"It is painful to cast off our own scales, and the dragons guarding the way are fierce. It requires the inspiration of angels; it requires diving into the ocean of tears."
Almost halfway through a year that has been both astonishingly nourishing and incredibly difficult, I've remembered many things. Through loss and change, I remembered the omnipresent uncertainty of our lives and the precious fragility of all that surrounds us. By losing things I never wanted to lose, I was reminded to keep a light grip and approach my life with curiosity and trust, to look deeper to see the blessings that lie beyond my often limited scope. I remembered how things that can seem terrifying at first can often bring great gifts, and that fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the way all things arise and then fall away. I softened, and then softened again, remembering that above all I want to be kind in this world, and the importance of keeping that motivation in the forefront of my mind.
The piece below is a collection of these thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Technically, it marks my first foray into mixing my traditional pen and ink style with digital medium. Thematically, it touches on the opening that takes place through the journey of grieving. When we truly descend into our pain and meet it with bravery, when we allow ourselves to be dismantled by grief, we can emerge as changed people- more authentic, more integrated, and above all, more kind. Once we have made friends with our own suffering, compassion for that of others naturally arises- and that is the gift of grief.
by Naomia Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.