the shape of sorrow.

July 10, 2010

maya loves to read on the potty, just like a few of the men in her family, no names mentioned. last night, she had picked up the latest westways magazine and was reading out loud (her fave thing to do with any and all reading material) about a king kong attraction opening somewhere here in southern california at one of the local theme parks. i have no idea which one, but the article mentioned king kong fighting 35 foot tall dinosaurs, and after reading it several times, maya asked me what 35 feet tall looks like.

what does 35 feet tall look like? i tried “a two-story house” but realized even with twelve foot ceilings it would not be tall enough. “a tall building downtown” was my next attempt but those buildings, at least the ones in downtown long beach, are much taller than 35 feet. finally, and non-sensically, i said “six of your papas standing on top of each other.” Lo and behold, as odd a visual as it was, she seemed to buy it, and nodded her head solemnly before moving on to the next article.

(today however, the questions resumed in the car on the way to camp. “mom? do you think king kong is taller than a 35 foot tall dinosaur?” i heard some fear there, in her little pip voice. her eyes were big and round in the rear view mirror. note to self: no king kong movies until she is ten.)

how do we measure events in our lives? the scales and standards and vessels used to mark literal mass don’t apply to the emotional weight we feel as we are experiencing highs and lows, the natural ebb and flow of things. i have been buried in this sort of conversation for weeks and months, with friends, family and loves who are looking to stand somewhere and have their experiences and feelings weighed and quantified so as to feel an anchor or reference of some sort. i guess at the base of it all we are looking for validation. and damn if every time i look for it, my anchor has shifted to a new spot, been moved, or disappeared entirely.

lately sorrow has engulfed me. i don’t write this as a woe is me, booboo kitty kind of thing; it has, simply, just been present. and i, simply, have been feeling it, deeply and intuitively and tearfully. i don’t want to rehash the past months with the usual suspects of recent blogs…death and lost love and goodbye youth and what oh what if all this work and soul-searching doesn’t land me somewhere beautiful and perfect?! all of that is there. friends have died – so many this year it is shocking and heartbreaking – love has changed shape, people have been unkind, disappointments have hit. but this sorrow, this one that is here again, to teach and remind and humble me, this is the sorrow that comes from the deepest gut and tenderest heart, and its presence flattens me.

i met someone recently – met him again actually, after many, many years of not seeing him – with whom i immediately shared some sweet moments and quirky conversation and a connection that felt authentic and genuine. we hung out a bit, swapped a few emails, a few more texts, and a handful of phone calls. it was easy to be quiet with him, and easy to be loud. he spent a bit of time with my family, and i with his. it was mostly simple, and potentially deep, and engaging. i assured him my side of the street was clean (thank you mel for that most perfect set of words) and he assured me he was cleaning up his side as well. i believed him, opened, and trusted. a few short weeks later i learned there hadn’t been any street cleaning on his part, and the balance shifted. and as much as it saddened me, i had to allow for the lack of truth, the emptiness of promises made but not kept, and i let go.

not because my heart couldn’t bear it. no, my heart is stronger than that. it is more that i realized my measuring stick, that internal system of checks and balances, has become delicately and finely tuned around the people in my life, their honesty. i am lucky and grateful to have cultivated and been graced by this set of friends who show such integrity as it pertains to truth and ownership. i am used to it, i count on it, and it is an enormous blessing. and when it wasn’t there, and i felt the ground shake with instability, i simply didn’t know what to do. so i let go. i let myself slip off the edge of a newly-shared platform, and thankfully, on the way down, there was my anchor. i grabbed it, hung on for a short week as it moved back and forth like a pendulum through waves of disbelief and sadness, and in the midst of remorse, i remembered who i am and knew to look for my own platform.

days later, i am calm and mostly steady. and i realize i can allow this platform of mine to shift around and feel a mile away as i move through various flights of fancy. because this week, as i enter, yet again, conversation within a relationship steeped in a long history – my relationship with rick, my still-estranged husband, the father of our beautiful daughter maya –  i feel my platform solidly under my feet.

and though the shape of sorrow i feel with ricky is deep and blinding and stretches in a million directions, i am able to see this myriad of points of sadness as an enormous star with dozens of arms ending in such points. and in moments, when i am remarkably and especially kind and grounded, i can sit in the exact middle of that star, lift each of those points, and wrap them around myself like a beautiful cashmere coat. for unlike the brittle disappointment of dishonesty, truth will always lead you to the next important place, will ultimately wrap you in goodness, no matter how scary or difficult. i am so grateful to still have such a lovely coat for this journey, to be wrapped in the warm embrace of an honest history as i continue to seek and discover. thank you ricky, for the truthfulness of a shared path, however rocky. i cannot imagine being here with anyone but you.