“It’s so much darker when a light goes out
than it would have been if it had never shone.”
― John Steinbeck
We stand on the edge of our lives when we find the courage to surrender ourselves to love. In this moment and every moment that follows after we accept the risk that we may fall. There is always a risk of falling, it’s part of the beautiful fragility of life. I’ve made a career out of writing about living, but the art of writing life is that there can be no separation between the writing and the living. For a writer they are one in the same.
For all of us, we must not only bear witness to the world around us but to allow ourselves to be completely immersed in the emotions that come with the incredible uncertainty of it all. We are all present here in the world for such a short time, burying our head in the sand and not paying attention would be such a terrible waste of our incredible conciousness, a terrible waste of our ability to feel joy and feel pain in a way that may be unique to us as conscious beings.
The fear here is great. It is great for me not only in the feeling but in finding the right words to express those feelings in a way that is true and just. Finding the perfect words, even when there are none, to create a reflection of what it truly is to be human. It is the human-ness in each and every one of us that is on one hand incredibly durable and on the other, desperately fragile.
To write about life, to write about the incredible pain that comes often with the experience of living, one must be careful to craft words in such a way that encompasses not only ones own experience, but to also find words that pay respect to the incredible oneness that comes from being human. Our experiences are never ours alone, we all bleed our love and life into each other. We are alone but we are inexplicably connected always and we are, whether we know it or not, forever changing other people by merely existing in the first place.
I stood on the edge of my own life recently and despite my greatest fears I threw myself head first into something, someone, who I knew would be worth the risk. It was, so worth it. The love I felt, the love that was returned, was deep and it was beautiful. But when that person is tragically gone in a moment, the loss is insurmountable. There appears to be a gaping hole not only in the present but in the future that had just the day before promised its existence.
In times of great emotional distress and shock the human mind seeks to find answers, desperate to understand… but when trauma occurs suddenly we are thrown like a baby bird from a nest. Our surroundings that were once familiar are all at once completely foreign to us – but the need to comprehend is strong and so we search for answers even when our logical brain tells us that there are none to be found.
Like a small child, after trauma, the adult mind is fragile. It is as if we must learn all over again that the world is not the safe and predictable place that we had believed it to be. Terrible things happen. People we love die. The world and your emotional safety in it can shift in but an instant and we realise there are so many things that are completely beyond our control.
The beautiful and terrifying thing about life is everything that we believe to be true can shift in one small moment and we have no other option than to surrender ourselves to the emotions, to each other, to love and to hope and to a world that we will never truly understand. To find a way to accept that which tears us apart because there is no changing what has already been done.
The night before this terrible tragedy, I wrote a long essay for my book on my experiences of grief and how I found my way through the darkness and into the light again… it was as if I knew something I couldn’t have possibly known, as if I had been reminding myself that I already possess the skills one needs to survive the sudden journey I would be forced into the following day.
Grief is a long dark road that one must walk alone, no matter our age or our circumstance. We may be surrounded by those who share the weight of the grief and the weight of the loss but we alone must find our way through the darkness until we can feel the warmth of the light once more.
In the past few weeks I have had many beautiful people sit beside me and hold my pain for a moment. Whispering words of courage and bravery into my ear as I find a way to come to terms with the sudden erasure of everything I thought to be true. I am not brave. I am not courageous. But what I am is so much bigger than either of those things.
I am human.
Incredible loss and tragedy strips us of all of our masks, it tears apart the self that we build up for the world and it leaves us more our selves than we have perhaps ever been. We get some choice in how grief shapes us. We get to choose what we learn from it. We get to choose compassion. In the wake of the loss of love we must allow ourselves to be deconstructed, because only from there can we build ourselves up again. None of us are ever the same after grief, it gets into our bodies and it changes the very fibres of our being and we must allow it to.
From the ashes, the phoenix finds its flame.
We are not strong but we are human. Fragile. Beautiful. Generous and capable of so much more than we know.
And we are still here.