Discover more from The Luminist: Personal growth through grief, loss & death
#30: The beautiful, the painful, the dazzling.
How I learned from loss to be unafraid of life.
Here at The Luminist, we are big fans of ritual. So every ten posts we pause and gaze at our navel — and the mirror — long enough to see where we’ve been… and ponder where we might be going.
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The story of the Deagles, the story that started The Luminist, is not a story of loss.
It is a story of loving and living.
And yet, in every post, in every story I share with you, dear reader, there is grief. Like salt in dark chocolate, it stands in opposition to the sweetness of life. But it doesn’t diminish it. If anything, it deepens it, enriches it, provides it with a counterpoint so it can fully shine.
For awhile I thought I was telling the story of salt, of loss, with the goal of changing the cultural conversation around it. But no one would show up, week after week, to relentlessly read about the hardest parts of someone else’s life… even me!
Now, after six months of writing TL (six months?!), I’m finally realizing that why I show up every week (and I assume you do too) is to change the conversation around life.
Because every tender, delicious, electrifying aspect of the human experience comes with something crappy. Love means you have something to lose. Success implies the countless failures that lead up to it. Achieving your greatest, life-altering dream requires leaving many things behind. We need to embrace that, talk about that, prepare for that.
And I believe that through this new conversation, we will come to understand and internalize a new kind of story. (I say “new” but I think it’s probably as old as the earth… and we’ve just forgotten it.) A story of transformation, of overcoming fear, of living a life of utter fulfillment, and maybe even changing the world.
After Mike’s loss, I realized there was an entire side of life I had never let myself engage with.
Any experience that dared to push beyond "pleasant" or at least neutral had been assiduously avoided. So I was half alive. I was fulfilling half my potential. I was half connected. I was half numb and afraid and refusing to open my eyes.
On this other side — the side of grief that society imagines as dull grey days and sleepless lonely nights — I am bursting with life. Because there isn't an aspect of it I dare not engage with.
I don’t avoid loss and vulnerability and judgment like I once did (most of the time). Because they are part of life, and I want all of it. I want to live life to its fullest, to my fullest! Even though it scares the bejesus out of me, I’m going to invite a WSJ film crew into my home and read The Letter from my late husband. I’m going to have the hard conversations with my coworkers and my kids. I’m going to dare to dream that I can change the world — and then actually take steps to make it happen.
Because I have hard proof that I can survive something I was sure was going to break me. I have practice, confidence, reference. And I know I’m supported and loved through it all.
So welcome to our revised Luminist mission:
Embracing all of life — the love and the loss, the struggle and the success, the knowing and the mystery — so we can be fully alive.
We are talking about what being “fully alive” feels like:
shivering with excitement in the morning and happily collapsing into bed at night
conversations with your kids or friends or coworkers that are so good you stay up way past your bedtime
sometimes sobbing your eyes out and sometimes laughing so hard you beg for it to stop
tan lines and scrapes and epic memories
mysteries and even miracles
We’re discussing how we can cultivate the necessary skills to ride this full life like a mechanical bull: resilience, connection, wonder, empowerment, vulnerability, and a mystifying combination of humility and confidence.
And finally, we’re realizing — all together — that we can hack the hard stuff. Because we’ve all been through the hard stuff. You can’t have made it far enough in life to learn to read these words without some kind of loss or struggle. Now it’s just time to harvest the fruit of those lessons. To realize you’ve spent a lifetime already turning water into wine. So what incredible feat are you going to perform next?
Enough navel gazing! Let’s get to the looking back.
Here are the ways we’ve challenged and changed the conversation about life in our last ten posts:
Every Luminist post is about being alive, awake, participatory, and engaged in everything that is around you. Integrating it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly — because we want salt in our chocolate, depth to our joy, power behind our priorities.
It’s about living the best life you can — not just about living life with loss.
Before I started TL, I struggled to get courageous enough to explore my creativity.
(Like I said, I still get scared. I just know that it’s not going to stop me.)
For a bravery infusion, I hooked my inspiration IV up to some powerful women creatives. I explored all the works of punk rock poet Patti Smith. I delved into the artist Helen Frakenthaler. Then I stumbled on Laurie Anderson. Ohioan by birth, I felt a kinship with her sensibility even though her work as a performance artist was pretty, well, out there. I visited her exhibit at the Hirshorn. I read more about her life. Then she showed up at my beloved FT Weekend (the coincidences never stop!)
That’s when things got really personal. I learned Anderson was a widow. She was married to rockstar Lou Reed of Take a Walk on the Wild Side.
Laurie was with Lou in his final illness and held him as he died. About that haunting moment, she said, “I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life — so beautiful, painful, and dazzling — does not get any better than that.”
Beautiful. Painful. Dazzling. The fullness of life, without a moment avoided or ignored.
Plus, a little laughter sprinkled on top.
To all of it,
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