an apprentice to sorrow

Lessons from a lifetime spent as an apprentice to sorrow

an apprentice to sorrow
an apprentice to sorrow

My neighbours left yesterday morning. I have been a wreck ever since.

I made my way to the yoga studio after bidding them goodbye, and I shed tears while on the mat.

When I returned home, they were gone. Their cars no longer in their usual parking spot. The house, exactly the same in appearance, but completely changed in their absence. Another bout of crying at home.

I busied myself with errands that afternoon. More tears fell when I was on my way to pick up little D from school. But he had a playground playdate right after, so I told myself I will cry later. Another almost violent bout of grief grabbed me by the throat at the beginning of dinnertime, even though we were dining outside.

The new tenants, long-time friends of my neighbours, had been moving their stuff in gradually this past week. But strangely, they were not staying there for the night, so the house was dark. Even the porch light was not on. And because I knew too much, I knew who ought to have been there but wasn't, the house appeared desolate and foresaken to me.

This morning, the new neighbour was pottering about. Lights were on in the kitchen and one of the upstairs bedrooms. It was odd. My previous neighbours, John and Natasha, had very little use for lights. They were sparing in their use of electricity. I know well their patterns of use. It was only last Christmas when their son and his family came to visit that their home was lit up and light poured out of every window of their home.  The pattern has changed now. New residents. New behaviours. Lights coming on and staying on for longer than I'm used to.

Things are always changing. I am the one comparing and contrasting the old with the new, glorifying the old and finding fault with the new, clinging to the known and resisting the unknown.
And that's ok. My heart wishes to take its time, and I am in no rush.
There is no time to rush.
There is no time to rush.

"There is no time to rush." I heard this line in a talk by Tara Brach, who shared a story about a new mother who was diagnosed with a terminal illness shortly after her baby was born, and she found out that she (the mother) had less than a year to live. And that made her all the more determined to make the most of the time she was given with her infant – by being wholly present. For she truly had no time to rush.

Grief hits me in waves. Right now, even as I type this, I feel a lightness, an optimism about the day ahead. I make plans. I rarely have a full schedule these days. I take care to not overfill my hours and days.

Even so, I know, another wave of sorrow and grief will come cresting towards me. It's not going anywhere. If it's not about my old neighbours, it will be about something else, someone else.

But the truth is that with each wave, our staying power increases. We no longer fear the ups and downs of life. And I'm beginning to see how these rippings and shreddings of our hearts have been teaching us the most valuable lessons we've needed to learn.

That our hearts are as innocent as little children and also as wise as the oldest souls.
That a thousand gashes can be inflicted upon them and yet, each wound carries within itself the power to heal and to strengthen.
That we will love with abandon, and we will lose who we love, and that loss will shake us so badly that we will never want to love ever again. But that is the job of the heart – to love, no matter what. It will not be denied that privilege. And so our hearts will love again, because love is greater than all the sorrow and grief that trail in its wake.
That we all start out as apprentices to sorrow. Tending to our griefs and broken hearts, over and over again, until we become skilled and wise enough to serve as apprentices to love.