32. Solace

I would like to share this rather long passage from When Things Fall Apart. This book has continued to be a source of guidance, comfort and inspiration to me through this challenging time. When my emotions threaten to consume me, or my strength and resolve waiver, I turn to this book and read. I am trying to learn from this experience and grow. I do not want this pain to be for naught.


The shock of having what I took for granted to be my life shattered and blown to bits is wearing off and the sadness and loss are settling in. It is as though I am finally removing the bandages and looking at the damage. I have begun to cry again. I had not cried since my father left. I have been in survival mode, crisis mode, doing everything I can to shore up the foundation of my life. The structure is sound, I will survive—even thrive again—but the loss has left a huge, gaping emptiness where my heart once fluttered, leapt and thumped. It is not an emptiness I can fill with friends, house projects or even words. It is not an emptiness I can fill.



“Skandha mara is how we react when the rug is pulled out from under us. We feel that we have lost everything that’s good. We’ve been thrown out of the nest. We sail through space without a clue as to what’s going to happen next. We’re in no man’s land: we had it all together, working nicely, when suddenly the atomic bomb dropped and shattered our world into a million pieces. We don’t know what’s going to happen next or even where we are. Then we recreate ourselves. We return to the solid ground of our self-concept as quickly as possible.


Our whole world falls apart, and we’ve ben given this great opportunity. However, we don’t trust our basic wisdom mind enough to let it stay like that. Our habitual reaction is to want to get ourselves back—even our anger, resentment, fear, or bewilderment. So we recreate our solid, immovable personality as if we were Michelangelo chiseling ourselves out of marble. Just as we are on the verge of really understanding something, allowing our heart to truly open, just as we have the opportunity to see clearly, we put on a Groucho Marx mask with fluffy eyebrows and a big nose. Then we refuse to laugh or let go, because we might discover—who knows what?


Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience. Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure because sooner or later we are going to have an experience we can’t control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we’re going to find out we have cancer, or a brick is going to fall out of the sky and hit us on the head.


The essence of life is that it is challenging. Sometimes it is sweet, and sometimes it is bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes and opens. From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death.”