I have work to do and relationships to maintain, but not far below the surface is a deep well of grief.
Certain things tap into that well, and as a result, tears flow from my eyes. Stories of human kindness. Good writing that points toward the ineffable experience of being alive. Things that are noble and true. Occasionally a sentimental commercial.
Sometimes I hate how thin the layer is between my ordinary daily reality, and this vast, still reservoir of heartbreak. People who know me are familiar with my tendency to choke up when deeply touched by something – and it can happen at any time: While I’m giving a public talk, while I’m describing an article I read in the news to my husband, while I’m driving, while trying to present my competence in a job interview. I once interviewed for a position that might have changed the course of my life; I suspect I was a pretty great candidate, but they asked me a question in the interview that tapped into my reservoir of grief and I shed some tears. I didn’t lose my cool, and I thought they would give me some points for openness and authenticity. They didn’t. The main interviewer afterwards suggested I had some “grief work” to do.
Grief work? What does that even mean? That I process everything with a therapist until there’s a thicker layer between my everyday mode of operation and my grief? That’s ridiculous. I’m not incapacitated, or even struggling in my daily life. I just cry easily sometimes, and not because my feelings are hurt. Maybe “grief work” means draining the reservoir of heartbreak that’s accumulated, drop by drop, over a lifetime – a drop falling in every time the indescribable beauty of life is juxtaposed with an ugly, dead, cynical argument for why the status quo can’t be changed.
Today, while driving to visit a dear friend, I listened to an episode of the Extinction Rebellion podcast. It featured audio from an event that happened during the recent October actions in London: Writers rebel. Writers from all over the UK assembled and offered their own new works, or relevant older ones, or read the works of other authors, such as Ursula K. LeGuin. Several times I was moved to tears, and I don’t just mean moist eyes, or a single tear tickling the cheek as it slid down to my chin. I’m talking weeping, copious tears streaming down my face. A swelling in the chest. A determination to stand up for the beautiful things in this world or die trying.
Writers. Even having written three books, I don’t consider myself a writer because of them, because they were Idiot’s Guides. I don’t know if I count as a writer even though I produce 5-10 pages of material 3 times a month as part of my Zen Studies Podcast, because it’s all nonfiction, and specialized. But I do consider myself a writer because I don’t understand myself unless I write, and I can’t communicate what I really think or feel except by writing. I hope this humbling offering helps someone, somewhere, somehow.