I’ve been dreaming of beaches lately, all the beaches of my childhood and young adulthood. Each night I travel to a place where I was young, younger, and sit beside myself as I watch the tides, and grieve for the losses of that time. The death of my father as a twelve years old; the end of my first marriage and the subsequent loss of twins during my first trimester; the death of my mother, the end of my wild and lusty youth.
I sit next to myself and comfort myself, even as I know in the dream that I will grow up and out from under this shadow, find joy, true love. I sit on each beach and breathe in the sorrowing girl. I’ve come to collect her, all those missing parts of myself. I’m less whole without them.
In my waking state, I’m trying to stay open to the grief that is moving like a cold wind, blowing into every corner of my awareness, across roads and fields, lifting my hat and scarf, exposing my vulnerability and sense of loss. The daily loss of species, clean air and water, constitutional rights, the very ability of our planet to survive rising temperatures and melting ice. The storm is gathering and it’s hard to feel safe or secure. Underneath whatever we are doing with our hours, our days and months, these losses swirl through the collective unconscious, finding the cracks and fissures in our foundation. Finding the place where we give up and turn away in despair.
I am opening to grief in order to make myself more resilient, bigger, better equipped to fight off hopelessness. Last week, I went through a four hour training so that I could become a volunteer with Many Mothers. We go into a home with a newborn and offer our services to the family, three hours a week for three months. Laundry, meal prep, holding the baby while mom takes a nap or washes her hair. Research indicates that this kind of support drastically reduces the incidents of mom burning out and harming her newborn.
We yearn to make a difference, to express the love and concern in our hearts, but wonder if there’s a right and a wrong way to take action or be of service. Does what I’m doing count? Is it big enough, important enough?
Light a candle and let it illuminate your heart. What you are being called upon to offer? There’s no one right way to push back against hopelessness. Paint. Write. March. Volunteer. Feed the birds. Help your neighbor shovel snow. Put the phone numbers of your Senators and Representatives on speed dial and give voice to your concerns. Lend a hand, cook a meal, phone a friend. Write thank you notes and mail them. Water your plants, tip the barista. Donate what you don’t need to the homeless shelter. Listen deeply to each other without judgment.
There are a hundred songs to sing in the dark. Be kind. Be generous. It’s all grace.