Sep 8, 2014

People Ask How I'm Adjusting

Before I left Japan, I bought a candle at Nanao's traditional candle shop; a special one, black with three painted sunflowers. It was a little larger than the skinny yellow prayer candles I'd picked up a box of for meditation.

I told myself, I will give myself time to grieve. When I miss Japan and my friends, my incredible students and the quirks of everyday life, I'll light it.

When I checked out, the shop owner warned that it would be too big for my candle holder. I assured her it would be all right. When we hold grief, it always seems too much for us to bear, and yet we do.

When I feel sad or lonely, I burn the candle and let the sadness burn with it. Instead of pushing it away, I sit with it. If I have to cry, then I cry. If I have to hurt, then I hurt, and next time it hurts less. And when I'm done, I blow out the candle, and it's a little shorter. When the candle has completely burned away, I'll have let go.

One month since saying goodbye to Japan, that candle is now a stub. The three vividly painted sunflowers have long blown away in smoke. When I light it, which is less frequently now, the flame burns much higher than the candle itself.

In no time, the last of the wax will be spent, and like all hand-crafted candles from that special little shop in Nanao, it will leave no trace of it having ever been there; wax, paint, and wick all turned to wafting smoke.

And when that happens, the holder is free again, and you can place a new candle in its stead. I think the next one will be for joy.

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