We visited my husband’s cousin a couple weeks ago – an amazing woman with whom we spend far too little time – and her eldest son who is currently brainiac-ing it up at Berkeley. I asked him a question about atoms and that afforded me a private chemistry lesson; he’s a great teacher! Briefly, as a side, he remarked about O2 (“Everyone knows O2.” Ha. You’re cute.) We breathe in a whole concoction of chemicals, but oxygen is the one which reacts in our bodies and feeds our blood cells and allows us to function.
And it is bonded.
Oxygen – breathable, life-giving, necessary oxygen (O2) comes in pairs. Each Oxygen atom shares two of it’s electrons so that both have 8 electrons orbiting their outer shells (which is important for some reason; I don’t really get why) and are Stable. With an S – which is a comforting sound, right? safe, secure, stable. When it breaks apart for whatever reason you are left with something “volatile.” With a V – and don’t you think words with a V are a little bit scary?
Kind of like us. We bond. And we don’t do awesome when those bonds are broken.
We are people-people. All of us. Even those of us who don’t like people all that well still need other humans from time to time. There is the birth thing and the feeding, clothing, nurturing thing, but as we become adults we realize that companionship is just as important as sustenance – maybe part of it, really. We need to be heard, we need to be seen, we need to be touched. Healthy, life-giving relationships are give-and-take. We swap kindness and grace and trust like electrons – back and forth and it keeps us stable.
And when that bond is broken… It can also be quite volatile. I read recently that what we call Grief could be better understood as a severe form of Separation Anxiety. A relationship undone leaves it’s participants unpredictable and vulnerable. And sometimes you can’t breathe.
We were made to belong to each other. Sometimes bonds are broken through bad choices or life circumstances, but sometimes it is undone through Death. And Death gets a capital because Death is big and final and the living don’t get much of a say. Death is always violent. Life is stubborn and fights hard. Death breaks the bond and we are using the fullest meaning of the words here. Breaks. Bonds. Sigh.
There is some small comfort in the air, then. Oxygen gets it. Maybe that doesn’t make the separation easier, but it makes it understood.