It’s been a long time since I wrote anything that I put into a public space. I’ve written a lot, but none of it has passed through the gates of being read by others. For lack of a better word, life has been “full” for a long time and I have struggled to find the space to put words together in a way that makes sense to anyone but me.
I have written before about things I am learning or realizing about life, with a degree of honesty but always with a conclusion that says “it’s all fine now”. I haven’t been able to find those closing remarks lately, so I’ve kept my thoughts to myself.
The truth of it is, life has been hard for a while now. I feel sometimes like the universe has been throwing punches and I’m getting a bit blue around the eyes. I don’t know if you ever feel like this, like life just won’t let up on you. All that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger bullshit, makes you want to scream that you are strong enough already dammit!
In the midst of struggle, I am learning that there is always grace. Always something good even if it is just that you have separated your angry self from your angry husband and are taking deep breaths in the bathroom. There is always something you have done right, always something you can find that is good, always.
I spent a number of days in the last month with my Grandmother. She is a beautiful and fiercely independent woman who was knocked down with pneumonia and a heart attack all at once. She is recovering slowly and is still very weak, but she is being cared for by such gracious and wonderful people, both family and others, that she is feeling secure and, hopefully, loved. I say hopefully loved because my Grandmother is not the best at appreciation. We all have our weaknesses, and this is one of hers. She does do it, and when she does, it means so much to the receiver. But she struggles to see the glass as half full, she feels weak in her body, she resists her age, she feels lonely and scared, and as a result, she sees the negative before the positive sometimes. In a lot of ways, I can’t blame her. Old age sucks. And in other ways, I choose to learn from her and to think about my own life and how I so often do exactly the same.
After spending time with her, I came home, reflecting on my own life, my own struggles. I decided two things that I hope will guide me as I move through the messes and joys of my life from here.
The first is to practice gratitude. I say practice intentionally because I am convinced that we are not inherently grateful as human beings. Especially in our fast-paced, instant gratification world, we expect so much. We take so much for granted, assuming that this is just the normal stuff of life. So I think we have to practice gratitude in order to become grateful people. We have to choose to find things to be grateful for, even on the hardest days, especially on the hardest days. Every day that we are alive, we had better find at least one thing to be grateful for. If we don’t, we are missing so much. It is tragic to have such beauty, grace, compassion and kindness in the world and to miss it because we forgot to practice our gratitude that day. There is always at least one thing to be grateful for, always. Even when life feels like it is at its ultimate in shittyness, there is still something. Deep breaths in the bathroom, someone kind who smiles at you in the café, a 2 for 1 coupon on your favourite chocolates. Something, there is always something. I am determined to find it, whatever it is, every day.
The second thing I want to embed into my life is the foundational fact that life owes me nothing. I am not owed some kind of payback for past suffering, there is no cosmic scale that is working out the balance of fair and unfair, good and bad, and going to eventually find the middle. We get what we get and our choice is what we want to do with that. There is a fabulous quote I found recently that says, Things are what they are, you suffer because you imagined differently.
I was given life, 33 years ago in a hospital in Canada; I came into the world and breathed my first screaming breath. That was my gift; that was what was given to me. I was born into a family that loved me fiercely, who did the best they could, and who also left me with some shit to sort out. What family doesn’t leave you with a few scars to take care of though right? Imperfect people cannot love perfectly.
If I wake up in the morning and there is breath in my lungs and my heart is moving blood around my body, I have been given another day! If I wake up and there is a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and I have a job to go to? My God, I have been blessed more than many.
If then I wake up in the morning and there is someone I love beside me. Or even someone I love on the couch because we fought our way through trying to understand each other the night before, I had better sing in the shower because dammit, there are people would give a hell of a lot for just that.
If I have a family, friends, rest and leisure, if I have choices and can decide what I want to do with my life and my days, then I’ve made it, that’s pretty much as good as it gets so dance my dear, fucking dance for those gifts.
I’ve been saying these words to myself in recent days… don’t you ever get so lazy that you think that life has done you wrong. That life being hard is anything but normal. Don’t you dare see yourself as some kind of victim, hard done by and owed something in return. Nobody ever said it would be easy. Nobody said you wouldn’t struggle. And as unfair as it may seem, woefully unfair at times, no one said you wouldn’t suffer.
It doesn’t turn out fair. There is no scorecard scratching out good things owed, God cannot be looked upon to even the score and turn it all in your favour. S/he gave that job to me, said here, this is your life, messy and fucked up as it may be, see what you can make of it, try to make something beautiful.
So I look for the good things. I find the light in the darkest moments, seek out the things to be grateful for, notice the kindness, acknowledge the grace, recognize when I have been shown favour.
Life is hard, hard as hell sometimes. But we have each other and we have a choice. Ram Das said we are all just walking each other home. So let’s walk together, notice the beauty on the way, and give each other the grace we so desperately need. Choose how you will see the world, choose how you will be with others, and choose wisely, absolutely everything depends on it.