|Rob making photographs in Ireland, near Mullaghmore.|
The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswervingly does the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be our destiny, and when on some later day it “happens” (that is, steps forth out of us to others), we shall feel in our inmost selves akin and near to it. And that is necessary. It is necessary — and toward this our development will move gradually — that nothing strange should befall us, but only that which has long belonged to us. Rilke, August 12,1904
What belongs to you? What does sadness help you to know? What newness do you learn to name? A year of grief, after 6 frantic months of hospitals, infections, and cancer offered me both the bitter and the sweet. First fighting for, and then watching my husband die cleared from me any false obligations I thought I owed the world. Perhaps you know these dilemmas and truths as well?
What now belongs, what I now wear like new skin is the understanding that this wild, sweet life is most often informed by the choices made, loved, avoided, botched, and feared. What is central, though, is the understanding that I am not being acted upon.
I am acting.
Actor in residence.
My life rests in my hands, like yours has always rested in your hands. Even when I long for Rob (which is daily)--long for the life we were making together, I know that responsibility for my life is mine. It always has been even in the thick comfort of marriage when I would forget this. A fine marriage offers love and the illusion that responsibility for life is shared and does so with a sweetness no other relationship can mirror.
So this life is mine and it begs the question, what will I do with it? What am I doing with it? I think here of the poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver when she asks us, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life."
Find the measure of my breath in the things I love.
Avoid feeling sorry for myself.
This loss, this deep grief has helped to know that I have been and am loved in ways that cannot be measured.