Thursday, February 19, 2015

Grief is a Moment

Writing morning pages is supposed to help me lead a healthy creative life, according to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. Grief has affected my creativity. I'm more reluctant to write on personal projects that don't necessarily have an immediate pay-off versus projects that have a client attached to them. More money would be nice and give me a buffer I don't currently have.

But this allusion of security is a false prospect. If I have all that I need in the moment – my wits, my health, a warm place to call home, food to eat – then everything else should be superfluous. Everything else, including my pets, furniture, fancy clothes, a closet full of shoes, jewelry, my car, books, smart phone, all just extras. Props for the real living. If I'm not happy in the moment, then all of those things, even if they are the finest items of their kind in the world, will not make me happier.

Thoreau spent two years, two months, and two days in the woods and figured that out for us.

On the evil-twin flipside, studies show that people who live without financial strain are generally happier. This makes some sense if money is a constant worry, but I don't necessarily have severe financial strain. If I reallocate resources – toss out my phone or downsize my vehicle – that would improve my ability to travel more or have an emergency fund (other than my credit card).

But this idea of being 100 percent secure is a falsehood. Death teaches me this. Death comes whether you have your car paid off or a life insurance policy in place. Death comes whether you've finished writing your will or your novel, or have sent your kids out into the world. Because death is definitive, it makes forming future plans feel foolish. It's not like I'm throwing up my hands entirely and indulging chocolate cake everyday (though I have announced to my daughters that I will do so upon turning 75), but the finality and inevitability of this breathing existence puts everything else under a different lightbulb.

Should the small stuff be elevated to the level of “precious”? Breath consciously, for it could be my last? That sounds ridiculous, but the idea behind it -- being conscious of the stuff we take for granted -- does not.

My youngest daughter wanted to go on a walk in the freezing snow one night this week. I didn't immediately say yes. Quite the opposite, my motherly knee-jerk thoughts were: Absolutely not! There's no way that's going to happen! But then I thought, really what's the harm? It's just cold. No one was out on our street. She rarely expresses a desire to take a walk, and it's a plea-fest to get her to take the dog. So, I told her to bundle up, scarf, mittens, hat, heaviest coat.

She was gone for a long while. I worried. Then I saw her. Standing motionless on the sidewalk, looking at the snowy street. She was in the moment.


  1. It kind of feels wrong to say "I love this" about a post that's examining the nature and influence and expression of grief. But I'm going to say it anyway. The image painted by the last sentence (and the accompanying photo) is perfect. And I'm also rather smitten with the line, "standing motionless...looking at the snowy street." There's more to those words than meets the eye.

    1. She didn't move for quite a long time. She was very much in her world.


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