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The Year of Loss

2020 has been quite the year.

a lit candle against a black background

This year has given me ample opportunity to experience loss. Losing places to go due to the pandemic. Losing people to see to avoid spreading the virus. Losing illusions about the society we live in and the ideals that it stands for. Losing hope in people. Maybe even losing my mind a little. Losing pregnancies. Losing my best friend.

I wish I had some profound lesson to share, something to offer that loss has taught me. But all I can gather is a reassurance in Buddha’s original teaching. We will suffer. Suffering is inevitable for us as humans. Change is constant and we can’t control it. Our minds cling to how things are and we want to dictate how they will be, but that is not how things work.

a white statue of Buddha in lotus pose against a black background

What I have learned, is that the more I acknowledge and accept my own suffering, the more I hold space for it and garner compassion around it, the better equipped I am to do the same for others. And I know that there is beauty in that. Because what is the purpose of life if we cannot be there to offer a salve to the suffering of others?

My dear friend who recently lost her 2+ year battle with cancer had said, “I honestly believe that my state of suffering is no different than yours.” She thought that we all experience things in our own unique ways and that suffering is not to be compared because we can never truly know what it is like to live in someone else’s shoes. Each of us suffers, and while we cannot avoid it, what we can do is hold those who suffer and trust that they will hold us in turn.

cut out black paper reading 2020 that has been crinkled

I have not felt compelled to write much on this blog for the better part of 2020. With so much loss I felt too drained to create. Now though, perhaps because of a pregnancy that still lasts or maybe because of this recent stretch of sun, or it could just be that 2021 is in sight, I have hit a new streak of inspiration and have reconnected to the teachings of Zen in a deep and profound way.

I have been reading the final book on my list of recommendations given to me by my late friend, When Things Fall Apart by Buddhist monk and teacher Pema Chodren, and in a strange way it seems like my friend is there with me as I make my way across each page. I began this journey of studying Zen when she first became ill and in my egoic attempts to make sense of her death I feel compelled to continue down this path towards deeper understanding and enlightenment.

statue of someone curled up sitting in fetal position

We all experience loss, probably more this year than we are used to. We all suffer, probably more this year than we thought we could handle. And we are all here together, with the unique human ability to offer love and compassion to those who need it most, to those who suffer. Sometimes that is a family member, a neighbor or a stranger and sometimes, it is ourselves.

So as we enter this holiday season, one of giving and of showing our love, I encourage you to find new ways to be the salve on the suffering of humanity and to spread it generously because this has been a year of intense loss.