There is a young man, sitting in jail halfway around the world, who tried harder than anyone I know to escape the gravity of life. He pursued every method he could find to liberate his spirit. Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, each feather dipped in wax was a new asceticism, a new ecstatic journey. Eventually his pursuits brought him too close to the sun and he paid a very weighty price.
His mother attends him, with grace and depth, and I believe with many, many tears. I write to him periodically, we exchange letters through her. I give him what spiritual support and friendship I can. He is still the beautiful young man I knew and opened my family too years ago. In a way he is still on his journey, though Icarus has been returned to jail without his wings or a father to make them for him.
We all want to escape gravity, but its our constant companion. Ultimately its what shapes us in life, holding us present whether we like it or not. As human beings we need to find the ways that gravity still allows us to soar, all the while connecting us to the greater forces of life that constantly swirl us in their currents.
But surrendering to gravity is not what people are good at. We plot trajectories that carry us out of the ordinary orbit of our lives with fantastical flair. Working tirelessly in solitude to craft ways of attaining stratospheric pathways, most of us never seem to make it all the way there, at least not in a sustainable way.
A few days ago I had my heart broken, in a way it was the result of my attempt to escape gravity. She is a woman who I first loved in my youth. Adept at flying higher than most people I have known, I never forgot her radiance, her power. I knew, if I ever had the chance again in life to pursue her, I would have to. I would never forgive myself for not even trying to fly with her.
But the years have exposed us to different challenges. I am still stitching together my wings, after Terry’s death and the struggles of our marriage. I am still learning what it means to be a single father of two young children who are now discovering the world in a totally new way.
Yet she, after clearing the many hurdles of her life, is ready to soar.
I’m jealous. I have wing envy.
Of course her wings are beautifully crafted. Of course she can take flight at any time. My wings, well, they’re still in production. It turns out they are very long and it takes quite a while to gather materials and position every feather just right. I can achieve liftoff for a little while, but I am not ready to soar. She felt this more than me, of course she has the vantage point of flight.
So I’m the dumpee. Ouch. Its been an education finding the edges of my pride. I am bruised, and a little more broken, and honestly a little bit lost. And, if I’m honest, a little bit more free. Trying to catch her in flight forced me to lighten my own load, to let go of the past in more than a few ways. Somehow, my broken heart just feels lighter now, cries a little more easily.
True has started crying about Momma being gone again, its been many months since she mentioned her. I think she feels the shift I’m in. This time her sorrow is clearer, she knows why she feels so bad, and that crying will help. Most children are not able to really grieve until at least 10 according to therapists. She seems to have a gift for feeling. As Christmas approaches there are more drawings of Momma, more tears adorning Momma’s name. Good grieving for her.
Tadg misses Momma too, and is OK being without another Mom for now. He rediscovered an ornament he had bought Terry years ago, a gorgeous hummingbird. Christmas has become a way for him to deepen his relationship with her, to honor her through the rituals of the season. There don’t seem to be many tears, just joyful memories and the love his deep ocean heart feels for her.
So we are feeling this again together, each in our own way. I grieve my heartache, and the lost chance to be with this extraordinary love, and for my children who only have an old Dad to look to most days, and for no Terry this Christmas. And I grieve for my friend, who will still be in prison. I would like him to be free this Christmas, to dance ecstatically like he used to love to do.
The lesson of his life has made me so much more cautious in caring for my own soul and the souls of the people I love. I think life has ways of gifting us flight when we are ready, though youthful passion is par for the course. I wonder if the trick in making a good flight that still soars but isn’t too close to the sun, is in learning to savor the making of the wings, even when its hard, even when it hurts. Each feather must be known and placed just so. Each feather has a life of its own, the better to guide us.
When we’re finally done the wind will find us, by then maybe we’ll have the courage to fly.
Blessings to you and yours during this time of great change. May your holidays be filled with the warmth and love of family and community.