Here are some things I have been thinking about lately.
"You know that feeling when you have just gone through a breakup, or lost your job, and everything is terrible and terrifying and you don’t know what to do, and you find yourself crying in a pile on your bedroom floor, barely able to remember how to use the phone, desperately looking for some sign of God in old letters, or your Facebook newsfeed or on Glee, finding nothing there to comfort you? Come on, yes you do. We all do. And there is a goddess from Hindu mythology [Akhilanda, the Goddess of Never Not Broken] that teaches us that, in this moment, in this pile on the floor, you are more powerful than you’ve ever been.
"But this isn’t the kind of broken that indicates weakness and terror. It’s the kind of broken that tears apart all the stuff that gets us stuck in toxic routines, repeating the same relationships and habits over and over, rather than diving into the scary process of trying something new and unfathomable. Akhilanda derives her power from being broken: in flux, pulling herself apart, living in different, constant selves at the same time, from never becoming a whole that has limitations.
"The diamond is whole and complete and BECAUSE it’s fractured, it creates more diverse beauty. Its form is a spectrum of whirling color....That means that this feeling of confusion and brokenness that every human has felt at some time or another in our lives is a source of beauty and colour and new reflections and possibilities....All the places where you’ve shattered can now reflect light and colour where there was none. Now is the time to become something new, to choose a new whole. But remember Akhilanda’s lesson: even that new whole, that new, colourful, amazing groove that we create, is an illusion. It means nothing unless we can keep on breaking apart and putting ourselves together again as many times as we need to. We are already “never not broken.” We were never a consistent, limited whole. In our brokenness, we are unlimited. And that means we are amazing."
(How long do you need to be broken? How many times? After you've been broken repeatedly, do you get to feel amazing? Or do you just have the knowledge that whether you feel like it or not, you are?)
2) This Story Corps story of Jennifer & Grant Coursey, mother and son. Son Grant was diagnosed with cancer when he was a toddler, went through multiple surgeries, and is now cancer-free. Grant says: "I've got big scars all over my back from getting cut open, and whenever that kinda starts to twinge a little bit, like if I touch it wrong or something like that, it just kinda reminds me I'm lucky. Life is really good."
3) Adventures in Depression. "While crying helplessly into my pillow for no good reason, I would often fantasize that maybe someday I could be one of those stoic badasses whose emotions are mostly comprised of rock music and not being afraid of things. And finally - finally - after a lifetime of feelings and anxiety and more feelings, I didn't have any feelings left.... And that's how my depression got so horrible that it actually broke through to the other side and became a sort of fear-proof exoskeleton."
(Have I told you about how, for awhile, I felt like the girls and Geoff would do better with a complex Robot-Mom/Wife than with me? I do not, however, have a fear-proof exoskeleton.)
4) Leonard Cohen's Anthem:
"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
5) At the end of February, I took Katie ice skating for the first time. The first two times around the rink, she clung to the railing the whole way, moved very slowly, and didn't fall at all. The third time around she started falling. She wasn't hurt, but she was upset to be falling when she hadn't fallen before. I told her that falling was a good sign, really, because it meant that she wasn't being so cautious. She was taking risks. She was getting confident enough to let go of the railing and stand on her own two blades.
6) The last time I was in Chicago, last fall, I had a few hours before I was scheduled to meet some friends for dinner. I decided to go to the lake shore, to the Rogers Park Beach, where I had gone so many times before. When I got close to the water, I took off my flip flops, and as I stepped into the water, I was overwhelmed with longing and loss and emotion of all kinds. Tears sprung to my eyes. (Chicago feels like my home, but is not my home. My home is in another city that does not feel like my home.)
I understand that a person who has never suffered (if such a person could possibly exist), would likely be a person less interesting, less complex, less compassionate, less appreciative, less [insert good quality here] than a person who has not. I know that breaks and falls and suffering and doubt are part of the human existence. To err is human, after all. I know that a greater amount of suffering, sadness, or depression can not be interpreted as a judgment against the person who is suffering or sad or depressed, just as a great amount of joy, ease, and contentedness can not (or should not) be interpreted as approval of the person experiencing those things. It rains on the just and the unjust, after all.
And I feel ok right now. I feel like I am healing, actually. I do not feel like Robot Mom. I am silly and care-free on a daily basis. I have started making to-do lists again, a sure sign that a part of me is focused on the future and on my own power to create the future that I want to experience. But I am also realizing that as I heal, I am more vulnerable to my emotions than I was when I was at my lowest.
When I was running on empty, unhopeful, in despair, I had what was not an exo-skeleton, but something like a cushion that protected me from the force of the blows of normal disappointments. Lately I feel that I have stripped away the cushion, leaving myself bare and exposed to the elements. And oh, the warm sunshine feels so much better than it did when I was wrapped up in that cushion. So much more light getting in! But I'm also exposed to cold rain, to hail, to sharp thorns (not to mention sunburn; I do not want to be the goddess of never not broken; I would like to remain healed upon occasion). I am stronger, I think, and yet right now, with this fresh new delicate skin, the end of each day leaves me exhausted. Trying to be my most authentic me takes all the energy I have.
After the girls are in bed, I will sit and think to myself: what happened today to make me feel like I have survived some devastating ordeal? Oh, yeah. I made it all the way through the day. From beginning to end.