I’m a DEDICATED analogy user. They help me sort my life experiences into manageable piles. Analogies are my life structure. My exoskeleton. And I’ve been trying now for years to find the one I can use for comfort when mid to outer circle friends die. You know the situation. Someone who perhaps you knew in certain social settings beyond which you’ve since wandered. Or an old friend from your youth. Maybe a work buddy who was your confidante. Or someone you had a REALLY INTENSE experience with, one that bonded you forever even if you rarely spoke.
Loud clamorings of grief can sometimes feel like an attention grab by those left behind. I had a friend die years ago in a car wreck and the drama around mourning their loss became a strange circus of competitive public mourning. The “No, YOU were not their bestie, •I• WAS THE ONE WHO WAS THE BEST AND THEREFORE THE ONLY ONE ENTITLED TO COMFORT AND PETS!” Draining.
I’ve been feeling loss with more frequency. And it is not going to slow down, and I felt bereft every time someone with whom I’ve shared space and life and time dies, and I don’t feel “entitled” to mourn them because we weren’t besties, hadn’t spoken in years, what have you.
Last week we were in the desert and staring up at the stars. If you’ve been in the desert at night, you know that the longer you look the more you see. Some of the stars are parts of constellations that are familiar to me: many many many many MANY more will never EVER be familiar to me.
I realized I make a lot of assumptions about the night sky. I never realized how comfortable the night sky is until I was in Australia and the night sky was entirely, completely, 100% different and even my rudimentary knowledge of the sky was literally turned upside down. Those stars that I’m accustomed to seeing, the ones that form the Big Dipper or the bear don’t actually have any impact on my life…(or do they?) Those images, those pictures drawn by humans for millennia in the sky are there to help us remember which star is which. They’re stories humans tell to help us Recall.
Stories that we carry about other people are like those constellations. We lay our own human narrative over sizzling gas balls billions of eons away who were doing their own fucking thing. We lay our personal narrative over the lives of those we encounter.
People as stars is such a common analogy. A bit hackneyed even. But it really landed for me when I realised that some stars I do recognize and can pick out and some I can’t, but I know that if suddenly I was unable to find the third star in Orion’s Belt I would feel a deep, disorienting sadness.
This is what I have landed on.
Each of you are a star in my firmament. I might not be able to see you every night, and sometimes the rotation of the earth will take you away from where I can see you, but know that I DO see you and the fact that you exist and are present at the same time in the same stretch of the bright path of history is deeply meaningful to me and when you Supernova and I can no longer see you? I will remember and you will continue for me.
So now that I have that analogy I think I can take a deep breath and sort through the very complicated feelings I have when someone who I’ve laughed with or cried with or hugged or had coffee with or fought with or thought was a complete raging asshole or gave me a spanking or to whom I give a spanking or we sat late one night talking about crazy shit for hours…I see you. Even from millions of miles away, I see you and I feel your presence and I will hold space when you leave. My prayer is that you will do the same for me someday.