I’m getting ready to head out on a little road trip. It’ll be fun, because Shel and I don’t get to travel as much as we used to. But it’s not for a fun purpose. A family member has died, and we’re going to the memorial service. We weren’t especially close to the departed, but he’s the former husband of the matriarch of our generation and she and their kids are important. Not to say he wasn’t, but you get it. (Yes, “former” husband; in our family it takes more than a legal separation to get you out of the fold. Old Southern families are like that.)
Anyway, it got me to thinking about the inevitability of changes. Everything passes. New things come along. We accept or we don’t. We adjust, or we don’t.
I had a friend fifty-odd years ago who played the guitar and sang folk music. He’d sit in front of the mike tuning his 12-string and mumble (audibly) “I’m going to get this thing tuned and have it welded!”
Sometimes our attitude toward life is like that. We want to get it right — for us — and have it welded so nothing changes: no bad stuff we can’t handle easily, no pain, no loss, no illness, no aging . . . especially that! And certainly no death. That’s particularly true of addicts. The misery of our lives is built around our grasping for things to which we can never hold on. We claw our way toward things that, once we get them, we’re too tired to enjoy, or too habitually clawing to appreciate. The hungry ghosts keep pushing us, and we live our lives in perpetual grasping and loss, discontent and anger about things we can never control.
As the AA Big Book reads, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” I don’t mean that in the sense of some bromide that is supposed to make our lives ecstatically happy. That will never happen. What acceptance — of life’s changes, of our inability to control others, of our ability to change the things we can, of the reality of those differences — can do for us is greatly reduce the pain. As long as we are trying to grasp and hold on to things we must lose, we will be both unhappy and unable to heal, to go on with our lives, to seek happiness in those places that truly bring it.
Grief is our way of acknowledging the changes and the way to get beyond it. Passage of time takes away a lot of the pain, usually taking a couple of years whether it’s a death, a lost romance, or some other burden. That’s okay. Our pain is accomplishing nothing for loved ones who have left us for whatever reasons, and if they were counseling us they would say to march through the pain, let it go as it fades, and live happy lives. That’s what Phillip would have wanted.
The only thing standing in our way is fear of change, that greatest of human fears. Why fear something that is inevitable? Living with it and enjoying the new aspects of our ever-changing lives is the only rational solution to our misery. That’s what I want for my loved ones, my readers and myself.