The Grief of Fulfillment

This phrase, “the grief of fulfillment,” remains an intriguing and helpful phrase to me. For making sense of experience. For guiding others in their experience. I find that it shows me layers here and there, like layers of an onion that peel to reveal a center.

I first heard this phrase, “the grief of fulfillment,” through Christina Baldwin, a dear friend and one of the key guides in my life. It was a mid 2010s. It was at The Circle Way Practicum. She spoke it near the end of the 5-day gathering. She spoke it as an awareness for people to have as they left the pace and experience of retreated community. The short of it was that grief can come not just from loss, but from having experienced something we long for.

Yes, intriguing and helpful.

Let me shift to grief for a minute. I’ve learned that grief is related to sadness, but not quite the same thing. Grief is related to lament, but not quite the same thing. Grief can live in our bodies, as emotion, becoming stuck in the inner river that is our overall emotional river. The image that I see is that of river that bends around corners. Sometimes logs or fallen branches get stuck in some of the river bends. They add up. They can create blockage of overall flow in the river.

Grief is like this. It can block. It’s not wrong — let’s be clear. But like so many things, can inhibit a flow. And in the human body / experience, that can then compound to other blockages that include illness and a compromised emotional field.

So, grief requires movement. Not denying. Not fixing. I don’t really orient this way. Just movement. Grief requires a relationship. A claiming and witness. So as to gift some of its learning and teaching. For me, even awareness of this helps. And some physical exercise or a walk.

Back to the grief of fulfillment. I got another taste of this recently. Through something that feels very familiar, that finally yielded a bit more understanding. It was with family over Christmas. For me, this means being with my adult children and their partners. It means being with my 15 year-old. We played games. We ate food. We laughed. We watched a movie. We had gifts for one another. It was very fulfilling. I felt my family tank filled and felt tremendous joy in that.

That was last week, December 23rd – 27th. It was great, to slow the pace and meander together in family way.

However, come Monday, December 28th, it was back to work. I struggled to find energy for it. Yah, sure, it was Monday morning. But my work tends to be quite fulfilling itself. I had three calls, each of which were ample with inspiration and deeply felt human connection.

So, why the sluggish?

The grief of fulfillment. The transition from all of that good family time was a struggle for me. I’m not trying to play semantics here. Sure, the shift from meandering family to regular Monday is a loss. I think, however, there is more awareness in accepting the grief. Fulfillment is a kind of joy. There is a kind of grief when that joy is experienced. Odd, right? And from that, grief needs movement. Just like the logs in the river. Without shame. Without blame. Just awareness, dosed up with ample kindness to self and other.

I keep learning. That mid memory of the 2010s from Christina peeked its head up. For me with family. From the most tender place of loving my kids, of dwelling in slow time and belonging together. In all of that fulfillment, also resides a grief, an edge softened rather than further chiseled, an edge of fulfillment that points us humans to even more wholeness and awakeness.

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