Maureen Dowd’s piece is at the NYT here.
It’s the season when beauty tempers heat.
Almost all the colors change.
They remind me that I can change, that I am changing.
The season shows me how to grieve.
The season teaches me to hope.
There is life is these comings.
Help me notice both the goings and the comings.
I was reading an article about the great resignation, a term for the accelerated reshuffling occurring in major parts of the United States of American economy like hospitality and e-commerce.
Derek Thompson discusses at the Atlantic a number of historical referents for how workers are reconfiguring their expectations for work, for life, for balance. He suggests that the pandemic and the great resignation portrays the public’s shifting attitude toward work.
He says people are quitting jobs to begin new ones, to begin new endeavors. In pointing to this increasingly consistent finding, Thompson points to historical memory. He says, for instance, that the great fire in my city Chicago led to an emergence and “revolution in architecture.” The fires in the city contributed directly to the skyscrapers the city is known for, identified by.
Sometimes destruction, uninvited and unforeseen, can lead to newness, to invention, to recognition even while ashes and embers settle. Attitudes can change and so can landscapes.
I am a stubborn man. I usually soften that description by saying I’m committed. I’m a thinker. Those two things are true but they take form in my stubbornness. They are expressions of stubbornness. At least, for me.
Now, most stubborn people can spot other stubborn folk. We recognize each other even if we don’t speak to each other. We notice the characteristics, the gestures, and the acts which are native to members of our tribe. These are acts I need not write. I don’t want to do all your work for you, and I don’t want to completely out my people!
What I do want to say is that stubborn people, aside from being the best kind of people, have a fault line. At a point, we stop listening. At a point, we stop attending. At a point, we stop.
The stubborn person doesn’t move after arriving at a place because that place is right for them. That arrival, that posture, and that position is psychologically recognizable. So, why move? Why keep going?
We reason within that, having already arrived at ourselves and our points and our beliefs, listening is no longer needed. Now, this fault line can be, and often is, smudged. After all, stubborn people can listen and attend. It’s possible. But it takes a lot to re-engage our ears because we have to hear something compelling and something familiar enough to ourselves, our points, and our beliefs for listening to be credible.
Here’s the other point: all people are stubborn people about something. Everyone makes a commitment to something, some posture, some belief. The question is, what are you stubborn about? When you know that, you begin to be aware of what you’re willing to move from and what you’re stuck on. You can consciously engage with your listening potential.
The other day I left home very early because I woke up very early. I left feeling grateful that I would miss traffic, even while I had a nagging exhaustion from the last couple days. I had slept which was good but I woke up sensing that all the night my mind had been occupied. My mind was in more places than my feet.
Well, it was a long day, for many reasons. In a way, it was a very different, hard, grueling day. I ended work, went to the neighborhood where my dojo is, and took an hour-long walk before an hour-long class at Thousand Waves. Then, spent and sweaty, I stopped by the grocery store so I would have something for breakfast and lunch. I hadn’t shopped since the week prior when I did my errands for the week with my sons.
I got home 15 hours after I left to find my door swinging open. I cussed myself and anybody who could hear and then I put my items in the fridge and freezer.
After that, I walked through my home, opening all the doors and looking everywhere somebody’s feet could be, and then doing it again. I wanted to make sure no one was there, that nothing was missing. I knew I had locked my door. Or had I? After a while, I laughed at myself.
I have never been accused of being a morning person. I dislike morning people secretly. But I go slow in the morning because I know I have to. I double-check when I turn off my tea kettle. I wash the dishes after I use them because it helps me wake up. I make sure to go as slow as a wake time allows. How did I leave open my door?
I was already flying with the psychological significance of the matter. I was carrying a lot that day, more than usual. And these days have been full, really full. The fact that I get on people about safety and locking doors made me laugh at my own preoccupation, at my presumption that I did what I always do, and it gave me the humor I needed to slowly reflect on how vulnerable I am to missing details, to making mistakes, and to unexpected kindness.
When you carry a lot or when you carry more than you usually do, what you’re carrying will exhaust you. It’s normal. Even when your little defenses form mechanisms to insulate you, there are openings, there are vulnerabilities, and there are breaks.
Those openings can bring laughter but they can bring a certain amount of judgment too. When you get on without seeing your breaks and your vulnerabilities, you actually need those openings. They give you something and not only humor. They give you vision for reality. They help you see the unseen.
I am migrating through a terrain that I’ve never walked. A murky, sometimes soul-bending, walk that with all my good planning I could not plan. I’ve struggled and I’ve laughed. I’ve prayed and I’ve gone to sparring.
It’s occurred to me a few times that much of this path is about grief–and not my own. There are many names for it. Attachment pain is a related one. Mourning. Stagnancy. Sorrow. These are synonyms for grief.
It makes sense and it’s unsurprising that the griever will pay their costs. But it’s terribly unsettling that grief has a way of charging everybody around. When you accompany a person through grief, even from a distance, it will cost you.
It doesn’t require your all but the unworked workings of others draws upon you. The grief of others who you’re in relationship to, even when that relationship has converted to the perfunctory, will cost you. You will pay emotionally and in other ways.
I’ve known of grief and its costs. You pay for the affection that seeps and spends and is, at some good point, finally absent. You pay for the moments of reckoning when you see little anniversaries come without the presence of the departed. You pay for not hearing your name in that person’s tone of voice again. You pay for a memory that grasps but doesn’t always capture. You pay for returning to the same old sacred spaces feeling new emptiness.
It’s like an expense that you can’t place perfectly on a budget, like a charge with its own deep subtraction but no place to categorize. You expect to be charged through the unwieldy experiences of anguish. Saying goodbye to someone. Feeling the rip that accompanies a transition.
The surprise to me is that these are not payments that are subject only the one who grieves but also to those that person is around. People I know will pay because of my pain. People I know will spend because of my sorrow. People I’m around will be taxed by my posture in relation to what’s gone.
There are costs to losses and not all of them are known. Some of the costs are unseen. Some of the costs are there but not yet known. So, it’s a surprise that’s dawning on me, an unknowing that I’m beginning to know better.
And I’m still frugal. I’m still upset to have to pay. I’m still struggling with this expensive terrain. Even as I look up and ahead to see the ending of a rocked path with sprouts of green and slices of yellow and all kinds of possible brightness.
This makes me think of my sons, of my brothers and their children, and of my father whose memory is blessed.