Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 221: To Live This Life Well

October 7, 2014

This is the last prompt for a 30-day grief writing course I've been taking. I've been posting the writing here, but behind the scenes there's been something deeply moving happening. I've been part of a daily community of people experiencing and articulating all types of loss, most death-related, but not all. We post our writing on a private site, read each others words with the utmost reverence and understanding, and often leave comments. We sew strength into the stories of each other. We bear witness to these stories. To our stories. To our love-people.

I am a different person as a result of taking these stories in. I've gotten to know husbands, sons, daughters, expected infants, brothers, mothers, husbands, lovers. I've stood with a community and said "fuck you" to a past-trauma that threatened to blot out someone's bright spirit. I've read and reread the words of missing, of longing, of forgiveness, of understanding, of anger, and of profound sadness. I've read about moments of grace. About the softening of grief. About the surprise returns. I've existed with a community and reassured someone it's ok that he/she can't write another word today. Not another word. Please, no more. I've existed with that community when the same person returns and says, "I'm back. And I'm ready to write." I've seen photo after photo of the most beautiful people. Beautiful smiles. The people for whom we mourn. My capacity to understand and be understood is greater because of this course. Gareth loved me with everything he had. And the people in this shared writing experience love me, too.

In this last prompt, we are asked to reflect on the love of others. It's never slipped my mind how lucky I am both to have been loved in the way Gareth loved me and to continue to be loved by the wide safety net of people I have in my life. I am well-loved. I feel it. I know it.

More than this, though, we're asked to explore the idea of loving ourselves. "It's all well and good to draw on the love of others," Megan writes, "to continue because they love you. I wonder if you've found that same fierce love for yourself."

"What would that be" she asks, "-to live this life well, because you love yourself so much?"

Well now. That's a thought.

The whole notion of "loving oneself" can get a bit, how can I say, overly Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. What makes the idea so uncomfortable for us as adults?

I remember being a kid, maybe 5 years old, and standing in front of the mirror on the back of our bathroom door. I stared at that little person looking back at me in awe and wonder. How beautiful I thought she was! How amazing! These eyes that see. This mouth that moves this way and that way. This reddish-brown hair that I can hold straight over my head. These little white teeth that click together if I make them. These eyebrows that move up. And down. And up again. These ears with their little curves and curls and whoa! I can bend my earlobes! I loved this person. I loved myself.

A year or two later we made one of those acrostic poems in class with our names. You know:


I can't remember the "R" and the "G," but you get the point. I was still in love with the me that was me. I saw myself as something miraculous, not in an irritating self-absorbed adult way, but in a pure and innocent way that children can take delight in something. I took delight in myself.

Oh, yeah. The golden years. I was feeling pretty damned beautiful right here.

When did the shift happen? Middle school, probably? That's about when it happens for most of us. The first real insults are hurled, both by others and by ourselves, towards ourselves. I questioned my awesomeness. I was embarrassed by any good thoughts I had of myself. And soon, they seemed to disappear altogether.

Suddenly I was a scrawny, flat-chested, overly-sensitive, pimple-faced, prone to sadness teenager and had I been asked to make an acrostic poem with my name, the results would have been very different from the first.

E-ffed up

Enter self-loathing. Here before my first boy/girl party.

Middle school. High school. I navigated my way through self-hatred hidden behind a likeable and successful student. Most people I know from back then are surprised to hear how much I struggled then. Funny, isn't it? In the darkroom with the smell of chemicals and the images I captured coming to life under a few inches of liquid, I liked myself. In the moments I chose to sit with someone in the cafeteria who didn't seem to have many friends, I liked myself. I was far from loving myself.

In high school. I could see nothing beautiful of myself.

College happened, and I found my tribe. Artists and filmmakers who played for hours on end with the art studios as our playground. I dressed up. I spun. I twirled. I buried things. I dug them up. I mad bad art. Really, really bad art. And I liked who I was and what I was doing. I caught my reflection in what I was creating and saw bits and pieces of that 5-year-old in the mirror who I was utterly in love with years before. Is she still in there? Am I her?

Feeling good with fellow performance artists in the university years.

Post-college. Relationships. I loved my capacity to love. I loved the fact that I seem to be a truly decent human being. I loved acknowledging my mistakes and trying to make things right. I was evolving. Rapidly changing. Returning to a person worthy of seeing in a mirror and feeling...I don't know...kind of in love with that person.

Half-marathons, more creative writing, spending time with people I love- this was all coming out of a place of self-love.

Pre-move to Korea, and I had never felt more secure. More solid about who I was. The quality people I had as friends were a reflection of how I felt about myself. I "sought higher ground" and befriended people I wanted to be like. Drama was gone. My spirit was full. I was in love with life in the biggest way possible and I was in love with myself in it.

This is where I was when I came to Korea. When I met Gareth. I had truly never expected to meet someone, nor did I particularly think I wanted that. I was happy in this new-found relationship with myself. I enjoyed my own company! What? I was the funniest person I knew.

Orientation in Korea- August of 2012. I had never felt more solid.

Then Gareth. Then love. Then being seen. This person I was, this person I am, was truly seen by another person. And he loved her. He loved me. Gareth loved me so very much.

And OH! how I saw him. How I loved him. How I loved the feeling of entering into a relationship with a solid understanding of who I was. No more trying on different personalities to suit the other.

"This one? Do you like this one? No? Ok...How about this?" I'll be an artist. I won't be an artist. I'll travel. No, don't like that? Ok. I won't travel. I pray. No I don't. God? Eh..I'll come back to him, I guess. You know. If you want me to."

None of that. I stood in front of Gareth as I am. An artist. A writer. A teacher. A traveler. A profound lover of people. A God-connected spirit. An emoter. A giggler. A dancer. A lover of animals. A physical connector. A lover of Wham and a hater of football. I'm not pretending anymore. This is who I am. This is the person I've fallen in love with.

Ah...that love.

And he did, too. Gareth fell in love with that person. That person that is so clearly me.

And truly, the way to continue loving Gareth is to continue loving me. That person. That person he loved so deeply.

So, yes, I'm human. I had bad days and bad moments. I have flaws and insecurities. I have ample opportunities to reflect on my behavior and make right where I cause harm or do wrong. But this is how I will live this life well- I will see myself as I once did. As a miraculous spirit in this little body of a container I've been gifted while I'm here. I will see myself as I did when I was 5. As a person I was in love with. And I will see myself as Gareth saw me. As a woman worthy of every bit of love he was capable of giving.

Delighting the masses with Philopena, the dog I got a month after Gareth died.

I was worthy of that love. I am worthy of it. I will live this life well by never forgetting that.


  1. 3 things :

    1) God is a lover, and Satan is a fucker. He perverts everything good and beautiful. I'm so glad that we are continually seeing that more clearly and kicking Satan in the balls, hurling insults at evil and dark forces because that is what our battle is against, not others, not ourselves.

    2) This could be me, with Brian, God, and some different musical interests inserted, although I do really like Wham and hate football. That being said, this story is uniquely yours as is mine uniquely mine. I am glad that we share some story features, though.

    3) You are so, so beautiful and I'm glad that God is battering your heart to help you figure that our, breaking in and helping you to see that goodness and light, for only an expulsive addiction to light will replace the darkness. May you follow the light, dear Bridget. May He lead you.

    1. The language of God vs Satan in our lives has never been one that fits for my set of beliefs, but I love the intention of your words.

      That, and I love the image of you kicking anything it the balls, let alone the Prince of Darkness, himself. That's a movie scene I'd watch again and again, for sure.

      Light. Goodness. God. These are all things I can get behind. Thanks for your kindness.

  2. Bridget, thank you for sharing your story and the story of Bridget and Gareth. Your journey through this process of love, loss, grief, and regained self-love and self-nurturance, and keeping your loss and his memories alive in your heart is an inspiration to me, as I travel up this spiral staircase of grief.