I went to a funeral yesterday. I didn’t know him very well, my great uncle, although lots of people asked me did I remember this and did I remember that about interacting with him when I was in elementary school. I don’t really except I know that he looked a lot like my grandmother. It was really more like a gathering of strangers that my immediate family assured were related to me than anything else. The church was Catholic but had stained glass that looked more like Mondrian than Tiffany. I was uncomfortable but I don’t know if it because it was because of the ritual or the lack of it. His children and grandchildren cried at the remembrance. I cried too. Not because Uncle Don’s departure—which hadn’t even been sudden as my own grandfather’s had—had a very great impact but because death forces you to remember that things change. This too shall pass. This too shall pass. I think if I were ever to get words marked permanently into my flesh, clichéd as they may be, those four would be among the top contenders. It’s a meditation for me in lieu of my old beliefs. This too. The good things. The not-so-good things. The person whose scent is so intoxicating and comforting that you could breathe her in until kingdom come and the person whose voice is so annoying that you cannot stand to listen to her for one more minute. It will all fade into few dusty memories inscribed on the title page of a dog-eared book in a box at an estate sale.

Cheng Yen, a Buddhist nun of great eminence, said, “Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little.” She might be right, you know. They all might, the Buddhists. Maybe the best way is never to love anything nor to hate it because nothing ever hurts if you don’t care about letting it go. But I spent too long wondering whether I’d ever be happy to back off on those good feelings now, even if I’ll be sorry when they tarnish.

I am moving tomorrow. Out of my mom and dad’s house and in to a new apartment with my girlfriend. Two big steps all together. I rarely take one big step, let alone two, but even in all of the overwhelming emotions, I’m not feeling confusion or uncertainty. I know this is the right thing and I’m excited about paint colors and side tables and martini glasses and space for my Kitchen-Aid mixer. I’m thrilled that I can wake up next to her every morning because I’ve been waiting a long time for that. Since September for sure and you know, when I think about it, since my heart was broken the first time and that certain future seemed much less certain.

I don’t know everything yet. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know anything. I walk through furniture stores wondering if the salesman sees me as an adult or as my five-year-old self whom I still feel like sometimes and whom I’m desperately trying to hide when I thank him, by his first name, for his offer to help me find the perfect armchair. I try to do it in the most responsible way I know how. I make lists and spreadsheets and I Google things like how to keep a drain clear. But mostly I’m making it up as I go along. Does everyone? I’ve been tired and headachey for a week now. She’s better at it than I am, letting go and being excited. When I’m alone or at work it’s harder but she’s quick to pull me close and remind me that it’s okay to feel a little bit anxious sometimes. I just hope her enthusiasm rubs off too. I’m not good at being unabashedly thrilled—my self-consciousness usually gets in the way—but I want to get better about it. I’m just trying to remember that this is a chance to practice.

It too will pass.

I cannot forget that.

I resolve again to try to drop the fear and the anxiety and the self-doubt for even just another hour and feel what it’s like to be happy, to be growing, to be making a little step toward making sure there are a few tears at my own eulogy. If it too will fade away, why am I so afraid to fall into the feeling entirely?

1 reply
  1. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Jacquelynn, you wrote this as I am struggling with the possibility of letting go a much loved cousin. I know I have to but my mind keeps going to different points in my life where she influenced me, comforted me, taught me, encouraged me. The Buddhist may feel it is better not to be attached but without attachments, do we ever feel the need to change, do better, even excel? My life has been better for her place in it and I hope to carry that with me into the future and in some ways already have through my children. This too is difficult but necessary for personal growth. You have changed a lot since you joined us at Oberlin – would you have been able to express yourself this way if not for those attachments and changes in your life? Keep moving forward :).

    Reply

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