I’ve discovered some things over the past few months that I want to record here, if only for myself. I’m bound to forget at some point, and it will be good to have this prompt to my memory.
The first observation was sparked by the death of my mum. A lot of emotions run through you, not just at the time, but in the weeks and months after as well. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to write of the transition from one mental state to another, but it is not something I can do today.
What I can write of is something I realised I have lost. Obviously the death of a loved one entails great loss, and most of that is pretty obvious. There are subtleties though you can’t comprehend until you go through it.
Grief is a selfish emotion I’ve always thought, though both perfectly understandable and necessary. We lose someone we love and while a part of us grieves for what they will never do now, the great part of us grieves for the relationship we have lost – the love, the support, the understanding, the things we’ll never get to share now they are gone, and so on.
All these I anticipated intellectually, and in fact have felt at different times in different degrees. There may never be an end to those. What I didn’t expect was something much more personal.
How do I explain it? With my mother gone I feel one less set of eyes on me. With her death I have become a little less visible.
My mum loved me greatly. I knew it and probably took it for granted. I always complained that she never understood me, but she certainly saw me. I found myself reflected in her eyes. To be seen gives weight to our existence, and in that reflection of ourselves we find a part of our identity. Perhaps that’s the greatest torture in solitary confinement – not merely the loneliness, but the utter abnegation of self that occurs when there is no-one to observe us.
I knew when mum looked at me that I was loved. No matter what I did or wherever I was I knew I was in her mind and that she hoped for me. Now she is gone though I feel something less than what I was. When we lose people we love we lose a little part of our selves. Without her gaze upon me I feel one less bearing point in my life.
The other thing is in similar vein, but from a much different source.
I’ve always said that we can learn a lot from our pets. They love unconditionally, as we have learned not to.
Like for many people I exist at the centre of my dog’s universe. He has no greater joy in life than to be with me, to be seen by me (yes, that again), and for the opportunity to express his perfect affection. Oh, and food.
I’m very good to him. He gets plenty of my time and attention. I’m always giving him a pat or stopping to crouch down to his level, I’ll ruffle his years or absently caress him with his head in my lap. Often I’ll just talk to him. He takes that as his due, but it never becomes dull for him, he never takes it for granted, and it’s always fresh and wonderful for him.
I’ve come to realise that he draws this affection from me in his expectation of it. It is a pleasure to provide him so much pleasure, something that fills my heart as much as it does his. He’s always available, ready and willing for the love which is fundamental to his meaning of life, and he doesn’t think twice about it. I respond to that by giving him exactly what he wants.
I’m not like that, I know that much. Like many people I think it too much, too often. I get embarrassed sometimes, or awkward, unwilling to commit or to show what I feel. I think that’s actually pretty common – those few who express their feelings openly and without fear always stand out.
More than anything though I’ve realised that we have the power to compel love and affection in our simple expectation and availability to it. Love comes to those who put it out there, who are ready to receive and believe it to be no more than their just reward. So, open people, don’t close off.
You too H.