Sunday morning I was drawn into another family’s tragedy. Because of losses in my own family and contacts I have made through the years, I have met and befriended many who have lost loved ones, children, for various reasons. This was not the first time I have been invited to talk with other families within hours of losing someone they love.
It is my privilege to be with them in these incredibly vulnerable moments. There is nothing I can do for them except be present. Present to answer their questions about how it feels to survive and (eventually) thrive despite the nuclear explosion and devastation in their world. How it feels to rebuild. How do I live with the pain.
Some losses you never get over, you only get through. Someone wise shared that with me recently, and it is so very true.
I am not a religious person. My faith is based more in an overall surety that the world turns and works out in the end and that my life is an ongoing series of choices and consequences that in the end, add up to something. Of course I hope for a positive outcome, but by whose standards and judgment? The endless loop of the lofty too, the falling short bad, and the truly horrific slippery slope of good enough. Nightmares for me include the infinity of chasing good enough and never quite reaching it, endlessly reviewing and reliving choices I make and the various possible outcomes, all of which are better and more positive than what I did in the moment.
Life is filled with pain as well as joy, and I am enough of a realist to understand there is balance in that. Eventually, and probably in some way I may or may not ever completely understand. I accepted that long ago, or I would be spending my days railing against the unfairness and injustice of my life and its myriad of unfair and unjust events that I never deserved.
I occasionally wish I had studied philosophy or psychology more and had a label or a diagnosis or a reference for how I see the world. I realize that labels and definitions and the ability to authoritatively speak about the why of how I think and feel and live my life: these are pointless pursuits. It is merely another exercise to keep me separate from living, and feeling, my life.
Suffice to say it hurts my heart to see these other parents agonize and suffer beside their child. It hurts my heart to be triggered and reminded and feel the pain of my personal losses over and over and over again.
For me, I have learned hearts are very resilient things. Mine breaks many times each and every year with setbacks and losses and memories of people I have loved who have passed on or left my life for various reasons. I hate that pain flares; I hate that my heart hurts.
But I would not trade a nanosecond of my past, present, or future experiences in fear of getting hurt by the process of living. My past is past and nothing I do will change it. My dalliances in “what if” land lead me to know that given the chance, I would not change anything that has happened to me, because the really really bad that hurt me so much makes me savor, appreciate, and be so grateful for the really really good. The yin and yang of that process makes me who I am.
And despite my own jittery feelings on the good/bad, black/white of the woman I am, I believe my karma is good in the bigger picture.
Perhaps this is the quality that makes me an eternal optimist, my ability to keep going and finding hope in what should feel hopeless. I have endured shitty childhood and often feel as hollow and empty and devoid of integrity and character as anyone who grew up the ways I did feels. Real trust is a challenge, but genuine caring and desire to be of meaningful service to others is easier.
I want others to have a good life, be happy, be productive, and live. I strive to restrain my own bias about how to make that happen.
For the moment, I am alive and happy to be present in my life. But it was hard to being overwhelmed with sadness and immersed in the painful moments when a young life is fading and those who love him most are suffering helplessly at his bedside.
Life continues. It does, even when I occasionally wish it would pause or stop and let me rest until I feel stronger. But choosing life, to strive to live my moments is a choice I make everyday. And I am grateful for the opportunity and responsibility that comes with that.