Why did I have such a hard childhood? Why did one of my best friend’s die in her early forties, just as she was beginning to discover who she really was? Why has the Corona Virus become our new reality? Why do innocent people sit on death row? And why don’t my adult children text me at least once in a while? I don’t know. No one knows.
Kate Bowler, author of “Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I’ve Loved”, and “No Cure For Being Human”, was diagnosed with colon cancer at 35. Her books (and podcast, which you should definitely check out) explore our fascination with needing to have reasons for why we suffer and why we so often see our health and wealth as a reflection of our “goodness” or our faith in God. She writes, “I can’t reconcile the way that the world is jolted by events that are wonderful and terrible, the gorgeous and the tragic. Except that I am beginning to believe that these opposites do not cancel each other out.” Katie Corrigan, writes in her book “Tell Me More, Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning To Say” that one of the hardest things she is learning to say, when reflecting on the complicated nature of life, her fluctuating feelings and why bad things happen to good people is “it’s like this”. She writes, “Minds don’t rest. They reel and wander and fixate and roll back and reconsider, ’cause it’s like this, having a mind. Hearts don’t idle. They swell and break and forgive and behold, ’cause it’s like this, having a heart. Lives don’t last. They thrill and confound and circle and overflow and disappear, ’cause it’s like this, having a life.”
Life changes. Thoughts change. Emotional states change. I don’t know about you, but I find this so much more comforting than the pithy, though well-meaning, statements that remind me to be grateful or try to find some reason why collateral damage is a good thing.
Yet, I resist complacency. Accepting that “it’s like this” doesn’t mean that it’s ok that some unevolved men still think women don’t mind being catcalled. It doesn’t erase trauma or justify minimizing the suffering of the marginalized–just because you can’t personally relate to their experience.
So, I’m trying to find a peaceful balance between accepting the mystery of life, accepting that some old people are just mean because they are too tired to try to be nice, that my recent status as “empty nester” feels much less interesting than I was told it would, that children grow up and we all will die; and knowing when and how to step up and say, “Nah, that’s not ok”.
There’s no rule book. And few things are that simple. So we figure it out as we go along. We mourn losses and celebrate joys. We look the other way when that crazy aunt says that crazy stuff, and we say, “No, you don’t have right to talk to me that way”. And we take care of ourselves. We take breaks, long baths, indulge in long telephone conversation with our best friends, and bake cookies.
Flowers in the cracks in the sidewalk–that’s what it’s like. Beginnings and endings, creation and destruction, mystery and beauty, holding our babies and missing them terribly…it’s just like this.