Kara's Column > Let Go, Let Go
Sometimes we have to "clean house" to clear out clutter and make way for whatever is to come next in our lives. It's not an easy thing to do. And "cleaning house" is not the same as "get over it" attitudes.
The "get over it" attitude says there is something wrong with you, a piece of you that must be defended, where often the pressure to fix this piece is exerted from outside yourself. The "clean house" attitude I'm referring to here says there's nothing wrong with anything about you nor your dreams, passions, hopes-- AND it's time to clear some head space, physical space, spiritual space to determine what is really important. The "clean house" phenomenon comes up of our own volition and FEELS GOOD!
As is my usual way, I'll make this clear by giving you a concrete exercise and then a more sweeping look at a personal experience.
First is a very real poetry exercise you can try.
This is something you can do everyday. Take a few moments in your morning to clear your head. Breathe deeply, let all the muscles in your face relax, sit in a comfortable position, and leave all your thoughts on the floor. You can pick them up off the floor when we are done, but for now, leave the buzz of your thoughts on the floor. Think only of this moment, feel the muscles in your face drop and relax. Now open your favorite book of poetry, or a brand new book of poetry, or a borrowed book of poetry. Open it randomly to any page. Close your eyes and point to a spot on the random page. Open your eyes and read the one line closest to your finger.
Read only that one line.
Read it again.
Read it out loud. Out loud again.
Now sit quietly with that one line.
Close the book. If you have time to write, do so. If not, go on with your day. Let the one line come back to you again and again throughout the day. At the end of the day, make time to write about what that line did to you during the day.
This is a concrete example of cleaning house at the beginning of the day, making way for a new line to influence and affect you, and then writing about the effect this had on you.
In a larger way, we sometimes need to do this in our lives.
I can offer only my personal story on this in order to explain it. My story isn't your story. The details are not the same for any of us. But this is my personal path with this more sweeping version of the "cleaning house" exercise.
Since my son died in 1999, my husband and I have worked hard to build something meaningful and worthwhile at KotaPress. We've worked more than double time twice over between us. We do have our sanity. We do have the awesome support of others who walk this path of grief and healing and understand the long term need for support. We do have this grass roots movement-- it's a little like hospice was 20 years ago, when providing long term care for families facing the end of a loved one's life was considered weird, novel, odd-- only we are providing support (which is not yet recognized by our society as something worth while) for the beginning of life/end of life and all it's consequences. (Side note: Sure Hallmark can make cards about the death of your pet, but gawd forbid we should acknowledge the stillbirth of a child!) By helping other parents find ways to survive after the deaths of their children, we are of course helping ourselves to find ways to survive since the death of our son. It is awesome and meaningful work. Neither of us wishes to do any other kind of work in this life time.
But that decision has consequences. It's very difficult to keep a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house on this kind of work. It's very difficult for family and friends who walk the traditional paths of "real jobs" with "real paychecks" to understand this choice. It's very difficult for anyone who hasn't lost a child suddenly to an unexpected death to understand the choice to fight for a kind of work that is meaningful but doesn't exactly build a retirement fund. People you love come to think you are "unstable" "irresponsible" and maybe even "in need of help so you can get over it and move on to a real job, get back on your feet." (Side note: Most people don't know that Walt Disney went bankrupt before he could make his plans for Disney work.)
Yes it's heartbreaking to hear negativity when we continue to need love and support more than we need judgment. But guess what? We have love and support from our own hearts for ourselves and the path we choose! And you know what? I've discovered that the house, the stuff, even the "steady paycheck" are not all that important. And even the "approval" of those who once meant the most to me really doesn't mean all that much anymore. I know my heart in a way that I'd never known it before my son died. And I know what I want to fight for this lifetime.
1) My marriage
I don't need 3 bedrooms for these things. I don't need STUFF for these things. I don't need friends and family with negative attitudes based in fear for these things. And so out the door goes all the STUFF! Donations, auctions, yard sales! Hooray! And with it, goes these things that once sucked energy from me. Less to move. Less to store. Less to dust and clean. Less to keep track of. Less to worry about. Less overhead. Less need to justify my life to others.
And what has this clearing brought for me? A renewal in the faith and love in my husband's eyes when he looks at me. A faith the Mrs. Duck and her message are bigger than stuff, bigger than me, bigger than the doubts of well meaning friends and family. A mobility we've wanted for a long time. We've long talked about working our "mission" no matter where we are on this Earth. Mrs. Duck speaks just as loudly regardless of the language she uses, you know.
My point here is this: I had to take all the STUFF of my life out of my head and hands and put it on the floor for awhile. I had to randomly open my heart, close my eyes, and point at the things that were left. I had to hold the question of my marriage in my hands. I had to roll Mrs. Duck around in my clear head. And when the day was said and done, I didn't want any of that STUFF that I had put on the floor. So I swept it out the door and wished it well. And now my hands and head are open to the calling of my heart.
I don't know what my heart will have me do. I don't know where it will lead. (Side note: It took Edison something like 9,000 tries before he managed to make the light bulb work. He is quoted as saying, "I haven't even failed once. 9,000 times I've learned what doesn't work.") But I do know I'll be with my husband. I do know I'll be honoring my son's life and creating a legacy from his death. I do know I'll be writing and reading and talking to people who understand or who are actually trying to understand. I do know I'll be learning from them. And, frankly, there isn't anything else in the world I'd rather do.
Miracles to you!
Kara L.C. Jones is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she honed her poetic craft under the mentorship of Jim Daniels. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Real Henna, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", MISSing Angels Newsletter, American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. Because she refused to give her grief writing over to the control of outside editors and publishers after the death of her son, she and her husband Hawk founded KotaPress in 1999 as a creative outlet for their expressive artworks. She has been facilitating online and in-person workshops for over 10 year, including sessions offered at the International MISS Conferences, WA State Poets Association Burning Word festivals, and Course Bridge.