During one scene that captured my interest in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry stares in horror as headmaster Dumbledore’s prized bird bursts into flames in front of him, falling into ash in the tray beneath the perch. When he tries to inform Dumbledore of this awful news, Dumbledore just smiles and says: “About time, too…He’s been looking dreadful for days; I’d been telling him to get a move on.” As it transpires, the bird is a phoenix, who must burn in death to re-emerge in life.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been becoming more and more aware that my life doesn’t fit me any longer. It’s somehow smaller. Tighter. Colored with dull shades. Blunted. Uncomfortable. And as much as I want to continue with the same old routines, the same comforting places, there isn’t sanctuary there.
I think I’ve reached one of those burning days myself.
I’ve had a fair number of them in my life, as I imagine most people must. Some are almost pleasant, the flames warm, gentle, as the old self burns to the ground and falls away to allow the new one to emerge. Graduation from high school, graduation from college, my wedding…they’re moments I’ve planned for. Anticipated. Prepared to take on. But once I’ve passed through them, I’ve often felt a momentary pang of nostalgia. I’m changed by them, and the life I had while I was living through that time is gone forever. I can’t recapture those days.
Others, however, are far less wanted. I’m prone to resist allowing the more painful changes to occur. I’ll sit on the perch, deteriorating by the day, willing myself not to allow the flames to consume me. In the end, there is no stopping the inevitable.
Those are the ones that leave scars.
I am starting to realize that pretty soon my lot’s going to involve climbing out of a pile of ashes, tender-skinned, stripped, small, and unsure of how to navigate the days ahead before the plumage re-grows and I manage to stagger back up. This is hard, and in so many ways, I’m still fighting to hang on to my perch now even though I can see the time approaching.
“Is it bad that the first thing that’s made me really excited and happy in weeks is realizing that the new Downton Abbey is tonight?” I asked Arthur the other night. It’s such a silly thing, but losing myself for two hours in what is, essentially, a soap opera with fabulous sets and accents, was exactly what I’d wanted.
“Nope,” he replied.
So we watched together, and it was good to do something that felt so normal for once. And yet not, because it was such a trivial thing and still made me smile.
Little by little, things are changing. Signs of life are reappearing in our household. This is how I know, for me, it’s time to start letting go, allow the burning day to come.
There’s a part of me that feels as though it’s somehow disrespectful to fall into the flames, because once I re-emerge, there is a finality to it. That life is gone. I can never go back to it. So I’m fighting. Fighting to hang onto the sadness, the discomfort with all my might because in a perverse way, it feels as though letting go of those means letting go of the baby.
This isn’t true, of course. It isn’t disrespectful to begin to move on. And yet, doing so is a final acknowledgement that the life we had so lovingly hoped and prepared for is gone. While I hope sometime that we will have another baby, another chance, that life will, by necessity, be different than this one. That someday perhaps there will be another burning day, a happier one, but a great change nonetheless.
It’s reminding myself that this burning day doesn’t mean the mourning process is complete, that I’ll no longer feel emotions related to it. It’s understanding that there will still be an indefinite period of letting the new life settle in, of relearning the rhythms of daily routine, of change. It’s knowing that all those prior incarnations of who I was are very much still part of me in the present. It’s remembering. Simply that. Remembering.
But I cannot continue to persist in the life I had now. Not if I want to stay present, moving forward.
So I am slowly stopping the fight. Allowing burning day to come. Trusting that somehow, I’m going to emerge from the ashes.