I volunteer at a Free Clinic and the people I saw today in particular were so vulnerable. More vulnerable than usual, it seemed. We have a funny saying in massage therapy that goes, "People come and bare their bodies on your table, but they're really there to bare their souls."
I was working on this one young woman and she was just lovely to even look at. She was clearly into an authentic retro post WWII style. She had a tattoo sleeve and the most awesome blunt bangs I'd ever seen on someone. Her face was quite pierced and yet she still managed to look ethereal and elegant with all that edge, at least to me. She was an utterly beautiful mess, coming completely undone.
She let me know she was having a lot of emotional pain from a recent break up and as I began to work on her body, she talked about how she still couldn't let it go. Stop thinking about it. Him. Them. Everything that went wrong. It occurred to me that I was once 25 and a total mess, too. I'm 34 and still feel like a mess, only for different reasons now.
At this point in my life, unless I know people well, I've learned not to share my opinions about What To Do When Life Hands Someone Else Lemons. The world has enough know-it-alls; who wants to come into contact with a complete stranger and be handed yet another set of bad project management skills? They're all the same anyway. We all go by the same handbook at the end of the day---the one where you finally figure out there are some things you only learn by having them finally happen...to you.
But something in me reached out. I was holding her head and suddenly heard myself gently say, You need to give yourself permission to grieve.
I told her to stop holding it together so well. To let the tears come. Grief is part of the letting go even if it feels like giving into it might take us to a place we fear we may never leave. But there's always a door. We open it and walk out when we're ready to.
Tears started streaming down her face. My own eyes welled up for her. Sometimes we just need another human being to hold us and let us cry and say...absolutely nothing.
We can't let go of something if we don't have a grasp on it in the first place. Sometimes I think that's what's eating us as a culture----the grief. Our grief. Everyone's grief. We're all trying to pretend we have a hold on it, that we've got it figured out. But the nature of grief is just that---it's messy. It's not fun to look at. It's best dealt with by doing all the things we no longer do very well: Be quiet. Touch people. Cry with them. Let them lead the conversation. Grief is horrifying because there's that moment where you wonder if you'll ever find your way out of it. And if you're present to someone else's grief, you're wondering if they will ever find their way out of it. There are too many unknowns. Too many awful, godforsaken unknowns. So we try to contain it, control it. And what a shoddy job we do of that.
But that's life, isn't it? That's life, right there, in a nutshell: too many unknowns. When it comes down to it, that's what we're really grieving. Not only our losses, but all that could have been.
I held her face for a long time. That beautiful, weeping face and the curtain that was pulled back for a few minutes that no one else could see.
When she was ready, she got off the table, opened the door, and walked out.