After an immeasurably important person in my life died unexpectedly, it took about three and half years before I began to gradually refer to my grief in the past tense. Even typing that sentence gives me survivor’s guilt. But this isn’t about that.
The last substantial layer of grief lifted away about nine months ago. There are other layers of it that have become a part of me. And more layers still, that will remain. But mostly, I’ve moved through a full process of mourning. Having acknowledged that, I usually attribute my unpleasant emotions to factors other than his death. On any given day, if I experience sadness, anxiety, a sense of inadequacy, mild depression, disappointment (usually in myself), I have to accept full responsibility.
This isn’t grief. It’s who I am:
- I’m the one who rarely arrives anywhere on time. Which is to say I have serious difficulty with time–the thing that is measured as seconds, minutes, hours. My therapist (who I no longer see, discontinuing therapy was a part of letting the grief go) put my time challenge this way, “You rebel against finitude.” To which I replied, “Hell yes, I do!”
- I’m the one who passionately agrees to projects, only to change her mind ten or thirty three days later.
- I’m the one who has decided to avoid speaking on the phone to most people most of the time.
- I’m the one who procrastinates 95% of the time, reads a mere 3% of the time and writes only 2% of the time.
- I’m the one who blurts during business meetings, “Both of those product ideas remind me of human trafficking,” and then spends the next day regretting being so negative and inappropriately candid.
- I’m the one who lets her white roots show and goes years without buying wardrobe updates.
- I’m the one who confuses emotions with behaviors and doesn’t know what to do about that.
I said to a girlfriend a couple weeks ago, “Oh my god, I feel like a psychological Pig Pen, as if there’s a cloud of cosmic debris circling me.”
She said, “You need to plug in.”
She pointed to my heart.
Before we said goodbye that day, we sat together in a quiet garden. She guided me through the briefest of meditations. Since then, I’ve been taking deeper breaths and making more deliberate exhalations.
I no longer believe in “meant to be.” “Meant to be” doesn’t add up when people you love drop dead. So I’ll choose the word coincidence. Coincidentally, since that afternoon in the garden when I rekindled my meditation practice, I’ve stumbled upon a plethora of teachers expounding the virtues of self-love as a discipline.
Whenever I receive a photo prompt, the rest of my day is shaped around it. There’s a fresh interplay between what I see–the objects in my field of vision–and meaning (i.e., significance). Yesterday though, first I had to ponder, “What is my superpower?”
Other people might offer suggestions, but my superpower is up to me.
“What is my superpower?”
It’s a powerful question. The answer becomes self-fulfilling.
There’s choice involved, too. Several powers vie for the spot of “super,” yet which will I cultivate? Which will I wear proudly? Which will I cherish? Which is to ask, “What do I cherish about myself?”
Yesterday, each time I thought of a possible answer, a downside came to mind.
For instance, I’m highly thoughtful and detail oriented. Upside: I see specifics that seem invisible to other people. Downside: imperfection is intolerable and inevitable (see cosmic debris above).
I’m capable of intense devotion and attachment. Upside: I get to experience love. Downside: loss is devastating.
I could go on, but you get the point. It’s not news that our powers contain liabilities, our bright sides leave shadows, our life vests constrict movement. Nonetheless as the day went on, I wondered about my superpower.
Susannah, in her brilliance, didn’t phrase it as a question. She delivered the premise: My Superpower. She didn’t reserve the concept for one of her private classes, she posted it at Instagram for the general public as a fact. We are imbued with not only power, but at least one superpower.
Yesterday, I ended up letting the circumstances of the day dictate my answer. I declared (via Instagram) my superpower to be Making Care Packages because it was something I happened to do around twilight when time was short (always, time is short).
The roses in the bag made for a nice pop of color. Still, I’m not fully committed to my answer.
That’s okay. There’s no urgent need to decide, no reason the answer has to be finite. Just considering the question–allowing the premise–continues to foster healing. Thank you, Susannah. Thank you.