My parents grew up during the aftermath of the Great Depression and the devastation of World War II. While my grandmother, who had experienced directly the hardships caused by those economic and political situations, always remained open to life and embraced its gifts with enthusiasm. My mother, for whatever reasons, has always been fearful of life, hoarding, holding tightly to whatever she can grasp, and reluctant to give things away…
I don’t know what causes certain people to be more open to the shifting sands and tides of life, which ebbs and flows. Important gifts are almost always accompanied by significant losses. Grief at loss is understandable, but prolonged grief seems to hinder the influx of the new.
Last night, my son sobbed in his bed, overtaken by sadness and loss. He had experienced the drilling of his first cavities in his teeth. Beforehand, I can only imagine that he felt sheltered by the health of his body, somehow perfect and immortal…as only we can feel when still young and fresh. I could understand his sorrow as something much more than the loss of perfect teeth. It was the loss of a clean slate, of a new beginning, of perfection itself. I tried to comfort him, all while knowing that continuous loss and rebirth is the fabric of life for all of us.
I, too, often struggle with letting go of my old possessions and mementos. While, on reflection, life has always provided what I need to live and survive, I still cling and worry at times…more than I would like to admit. Can I discard that orange and white polka dotted outfit that my grandmother made? My sentimentality makes me continue to hold onto it, even though I know I will never wear it. Those silk-covered down-filled pillows that are too nice to throw away, but too big to use anymore clutter my closet.
My parents, brother and sister totally withdrew all their love and support from me – both emotionally and financially – many years ago. Still, I don’t want that to hold me back from living my own life with love and generosity. My house is cluttered with stuff, and sometimes my heart feels jumbled and crowded as well. I want to be giving, to let life flow in and through myself, yet I still struggle with my conservative ego-driven anxieties. I want to be truly charitable, to give without fearing that I will do without. To share my talents with the world without holding onto the desire for compensation and recognition.
It is a process, letting go…and also non-interference with life itself. If each of us were like a seed, containing all the potential growth that is the journey of our lifetime, we could or should simply relax and enjoy its unfolding. That is, the unfolding of our own life and self.
So much of our culture teaches us to strive, control, compete. It becomes hard to relax or to see that culture-driven perfection is not perfection at all, but a goal which prevents us from ever enjoying ourselves or the moment which we are given to live – which is right now.
I know that I am not a radically generous person, or even generous at all. But I would like to be, because living and giving from the heart is true freedom. I still hold onto my memories. Perhaps it is fortunate for me that my mind is like a leaky sieve, from which names, images, books I have read, movies I have seen, easily slide out of my mind once the initial experience has passed. I won’t beat myself up for not being as generous (yet) as I would like to be.
I’ll just take one step at a time, and encounter life – my own life – as it unfolds. I am sure that this flowering of loss and being will guide me to living truly from my heart. Experience peels away the rot of conditioning, decomposes the fungus of perfectionism, lifts the moldy bark of idealism…to reveal the nothingness at the heart of myself. Pure light. Each of us is uncluttered innocence, but it takes a lifetime of willingness to see and observe that beauty, and hopefully allow it to shine free.