After grief comes, life goes relentlessly on...
After a significant grief experience in my life, a friend said to me, "Isn't it unnerving how life goes relentlessly on?"
It's true. Relentlessly. I'm so not cut out for relentless. 14 years. 2 years. 12 weeks. Whatever the time since the date of the death or loss, we wake up each day and the relentlessness starts.
People ask why I couch my work as grief *and* creativity. Because it takes A LOT of creativity to find reasons to get out of bed, to put your feet down on the relentless ground, every single day after grief comes.
It takes A LOT of creativity to honor self care and community care, especially in the face of white supremacist, individualistic, capitalistic, patriarchal culture.
It takes A LOT of creativity to be a helper in this world, honoring the sacred trust that extends out from us toward others AND also allowing others to extend back toward us in return. We may find we are not very practiced at accepting what others offer us. We may find we are in a culture that says you are supposed to be "professionally detached," so even just acknowledging that there is a two way relationship happening when in the role of helper can be taboo.
And when grief experiences knock us out of our routines, even our best efforts at re-entry to life can be complicated by the relentlessness that goes on. By realizing our previous work or priorities are completely different now. By a chronic illness that crops up. By the shock of realizing those you thought would stick by you don't, and by the gratitude you feel for complete strangers who show up in significant ways.
Creativity is needed because even as we are re-entering the relentless world, there are still gems to be found in the spaces grief originally took us. Remember how tended you felt when you allowed yourself some time in your blanket house! Remember how tended you felt when a friend stopped by and you allowed them to see your messy kitchen in which they ended up doing dishes for you! Remember how tended you and your community were when leaders stepped back and asked, "What do you need right now?" instead of being dictators determining for you what was needed!
Re-entering the relentless world might seem to put you in a position where competition, money making, and over-functioning are valued, while the gems of listening to your body, collaboration, and community building are devalued. But screw that! We have permission to notice how relentlessness does not work for us. Don't ignore all you know now.
Having re-entered the world, are you again noticing things aren't quite right? Feeling exhausted? Can't sleep enough? Not much seem pleasurable? Body pain? Irritable at the smallest things? All big red flags calling for tending. How do we counter individualism, wealth worship, and "working through the pain" when we find ourselves surrounded by this relentlessness of "fake it till you make it" bs again?
While I don't have all the answers, I know that grief's different beat taught me it is valuable to give the sad, exhausted, hard spaces my listening ears. I need to hear them because they point me back toward relationships that nurture, toward paradigms of cooperation and collaboration, back toward the fact that relentlessness does not allow us to bring our whole selves to the table.
Individually this may look simply like reaching out to a friend via text to say, "Help. I need an ear." Or it may look collectively like calling "3 days bereavement leave" the bullshit that it is (remember that contract workers don't even get 3 days!), and demanding structural change that actually supports people when they are grieving.
I know it is unnerving that life goes relentlessly on after grief comes. AND I know that your heart is full of creativity that can be tapped to help buoy you through. And you aren't in this alone. Our connections matter. Whatever your situation looks like, just know that I SEE YOU.
[Alternative version published at Radical Creativity Wednesday, October 10, 2012]