In an effort to see life in a new light, I’m going try to believe impossible things. I’ve always wanted to know the truth, but grief has thrown so many of my perceptions out of whack that I don’t know the truth of anything any more, so I’ve decided to believe things that are untrue. For example, I’m going to believe I am at the perfect weight. And maybe that’s the truth. Who’s to say? Only me, and I’m not talking.
And hey. Why stop at weight? Maybe I’ll believe that I myself am perfect. Now that I think about it, that is the truth. Since I am the only me in the world, whatever I am is perfectly me.
I’ve always been very self-aware — knowing both my good points and my bad points, my successes and failures — but if the universe is unfolding as it should be and I am where I am supposed to be, then there can be no good points and bad points. There can be no successes and failures. There is just me, a creature born of stardust, the culmination of billions of years of creativity and change. Odd to think that I (well, all of us) are a part of this process.
Maybe we are the process.
This thing called grief has given me an interesting perspective on life. A day or two after my life mate died, I couldn’t visualize him, so I looked at the only photo I have of us, and I wept because I did not recognize him. When that photo was taken, it was an exact likeness of him, but during the subsequent years of illness, he lost the fullness in his face, first becoming distinguished looking, then gaunt. When he died, I an idea/image of him in my mind, perhaps a composite of him through the years, perhaps what he actually looked like near the end, and that single photo I have of him does not resemble the person I knew. Now, however, the photo is how I remember him since it’s the only image of him I have. (Occasionally I can remember his smile or the way he looked when he died, but mostly he has faded from memory.) The way he looked in the photo and the way he looked at the end are both parts of his process, so I’m content remembering him when he was still relatively young and healthy.
It’s not just our internal images of a person that changes to accommodate the vagaries of age; our internal image of the relationship itself changes to accommodate the vagaries of life. Most of the transformation of a relationship from youthful and passionate to aged and (perhaps) wise and companionable goes unnoticed. We are always who we are. We are always in the present.
In other words, we are a process. Do we have an existence beyond the process? Someone told me recently that we can’t prove we exist. Maybe this is why we can’t prove it — whatever we try to pin down is already gone, lost in the past.
I never had much use for photographs of myself, but after my mother died, I inherited a bunch of photos taken of me when I was young. I put them in an album and I leaf through it occasionally, seeing the progression of myself from a baby to a young woman, trying to figure out what those girls have to do with the me of today. I’ve always felt like just me, and yet, (for example) I cannot remember this little girl in the photo, cannot remember being her. She has receded far into my past. Or perhaps she’s become subsumed into my current persona. Either way, she no longer exists even in memory.
But she is part of the process of me.
(Hmmm. Maybe there is something to this idea of believing impossible things. I’ve already found one new way of looking at life.)
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+