Sunday, August 13, 2017

Permanence vs Impermanence

I have been thinking about this one as a part, I guess, of my continuing process of grieving Gregory's death on October 4, 2015. We are coming up on two years. Cannot believe that it feels like a lifetime ago and like yesterday at the same time.

One of Buddhism's tenets is that nothing is permanent. Everything, yes everything, is in transition. You are different people than you were when you went to sleep last night. You will be different people when you go to bed tonight than you were when you woke up this morning.

These differences, at the basic level, are due to sloughing off cells and growing new ones. These differences are based on your experiences as individuals and with others. These differences are because of what you did today, what you saw today, what you heard today, what you said today. These differences are what make life and love interesting and vital and in turn make your relationship interesting and vital.

There will be failures and there will be successes. There will be illnesses and there will be wellnesses. There will be problems and there will be solutions. There will be arguments and there will be making ups. There will be tears and there will be laughter. There will be sorrow and there will be joy.

My wish for you … dear reader ... is that you try to make sure that you change with the changes you will encounter because encounter them you will. My wish for you … see the lessons these changes teach you and the growth you encounter because of these changes. My wish for you … make sure that your love for self and others continues to grow and change,

… and my wish for you … love every day like tomorrow may never arrive!

• • •

Another tenet of Buddhism is that because we try so hard to create permanence, which we can never really do, we suffer. We suffer the changes because as a human being we want to be happy and never sad, we hope to be successful and financially stable and never fail or be poor. We suffer because we blindly hold on to those things which we know we cannot hold. We suffer the day we begin to intellectualize things as a child and realize that we love life but that we will die. Everyone we love will die.

So having been thinking about this, I came to a conclusion? understanding? new way of living and dealing with the fact that Gregory is dead? Easily stated: Go with the changes. They are what they are and the only defense you have is how you think about them and how you react to them.

If you have "good," know that you may loose it but you get "good" back again in ways you might never have imagined. If you have "bad" it will pass also. Be careful not to allow yourself to hold on to "bad" in the name of seeking permanence of any kind. You would be amazed at how many people hold onto "bad" because it is a known entity and they still are trying for permanence (which never can  be achieved.)

My first thought is that Gregory's death is the one thing that is permanent, not always changing. Not being of this physical world any longer, change is not taking place. Some things are permanent for me, like never seeing him again, never kissing him again, never being able to hold his hand. No sharing of thoughts, no discussions, no arguments, no disagreements, no talking about recent adventures.

Yet I realized that in my memories and dreams I am still able to do all of these things and often in my dreams, they are so real I can feel him! I realized that even in death there is constant impermanence. Partly because I now hold Gregory in my heart, my memory, my thoughts ... as I change so does he. 

As my memory of events we shared together are revisited they will change. As I grow to be a new person each day, my relationship to Gregory as I see it will reflect the new person that I become, so there is impermanence there as well.

Also, who is to say that in his new place Gregory is not still changing, learning, progressing towards higher levels of love, compassion, and being?

On a day when I was particularly down (should I say depressed?) dealing with some of the more difficult times during Gregory's (our) journey with Alzheimer's, I had another realization. None of the difficult memories that I have are true anymore because they no longer exist for Gregory (or for me) so why do I allow them to continue to bother me, to add a measure of guilt for not having been better, at bringing me down today?

Holding on to these difficult times memories serve no purpose, do not serve Gregory, and certainly do not serve me. So why hold on to them. Release them and work at only remembering the good, the joy, the what I call "Momentary Monumental Miracles." Remembering the good times during his 12-year journey helps. Towards the end of his illness; instances like Gregory spontaneously telling me he loved me, or thanking me and saying that I am a good person, or our laughing together, or his giving me the last kiss having been in a coma for three days; are the ones I'll hold on to. 

I can tell I am getting better at my grieving if only because I am only rarely OVERWHELMED with sorrow. Most often, I will look at his photograph and say out loud, "Gregory, I love you. What an ordeal we went through! But we made it, you and I, didn't we?"

And he replies, "Yes, we did. And we did it well!" 

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said, Michael. Acknowledging and allowing and accepting the truth of impermanence is the work of a lifetime. Certainly the work of the living. Who knows, as you say, perhaps, too, still the work of those who have died. Accepting this truth isn't capitulation, but it can feel like it is. We cannot "force" accepting, we can only allow it to grow in us as we change (in each moment, each breath, as you say), and as we become more aware, and as we feel those fears hiding behind our resistance to change. Impermanence and loss and vulnerability and that feeling of helplessness in the face of all that ... no wonder we humans sometimes resist these truths! Grief does move in us, that process, too, is in permanent, as you say. But is love the balancing constant? Your piece suggests that. Thank you for your writing. J.T.


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