Friday, December 31, 2010

11th Hour


It's New Year's Eve. 2010 is coming to a close.

I write this with relief, even though this is an artificial time marker for a really difficult year. I'm glad it's over. I'm glad that there's something we do as humans to punctuate our days and give our span on Earth a measure of meaning.

Over Thanksgiving break, my car (that Nintendo Prius) was rearended and totaled. Smooshed. It's gone.

I can't say much more about this experience based on the counsel of my attorney. However, what I can say is that I do miss that car, and even more so the steadfast car before that one, despite having a new car to drive. I'm actually feeling grief over the loss of those vehicles.

Grief is an odd process. It's not linear like some people think it is, or the same for everyone. It involves feeling both sadness and joy, often at the same time, as well as alternating. If emotions had words they'd be thoughts, but in the meantime, they're soup.

Anyway, grief is defined in the clinical world as a reaction to any sort of loss. It doesn't have to be death--it could be from divorce, job loss, or moving, to name a few events. A friend once told me that people experience change as loss, and there's usually mourning involved, even with something one thinks of as happy, like getting married or moving to a nicer place. Sure, there are those of us who are considered "resilient" due to a quicker recovery from grief, and I imagine the pace of recovery varies with each loss.

The reason those cars mean something to me is because my independence is tied to my vehicles. They're symbolic of my freedom. I traveled across 2/3 of the country in the first car I bought, and it ran like a dream until it got blindsided by an SUV. I got my second car as I embarked on graduate school, the beginning of a new chapter in my life; I lost that car soon after I graduated.

I suppose it's not just the calendar that marks our lives, but events like these. The ones that hurt seem to be clearest in my mind, but that makes sense. Our bodies are designed to keep us out of trouble, so a long memory for what pains us is useful.

This year I've also neglected my art for the public. The private stuff continues, but I admit, I've been wondering how to move forward as I get closer to receiving my license as a Marriage and Family Therapist. I don't divide my attention well, and my internship is intense. I enjoy my work immensely.

Meow and Zen
Then, I went to the Asian Art Museum to see their latest exhibit, Beyond Golden Clouds. Imagine my surprise when I see that the exhibit contains the very images I've drooled over in my book of Asian art from the Art Institute of Chicago's collection! The tree in Meow and Zen is directly inspired by the second screen in the slideshow found on this article from The Wall Street Journal.

The recognition felt like connection. Aesthetic arrest, as Joseph Campbell would say. That breathless moment when you're struck by the lightning of beauty and rooted where you stand.

And that's something I've learned over the last couple of years, through breakups and relationships, total losses and new cars, graduating and interning, drifting apart and befriending:

Life is loss.

Then you reconnect.

Happy New Year!

Invite Beauty,