at once. I find myself overreacting to a person or situation, becoming depressed or just irritable.
Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, Al-Anon, p. 14
Recently, I traveled to a conference centered on a hobby I have been practicing for almost 30 years. Although I enjoyed the camaraderie and the events surrounding the conference, I was uninspired by the actual content. I came to realize that I am no longer excited, in a fundamental way, by this hobby. I have not been doing it in any large way for several years, so maybe it was obvious that a change was coming, but I didn't see it. The trip opened my eyes to the truth. I am no longer interested in spending hundreds of dollars and a week of my time to gather with thousands of fellow hobbyists. This is sad. A true irony is that the conference will be in my state next year, and my club is directly involved in planning it and will have a large showing. And I will very likely not be there.
So, I grieve. I just recognized my grief yesterday, the day after returning. I wondered why I was feeling “out of sorts”, and upon taking a brief inventory, discovered that I am grieving the loss of this thing that has been a part of my life for so many years. I don't know how much I will stay involved with my friends in the hobby and in the local activities, but it will not be with the intensity and at the level that it was in the past. This, too, shall pass. I have new passions in my life, and they give me joy and fulfillment.
And, as I started to sit with that grief, I recognized that another recent loss was also contributing to my “dis-ease”. That is grief for a “might have been”. I had hope for a particular outcome from a situation, but that did not happen. On the surface, I accepted the outcome and moved on. But I now realize that subconsciously, I still wanted it to work out “my way.” Even though I had not lost anything tangible, anything that ever really existed, I can still feel the pain of loss. Because it was not “real”, it was “no big deal” and “I could handle it.”
But, grief unrecognized, grief denied, even grief about “small things”, accumulates. As it says on p.6 in the book, “Grief is exhausting. It can make us sleepless or make it difficult to get out of bed. … We may not feel like taking a shower, going to work, or preparing a meal.” I found myself lying in bed before the grand banquet for the conference, wondering what the point was, why I should go, when it just wasn't my thing any longer. I did get up, and I did go, and I did have a good time, but it wasn't the joyous celebration it was a few years earlier.
I need to recognize my grief, to feel it appropriately, to cry, so that I am not stuck being “restless, irritable and discontent.” Accepting my grief will require some work, reading, praying, and talking with program friends. Only then, having accepted my grief as real, can I humbly ask my higher power to remove it.
A meditation for July 2, 2013.
The book Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses is available from the Al-Anon bookstore. See our Books page for a link.