life is not a paragraph*

The other day, someone told me a story about death. It was a piano dropped out of the window of a building. It was crossing the street and getting hit by a bus. It was tripping and falling down the stairs, and breaking your neck. Basically, it was sudden and terrible, a cracking noise followed by silence.

And I hate silence. I hate the way it fills up a room, or a moment, or the way it sometimes sounds like a dial tone. The way you call and get somebody’s voicemail, instead of a voice. The way things slip out of our hands – and the way we sometimes let them. For a myriad of reasons that might look wonderful and right, on paper.

So, this story about death – the details are horrid and not mine to share. But lately, every time I turn around, there’s some kind of terrible shock like that. It isn’t something we can reason out, and yet we all try to make sense out of it, don’t we? We try to make death and life into equations, something that has the potential to be solved. That’s not exactly practical or smart, or even plausible. But we do it, anyway. If we can shove something into a box, that box has a label. And if it’s labeled, it’s easier to handle. To hide in a corner. To ignore, for reasons.

Except then, there’s me. Every time I gather one of those unexpected stories, I feel like lighting the world of fire. I feel like life is too much about being afraid and living easily, conveniently, and safely. Silence is a refuge for a self-made refugee. It accomplishes nothing real, nothing honest. It, in itself, is a lie. It’s what a coward falls back on.

Open your eyes. Look around. Tell me what you see. Tell me what you feel. Tell me what you need. Solving a problem is as easy as that, sometimes. It’s as easy as talking, before it’s too late. Before something happens and you just can’t anymore. To me, things like this – the unexpected accidents are horrors – always serve as a jolting wakeup call. There are only so many moments in life – why dedicate so many of them to unproductive and unimportant things? Things like silence. Why do we say no so often, instead of yes? Why don’t we jump up and make more time for the people who love, instead of sticking to the strict duties assigned to us?

Believe me – the vacuuming will still be there tomorrow. The dirty dishes will not turn into pumpkins overnight. Sometimes, conventional wisdom is overrated. More often, it is flawed. Most often, it isn’t even wise – it’s just pretty words masquerading as unexamined truths.

Yesterday, I had a good day. Something awesome happened. As I was walking to my car, I fished my phone out of my purse. The first person I thought to call was my mother. Obviously, I can’t do that. And it sucked. But it also reminded me that it’s important to talk to people when you can, to take advantage of those moments – to take advantage of life. Life is made of those moments, stolen out of a seemingly ordinary day. Life is made of reaching out, of connecting, of saying yes, of being present, and of loving in every direction possible.

We wear too many masks. We pile on too much armor. We hide from things that we shouldn’t. This often makes us stupid and cowardly, as if distance is some kind of talisman, a magic meant to protect us from feelings, memories, or moments. Nothing protects us from ourselves – and nothing should. Because you never know what you don’t know. And you never know what tomorrow might bring. You never know when someone or someone is just going to disappear. When you realize that, and act on that, you find that vein of bravery deep within yourself. Mine that feeling like gold – sift it out. Polish it up. You cannot spend that kind of currency in a store, or pay your rent with it. But there are things in life more important than that. And we lose that idea, sometimes, when we grow up. We forget to live life just for the joy of it. We forget how to perfectly silly, but true-to-ourselves, fools. There is a kind of ordinary magic in that, in not needing to be right – instead, reveling in the idea of being real.

Since technically, it’s spring – a time of beauty, growth, and change – live as boldly as you can. Let yourself grow, instead of sticking to where your roots are in the ground. Be loud and sing, like every bird does. Burst into bloom, instead of holding tight to bud (apologies to Nin). Be a fool. Be an absolute fool – because that is what the meat and marrow of life truly lies. When we stop being what is expected of us, and start being who/what we truly are. Fly, knowing that it’s never easy. Have an adventure. Have a moment. Forget structure and syntax. Go after what moves, what manages to stir your blood. And know this: kisses are a far better fate than wisdom. Always.
“since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom” e.e. cummings
*the title is also from this poem

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