I am beached out. My hair is bleached out. My skin is freckled out. My brain has been thoroughly spaced out. My bathing suits and flip flops are stretched out. My ability to eat one more piece of corn or watermelon slice is maxed out. My desire to grill anything ever again is burned out. I am basically summered out. And yet…yet… I want it to linger on.
I am a lingerer. I never want good things to end. I am the last to leave a good party or a good conversation, I am the last to abandon a once good friendship or relationship that doesn’t fit anymore, I am the one who doesn’t want a good book or a really good ice cream cone to end, I will go 5 days without washing my hair to make a salon blowout last, basically I am the last to give up on anyone or anything I love.
I don’t like that “all good things must come to an end.” It feels like a kind of death to me. Like death in everyday life. Things are always in the process of change, time is passing, the sand is slipping through my fingers, my ice cream cone is melting too fast. It’s as natural as the seasons changing, day turning to night and yet, I resist it. I want to hold on just a bit longer. To my baby girl in pigtails even though the joy of watching her bloom into a beautiful young woman makes my heart swell, to being able to carry my son on my hip despite the joyful fact that he still is, and I suspect always will be, a “mama’s boy” (and can pick me up now!), to just one more perfect beach day although I have been blessed with more than anyone has a right to ask for this summer. It’s all good, it’s pure joy but tinged with sadness. Sad joy.
Sad for what no longer is, but joyful for the blessing of what it was and for what is to come. Sad joy. Bittersweet, yin and yang, gloriousness and wretchedness, ebb and flow. Life is both. And actually, I’ve learned the hard way (the only way to really learn anything) that you need both.
Pema Chodron says, “Appreciating the gloriousness of life inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
Actually allowing yourself to feel sad is necessary to feel joy, to know it when it arrives and feel it fully. But once again, we are so conditioned to believe something is wrong when we are sad. We are raised in a culture that disapproves of sadness and has many ways we can eradicate the situation ASAP. Pop a pill, down a drink, surf the web, flip on the tv, open the fridge, get a shag, crack a joke, drive to the mall. We push sadness away. Think it is wrong when we feel it. It isn’t that those things are inherently bad or immoral, it is that we use them to escape, to get comfort and distract ourselves. We grab for something when we can’t face what is coming. To ward off any sense of a problem.
When my husband died, I kept saying to my children, “it is ok to feel sad” but even at 8 and 11, they knew the score – they knew being sad wasn’t “politically correct” – they knew being sad was something to hide as if it was impolite to be sad in front of others like burping out loud at the dinner table or picking their nose. There were so many lessons when he died but one that really cemented was, allowing yourself to really experience and feel life – all of it, even the bad and sad times, makes life that much more precious and worthwhile, makes the joyful times so much more poignant. You really get all the joy you can out of those moments because you have let yourself experience its opposite. You haven’t numbed it away, pushed it away, distracted yourself away. How can you know how sweet a perfectly ripe summer peach is unless you’ve sucked on a lemon? How can you know how sweet sweet really is?
Relaxing with the present moment, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time- that is experiencing death in everyday life. And it is good motivation. Motivation for living an insightful, compassionate, “all in” life. A life that isn’t always about getting to the next good time but experiencing everything in it – even those those things we’d rather not, thank you very much.
So as my summer laissez-faire beach days end, I am sadjoy. Resisting wanting what is so good to end, but knowing that to do so is to deny the natural occurence of things. That my hair will go back to its “natural” shade of dirty blonde, my skin will go back to its baseline “ivory bisque”, my feet will find its way back into the confines of boots soon enough, my brain will have to kick into gear for homework help and writing again and my desire for everything strawberry or peach flavored will be replaced by everything pumpkin.
I am still lingering but I am lingering with awareness. I’ve learned that I am able to relax with the insecurity of the future, with things not always working out, with good things ending, changing, with the unknown, with death in everyday life. I’ve learned that running away from death in everyday life, is running away from life itself. And I want to be “all in.” Not just put my left foot in, not just put my right foot in, I want to be all in and shake it all about. Full hokey pokey. Because that, my friends, “that’s what it’s all about.”