I’m standing in Harvard Square when I receive the email.
I freeze for a minute. The kind of minute that is too big for a year.
My thoughts immediately navigate to Chelsea.
I reflexively reach out to Megan. I don’t know if Megan knows Scott well, if at all. But although I subconsciously tell myself I’m reaching out to tell her the news, I know I’m doing so for me. Because I know she’ll say something that shelters the pain eating away at me. And she does. We understand and love each other far more than we theoretically should. But this is the way of our souls.
I’m overwhelmed with rage. Yes, rage. I feel no grace right now. I'm pissed.
Then the numbness comes. The numbness that feels like indifference that feels like hatred. The numbness that instantly filters out everything of little consequence—which feels like nearly everything in my life—so that this circumstance of enormous consequence can have its say.
The way it has its say is in grief. There is no other way.
I go home. I want something to numb the numbness. How about sugar? I usually hate it, especially when I think I’ll want it.
There aren’t any sweets lying around at this monastery, on this day. So I have three bowls of cereal in quick succession. The carbs make me feel a mild rush for a few minutes, then I feel like shit again.
I pace through the dining room. I sit down. I stand up. My mind tells me to call several people to share what should never have to be shared.
I want to do something. I already know I can’t do anything, but I still want to do something.
So I consider leaving.
What the hell are you doing at a monastery, anyway? Sitting around doing mundane shit while praying and chanting and meditating and trying to be all gracious. Come ON. The world is full of horror and pain, and you're not doing a goddamn thing. You could be so much more useful out there.
Out there. This isn't defined of course, but it's what comes.
In the coming day I feel angry, helpless, narcissistic, compassionate, empathic and tenderness all at once. These don’t coexist so much as they simultaneously well up from within me, all demanding attention I can’t possibly provide. Then the guilt comes. Guilt for being alive. I’ve been through this many times before. It always comes. It's one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced, because it's not just a feeling. It's a condemnation.
Then I feel guilty for being guilty.
Stop your bitching, you petulant bastard. You’re alive.
I only feel even a twinge of calm when I’m reminded that I neither have to feel grateful or ungrateful. But I do have to grieve.
And I don’t get to choose how that will occur.
This is why whenever anyone tells me there’s some sort of path to healing after a loss, I come dangerously close to violence. They have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about, and it is only when I remember this fact that I feel some sense of compassion for them.
Because I know that somewhere, sometime—whether a day from now or a lifetime from now—they will experience horrific loss too, and be shattered by it.
I don’t want to say anything else right now. This is my tribute. Because I knew that Scott wanted me to do what I do. He wanted me to be what I am. He knew that pain and grief were essential elements in my calling.
He never, ever would have wanted me to sugarcoat any of it. He would have wanted me to offer myself to those who need me—in love and all of my pain—and to do the same myself: to seek out those I need, without shame.
He didn’t want me to worry about money or success or power. But he did want me to stop hiding.
My pilgrimage has really only just begun in the scheme of things, and I’ve failed dozens of times over the past few years.
But my life is changed. As in: literally, tangibly, categorically, changed.
I owe a seed of that change to Scott.