In my last post, Impositions on Writing, I listed some of the various impositions we writers place against ourselves when writing. The very title of that post was an imposition against myself. In fact, it was a mask, a dodge, a camouflage. It was a very personal post regarding the anger I felt over my mother’s death and my daughter’s moving away.
While I wrote openly about my anger, something I never expected to feel, I hid behind the title. Why? Because I needed to write about my feelings, but I wasn’t certain I really wanted anyone to read about them.
Yet the very fact that I wrote that post, that I wrote about my anger (I had never thought that remorse could become anger, which is a terrible villain in itself, consuming us as much as self-pity can) took courage. And in taking courage, in revealing myself, I overcame that anger. Who wants to be angry at any loved one, living or deceased?
What had I felt that made that rage? Did I feel regret that I hadn’t been a better son? No, because I had been the best son I could be. Did I feel anger at myself for not spending enough time with my mom? No, I did not. I saw her almost every day. In the winter, my parents and my wife and I got together for dinner and cards afterward.
I don’t have an answer as to why I felt that rage. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to let go of her. Just as I wasn’t ready to let go of my daughter.
What else was I upset about? I lost a good friend who was also a cherished brother-in-law. And I lost a couple of other friends.
Sometimes, I look around at all the people that I cherish and love and realize that they’ll die someday. And sometimes I think about the relationships that change, the people that leave your life, the people that move away, and all I want to do is run away. I want to hide from and run from that pain.
I’m not afraid of my own death. I’m a good man. I’ve made mistakes. But I still try to be kind and love others. I believe in God and an Afterlife.
But, if there is no Afterlife, why be afraid of that? Oblivion, is that something to fear? No. Oblivion, I hope, will be like going to sleep and not dreaming, not being aware you’re asleep, not being aware of your surroundings. Just nothing. Nada. Zip.
Why fear that? Don’t we all wish we could have that at sometime? Don’t we all want the worries and wear and tear of life to leave us?
I think that the people who fear death the most aren’t afraid of oblivion but are afraid that they made have been mistaken and there is an Afterlife, maybe with even a Judgement Day. That they’ll be punished for their unbelief.
Or maybe they don’t want to die because they feel they haven’t gotten what they want out of life. And maybe they don’t even know what they want, only that they want something and don’t have it.
One of the requirements Jesus left us is to love your neighbor like yourself. Not a self-love that’s self-absorbed and self-centered. Not a vane and narcissistic love, but a love for yourself like your parents had for you or you have for your children and friends.
I didn’t love myself for a long time, not for many, many years. My parents loved me. My wife loved me. My children loved me. My siblings loved me. Why didn’t I love myself? Because I didn’t feel worthy of loving myself, that’s why.
But one day, while visiting my youngest sister’s family, I realized just how much her kids, my two young nephews and their younger sister, my niece, loved me. I realized that if I was worthy of their love, why wasn’t I worthy of my love. How could I not love myself as much as those three kids loved me? And I realized that I did love myself. All of a sudden, I felt worthy.
I realized that if all those people, my friends, my parents, my siblings, my aunts and uncles and cousins, my children and all my nieces and nephews–and I have quite a few–felt I was worthy of their love, regardless of my faults and regardless of all emotional pain and suffering I may have caused them, and the fact that I saw all of them was worthy of my love, then I could love myself.
With all that love, why do I want to run away? I don’t. Fear sometimes grabs you, but you have to fight it until you overcome it.
It’s like the Biblical character Jacob. Jacob was journeying home after a self-imposed exile of decades. He had betrayed brother Esau and stolen his inheritance. And now, while journeying back with an army and family and loved ones, he went ahead on his own to offer his life in a debt-of-honor payment to his brother, who journeyed to meet with an army of his own. He did this to save his family. He was willing to sacrifice himself for those that he loved.
That night, out in an empty field, he wrestled with his fear. The Bible says he wrestled an angel of God, or maybe even God himself. But really, he wrestled with his fear. And when he overcame his fear, he achieved enlightenment and peace.
He continued on to meet his brother. And when he met his brother, Esau, who left his own army behind to meet with Jacob one-to-one., when they met, Esau forgave him. Maybe Esau noticed the peace and enlightenment in Jacob’s eyes. But they made peace with each.
When we overcome our fear. we find peace.
Love and peace, I think that’s what we’re all seeking in life. There are other things you could add to love and peace, such as enlightenment, forgiveness, worthiness, happiness, value. It’s an endless list.
So, what does all this come down to? Well, writing this post reminds me of my love for my family and friends and their love for me, so I’m achieving the therapy through writing aspect of this post.
And writing my last post helped me overcome my rage at the loss I’d suffered this year and helped me to release my fear of my daughter moving thousands of miles away from me and maybe my not seeing her as much as I have in the last few years.
But for those I’ve lost, especially my mother, I can love them as I have loved them, without the sense of loss. If there is an Afterlife, I’ll see them someday. And if there isn’t an Afterlife, I’ll never see them again. But I can always love them, with just as much love as I now love my daughter, even though she’ll soon live faraway.