Over many months, and for much more than a year, I have struggled to find true “inner peace”. What does that truly mean to me? It means finding a respite from thought, from fear, from the dull nagging ache of grief which—although it started all consuming—still holds a firm place in my heart, alongside my love for Suzanne.
Why would I seek this world of inner peace? So for a moment I can forget about the grief. For a moment I can be still and silent. And I can breathe and feel free of hurt and of pain.
In the 21-months since Suzanne died, I have found many things. Inner peace, this true freedom I seek, is not one of the things I have found. I have found my true self, a purpose, my passion, and I’ve found love—first for my Self and also another.
There have been a few times when I have found myself longing for true inner peace—for sanctuary. Then, In the moments when I have spiraled downward into despair, I have sat beside the water—both the ocean and several lakes—and I have felt a faint sense of calm and ease. It is only in those moments when my fear ebbs, my grief dissolves into a dull ache, and I can breathe into each moment and be truly present.
But those moments are fleeting. The time when I feel most at peace is the space between awake and asleep… in those last few seconds as I drift off to sleep—usually thinking about the one person I won’t ever again have lay beside me. And if I think too long about it, then I wonder if ever I will be truly at peace. Or, as I ask myself often, is that solely reserved for those who die?
When I remain haunted by these thoughts, and if all else fails, I remind myself that it is only us, humans, that tax ourselves with the thought of grief. We are the only ones who mourn “what was”, “what is”, and “what could have been.” And I remember. Nowhere else in the rest of the animal kingdom—and neither the earth, the moon nor the stars—mourn the loss of others. We are unique in this. We are the ones that grieve.
And I am reminded of this:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”