THE BODY REMEMBERS
Sept 11th is around the corner. For the world this is an anniversary of grief and loss. Even if you weren’t in NYC, or don’t know someone affected or killed, it is still a day that the world changed.
September 11th is another anniversary. One I don’t share with the world. It is the anniversary of my sister, Michele’s death. On one hand, I am joined by the entire world for this day and often the whole week. Every year, I watch the two memorial lights shoot up into the sky and think they might be touching the spirit feet of my wandering sister. It also makes me feel lonely as my grief is drowned out by the grief of a city, a nation, a world. But no matter how many ceremonies or how many special reports on the news stations, or how many memorials are erected, the families of those that died will always feel pain, and I know how it builds the week leading up to the day and for even weeks after the reporters have gone and the lights have dimmed. A week before, it hits me. I often feel disjointed, depressed and sometimes inexplicably sad and I never connect the dots until I get that call from my mom and she reminds me. I forget but my body never does. Yesterday, she told me she had been crying all day. I literally felt my heart sink and break into a million pieces. I felt the weight of her grief. What could I say? It doesn’t get better. I can’t make it better. Grief just shifts. Michele was mom’s first loss, she lost two children and I lost two sisters. What do you say to a mother who has lost her children? Don’t pretend to think you can understand. My own heart is in pieces and even I am at a loss of words.
I heard a story recently that suggested that there might be another way to grieve.In Dharmasala, a young traveler met a monk who had been separated from his family didn’t know where they were or if they were alive. On a walk with the young man, the monk picks up the snow and remembers his family saying snow in India and snow in Tibet is the same. The young man says something like how sorry he is that the monk is sad. The monk replies, sadness, happiness all feelings are “same-same.”
Pantanjali’s yoga sutras says that the yogi seeks a mental state in which the back and forth from pleasure and pain is transcended by a state of controlled mental activity, a state of neutrality is reached which is marked by a deep, persistent state of equanimity or calm indifference. Imagine a mind that embraces all feelings that come and just feels them without a turbulent seesaw. Instead, we tend to avoid or placate or cover up anything that we might call pain. We place judgement on it, it’s to be avoided at all costs. Others see pain as an integral part of the human experience. What if there was completely different way of experiencing pain?
Recently on a trip to Los Angeles, I was Washington Ave at Pacific near the beach in Los Angeles smiling to the Crosby Stills and Nash song on the radio. The ocean smell hit my nose and it was so familiar. I remember all those summer days laying in the sand basking in the attention of my sister. Then the smells of the sea and the song take me to my room on Loring Ave. On one side floating out of Michele’s yellow shag carpeted room is Our House, and on the other, my sister Annette’s room wafts out clouds of incense and Led Zepplin. These thoughts rush through my head in the passenger seat of my friend’s car. I say nothing, but when we get back to the house I’m feeling weird and decide to take a walk to the beach just a few feet away. I can breath easier when I’m near the sea. It’s like my brain slows and widens. I stretch out and the sand cradles me and then it hits me. I’m in it. I begin to cry and remember the song that started it all. In time, it passes. And then it returns. And passes again. Just like the waves on the sea.