Friday, December 21, 2012

Crash Landing

As some of my regular readers may realize there are recurrent themes in these ramblings.  One of the most persistent is what to do about loss and impending loss.  That this is an issue for a sixty-five year old retiree is not surprising.  What also may not be surprising is that my attempts to answer this question have, for the most part, been strained and muddled.  The fact is there seems to be a myriad of approaches to coming to terms, answering?, dealing with? the issue of loss.  The approach I embrace at any particular time is more a function of immediate reality than some eternal truth.

Case in point.

I spent  much of the past month working to bring a car to my daughter in Tucson.  We had a 2003 Sentra which my wife and I agreed we wanted to give this very brave and gifted but currently financially challenged offspring.  I had new tires and a new stereo installed and spent five days driving the car to Arizona.  I spent several wonderful days with my daughter who deeply appreciated the gift.  It was a big step up from the bicycle she was using. This past Sunday she called us and tearfully reported the car had been hit in the middle of the night while it was parked in the street outside her apartment.  The driver didn't stop and the car, which had no collision insurance, was too damaged to be worth fixing.  The police said they'd keep a look out for a vehicle with a damaged front end but gave her little hope.

She was very upset but described the process of dealing with the loss as a "spiritual exercise."  So would I.  But I guess the point I'm trying to make is I'm not as sure as I've been in the past about what the substance of this exercise should be.

Acceptance of loss and impermanence as norms not an exceptions is a beginning step that still feels right.  Sure nothing lasts,  try to stay in the present, appreciate the moment etc.  but that doesn't help very much with the anger I feel about the fact that someone hit the car and then left, leaving my daughter to deal with the aftermath and that once again she'll be bicycling on busy city streets. The parent in me wants to protect her .

Maybe another loss I have to accept is my role as a parent.  She's not a child anymore.  We've done pretty much the best we were able.  She is making life choices that are putting her well outside the mainstream and  beyond many of the traditional sources of security.   She is courageously trying to live life as authentically as possible.  I deeply respect this but it scares me. 

So she's back on her bicycle and  the work and money that went into getting the car to her is lost.  My role as a protective parent is, for the most part an anachronism.  I end up feeling, once again, that there's not much more to do than to suck it up, accept these losses as par for the course and try to live life from moment to moment with an open heart. Meditation, exercise, eating right, drinking less, writing this blog, working to find friends and community, and seeking out art and beauty also help. I think that I should also try to forgive and feel compassion for the person who ran away after the accident.  The anger/resentment is a poison not worth carrying.

All of this is not a clean fix by any means but it's the best that I've got at this stage of the game.

So I continue to go forward struggling to accept the inevitability of loss, still thrilled to be part of this journey of sorrow and joy called life. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy

This week a twenty year old man walked into Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and killed 20 children and six adults.  He had three guns with him. The one that was used the most was a semi-automatic A-15 assault rifle.  A type of gun that used to be banned in this country.

The horror of children being murdered is beyond words. Two moments in the aftermath of this tragedy stand out for me. In both a leader took on the burden of trying to speak of the unspeakable.  President Obama's speech at a Newtown memorial and a sermon given by Douglas Taylor at the Sunday service of the UU church in Binghamton were able to capture the deep sorrow felt by so many but each also gave glimpses on how we might move positively forward.  I am grateful to both of them.

Here's a link to the president's address in Newtown.

Douglas Taylor's sermon has not been published on the church website yet.  When it is you can find it here.  The title of the sermon is Faith in Hard Times. It was presented on December 16, 2012.

Another part of the service that had a deep impact on me was a reading of a piece entitled "Gratitude is not enough" by Elizabeth Tarbox.  This is a meditation taken from her book Eveningtide.Meditations.  It was selected and read by Libby Anderson.  Here are the last two paragraphs...

"Well, I refuse to lie down and be good.  I will not heal up neatly, sutures in a row, no scars. No I will not. I will shout out that I am here and hurting and I will demand of life that it return my shout decibel for decibel. I will speak of justice and kindness and beauty and truth and I will try bravery though I am a coward, and I will honor wisdom though I am a fool.

I will find other broken people with divinity shining through their pain, to remind me that the human spirit is hard to defeat, that the world is young yet and we are just an idea, that love is not for ever, but a little love once in a while is worth the risk of keeping the door of your heart wide open.  And I look for goodness and know it when I see it, and I see it in you and your children and you dreams.  And I can never be grateful enough."

Here's to all the broken people who continue to get back up and let their spirit shine through their pain.