Good Credit

As humans, we give ourselves a horrible rep.  Every time we turn on the news, there seems to be more evidence supporting the “humans are inherently evil” argument.  And there is no credible way to deny that there are some truly awful people in the world doing some truly awful things.  There are so many lists of terrible statistics that anyone would start to feel discouraged about the state of our species.

But then again, we tend to forget the hundreds, thousands, millions and sometimes billions of dollars that get sent around the world in situations where people are in desperate need of aid.  For every major world disaster, not only do governments step in and offer money, but charities crop up and people show up: volunteers, military forces, church groups, peace corps, just tons and tons of people coming together.  Sometimes these people fly halfway around the world just to hand out bottled water after terrible earthquakes or storms.

Let’s not forget the huge number of people who have, over the years, delved deep into inhospitable or unknown regions to bring food, hope and medical attention to communities unknown to most of the world.

I bet that if someone were to add up all the money given to any charities or tithed to any churches, that number would be absolutely staggering.

It doesn’t matter why we do it: if we do it in the name of our god or gods, if we do it in the hopes of bettering humanity or giving our children a brighter, safer world.  It doesn’t matter if we do it because it’s how we were raised, or because we are outraged at the current state of things.  The fact of the matter is, humans do huge amounts of good every day, for a hundred thousand different reasons.  We deal in hope as well as destruction, in love as well as hate.  You cannot simply say human nature is “good” or “bad.”  It’s human nature.  Personally, however, I see plenty of reason to be hopeful.

Totems

In the days after my brother died, my concept of what was sacred radically changed.

I know I’m not alone in this.  There’s a phenomenon that happens when someone close to you has been lost.  The things that Luke liked, the things that Luke loved, the places he went, became special to me.  I ritually went to Taco Tuesday because he did.  I listened to the music he listened to.  I adopted hot pink as a favorite color because, perhaps only satirically, it was his.  In the weeks after he died, I looked for any way to honor him, to experience his life for just a few moments.

Eventually I realized what I was doing.  I was creating what I eventually called totems.  I was making the things Luke liked HUGE in my own life, like the beautiful giant wooden totems.  Maybe I was trying in some way to feel close to him again.  Maybe I was trying to get to know him better post-humorously.  Or maybe I just didn’t know how else to cope with this huge hole in my life.

Image

It didn’t last, however.  I used to cling to things like Taco Tuesday and Taylor Swift music with an almost religious fervor.  I didn’t know what else to do, I didn’t know what else I could really hang on to.  But the thing is, and no offense to any fans, that I don’t really enjoy Taylor Swift music.  Luke loved her and I tried to ( seriously, I downloaded all of her music ), but I just didn’t.

I love Luke and I still appreciate the things that he loved, but I don’t cling to them the way I did at first.  I can’t make myself like the same things he did, and to do so would be unhealthy.  But I can think back on him stuffing his face with carnitas tacos or singing Taylor Swift at the top of his lungs with a smile on my face.

I was in the totem stage for a while, and I think that’s pretty normal.  Some of his things are still a little sacred: I have a jacket of his that I will probably keep for the rest of my life, just to remind myself how big he was.  I don’t want to forget those bear hugs.  But for the most part, my insistence on making anything Luke associated with a part of my own life is now behind me.

Be patient, be patient, be patient.  That’s what I’m learning about grief.  To be patient with yourself and to recognize that sometimes you need little totems to comfort you, and sometimes you can let go of those totems and that’s okay too.  Being patient with your emotions as you traverse through grief is the best thing you can do for yourself.