Funerals, breakups, evictions, slights small and large, depression and elation in slow rotation, major successes and minor setbacks, having a bed to sleep in (or sometimes not), headaches and heartaches alternating with butterflies and first kisses, babies born and grandmothers dying, angels getting their wings (or not), feeling loved in an empty room or alone in a crowded one, first drinks and last drunks, the rush of speeding or free-falling, walking a street for the first time, running into old friends, old movies on new screens, opening bands before they make it big, a newborn crying next door, mean people and kind strangers, teenage boys and elderly women, smiling hello, leaning over a coffin to say good-bye.
A trillion things happen to a billion people. No one is ever the first one to be anything, at least not these days and not when it comes to the mundane. Look at a bell curve and see what average is (the middle chunk), know that there’s a wide range. Skid row and Einstein, there’re the ends. Even the smart ones are usually only a standard deviation or so from the average. Or so I was told by a smart person in a room filled with smart people, nodding along and doing the calculations in their heads.
Things get weird in moments of crises. I always thought that if disaster struck I’d be one of the people able to keep calm. Turns out that’s mostly true but not for the reasons I’d have thought. There’s no perceptible inner strength that comes through, your own personal superhero called to action. It’s less exciting than that, as simple as not being ready to give up. Not yet, anyhow. And there’s the impulse that if you give up now you’ll miss the best parts, like when you’re a kid and convinced that all the fun stuff happens two minutes after you fall asleep. Even when it’s feeling impossible, the hope that things have to get better, don’t they? is an impetus.
All this is to say that I feel a change coming on, as though I’m done fighting whatever it is that’s happening. In one of her books Anne Lamott talks about how when lots of crazy things are going on, it’s the universe trying to distract you so something big and beautiful can be born. After I first read that I kept waiting for that sort of thing to be born. Nowadays it doesn’t even matter. Not because I don’t think it’s true — I do — but because I just don’t have time to plan or control the narrative anymore. My job, if I have one, is to be distracted, to get on with the busy work of life and focus on the necessary: breathing, eating, having a safe place to sleep, loving my children, trying to be a good friend, staying on the beam, sleeping enough, being kind to myself.
Sometimes life is eating PB&J and sleeping in a different place every night and sometimes it’s a beach resort with laughing children and salty swims. Sometimes it’s a lot better or a lot worse. There are degrees of everything, and I’ve lived through many of them. So what?
Maybe I’m tired of fighting. Maybe I’m bored with the prospect. Maybe I’m finding acceptance or at least tolerance. Maybe I’m numb with fear and exhaustion but it feels like faith and hope. Whatever it is, tonight I feel like a child of the universe whose experience isn’t good nor bad and doesn’t mean anything more or less than that of billions of other experiences. I just am. Things happen. I’m still here. Through it all, it says a great deal that so many of us can say that: I’m still here. Doesn’t it? I think so.