Loss and Change

I had planned to write posts on this blog every day, but my wife’s grandmother passed away and we’ve been out of town.  She was a remarkable woman, and after being ill for some time most felt it was a miracle that she made it to 92.  Still, even in the most expected passings, we do grieve, and with that, questions arise about how we live and what mortality means to us.

When change happens we also grieve, whether or not that change was predictable.  Some theories say that people fear their own deaths, therefore we find ourselves threatened with our mortality when change or loss occurs within close range.  The biggest change of all is death, so perhaps in smaller changes the same feelings echo but with less volume, and less sharply-felt.

I have to work on accepting abrupt changes no matter how close the concept of accepting my mortality feels to me.  Letting go and embracing the inevitable seems right, and perhaps it’s an intellectualization of  emotional detachment to my own life that makes me think I’m safe.  But time and again, I am jarred by events which seem to threaten my concept of my existence, and I have to put the hamsters back on the wheel and do the hard work of grounding myself anew. These changes are not always so important or externally meaningful to my identity, but something is triggered that makes me feel attacked.  As I’ve grown, and paid attention to this phenomena over the years, the work is quicker and more routine. However, I think to be attached to any concepts or items or people one must also have that threat of loss.

This is where I wonder about the Buddhist concept of detachment and how it could be possible to love or be engaged in my work and be safe from the inevitable hand of change. The two ideas seem rather mutually exclusive.  I would posit that it is how I intentionally deal with change and loss that makes  me stronger each time. Suffering does come from attachment, but also do the pleasant emotions as well. I can get behind the detachment concept but I keep getting stuck on enjoying the ups and downs of life. It all seems like it would be rather neutral otherwise and that would be less fun for me.

I think that organizational life is full with loss and grief and fear of organizational mortality and that there is a lot of work to do on this front. The line that we are to be detached in a professional manner from our work makes it necessary for us to lead double lives and it hinders organizational effectiveness.

Although it is true that professional and personal life need boundary management between the two to some extent, a great deal of stress arises when we are doing work that does not resonate with us personally.  The constant loss of the self at work, regaining the self at home can create an identity crisis. In addition, we start to feel that we are losing precious time in our lives when we are not fulfilled for so many hours each day.

Mortality continues to creep into the conversation.  All change involves loss if we are attached to the present reality, and maybe all losses are mini-deaths. If that is true, it frightens me that there is such a difficulty in our culture to find space to grieve.

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