It’s 9:30 on Sunday morning, and I’m in bed with my dog snoring next to me. What a roller coaster it’s been these past few days. Action in this little space picked up a lot since Friday. (Hello if you are a new reader!) A little essay I wrote in July has taken on a life of its own, and though I never intended it for a wide audience, it’s slowly reaching one. Truthfully, I never would have had the nerve to write that with the wide world on the listening side of it, but it’s out there now in all its naked vulnerability, and I’m just allowing it to guide its own course. I feel grateful and honored that it resonates with so many people, and I think it speaks to our tendency, especially as women, to expect perfection from ourselves and see ourselves through others’ eyes instead of our own.
This has been the main lesson of my year – settling comfortably into the skin I was given and realizing that I am enough as I am. I can see now more than ever that I have accomplished this feat because the internet trolls came out in full force (as is expected with a larger audience) to state their claims of the multitude of ways I am wrong or stupid. And their comments are not piercing me.
When I consider who I was twelve months ago, what last Thanksgiving felt like with my insides on fire and my constantly quivering hands and my perpetual attempts to beg and compete with someone who is absolutely nothing like me, I whisper nothing but prayers of gratitude for every single moment I’ve endured this year. The tears and the sleepless nights and the money worries and all of it. I am in my own body in a way I’ve never been, owning my actions and experiences, relying on nothing but my own still and quiet voice to affirm my worthiness. It’s like a veil was removed for me, little by little. And I’m left with who I really am and the quietest hum of freedom that comes when you finally see you don’t need anyone’s validation to walk your own path and sound your own voice.
Life is such a trip, isn’t it? What you think is the worst moment imaginable, the most horrifying possible experience, actually emerges as the light that steers you to a brighter path. And this is only the beginning for me. We like to pretend that it is a simple path from point A to point B, but there are a thousand detours in between if you’re lucky. Things happen that we hate and we fight and we cry about, but we can always find the meaning there – even if it’s the tiniest shred of something illuminating.
And then there is beautiful Paris, of course. Where we are all looking to see mostly just fear and anger right now.
What aches so much about this – among so much senseless killing – is that it’s a city that steals your heart with its attention to pure pleasure – joy in food, music, kisses, strolling, wine … all the little things that show us the fullness of life in the simplest of ways. I wrote about this after I returned from my last trip there, but Paris is always that reminder for me to enjoy the life I’ve been given with attention to the present and no fear for the future. And these attacks always accomplish just the opposite of that – or with our initial reaction anyway. So much fear and uncertainty and momentary confusion on how to muddle through a world where this can happen.
But light always prevails, always. I truly think that in a deeper way than I ever have. Every single second of every single day someone’s little world is exploding – whether that is at the hands of terrorist bombings or cancer or freak accidents or intimate betrayal. Hearts are breaking everyday. And everyday people get up and try again and eventually the sun shines in ways you haven’t seen in a while. It happens so gradually that you just muddle through the middle moments and wake up to feel normal again and wonder how you got there.
And how we get there is human connection. It’s what I know for sure. For every time you hear “me, too” or “I love you” or “how can I help?” or “you can do this,” you are one step closer to okay. It’s the only thing that heals. That and time which is no fun but it’s the honest answer.
Prayers for Paris today. But also for Beirut and Baghdad and Syria, where the world’s spotlight doesn’t shine as lovingly as it does on Paris. From my little corner of the internet, I’m saying I see you, I hear you. Which is all I can say now. We are all hoping that for some stories, somewhere, among the helpers and the threads of human connection, there will be moments of meaning you can find in the madness.