an ennobling sufferance — living life to the fullest

http://www.lvrj.com/living/34953354.html

What actually is depressing is living ever-cautiously, ever-carefully, ever-piously, making sure never to fail, making sure that no one has a complete picture of you, setting up your lifetime so that you never have to entrust your heart to anyone.

Making sure that no one ever hurts you. Making sure no one can.

What actually is depressing is the endless self-massaging rehearsal of why it is that I am forced to settle. Why others, sure, they can be happy. And I would be happy if I were as lucky as they … but, let me recite (again) why I am precluded from choosing my deepest happiness.

I’m reading my youngest “The Velveteen Rabbit”: It is a story about death. About how love transforms us. Crucifies us.

“Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all the little Rabbit cared about. He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.”

Depressing is lying in hospice knowing that you never gave yourself the chance to “become real,” because you decided never to trust anyone to really, truly love you.

When I’m dying in hospice, I very much don’t want to say, “Wow, I’m so proud to tell you that I spent the last 84 years being certain, and safe, and cautious, and careful.”

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/because-in-the-end-great-journeys-of-integrity-are-walked-alone-sage-steven-kalas/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/having-been-is-the-surest-kind-of-being-extraordinary-sage-viktor-frankl-only-then-through-the-power-of-using-the-past-for-living-and-making-history-out-of-what-has-happened-does-a-pe/

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Irony is that I have no history  –  deleted/erased/purged via rejection/elimination  –  forsaken & forgotten   –   

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But especially Frankl & Nietzsche [along with Emerson] intone that though rejection and a forsaken predicament certainly are not envied, these outcome sufferings constitute the ennobling of character and self-respect

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To reprise the exceptional Frankl   – 

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‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’ “

 
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From “Logotherapy in a Nutshell”, an essay”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

 
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http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2782.Viktor_E_Frankl?page=2

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Usually, to be sure, man considers only the stubble field of transitoriness and overlooks the full granaries of the past, wherein he had salvaged once and for all his deeds, his joys and also his sufferings.

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Nothing can be undone, and nothing can be done away with.

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I should say   ”having been”   is the surest kind of being.

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http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2782.Viktor_E_Frankl?page=1

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The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day.

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On the other hand, the [optimist] person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back.

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He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest.

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What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old?

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Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

‘No, thank you,’ he will think.

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incredibly soulful lover Nietzsche   –

http://thoughtjam.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/nietzsche-on-the-use-and-abuse-of-history-for-life/

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Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “that, in the process by which the human being, in thinking, reflecting, comparing, separating, and combining . . . inside that surrounding misty cloud a bright gleaming beam of light arises, only then, through the power of using the past for living and making history out of what has happened, does a person first become a person.”

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http://www.randomhouse.com/features/forgetting/read_first2.html

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In Frankl’s memoir of experiences as a concentration camp inmate. Frankl recalled trying to lift the spirits of his fellow camp inmates on an especially awful day in Dachau: “I did not only talk of the future and the veil which was drawn over it. I also mentioned the past; all its joys, and how its light shone even in the present darkness. [I quoted] a poet . . . who had written, Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der Welt Dir rauben. (What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.) Not only our experiences, but all we have done, whatever great thoughts we may have had and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it is past; we have brought it into being. Having been is a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.”

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was also fascinated by memory–how it worked, why it failed, the ways it shaped human consciousness. Memory, he offered about a decade or so before his own troubles first appeared, is “the cement, the bitumen, the matrix in which the other faculties are embedded . . . without it all life and thought were an unrelated succession.”

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/mission-provide-a-context-of-meaning-safety-and-encouragement-in-which-to-assess-oneself-though-painful-learn-celebrate-human-wholeness-and-authenticity-sage-steven-kalas/

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/8066867.html

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/true-faith-is-a-context-for-suffering-sage-steven-kalas/

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True faith is a context for suffering — sage Steven Kalas

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/9279656.html

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Western religions less than helpful in dealing with grief

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Your essay on intellectualizing and denying grief was sent to me by a valued friend. You describe very effectively the truth that to love “guarantees the experience of loss.” And yet, not to love? Simply out of the question. Life and death do follow, as day does night. Why, do you suspect, this fact as immutable as time, has not been the focus of mainstream Western religions? And conversely, well explored in the Eastern religions? — D.C., Palm Springs, Calif.

A: Your question, D.C., rests its finger squarely on the pulse of a great irony of our time: the denial of death. You say death and loss have “not been the focus of … Western religions.”

That’s an understatement. In Western civilization, religion is commonly conscripted to aid and abet the denial of death and loss.

Note that I did not say Western religion denies death and loss. I said it is conscripted in that service. See, competent religion stands squarely in a paradox: At once it stands apart from culture (to judge it and lead it), yet it is also a reflection of that culture. Christians often say it this way: “I am in the world but not of it.”

I get it. But if you walk through a corral with new boots, you’re gonna get some on ya. You’ll begin to take on both the advantages and the hazards of life in the corral. And in the corrals of Western civilization, we deny death and loss.

I find this to be especially ironic in Christianity. The central symbol of the Christian faith is the cross, which, however beautifully it decorates our pierced ears, necklaces and altars … well, before it stood for anything, it stood as a symbol of death. And not just any death, but a death barbaric and accursed beyond comprehension. Yet Christians point at this same symbol to stand for love and life also beyond comprehension. Why? How?

And it’s here I wax reprovingly to the entire Western world: Because, big dummies, any possibility of truly living and loving depends entirely on our ability to embrace death. That’s not a Christian truth. It’s a truth-truth. Those three things are inseparable. Related — by their very nature!

Sorry. I get carried away.

For all the beauty, meaning and truth that Western institutional religion has offered the world … well, in its modern form, I give it an overall C- when the subject turns to grief. It is often not useful to sad people. Sometimes it’s actually an impediment to healthy grieving. Sometimes antithetical.

You think I sound unduly critical?

In this culture, it’s the norm for me to listen to grieving patients try to wrap bad theology around their broken hearts. For example: “I know that God won’t give me any more than I can handle …”

Oh yeah? Lots of things could happen to me today that I can’t handle. If my son dies, I don’t intend to handle it. I intend to come unceremoniously apart at the seams. And God will just have to handle me not handling it for a while.

“I know my (loved one) is in a better place …”

That may well be, but your life stinks right now.

“If I just had faith …”

Well, yeah, but not the way you’re thinking about it — as an alternative to suffering. True faith is a context for suffering. No way to leapfrog from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. All paths lead through Friday.

“I know God has some reason for this …”

I think that’s double-speak for “I’m furious with God.”

Have you ever seen someone try to paste a religious smile across the gaping wound of grief, outrage and despair? It’s creepy. And it’s not faith. It’s ego-faith. Huge difference. And it makes people miserable, depressed and bitter. It unnecessarily protracts grief.

In the 1987 movie “Roxanne,” the fire chief finds his men blithely oblivious to a fire blazing merrily in the firehouse trashcan. He scolds them: “I have a dream. If, heaven forbid, there should ever be a fire in this town, my dream is that the people would not then say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t call the fire department.’ “

I have a dream. My dream is that, if, heaven forbid, someone should fall into acute bereavement, the people would not then say, “Whatever you do, don’t go to church.”

Ironic, I say, because Jews and Christians share an idea eminently helpful to grieving people: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2) Those same words were later used by Christians to describe Jesus’ life and work (Matthew 4:16).

Where does the light live? It lives in the darkness. Want to see the light? You gotta be willing to walk into the darkness.

Grief is real darkness.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/9416066.html

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Readers take stand on comments about religion and grief

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Last week, I answered D.C.’s question about why Western religion appears not to focus on grief, death and loss. Worse, I said, in Western civilization, religion often is conscripted to aid and abet the denial of death, grief and loss.

By 9:30 that same morning, I was wading deep in reader mail, my reactions to which ran the gamut — touched, inspired, gaping irony.

For those of you who asked for additional resources, I recommend Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work “The Denial of Death” as the definitive primer on this subject. Becker saw the denial of death as a primary culprit in so much individual and social malaise, including a chief ingredient is the proclivity for violence. The Ernest Becker Foundation (faculty.washington.edu/nelgee/) is an endless resource.

I mentioned a religious colloquialism oft recited by grieving people and, unfortunately, too often recited at grieving people: “God will never give me more than I can handle …” Turns out my criticism of this religious bon mot gored a few oxen out there. Let me try again:

Acute grief states aren’t “handled”; they are paralyzing. Devastating. Grieving people often feel crazy and can act crazy. They sleep all the time, or don’t sleep at all. They forget things, such as the car keys or closing doors or bathing. They put salt and pepper shakers in the refrigerator. They are known to have suicidal and homicidal ideation. They can and do sometimes lose reality contact altogether for a while.

If God will never give me more than I can handle, and it’s pretty clear that I’m not handling it, then what conclusion is left to me but that on top of unbearable grief I am now reminded that my faith is lacking. I am spiritually inept. Competent religious people “handle” their grief, it turns out.

When religious people say, “God will never give you more than you can handle,” they unwittingly add a layer of failure and self-recrimination to the burden of someone who is doing well to remember to wear pants.

A clergywoman wrote to say she believed this maxim to be a confusion of the scriptural idea that “God will not tempt us more than we are able to withstand without providing a way out. … The point is that temptation has a way out; grief has no way out. … Grief is often unbearable, yet survivable.” — C.S., Henderson

Unbearable, yet survivable — great quote, C.S.! Exactly the darkness to which acutely grieving people must surrender if they are to “see the light,” to move on into health, wholeness and new life.

Conversely, a churchman wrote to scold me and warn me: “You have the mistaken impression that God cares whether you fall apart or not. You are apparently not familiar with the Sovereignty of God. To not place death in the providence of God is to sin against God. My impression is that if you believed in the scripture or sin, you would not have made a foolish statement like ‘God will have to handle it’ and I am sure there will come a time when you will regret having said it.” — R.H., Pahrump

Let me not mince words, R.H.: Your letter is a virtual paradigm of the point I was making in last week’s column. Exactly the kind of religion from which, as an advocate for grieving people, I would want my grieving patients to be protected.

You think it foolish for me to say God will have to handle me not handling devastating grief? Think through it again, R.H., and you will see it is precisely a confession of my limits and God’s sovereignty. Just my own tongue-in-cheek version of two Hebrew scriptures: “Why have you forsaken me?” and “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Words I deeply respect when coming out of the mouths of folks crucified by grief.

The denial of death, grief and loss in Western culture is fueled by ego inflation (the wish for immortality), the idolizing of science and left-brained rationalism, and, not the least withstanding, material affluence.

“But is the denial of death really all that harmful?” asked T.N. of Bozeman, Mont.

I thought immediately of a subplot in the 1987 movie “Moonstruck.” Rose discovers her husband, Cosmo, in an affair with a younger woman. She complains to a girlfriend, “Why do so many middle-aged men do this?” Then she answers her own question: “You know why? Because they are afraid they are going to die.”

Rose waits up for her philandering husband to come home. “Hello, Cos,” she calls to him as he mounts the stairs. “I just want you to know that no matter what you do or where you go, you’re gonna die like everyone else.”

“Thanks, Rose,” is his puzzled reply.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/8961747.html

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Growing up includes humble surrender to all we are and are not

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Q: “How does one get past regret? I have regrets from my childhood, my adolescence and as a young adult. If only time travel were possible! I dream about how I would go back and do so many things differently, so that my life would be better today. I can’t seem to get past the mistakes I made as a younger person.” — Name withheld, Las Vegas

A: Here’s a fun parlor game: The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done. Ever played?

It tends to be played spontaneously — in hotel rooms or on late-night road trips. Maybe after most of the partygoers have gone home, and now it’s just you and one or two best friends in a living room. The likelihood of this game goes up in direct proportion to the number of open wine bottles and empty beer cans in the room.

The game begins: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

Regrets fall quickly into three categories: missed opportunities, bad judgment and moral regrets.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

We miss opportunities because we can’t or don’t appreciate the open door before us. For example, I regret giving up on the guitar as a freshman in college. I wish I’d had the guts and the discipline to stick with it. I was 33 before I gave myself permission to be artistic and creative, to write and sing songs. What was I afraid of?

Want the truth? I’ve spent much of my life afraid of excellence.

We miss opportunities because we have egos as big as cathedrals and, paradoxically, as frail as butterfly wings. Especially in adolescence and young adulthood. Talking to youngsters about smoking, drinking, drugs, teen pregnancy, staying in school, choosing friends wisely, training for a meaningful career … well, sometimes it feels like this:

Grown-up: “My best advice is don’t deliberately hit yourself with all your might in the head with this sledgehammer. It will really hurt and you won’t like it.”

Youngster: “Yeah, what do you know? You can’t tell me what to do!”

Our regret over missed opportunities really comes down to our embarrassing dismay over how long it took us to grow up. Not to mention the growing up we still have left to do.

BAD JUDGMENT

We pick wrong. We’re unlucky. Mostly we choose unwisely because we are not at the time in possession of sufficient wisdom. Instead of the new car behind Door No. 1, we pick the mule behind Door No. 2. And it’s more than just the random failures of “betting on the wrong horse.” More people than you could ever imagine come to regret the decision to divorce, change jobs or relocate.

So, we’re back to growing up, because, while facts and knowledge come in a box, judgment and wisdom only come with time.

Punishing and paralyzing ourselves for unattained levels of maturity — growing up — is a bit like resenting not yet germinated wildflower seeds that lie slumbering in the desert sand. They grow and bloom when they grow and bloom. Not a moment before. Heaping contempt on the seeds doesn’t make them grow and bloom any faster.

MORAL REGRETS

Wish I had a nickel for every celebrity I’ve ever seen on a talk show who smiles a superior, enlightened smile, nods like the Buddha, and says meaningfully, “I have no regrets.”

May I be frank? If you have no regrets, then take a hike. I don’t want to know you. Because, while you might have been a “being,” you’ve never been a human being. Human beings have regrets. Buckets of them.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?

I’ll die ashamed of the way I treated my little sister when I was growing up. Oh sure, I can explain it clinically in the context of my family’s systemic dysfunction. I was the Hero. She was the Scapegoat. Blah blah blah.

I was cruel to her because it assuaged my ego to be cruel to her. That she has forgiven me boggles the mind. An undeserved gift.

Here’s where I’m supposed to take off on my “forgive yourself” speech, right? Wrong. Great if you can forgive yourself. But before that’s even possible, we must tell ourselves the truth and accept that truth. The truth includes regret. Guilt. Sorrow.

Growing up includes a humble surrender to all we are and are not. The regrettable parts of our past become just as important as the laudable parts. Ironic treasures. Sources of surprising peace and wisdom. A tether for ego. A measure by which we appreciate the miracle of love and friendship.

You’ll never hear me say, “I have no regrets.” What I strive for is not having any regrets about my regrets.

I no longer apologize for being a human being.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/9847066.html

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Pursue personal piety for its own sake, not for reward

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Q: Raised in the Catholic faith (though I am not a Catholic), I was taught to believe in a God that rewarded you more the harder you believed/prayed. And the more you adhered to the teachings of the church, the more you’d be rewarded. Now, in my 60s, I have fallen on hard times, financially and healthwise, and it seems I am spiritually barren. I want to pray and ask for guidance and get a feeling of peace, but feel I have nothing to give and cannot even put my hands together. Is it true that God is a God of Tit for Tat? If I do my part as fervently as possible, then he will reward me by getting me through this? Somehow I feel that there is a balance in the universe, and whatever I beam out comes back to me. So if I beam extra forcefully, will extra good things come back to me, and how do I do that? — S.A., Las Vegas

A: I probably should be more poetic and polite, but I have only about 750 words. So, I’m going to “try on” some provocative answers in an effort to deliberately startle and maybe derail the line of thought that made your question even plausible. Please, I’m not making fun. I want these “answers” to make you examine your question, because I’m wondering if you already know the answer.

Answer No. 1: The reason you’ve fallen on hard times is because you haven’t believed or prayed hard enough nor consistently adhered to the teachings of the church. This is why God is withholding your reward. You need to beam more fervently.

Answer No. 2: There is no apparent and predictable relationship between belief or prayer or adherence or faithfulness … and reward. I say “apparent and predictable relationship.” The Christian story promises a kind of “reward” to the faithful — eternal life. But that is not an apparent and predictable reward, it is a hope apprehended only in faith.

Do you know anyone who prayed and believed and beamed harder and more fervently than Jesus? Do you remember what happened to him? According to the Christian story, he offered his last breath to an unspeakable suffering for the sake of truth, love and obedience to his felt calling from God. The capper was he died commending his spirit into the hands of a God who had skeedaddled. Forsaken him.

Ask yourself: What measurable positive change did his faithfulness effect in the world? Does the world have less, more or about the same evil since he lived and died? Less, more or about the same violence and stupidity and genocide and despair? Less or more reality TV? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

For Christians, Jesus’ life and death and life affects the possibility of being properly and joyously related to Maker, to neighbor, to cosmos, to self. But the secular view is Jesus was just another really good person — beautiful and hapless and kind of naive — who got run over, chewed up and spit out by our world, which, apparently and predictably, is terrified by anything or anyone who invites us to look at ourselves as a strategy for real human freedom.

The Hebrew Scriptures were kind enough to include Ecclesiastes, a book that examines your very question, S.A. The essential answer is something like this: Seems like all a bunch of wind blowing to me, or vanity. Because really good people suffer for no reason and really wicked people die in silk sheets. Every day. If there is, as you “feel,” S.A., a “balance in the universe,” it’s certainly not very often a balance observable in this life.

Jesus picked up this same theme in the Sermon on the Mount: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Tit for tat? Hardly. Causality is best left to the inquiry of science. Serious spirituality inevitably places our journey on the via dolorosa (“the way of grief”), the end of which is categorical surrender to mystery and grace — not balance, not rewards, not answers.

Personal piety — belief, prayer, practice — is not a roll of quarters we drop into the Divine Vending Machine dispensing peace and prosperity. We pursue personal piety for its own sake.

The only reward we can count on for living with integrity is that we get to have integrity.

But why do I think you already know all of this? Was your question rhetorical? A way to tell me you’re suffering, and you’re tired of suffering, and you’re feeling forsaken in your suffering? And that you’d like to speak to the manager?

Me, too, S.A. On many days. Me, too.

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Grief is a kind of dying. Terrifying, but holy. And, on the faithful human journey, sometimes necessary. Sometimes the only way we can be whole.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/8516917.html

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Every hello begins a goodbye. Every well-said goodbye makes possible a new hello. Life is about saying goodbye … and hello. And goodbye. And hello. And so it goes until the day comes when we say goodbye to this life and hello to the mystery over yonder.

So many goodbyes — the experience of loss is in the very fabric of this existence, and it’s more than just the relentless presence of random tragedies, accidents, disease and death. Moments begin and end. Relationships die. Possibilities die. Dreams die. Times and places come and go. To welcome one thing inevitably requires bidding one or more other things farewell.

Saying hello to finger foods for your baby means saying goodbye to the days of tenderness and intimacy at the breast. Choosing a career in medicine means not choosing a career in farming. Saying an exclusive yes to one lover means saying no to all the other potential lovers. Yep. Commitment is a grief issue.

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Grief has many forms and movements.

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Nostalgia is a grieving over a lost-yet-remembered innocence.

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Despair is the name of the grief we feel when we have lost hope.

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Longing is grieving a future not yet here.

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Cynicism is the grief state of no longer risking belief in essential goodness.

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Guilt is the grief we feel when we abandon our own values.

Grief has many expressions. Some cultures teach and value dramatic, emotional expression. Other cultures teach and value the restraint of emotion, and replace it with narrative and storytelling. Some cultures have elaborate ceremonies and assigned symbols. Still other cultures — mine, for example — teach and value intellectualizing and denying grief.

To grieve honestly and well, we give up some control. We sit quietly with our sadness. We breathe our sadness in. We breathe it out. And sometimes our grief just has a mind of its own. That flat, empty feeling. Quiet stoicism. Lump in the throat. Weeping. Quiet crying. Wailing, shoulders shaking and breath coming in gulps.

Sometimes grief takes you by the arm and drags you unwilling to a place primitive and primordial. It’s beyond reason. You go a little bit crazy. Your legs fail you. You make terrible noises. You lay on the floor and moan, bellow and thrash. The grief possesses your body. Rolls you up into a fetal position, then sends you sprawling onto your back. You pound the carpet. You hold your guts.

It’s a kind of dying. Terrifying, but holy. And, on the faithful human journey, sometimes necessary. Sometimes the only way we can be whole.

Unacknowledged grief turns to poison and malice. Couples who can’t grieve often divorce. People who can’t grieve sometimes kill — themselves or others.

Depressed people often are angry people, and angry people often are sad people. A police officer once described to me the practice of an inner-city gang wherein gang members would tattoo a tear drop on their face to represent every person they had murdered. The irony was compelling. The young gangbanger cannot cry, so he paints his tears on his face. And for every tear that he cannot cry, someone has to die.

To live well, we must learn how to say goodbye well, and often. Well-said goodbyes are conscious and intentional. We give thanks for what was good. We acknowledge and, if appropriate, account for what was bad. We forgive what we can forgive, and allow our goodbye to separate us from the rest.

Healthy goodbyes acknowledge loss. We surrender to grief. Broken hearts don’t kill us. Quite the contrary, it is precisely the denial of our broken heart that can become destructive and lethal.

We don’t heal grief by gritting our teeth. We don’t heal grief by distracting ourselves with drinking, drugging and other “acting out” behavior. We don’t merely let time pass, because it’s not true that time heals wounds. We don’t heal grief with rationalities or bumper stickers or platitudes or optimism or cheap religion.

The only way to heal grief is to grieve.

To love anything is to decide to become vulnerable to loss. Check that — to love anything guarantees the experience of loss. The only alternative is to decide not to love … which, of course, is the worst kind of loss.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/10174701.html

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Great journeys of integrity are walked alone

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When another man’s life forces you to behold your own smallness, all you have to do is retro-narrate pathologized stories about him. Just like that, your world is a safer, happier place.

Your friends who are simply gone? You force me to behold, J.K., something I hate to think about: All great journeys of integrity are ultimately walked alone. The archetypal picture here is probably Jesus, whose friends agreed to accompany him into the garden of Gethsemane that night to pray. Jesus is scared. Anxious. Asking God if there isn’t some other way. He looks to his friends for support and encouragement.

And they are sound asleep. And Jesus asks a rhetorical question into the silent night air: “Will no one stay awake with me?”

As a matter of fact, no. Tonight Jesus will suffer, and he will suffer alone.

How to maintain some sense of respect and optimism for humanity? I can only tell you what I do.

When I’m feeling low, when I’ve lost track of why I keep putting one foot in front of the other, when I am sick and tired of paying the price for living out values about which no one else appears to have much if any investment, when I can no longer argue with Protestant theologian John Calvin who used the word “depraved” to describe the essential nature of human beings …

… well, J.K., that’s when I think of people like you [who suffers alone in ennobled integrated fashion to care for his incapacitated wife].

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/9380491.html

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Mystery surrounds deep connections we make with others [making friends with “Alone”]

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An old friend writes from far away. Oh, not that old. She’s 48. I mean we’ve been friends a long, long time.

There’s this bond between us. A connection. I felt it the first time we spoke, which is funny because the first thing she ever communicated to me was disdain. I was 23, so I reached into my repertoire for managing repartee with beautiful women and selected “boyish cockiness” for my retort.

When you’re 23 and male, boyish cockiness is pretty much the extent of your repertoire.

But that was it for us — bonded. A connection that has survived time together, protracted times apart, even years of no communication whatsoever. The friendship has survived love affairs — not with each other — marriages and becoming parents. We’ve been drunk together. And sober. It occurs to me that I’ve never seen her cry.

She was 20 when I met her. Once, on a whim, she sent me a picture of herself at age 5. I smiled. Somewhere inside myself I knew her then, too. Recognized her. In some alternative past, she and I played together in a sandbox (until she made me cry because she was so bossy). Like the bond between us contains secret passages that defy time and space.

She writes to me: “I get you, Steven Kalas.”

Her words strike me like thunder. Truly awestruck, like the way you fall into a spectacular sunset, or the way you stop breathing when you’re standing in a barn at 2 a.m. watching the birth of a calf. I’m focused in a point of time, staring at my monitor. It’s like she’s right here. Right now. I have a friend who gets me. She sees me. I jumble a few words and she says, “Oh yeah.” She not only understands, but understands why and how things matter to me.

Amen.

Then I have this other friend. Or did. Or thought I did. Could’ve sworn we were friends. Soul mates. Years we were friends. Across passion and victory and folly and failure. Across celebration and loss. This friend knows me. And doesn’t know me at all.

We’re not connected anymore.

And I know as much about why we’re no longer connected as I do why I’m still connected to the other friend. Which is to say I don’t know anything at all. And I’ve been railing against the disconnection, like, if I protest loudly and long enough, my erstwhile friend will snap out of it and be connected to me again.

I’ve decided to stop railing. Sad, yes. Probably sad forever. But pounding on it serves all the purpose of pounding on a grave. Why would I look for the living among the dead?

See, both connections and disconnections deserve the same responses. Awe. Respect for the mystery. Even I, a man who believes his gifts and his calling to be teaching people how to be in relationship — well, I can’t tell you much of anything about why some connections happen and some connections don’t happen and still others disintegrate.

The most terrible thing my therapist ever said to me was also the most important: “Steven, we’re alone. No one has anyone.”

Yikes-oi. (Sorry. This sort of thing happens when a GoyBoy tries to express himself forcefully in Yiddish.)

I hated what she said. Railed against it. Argued with it. She had thrown existential sand into the gas tank of my fine-tuned DeLorean of delusion. And my pricey car would go not one mile farther.

My therapist was right. And, as with every other time when she is right, it’s time for me to grow up. We’re alone. No one has anyone.

Strangely, this new truth, while initially a scalpel slashed across my chest without anesthetic, did not burden and depress me for long. Surrender to separateness and aloneness quickly began to create a new space in me. A space for … for …

… relief. A kind of peace. And, most precious, gratitude and humility. Relationship is a grace. A kind of miracle. Human communion emerges as a gift. An unmerited joy. Yes, there are ways of living more conducive to forging and maintaining lasting relationships than other ways of living. I’m not saying there’s nothing we can do. Just that, in the end, I no longer think I have earned or deserved the people who stand in the inner circle of my life.

I just give thanks.

We’re alone. No one has anyone. Human beings cannot be possessed. They cannot be apprehended. They can only be respected and enjoyed. Or respected and bid farewell. Relationship is mystery.

Who really sees you? Who gets you? If you need more than one hand to count those people, you are rich beyond your dreams.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/living-authentically-a-challenge-worth-embracing-89350462.html

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The more practiced you become at living authentically, the more often you’ll have to make friends with Alone.

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If you take seriously a commitment to authentic selfhood, you find that you regularly must sacrifice belonging. Living authentically includes regular renegotiations of how we belong to family. In some extreme cases, whether we will belong to family at all. Likewise, adjustments in friendships, and sometimes distancing and even discarding friendships.

There are journeys of selfhood and wholeness that must be walked alone.

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Individualism as ego overpride is not the solitary reflection of an authentic life   –

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http://www.lvrj.com/view/steven-kalas-we-are-individuals-in-consequential-relationships-162688016.html

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/culture-s-approach-to-suffering-only-prolongs-pain-129608658.html

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And, for those kinds of sufferings/losses that can never be entirely healed, to bear it. To find meaning in it.  To turn that suffering into some transformative work in the world.

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And the truth is this: The human journey includes suffering. No one comes to ask for help who isn’t suffering.

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But, here’s another truth: In any given time in your life, the number of people who actually, really, honestly want and are willing to grant you an engaged and healing audience for your suffering/loss  is      …       small!!     Or nonexistent!!    

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Even people who sincerely love and adore you might find themselves ambivalent about really engaging and listening to the part of you that suffers. See, the people around us have egos, too. Their egos mobilize to protect them just like your ego does. “Cheer up … get over it … God has a plan … everybody is doing the best he or she can … don’t cry” — the felt motive for these messages is to help you.

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But each of these messages also contains the anxiety of the messenger:  Please stop bothering and disturbing me by suffering.

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And that’s what most modern people do. They try to stop suffering. They “get over it.” They build layer upon layer of pretense and persona over their wounds, because it’s, well, the sociable thing to do. Most of us, then, suffer unconsciously. Because that’s the way we’ve been taught to suffer.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/9146411.html

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Lots of people don’t want to be present to sadness — their own or anyone else’s. Other people would like to be present to their bereaved friends and family, but don’t know how.

We live in a culture where grief is treated as a disease to be “cured,” or a weakness cursed of shame or self-loathing.

Contrarily, grief is the holiest of human journeys.

One of my favorite Friedrich Nietzsche quotes is, “Everything holy requires a veil.” Now, modern Americans might think he means that we should keep things covered up because those things are shameful. Nope. He means that some things are so beautiful, so huge, so powerful, so naked, so intimate, that to gaze casually upon them would be injurious to their meaning and value. Injurious ultimately to us.

Grief is such a thing.

I concur with your observation that people around us are largely inept at befriending us in grief. Yet I also encourage people like you to remember to veil (protect and value) their grief. Keep the circle of confidants small. Pick two and no more than five people who will hear the depths of your pain.

There are two ways to read your question at the end. Literally you ask how you might numb the heartache. But I’m guessing you aren’t being literal. In fact, it’s not a question at all, is it? It reads more like an indignation. Like, how dare anyone ask you to numb the heartache! How dare the medical community suggest drugging your bereavement!

See, J.R., you know how precious your sadness is. A breathless, crushing burden, yes. But precious.

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Word play:   “for the sake of ” is the opposite of “forsaken”   – 

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The Wordbook dictionary states that “forsake” is derived from an Old English word “forsacan.”    “for” means “completely” and “sacan” means “deny.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/alienation-i-dont-belong-and-estrangement-getting-dumped-because-i-dont-belong/

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alienation [I don’t belong] and estrangement [getting dumped because I don’t belong]

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Alienation & estrangement   –  the results of Loss  [e.g. getting dumped]  by your beloved  [lifemate/soulmate]   

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http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/kalas/_Retirement_leaves_time_for_pondering_self_relationships.html

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Question: What do all people seeking release from personal despair have in common?

Answer: They are suffering some combination of alienation and estrangement.

Alienation means a crisis of belonging. We are alien. We don’t belong.

Estrangement means the painful disruption of the bonds of relationship. Interpersonal injuries and injustices. To become estranged is to become a stranger to the one we love and by whom we are loved.

I’m saying your use of the word “misfit” sounds like a crisis of alienation and estrangement.

Actual A&E: Important relationships sometimes unravel (become estranged). Sometimes, the cause is egregious injury done to the other. Other times relationships just unravel. Some people are actually alienated by society.  Old people, gay people, poor people, Fierce Truth-tellers — some people are quite deliberately excluded in whole or in part from belonging.

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41 Responses to an ennobling sufferance — living life to the fullest

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