Broken and Brave, Still We Ride the Waves.
It was never meant to be forever.
The comfort, the peace, the ease. It all exists in precious impermanence, slipping through my grasping fingers like flowing river water. The tighter I try to hold on, the more grueling it is to let go. So, I loosen my grip a bit. Try to breathe. Try to trust.
Trusting is hard when love is involved. The love of people, places, moments, life.
How can I love life — this little flower, this ancient tree, this caterpillar crawling on my knee — knowing they will someday die? How can I love the people I love as much as I love them, knowing I will inevitably have to let them go?
How can I continue to love anything at all knowing that this very act of loving will lead to excruciating loss and pain? How can I trust that? Choose that? Survive that?
But, then again, how can I not?
To try to live without pain is to try to live without love, and wouldn’t that be the most excruciating pain of all? To lower my eyes, to harden my heart, to walk in the world enveloped in my own invisibility cloak, alone and lonely? Unseeing and unseen?
There are people like this. I see them, though they don’t want me to. I see them and I ache for them.
I want to reach out, place my hand on their hand, and infuse their fingers with a bit of tenderness and warmth. I want them to feel their fingers come alive, if only for a second, and I want that aliveness to travel up their arm, to the inner chambers of their heart, and to remind them of their purpose here, which is to love.
The human-life-on-earth-deal is this: If you love, you will hurt. And if you love a lot, you will hurt a lot.
It’s a crappy deal, but…
… what do I know? About the way things work? About the reasons why things work the way they do?
I know so little.
I think I know a lot, sometimes. I read a book or attend a workshop and my brain gets filled up with new thoughts and I walk around with a mild headache for a few days, feeling smart and like I have the answers to some of life’s most unanswerable questions.
But, I don’t. What I likely have is a headache from too much caffeine and too little sleep.
The truth is that I know so little. And I control so little.
And the more I try to know and the more I try to control, the more difficult and suffocating life feels.
So, I try to breathe instead. Try to trust. Try to accept the inescapable fact that it was never meant to be forever.
The choices, the connections, the solid ground. They all change. Because life is change. Life is movement. Life is an ongoing dance of atoms and cells and organisms. We are in a constant state of inconsistency.
We ebb and we flow. We rise and we fall. We love and we lose.
This year has been a year of profound and piercing loss for me.
First, I lost the precious baby I was carrying, at 18 weeks’ gestation — a beautiful boy who fit perfectly in his daddy’s trembling hand. Exactly one month later, I lost my beloved grandmother — one of the few people in this world who has always loved me completely.
In between these two devastating losses, I lost the clinical practice I had spent five years dreaming and stitching into being.
Then, in the midst of what felt like insurmountable grief, an opportunity presented itself and, though moving and starting anew feels like the right thing to do, the right thing isn’t always the easy thing (in fact, it almost never is), and I am now in the process of losing the city that has been my home for a decade, and my proximity to people I have fallen in deep love with.
Loss and pain… and love. So much love.
And this is why it hurts.
But would I take back the love, in order to avoid the pain? Would I change the way I felt, and feel, about my baby? About my grandma? About my practice? About my city and my chosen family here? Never.
I would never take back all of the love I have given and received in order to avoid all of the pain I am trudging through now. Never.
Because loving makes it all worth it. Great love makes great pain worth it. And the person who has loved and been loved can face the pain and say:
I feel you, Pain. You are hard. You are brutal. You make my knees buckle and my lungs heave. You slice me open and make me bleed. You are heavy. And cold. And dark. You offer not even a sliver of light. But, know this, Pain: I will survive you because I am filled up with light. The light of love given and received. Love is the golden thread that holds me together and warms me from the inside. It makes me solid. It makes me durable.
It makes me believe in God and Goodness and Hope and Healing. You will not destroy me, Pain. You will devastate me. You will leave me ravaged and starving, but you will not destroy me. I will ache and break and simmer and rage and seethe and weep and grieve and then, in time,
I will let you go.
Because even you, Pain, are not meant to be forever.
It all comes and it all goes. All of it.
Life exists in waves. It undulates.
In her book, Broken Open, author Elizabeth Lesser writes, “To be human is to be lost in the woods.” I feel this to be true.
I also feel that to be human is to be forever in the ocean, learning how to surf the waves of change. Learning how to stand on our shaky legs on our slippery board, knowing full well that giant, scary waves will crash into us, again and again, knocking us down and threatening to pull us under.
We will fall and hit our head and swallow water and gasp for air and our lungs will burn on our way down deep, and deeper still…
… but we will not drown.
Because surviving pain once, twice, a thousand times, makes us two things: broken and brave.
Surviving pain makes us understand, at a visceral level, how tough we are, not in spite of the tenderness we hold inside, but because of it.
So, we’ll keep surfing, broken and brave. Keep falling, broken and brave. Keep breathing. Keep rising. Keep hurting. Because life is painful. Life is so painful.
But it’s beautiful too.
And we’ll catch ourselves, sometimes, flying on the waves. We’ll catch ourselves flying towards the sunrise, the sunset, the shore, thinking, Wow. Just, Wow. We’ll catch ourselves feeling alive — still alive, despite it all — in moments of grace. Of strength. Of pure and utter surrender.
Broken. Brave. Riding the waves.
And the love we carry will carry us home.
Vicki Rivard is a soul on a journey. Meditation keeps her strong. Love keeps her open. Chinese medicine is her craft. Her heart is in the ocean. Learn more at her website and/or connect with her on Instagram.