“What did you do today?” asks the husband.
Smeared sun butter on pieces of bread. Thought about buying more bread. Smeared strawberry jam on bread. Thought about finally finishing my novel. Cleaned the kitchen floor. Thought about writing a really cool article for the New York Times. Laughed at myself. Fed the dog. Thought about finding a home for all the refugees I’ve met. Folded laundry. Thought about telling the world what it feels like to come out of a 11-year-crisis with your child, your family, and try to go on with “normal” life smiling at people like all that shit didn’t happen. Try to fold laundry neatly like the past is the past. Try to accept that life, that the cliché is true— it goes on.
Every time something hard happens— life hikes onward. Another road is cut. A storm passes. Leaves fall and disappear, turning to compost. A house is torn down, one more is erected. Life goes on.
A dear friend’s mother dies. Another friend’s husband dies. Flowers are sent, messages pour in, casseroles are baked (if one lives in the U.S.) I chat with these friends. I want to wring out their pain like my dish rag. Then I want to wrap it up in a little ball and whip that pain back in time. Put it all back. But the bills, the bus, the breakfast goes on like all that horrible stuff never happened.
A beautiful writer friend is diagnosed with cancer— the really bad kind. She’s in tremendous pain. Meanwhile the dog still barks, still poops right in the middle of the road, and the child whines. The school forgot to tell me the kid needs 8 folders this year. Trump still lies on Twitter. Everybody still yells about it all like it isn’t happening, like lies aren't happening in the White House every single day. And life just skips and polkas and giggles on.
Another lovely friend is suffering with rheumatoid arthritis, another with debilitating depression. A couple moms have marriages falling apart. I say prayers, try to say the right thing to God and to the friends. (What is the right thing?) But still, I keep folding clothes, cutting bread in the morning, yelling to the kids to hurry up and get ready for another school day because life isn’t going to stop for a late fourth grader— it won’t stop for anybody.
I met a refugee who’s escaping her human traffickers. What the hell? That’s right. People are getting stolen and sold. But guess what— life still goes on. I want to write about her. I want to say, “HEY, EVERYONE STOP HAVING FUN NOW. PEOPLE ARE GETTING STOLEN. PEOPLE ARE GETTING HURT OVER IN AFRICA, AND A LOT OF OTHER PLACES TOO.” But planes keep taking off. Children keep playing on the beach. Stores keep selling Gucci purses. What the hell?
I want to change all of it. ALL OF IT. Tell it to stop. Tell the world to stop being broken. Tell everybody to just BE NICE today. But then the phone rings and some guy wants to come clean my drain or kill the ants that are taking over my house.
Don’t worry. If you’ve read this far (thank you), I’m okay. And I’m not planning to leave you totally depressed, either. Here’s the really cool thing that I figured out while writing this— the friend who lost her mother, the one suffering with cancer, the mom who just escaped her trafficker, the one who’s depressed (and getting help,) my son whose very difficult experience is so complex that it will take me years and years to make sense of it...these people are IT.
Those people who suffer— they’re the salt of this ocean and tree covered place. They’re the chance to find a purpose, to witness what’s so stupendous about a day. They're the teachers, showing you and me what all these hours on earth are for. These people who get sick, who break-up, who get depressed, get mad, who die, who get hurt, who have horrible stuff happen— they show us love, anyway. They show us relationship, limits, courage, failure, endurance, resilience, and if we’re lucky, they show us honesty. All this good happens, despite the bad stuff. Right before our eyes, people transform. They suffer and often they become better, stronger, more beautiful, more empathetic, more everything while they show us that life does goes on and on because we fall. Life goes on because we get-up anyway, we take that next hour, that next day. Life goes on because we live and live and live.
How cool is that?
Now I’ll go feed the dogs. And I hope you have a great day.