I see ads telling us we can thrive. I love the work people are doing now. At the same time, I think paying for access to our inherent grit, something that is already ours, is a drag. The indomitable human spirit has somehow become a product. It’s ok, though, because somehow, we lose track of it.
In any human life, we are destined to keep grinding away, as the hits keep coming, and one day we are either lost, bitter, or angry; or we are handling the hits with a modicum of grace. In the end, it is the stuff we are made of, and our ability to throw up a white flag, or a red flag, or a rainbow flag, or some kind of flag, anyway, that gets the job done.
I don’t think there is any other secret, but the help does seem to…help. I hadn’t intended to write any more this year, and yet, here I am. Tonight, I stumbled upon that one last piece of news that tipped me from “OK, let’s take down the tree,” to something that feels like absolute cellular overwhelm, and by that, I mean, a deeply resonant quivering of every single cell. Sometimes, something just makes you quiet, because there are no words–not a single one that matters.
Two years ago was a hard year, and the beginning of a crumbling that tried to reduce me to rubble. I stood there, and I watched it slip through my fingers. I waited, and I listened, and after the actual, physical pain subsided and I could, in fact, breathe, and look into the mirror and see myself very much alive, I said, “OK.” I stepped forward, very aware of a few hard truths. It will be hard to understand these, if you have not had to unearth them from the rubble, and it may be hard to hear me say them, if you know me from my past professional persona and service.
In 2015, I was able to accept that much of what I knew to be true deconstructed itself. There is a looking glass world that holds all of my fears, and through that glass lies a pool of distorted bits I do not, nor will I ever, understand. And in the past, sometimes, I’d wake up, and find myself in there. We all have a place like that, and when the planet tilts and we find ourselves wearing that odd coat of stories in there, we shudder. For me, it always felt like, “Not again,” and “When did I fall in here?” and “How long have I been in here?” Those are the days we realize we’ve got to shake it off, and we have no time for self pity, and there is no rescue, and so we fight back through to where the ground feels real, and we are so relieved.
Last year, I broke the mirror. I made it into a shimmer of miniscule shards, too small to be sharp, too tiny to harm. Exhausted, and sitting in the bits, I found these truths: 1) Nothing matters, but life. All life. Including mine. Including yours. 2) I am very small. I am exceedingly small. 3) I have only my humility, because that is all I could find, resting beside me, atop the shimmer. I won’t let you take that from me, and if I see you approaching it, you will see something frightening. 4) There is no secret. There is only help, and often, we will need it, though we will not want it.
When we are tired, things will keep happening, and we will need rest. Then, when rest has not done the trick, we will need help, from others. Some will gladly help; it makes their world make sense. It keeps them from slipping through, into their own dark mirror. Others will help because they have found themselves sitting atop the shards, so–they know. And others will help because they are inherently good, most of the time, and that is how they roll.
There are some who will stand beside you, and cheer you on. Some will silently wait, because they believe you can do it. They believe in you, even when you do not believe in yourself, and even when you are drowning. This is the hardest. Sometimes it will take us so long to pull ourselves out of it, that friends will get cold, or hungry, or bored, and go home to wait. They are not your enemies. You must not expect them to pull you out.
Help comes, in various forms, and we must reach for them all. But, we must also accept, that sometimes the heart you reach for might be closed to you, and that is never about you. On your worst day, your most horrid, helpless, and venomous day, you are still worthy of love, and it may just be that a professional is the one who has an open heart for you on that particular day. And there will be a bill. And there will be medical terminology. And there will be “no show fees,” when you forgot to put the date into your device. And you will feel shame, and smallness, and these–these are about hurting. They are not about your inherent worth.
This year that is coming to rest, was brutal, and equally filled with absolute gifts. The spring, as I recall, was ordinary, and then life dropped one heavy trial after another, into my upturned, hopeful hands. One by one, every newly secured stone of my heart’s certainty was removed. To this day, I cannot make sense of so many things that happened, and are happening still.
I know only, that if I am to weather it, I must trust that I am being made strong. I must understand that a strength I already have is being brought to the surface. The alternative, well, that was my 2015–a year of uncertainty and disbelief. I did not know how to believe in myself, or anchor into the abundance all around me. I did not trust that I am a great swimmer, and that, in fact, I am not to be trifled with–while that echoes of dogma, and the trappings of ego, I will tell you a secret.
It was June, and I’d weathered the first of many powerful personal losses, and then my grandmother began preparing to die. It was the morning of my fortieth birthday, and I woke early, gasping for air. It felt much like resurfacing from the depths of a cold, clear lake. In that elusive space between sleep and consciousness, my mind whispered the word, “dharma.” It was the first time I recall a feeling of wholeness, and trust.
And nothing changed. The most indescribable trials, and losses–for myself, my community members, and my family, have continued one after another, and nonstop. I have felt a hollow feeling here, in my gut, more times than I can count, as I sit with heavy circumstance. I have cried, and I can tell you I’ve become a powerfully efficient crier this year of my life. What does that look like? A few tears, and a bruised feeling that lends itself well to a long soak in the tub. I am better at experiencing–and by that, I mean actually feeling, and transmuting pain than I have ever been, and perhaps that is all that was different. I knew exactly what to do, and I did it. I stayed small, and focused, and I got through.
Sitting here, with yet another raw, untenable truth rocking my gut, it is not “the year,” that is the problem. There is no curse of 2016, though the losses, traumas, and catastrophes have been profound. The horrifying history of this year has forever changed our families, our stories, and our realities. And there have been unspeakable joys, that leave us breathless. It is not the year; it is life. Life is so incredibly precious, and in spite of all our rallying against its unexpected disasters, we are disrobed and found impotent. Love, and especially the action inspired by love, are all we have to offer. It never seems like enough.
There are no words, and yet tonight, all these words have poured free from some place I won’t even attempt to understand. Today, and for the rest of this precious year, I will carry love, and a spirit of silent resolve. I will brighten these last few days with the light of a candle, here and there, for all that’s been lost in my small life, and in the lives of so many people I love dearly. I will laugh with family, and friends, and make irreverent jokes for my children’s sake. I will eat good food and take baths. With gentle determination, I will listen.
It is a small action, bringing light to meet darkness. Honorable, yes, but formidable, and verging on the precipice of pointlessness some days. Devoid of glory. Perhaps the work of fools. But it is, I contest, the most underutilized aspect of love, and my best effort to honor all that has transpired this year.