Entrances and Exits:
Reasons to work towards a country free of AIDS
I just finished an evening run. I am very good at keeping my inner anguish at bay for weeks at a time, but tonight, I let it flow. Life does not get easier. I often forget the source of my suffering and then I find myself shocked by the sadness and grief that flows when my soul is given the space to grieve. I allow myself to catalogue my losses. Not often, but just at times like these when the grief seems otherwise unjustified. The last year has been ripe with losses, too many to process in the short period of time in which they inundated my life. I spend my days witnessing the suffering of others. It is a gift to be that witness. I understand that suffering is universal and at times, relentless.
My life has been divided into two parts: the first 50 years were soaked in privilege and blessings, an unfair amount when compared to the lives of so many others. It was a life full of entrances. People, relationships, experiences, more people, more relationships more experiences all entering graciously, one at a time, building on each other until joy overflowed. It was my mistake, or perhaps my lack of wisdom, that caused me to believe that life would always be that way; all additions and no subtractions, people entering in and sticking like a wonderful, warm and comforting glue.
This isn't to say there weren't some very traumatic early losses but nothing like the last few years when all the exits seemed to be opened and so many of the people I loved took their leave.
I catalogue the losses but just long enough to remember the source of the pain; an act of kindness to my soul but I make sure not to linger here. Indulgence may cause me to be unprepared for a future time when life fills up again.
I have learned some valuable lessons in the last year. I sat beside a woman at an event a few days ago. She was in her 80's. She talked openly about her losses, in particular, the loss of her husband of 52 years. She shared her story with such laughter and joy. She acknowledged her loneliness but in the next breath she beamed at how blessed she had been and how she found such great comfort in remembering the time in her life when the entrances out numbered the exits.
That's how I hope to be. When so much loss happens in such a short period of time, the risks are great. I have seen many people just let go of joy believing that the best way to stop the exiting is to close off the entrances; keep new experiences, new people, new love out. Let go of hope. Keep a running list of the losses ruminating deep within. Let the losses smother all chance of recovery. Close out the light, the healing and the moving forward. Stop seeing the beauty and the blessings that are ever present despite the grief. Let an empty shell keep breathing while true living ceases.
I think this is why I do what I do. For some in this world the losses are so great, so devastating, that they simply can't be overcome. If I could just work toward closing the exits for people whose lives are consistently and unjustly traumatized. If I could just stop the pain from being overwhelming even for just a few, then I have done my job well.