LOVE AFTER LOVE
by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
I am in my hotel in Lisbon, passing the time from 4AM, when jet lag roused me, until the city resumes its life. Something that needed attention on my website got me looking at old diary entries, which I like to do this from time to time, not so much out of nostalgia, but to be reminded of all the opportunities for growth my life has given me.
Recently my posts have focused, for obvious reasons, on the death of my son Ivan, but looking at the entries from the past three years, I see how rich my life has been. It’s been marked by pivotal decisions, such as trading the security of home, familiarity, and possessions for the chance of a more vibrant and fulfilling life in Canada. It’s been shaped by times of solitude, some chosen and some imposed on me by Covid quarantines, that provided opportunities for reflection and inner growth. It’s been reshaped and reconsidered by my decision to “live travelly,” not just on long cruise assignments that took me all over the world, but by my first sustained solo travel on land. It’s been enriched by a rekindling of my love of writing. It has changed simply as a result of growing older and liberating myself from the burdensome expectations of others. Some boundaries have been shattered by my greater willingness to be outside my comfort zone, and other boundaries have been strengthened as I come to better understand my worth.
Now, however, I find myself wondering what will constitute a full and authentic life going forward. It’s understandable that I should feel this way after such a great loss. It’s understandable to question a future that doesn’t include the active state of motherhood that has been central to my existence for over forty years. It’s understandable that I should feel the stuffing knocked out of me, the once light footsteps more of a limp. It should come as no surprise that I have trouble getting excited about anything.
Where is the adventurer Laurel, the curious, observant Laurel, the boundlessly energetic Laurel, the one hungry for new experiences and insights? The one I captured in the photos below. I like her more than this one I am now. I want, as Walcott puts it, to welcome myself like an old love at the door. To give back my heart to itself, to the face in the mirror, who these days doesn’t look quite like the Laurel I remember.
I have to find a way to be, now that I must carry this loss with me as part of who I am. I know I need time to see what my healing will look like. Already I see glimmerings of the spirit I used to have. It sometimes gently nudges and sometimes outright argues with the flattened me, saying “get up and look around.” Be alive to something, on my way to being alive to everything again. This day, this meal, this friend, this mundane moment made special just by stopping to notice it. This sight. This insight. I must rescue the love trapped in the grief, and use its power it to find my way to that place where I can be the best me again.