When I heard about Robin Williams' suicide, a tidal wave of sadness hit. In tears, I searched for images of him to look at his eyes. It was difficult to find a single photo where he didn't look completely bereft. He'd made millions laugh, but he himself was clearly in agony and had been for quite some time. He masked it well with his antics and his mirth and his extraordinary talent. But as anyone who has walked the halls of hell knows, it's easy to recognize a kindred, troubled, fellow inmate.
Broken. Dishes break. You slice your finger while chopping vegetables. You give your heart to the wrong person. You slip and suddenly realize -- mid-fall -- that absolutely nothing makes sense or feels solid. Not even the ground under your feet. Swirls of clouds spin above you as you look up from where you find yourself, only to discover that everything's shattered. Everything you thought you could count on, is gone. What now?
If you are awake, you know we're riding the waves right now. We're floating in boats without oars, under a dome of blinking stars, surrounded by glowing sea life, and the occasional humpback whale.
We're on our way somewhere new, but we don't know where. Yet.
Oh, hell, yes. I want to look back and see a juicy, balls-to-the-wall, no-stone-unturned, bittersweet, handmade life. I want to say, "Yes," when I'm on my deathbed. I want to see that, "hell, yes" sketched onto my face as I shuttle through the coming years. I want to write that yes, nothing-but-yes, across an azure sky.
As someone who was thirsty for knowledge my whole life, I often wondered why we have to slut-shame our girl, Eve. After all, what did she do that was so bad? She just wanted to take a bite of that juicy red apple.
I didn't use to feel like such a fish out of water, wearing my glass heart on my sleeve. I didn't use to feel as though I couldn't relate to the people that filled every corner of the world. These days, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Like the main character in the novel, The Island of the Blue Dolphins, I feel as though I am the last of my people, standing on a desolate shore, unable to communicate. No one else speaks my language, and my words scatter around my feet like heavy stones.
You will be okay. You will figure it out. You will love again. You will find your voice and forgive yourself for how long it took you. You will become brave. You will throw your hat in the ring. You will piece and stitch language in ways that only you can, eventually writing stories and essays and poems. You will bite your lip and muster your courage and let words fly out of your chest, like a flock of ravens taking wing.
Solitary, but not lonely. I need naps, and time to watch the sky change color. I need time to fall into a book and have adventures. I need time to think and write and drink coffee and schlep around the house in my pajamas. Other people are wonderful in small doses. But without downtime by myself, I grow depleted very quickly. Yes. I am an introvert. An INFJ, to be exact.
If we resist what is, if we hang on -- claws out, hair on end -- we are missing out on all that might fill that blank space if we readily allowed it to empty. As terrifying as it is to venture into the void, to let ourselves off the hook, to float alone in this oceanic world, there are times that we simply must let go of what is. Otherwise, as the Zen proverb in the title above stipulates, we can look forward to being dragged until we do finally let go of whatever it is that is not for us.
...His words stagger under the weight of their burdens
One after another, they rush out of his chest
A flurry of song sparrows and desert wrens—
They nest in my hair, light on my shoulders
Their mouths filled with twigs, red thread and seed beads
I began to imagine a different ending. I imagined plowing all that dirt onto my past and carefully arranging a riot of flowers on the mound left over. I imagined dancing around the grave, bare feet caked with mud, dancing and dancing until I dropped to the ground. It's OK to mourn the passing away of one part of our lives. It's OK to sit -- grief-stricken and alone -- wondering if we'll ever feel right again.
So, celebrate the fact that you woke up today. Celebrate a good cup of coffee. Celebrate the person -- the beautiful stranger -- you are growing curious about. Celebrate the food piled on your table. Celebrate having enough blankets for your bed.
We are in earth school from the day we arrive until the day we die. This world will be saved by not only the people on the fire lines digging trenches and carrying water, but also by the monstrous actions of those people whose disconnectedness from life finally woke the rest of us up.
I didn’t know how the years ahead would play out. That the Gulf war was just a preamble. That my friend’s five-year-old would commit suicide before his twenty-second birthday. That I wouldn’t study music or social work; instead, I would begin to write. I didn’t know the pervasive sadness - the black well of depression - that would swallow me during that coming decade. I thought I knew where I was headed. I thought the road before me was clear - unencumbered. I was wrong.
We wear coats of many colors. Not everything is PG. Not everything is suitable, correct, or upstanding. The point is, can we allow ourselves to be swamp creatures and hellions and honest to Goddess she-wolves howling at the full moon, without judging those things as off-limits or wrong or beneath our station?
Each person is a mysterious forest of both seen and unseen elements. I think there is a dark river that runs through the core of our lives. And there are gifts in that darkness. That boiling soup contains things we need to learn.
Travel. Funky-walk-about-get-your-hands-dirty-experience-the-local-color kind of travel should be a prerequisite for life as an adult. Once you see those faces and hear their stories, you are changed. Once you experience the profound kindness, strangeness, hopefulness, and, even the understandable fears of the "other," you can never again think about any living person as being less important than you are.
We have to transform ourselves into a more compassionate, empathetic society... We must shed our violent history. But we also need to own it, make it conscious, and atone for it.
I remember the young girl I was as clearly as if I left her just yesterday. As an adult, I've gone back and retrieved her from that place of suffering and smallness. I know I can make of anything of my life I want to make of it.
I knew that the only way to rediscover and re-empower my own life was to go deep within myself. This meant that I needed to find out what I thought about everything. I needed to delve into the hidden parts of my life and uncover whatever it was that had stopped me from basking in the sunlight of a wholehearted life. I needed to stand in the center of what fed and nurtured me.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night and realized that in the end, everything — every experience, every choice, every mistake — is about love. There is nothing else...
THERE IS NOTHING ELSE.
There’s just love. It’s the only thing that’s real.
It’s the only thing that we can take with us when we die. We carry that love across the river of death. It seeds and blooms in our hearts as we are sent off into another life.
Those who risk it, reap the reward — even if it sometimes knocks us to our knees or mows us down — we are rewarded by exposing our most fragile and raw underbellies to the eyes of those we love. We grow if our hearts are open. We grow if our hearts break. There’s nothing to be gained by waiting, by stalling, by thinking we still have time.
We need wonder and awe. We need to realize that it is part of our birthright to wear our wings proudly. We each have a mission in this life. We have gifts and wisdom to share. If this were not true, we would not be here.
Trust that you can handle what life sends you. Don’t worry incessantly that if you open your life up again — if you send out your manuscript or offer your heart — that you will be shattered if your gifts aren’t openly or enthusiastically received. Life asks us to take risks so we will grow.