What else can you do… It is here already, and it will be here for some time. I can either turn and face it or attempt to ignore it, either way it will influence me. And so, I decide instead, to observe how it dances across my life in this moment, this grief that I feel so deep in my heart. It has been not even a week yet, and already this grief feels like it has been here forever. I watch how I must be careful so that I can act and interact with people without spreading grief far and wide. I notice how my reserve, my wellspring of compassion, is somehow more shallow these days, no doubt a side effect of using this reserve, this compassion upon myself and my family. It is an interesting experiment, this watching, and it is teaching me so much.
Stress builds one small layer at a time upon itself, like rock formations in a limestone cavern, it builds one small drop at a time. It is hard to see how this build up occurs on a moment to moment, day-to-day basis. It is only when you take the time to look back at how things used to be that you can see the geologic changes that have occurred in your life. Grief, on the other hand, is more like an earthquake, it’s splits things open and creates an immediate change, you can see this moment in time in an instant, the change has occurred. I notice this earthquake across my life, and I see the deeper layers that it has exposed, those rock formations that have been laid down over the last 50 years, I get a chance to study it in real time. The arrival of grief is like the throwing of a switch, everything changes.
The observer is there, he is watching how things are different this week compared to last. He is kind, and he is gentle as he points out to me the many ways in which I am suffering. Pointing out things I would not be aware of if he were not watching and providing commentary. You see I am all to adept at simply soldiering on. Oh sure, my temper might get a little short, and my answers may not be as kind, but I’ll get the work done. The observer notices this, and points it out to me. He shows me how this grief is changing my interactions, he makes me aware of the ways in which my compassion is absent. He shows me this clearly without scolding, or chiding, he is like a flashlight, a beam that illuminates what previously had been in darkness. He does not tell me what to do, what I do is up to me. His job, his purpose is to help me see clearly that which I may well be too close to notice, he is pointing out the water in which I swim.
What do I do with this newfound point of view? How do I change with this knowledge? I would love to say that it is easy to work with this knowledge, to notice it and alter the way I react. But that would not be anywhere close to the truth, in some respects it feels a bit like watching a car crash that I have no ability to alter. I see my actions, and my reactions, and I long to behave differently, but somehow the momentum seems to be carrying me forward in ways that I wish it wasn’t. Somewhere inside a small still voice tells me that I should take a bit more time for myself, that I should take the opportunity to simply notice my breath, to feel what it is like to breathe, and to notice this moment just as it is. With no better alternative in mind, I put this advice to use, and the observer watches to see what happens to this experiment when we introduce this new variable. It is likely far too soon to see the effect of the small change, but I do notice a small bit of room in my life that was absent beforehand. A small pause that occurs before I react, a small moment of reflection before I take action. And it is in the small moments that compassion has the opportunity to step forward once again.