Recently I lost someone very important. Rita was a second mother to me as far back as I can remember in my childhood. She was the mother that cracked jokes and showed me it was perfectly fine to dance while cooking or recount stories just for a laugh. Having lost my own mother as I approached adulthood, Rita became the only mother I knew as an adult woman. Her unconditional love and support will be sorely missed.
The enormous grief I felt upon losing Rita came almost as a surprise to me. I had already experienced mourning the death of both my biological parents years ago and recently dealt with the loss of a close friend unexpectedly. But something broke open in me with Rita's passing and it left me stewing about many other insights that were becoming apparent to me as I aged. These thoughts seeped into my brain slowly but have really stuck with me. So here they are:
• More experience and age opens the heart to greater joy and pain, not less. As a young adult, I felt the sting of sadness and loss, and the heart expanding of new love -- for the men in my life, for my newborn children -- but as I age I feel even more deeply. I thought more grief would make me accustomed to sadness or loss, but it actually allowed me to feel each loss more acutely. And the same for love -- the more I love, the more deeply I feel it. With more experiences, both joy and loss becomes clearer and more profound no matter how many time you succeed, fail, are delightfully surprised or unexpectedly saddened in a lifetime.
• We are always evolving. While we may have a core personality, a fundamental disposition or strong set of habits, over time our desires, needs and hopes and dreams change. What is gratifying or satisfying shifts as we wind through different phases of our lives.
• With wisdom comes great compassion, with education comes understanding, with community comes consolation, with age comes clarity, recognition and empathy.
• No matter how far one travels, how many new places, people or things you seek out, life will be the same for you unless the change happens from within. I have lived all over the world and created and recreated my life over and over again -- but it's clear that wherever I go, I take myself with me.
• Gratitude is a practice; it is not automatic but can be strengthened like any muscle in your body. It is a sure way to stay connected to the present and the good in each day.
• It is uncanny how invincible and fragile one can be simultaneously.
• Every one is responsible for creating their own life story.
Writing this list helped me to grasp a sense of meaning and personal belief about the way life is and it gave me solace. Perhaps these musings will give someone else some comfort,too.