Often we discover that our loved ones have quickened their pace. One common reaction, I say with compassion for human imperfection, is to yell to them to stop or slow down. But to do so is to break their rhythm or, even worse, to create a needlessly false dilemma between love and life.
I question my ability to keep up. I have always been slow at taking in the lessons life offers me. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the pain inherent to the lesson tends to knock me off my feet, and I have never been one to get up quickly. A slow pace on a long road has been my way. It is not the worst way to live as there are many in life who stand up quickly and glean nothing from the blow. They march forth in the same direction, untouched by the experience. I feel both sadness and gratitude for my way.
Given this, I do not know when I will be able to look back and name how this period in our history has transformed me. I can have faith that something meaningful will emerge, but faith and knowledge are two different things. If there is something I know it is that…I frequently feel pain and sadness and occasionally discover a bit of joy and life. I am embarrassed to confess to the extreme imbalance and yet I am certain that I will find a semblance of balance at some later time.
Meanwhile, I must make peace with the idea that there is no “going back” (I have just now realized why I wince when people say during this time “when things go back to normal…”). Internally we may go back, but the world moves on. I am reminded of a saying by the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”.
And so it is with our loved ones who have miraculously found a way to march forth with grace. We can either ask them to slow down or find the part in ourselves that is happy for them. Whether it be seeing a loved one finally fall in love with a wonderful person or uncover strengths within themselves, we must find a way to celebrate them even through our own fear and sadness. We must find a way to yell out, “Keep going–I’ll catch up to you later!” And we must say that whether we believe we will catch up or not. Otherwise…I was going to say “otherwise it is not love”, but that is unfair since nobody can love perfectly. So rather I will say: it is not a love that holds within it the promise of transformation and, at this stage of my life, that is the only type of love I wish to cultivate.
This may look like selflessness but it is not. It is, rather, the only choice I can fathom if I am to hold on to some semblance of meaning, dignity and integrity. If there be another way I am all ears.
It is like when I say goodbye to a patient that I love and who is ready to fly away. I feel sadness but I also feel a sense of awe and wonder. It is, if you will forgive the cliche, extremely humbling. It is more trying when it is a loved one because, imperfect and fearful as I can be, I want to hold onto them. Whether it is to insist that they literally stay or simply to insist that they remain the same person. But nobody ever steps in the same river twice. And to insist otherwise brings with it far worse consequences than sadness or loneliness.
True to my slow ways I am finding it difficult to get moving today. It is nearly noon and I have yet to eat or get dressed. The prospect of leaving the apartment and going for a walk is daunting. But it is relieving to remind myself that I can walk at my own pace.