The weight of it all

I wrote something about a month ago that I didn’t ever post. I planned to, but didn’t feel it was refined enough. A lot has changed since I wrote it, and I’ve struggled with how to address that here.

But after the last couple of weeks we’ve had here in our country, it all felt incredibly, incredibly poignant again. I wanted to share it, in its current state (although not up-to-date), to be read literally and also metaphorically, while still knowing that even words are too confining at times to capture the scope of a feeling.

Each morning I wake up to my alarm. I grab my phone and quickly hit snooze, instantly peeved it’s already that time. Jon and Kaya are practically on top of me as I attempt to yank back what’s certainly mine of the covers and pillows. After several more snoozes, each one more startling than the last, I eventually drag myself out of bed. So much for going to the gym this morning, or working on my blog this morning. I stumble to the bathroom, freezing from the quick and painful adjustment of a warm bed to the cooler apartment air. I look in the mirror. Can I pull off another day with dry shampoo, or is it unfortunately a hair-washing day? I think I can pull it off. My focus in the mirror readjusts, this time on my face. Is that a brand new something on my jawline? And another one on my forehead? Ugh. How unfair. When will it ever stop? I struggle to shake the thought as I jump in the shower. Of course, I left my toothbrush by the sink! I HATE when I do that. Now I can’t brush my teeth in here where it’s actually convenient. I get out, freezing again, and wrap myself in a towel. I walk back to our bedroom and debate, for a solid 10 seconds, sliding back under the covers with my little, warm family, especially after a half-asleep Jon smiles and whispers “good morning, peep” (which will never not make me temporarily melt). But I know I shouldn’t. Instead I switch gears and head for the closet, considering my options. My mind keeps track, “Not this skirt, it makes me look fat. Maybe these pants but I feel like I just wore them. I have nothing to wear.” I settle on something, begrudgingly I’m sure, and head back to the bathroom, facing myself and my negative self-perception again. I need to put makeup on before I can’t stand it another minute. I swirl on foundation harshly, like the motion is a passive aggressive jab at what’s staring back at me. There’s a bag of garbage by the door where I leave, but I can’t bare the thought of carrying it out with me today. Plus, I’m late. I leave it for Jon to get. I step outside and look up at blue skies, and I’m hit with a sense of vastness, contentment, a kind of subdued awe. But it won’t last long, not much longer than through my walk to work and my cup of coffee once I’m there. Because that’s when I let the minutia reign over me, yet again. The worries, the annoyances, the gossip, the boredom, the small thrills, the complaints.

But the other day. The other day was entirely, entirely different.

I know someone. Someone who is one of the warmest, kindest people in my life. She is one of the first people I see everyday. She’s never without a smile, and she never says she’s anything short of “splendid” when you ask her. She has this almost ethereal presence and demeanor that makes you want to slow down in an otherwise fast paced world. She’s a believer and a feeler and a human being of unmovable faith, and she truly radiates positivity. She always finds it more important to ask how you are, even in her illness and pain, the extent of which I can only surmise, due to her determination not to let it take over her life.

For the first time, her voice shook a little when I asked her how she was doing. She said that she felt pain, pain like she’d never imagined. She said it felt like it was coming from deep within her bones. That it was an excruciating feeling, tempered by nothing she could do. Her eyes wanted to cry, and it was a hurting cry. She said the doctor was shocked by such a derailment in the planned path. So, the crippling pain, but combined with the fear and terror that the treatment isn’t working (that part is my own words, not hers). “But,” she said, with one of those slight smiles that’s holding on for dear life, “we march on.” “How are you?”

Suddenly, in this moment, the fragility of life hit me like a ton of bricks on my chest. The weight of it was almost unbearable—that heaviness on my chest and burning in my throat and eyes.  My mind was a movie in fast forward and rewind and skip, flashes of her, her life that I wanted to know everything about, her family, her fears, the world, my world. My head spun with what she might think if she could have a glance inside my brain on a given morning. My heart hurt with my own cowardice, my own laziness, my own lack of foresight and wisdom.

And yet, even this story, these words, seem trite and cheap. A sum up could never do justice to it all, could never not cheapen what it all is and means and feels like—the heaviness, the fragility, the fear, the love, the empathy.

Life is so fragile. And we all know this, deep down. But it is mind boggling that I so rarely live in reflection of that. Even after this heavy, heavy day of insight and both inward and outward examination, the truth is that I was back to my old self, my normal self, days later. The minutia still won. Is everything really that relative that I don’t even realize I’m often missing the forest for the trees?

And sure, I summed up my average day as a distillation of fleeting annoyances, perturbances, and robotic routines. The love-despite-the-chaos moments, the blue sky moments, the my-soul-is-at-peace times, are plenty, as well, but I let far too plenty be the former, and I don’t think I’m really unique in that way.

What does all of it mean? Is it in our nature to live with our heads down and eyes forward? What is this thing called life that we’re all a part of, playing such drastically different roles that we did and didn’t get to choose?

I’m not sure what it all means.

Maybe I’ll spend my entire life jockeying between feeling like I’m lost and feeling like I’m right where I’m supposed to be and feeling like the carpet’s been pulled out from underneath me when I’ve forgotten what the floor beneath it even looks like. But good God, perspective. Some days, some things are so, so crystal clear and thin that it feels like if I breathe too heavily my little glass world might shatter into a million pieces.

Today, and tomorrow, let’s try to keep a little more perspective.


PS: Hierarchy of needs