I try very hard not to be insecure. But life, and people, can be confusing. And let’s call a spade a spade: I’m sensitive. I think a lot. I feel even more. I’m basically a CareBear on emotional steroids, for better or worse.
There are some days where I totally fail to understand humanity, and in the absence of actual facts, my brain helpfully (not really) fills in the gaps with all the fears I’m too scared to say out loud. That’s what happens, I think, when we’re feeling weak or vulnerable. A seemingly small thing, left unattended, becomes a shadow. Then, that shadow becomes a monster. Before the cowering part of your rational self knows it, you’re five years old, again, hiding under the covers. Figuratively. (Or literally. Who hasn’t had the urge to cal out of work, build a blanket fort, eat candy, and hide for the day?)
The simple truth is that my brain is, often, a scary place of stupid. It can be a ridiculous graveyard of logical thinking. I am forever grateful that no one can ever read my mind, because (to paraphrase Anne Lamott), I often think such terrible thoughts that it would make Jesus drink gin straight out of the cat dish.
Internally, I’m Angela Chase. And don’t even get me started on Jordan Catalano. Because #MySoCalledLife forever. Yes, I know this isn’t Twitter. It’s my blog, and I’ll hashtag if I want to. (Somewhere, Leslie Gore is glaring into her morning coffee. Sorry, lady. #NotSorry)
There are days where I am unsettled and insecure. I don’t let that bleed into the rest of my life. I don’t take it out on people. I refuse to do that, because I’m had that done to be – and that stuff is not fun. It’s actually the mark of a jerk and a coward, but that’s a rant of a different color. (Is bullshit a color?)
I keep making jokes, I know. That’s because I’m uncomfortable, as I’m writing this. The subject makes me feel like I should run, because it’s not easy to admit vulnerability and flaws. And I think I’m doing both. Or I’m trying to.
While I don’t let me insecurity affect my actions, that’s not to say that it doesn’t affect me. Recently, I had a friendship tank spectacularly. Like a final scream as one is unexpectedly pushed off a cliff, I’ve never heard a death knell quite like that. It was strange and alarming to, essentially, watch it disintegrate in spasms. When something like that catches a person off guard, it can lead to a lot of questions – and a lot of self-examination. (That should, eventually, end when you realize that it’s not your fault – and, really, not your circus, not your monkey. In fact, take a match to that damn monkey, if you must. It’s probably rabid.)
Where was I? Yes, death of a friendship. Since the demise, I’ve felt rather wretched. I’ve tried to laugh it off and ignore it. I’ve tried not to take it personally, but…um, it is rather personal. But if I’m being honest, it has made me realize that this can be the norm more than the exception. People let us down. People disappear. People do hurtful things. And if we don’t talk about them, we end up internalizing them. Which is bad. Very bad. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Dive straight on in to the rum. Or the vodka. Or the tequila. (Never the gin. I’m sorry. It’s vile.)
So, today, I am feeling insecure. I am feeling a bit underappreciated from several angles. I’m both curious and confused, and these are not necessarily pretty things. I’m neither angry nor upset. But I find myself dangerously close to so many things – and one of them is losing my patience. The thing is that life is tricky. It’s often unclear and uncertain. But I feel as long as you’re trying, reaching for your dreams, and not simply whining about what is and isn’t happening – that’s the trick to getting what you want/need/love.
For me, today might be a wash. I may be cranky. But tomorrow, darlings, is a fresh start and a new adventure. I’ve named the monster. Now, it’s less scary. Naming a thing is a powerful act. After all, we start our lives with naming. It is the beginning of identity. We name someone friend or lover. We call love, love. Saying things out loud means it’s more real. It means you can’t take it back. That’s why it’s a risk, sometimes. But naming is where everything starts. It’s the words that declare what the heart feels. And actions drive that arrow home. Remember that, when you’re scared. Name the fear. Name the confusion. Then, kick it in the ass.
Own it. Claim what’s yours, darlings. Say everything out loud. Because life is too short not to be absolutely, ridiculously bold. Don’t let your fears chase you away from what’s possible. Don’t let your doubt keep you where you don’t want to be. And, for coffee’s sake, remember: you never get what you don’t ask for. So, ask. It doesn’t matter if your hands are shaking. It doesn’t matter if you words come out in a rush or a heap.
Remember to fight for your life — for what you want and for who you are. Remember that, occasionally, means you’re fighting you. Nobody can save you but yourself — and you, love, are worth saving. (Sorry, Charles Bukowski, for paraphrasing you poorly.)
Here’s the thing about me: I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you do for a living. I don’t give a damn if your car costs more than a house. If you can afford to fly to Paris on a whim, good for you. But those things? They aren’t who you are. They’re not the currency that matters to me.
I want to know what makes you smile, when you think you possibly couldn’t. I want to know if you’ll get my Breakfast Club, Princess Bride, and Firefly references. I want to know if you talk in your sleep, and if you can make French toast (because I FAIL at it. I can make crème brulee, but can’t do that. Go figure).
The thing is, I don’t care if you’re different. I don’t care if you’re weird. I don’t care if you’re 24 or 52. I don’t give a damn if you drive a car that parks itself or the one you’ve had since college.
Are you kind? Can you laugh at yourself? Do you drink tequila when you’re fed up with the world? Will you smile at a stranger? Will you reach out to someone just because? Do you hold open a door for the person behind you? Will you burst into song with me, spontaneously, or laugh when I do? Can you say you’re sorry and mean it? Do you listen with everything you have? Do you show up, step up, and give a damn?
These are the things that matter. These are the things that count. I don’t care if you get the mail in your pajamas, eat pop-tarts in bed, or have two left feet. I care about who you are, not what you do. If you’re famous, awesome. You still put on pants, when you actually wear pants, the same way I do: clumsily, one leg at a time. I’m not famous. Sometimes, I will correct your grammar or talk about fricatives and the great vowel shift. I’m a total dork. I hate my nose. I make a lot of dirty jokes. And I never do anything accidentally. I’m never careless with anyone’s heart. And if I’m not chasing you, I’m not interested. I will never laugh at you in a moment of weakness. I will never judge you by your imperfections.
And I’ll never let you sit by yourself. Because, fun fact: I was the kid in middle school who was unhappy. I was the kid in high school who didn’t quite fit in. It is always hard to be different, because when people don’t understand something, they revert to pitchforks and torches (mostly, figurative). And, no matter how chronologically grown up a human is, he/she has the potential to act like a very mean toddler.
I have a lot of friends who live other places. Some I’ve met, and some I haven’t. This doesn’t mean I consider them anything less than a friend. As such, I get pissed off a lot, because people aren’t always nice to my friends. Lately, this is happening too much. I have a Momma Bear complex. You don’t screw with anyone I give a damn about. Ever. It is UNWISE. I am not a terrifying human being, generally speaking, but I take up for my people. Always. In fact, I’m 99% more likely to defend someone else than I am to defend myself. Because, another fun fact: you cannot hurt me if I don’t care – and if I care, my defenses are already down.
A difficult element of geographically challenged friendships is distance. It’s not maintaining the friendship that is ever an issue (for me). It’s the unfathomable parade of despicable humanoids who take an emotional – I can’t think of a delicate word – shit on my friends. Because: NO. Unwise. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. RUN. I’m not going to pull a Sonny and beat you with a baseball bat – but if you hurt someone I care about, I will not sit idly by. I won’t be silent. I won’t let you get away with it. “I swear, by my pretty floral bonnet, I will END you.”
I will verbally rip a new seam in the fabric of your existence, and you will apologize for whatever it is you did. End.of.STORY.
Over the past month, things have happened to my people that read, for all intents in purposes, like a scene out of a movie. A Lifetime movie. And NOT in a good way. It’s like the Scarecrow has escaped from Arkham AsylumAGAIN, and tainted the water with asshole, instead of a hallucinogen. Good people getting hurt, getting ignored, being left out, and being made to feel less. This turns me into Hulk-y Ali, and really – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Sometimes, I’ll even take a page from the angel handbook…
The truth is, too, that I will never understand malicious behavior like that. I don’t get allowing another human being to feel that kind of donkey kick to the gut that comes along with being ostracized and alone. I will never understand mocking someone because of something they say or do, or simply are – which is out of a person’s control.
Do you like snark? And pie/cake/booze? And being silly? Excellent, darlings. Come sit by me. Let’s be weird together. Because life is too short to suffer fools and small minds. It is too short for dickbags and asshats. It is too damn short to judge and act like someone is somehow not okay, because they are not like you. (Hannibal and killer clowns notwithstanding, because: NO.)
This isn’t a lesson that adults should have to be told, and yet…
So, here’s a promise, ok? If I can help it, you’ll never sit by yourself. You’ll never wonder if our friendship is based on what you could do for me. You’ll never, ever be the only oddball. You’re never be alone. Because, darlings? I’m right here.
Generally speaking, I handle things better when I understand them. I don’t have to like a situation to handle it well. In fact, if I had a superpower, it would be that. If you tell me that worst thing imaginable (“There’s a murderous clown living in your closet, and he has eaten your puppy!” or “I’ve just finished the last of the coffee. And there is a statewide shortage!” or “I’m sorry, but you are suddenly lactose intolerant and can no longer consume cheese.”), I will not be HAPPY – but I cope with things better when there are facts.
It’s the void that gets me. The dark unknown, the universe of answers turned inside out. Not because the answers do not exist. It’s because they are hidden from view, unable to be accessed. Because some answers are tucked any somewhere – and with someone – else. And it can be very hard, very challenging to get a handle on a situation like that. Especially if there are crazy variable involved, and you’ve absolutely no way to suss them out.
This is what your brain does in moments like that. Or, at least, mine. It’s like that scene in a horror movie where a character is in a basement. Suddenly, the lights go off, and the protagonist cannot find the stairs. It doesn’t matter if there truly is no monster lurking in the darkness. Your brain goes full on oh my god, what they hell? Is that a Jabberwocky? I AM GOING TO DIE. And the character ends up tripping on a rake and impaling himself/herself for no good reason.
Emotionally speaking, that scene is a landmine of what-ifs. Your brain starts to devolve into its worst, fear-seeking self – until you’re fairly certain the reality of a situation is the most terrible version possible. That is nothing more than fear taking all your good sense, wrapping it in insecurity, and chucking it into the ocean, where it gets eaten by a mutant shark while the theme song to Jaws plays at an alarming decibel.
Personally, my problem in this kind of situation is usually twofold. The first problem is that if I’m worried about someone, and I have no idea what’s going on or any way to find out what’s going on, this does not make me worry any less. In fact, it makes it worse. It ratchets up the fear and concern to an unholy height, leaving my pulse throbbing even in my teeth. My brain tends to bounce around like an electrified pinball, occasionally catching fire and shorting out. Because when left to my own devices, I always blame myself. I find some fault in something I did and start with, “maybe…” And that maybe is a whisper that turns into a voice, knocking itself around the inside of my skull. It’s the what-ifs that kill us slowly, stupidly, and thoroughly. (This is a flaw in my personality. One I am forever working on.) You may not notice this, because most things can be hidden with a good smile. But it’s there. Because I am a worrier. I care, therefore I worry. If I give a damn, I give a damn. And no amount of space, time, or intergalactic rifts in either of those things can even remotely change that. Like I mentioned before, it’s easier to deal with a situation if the lights are on in the basement.
The second part of this problem is I am absolutely shit about being able to do nothing. I don’t necessarily need to move a mountain or render some grand miracle. But I like to help. I like to do, even if it’s just to lend an ear, or a hug, or buy you a drink. I like to help. It’s not even a compulsion. It’s pretty much the foundation of who I am. If I love you, I want to help you. End of the fucking story.
But then, there are the times where the basement is dark. Everything is uncertain. And there are two choices, either of which could be possible. In that moment, the wisest thing is to calmly walk to the stairs, moving slowly – not flailing about like a hyperventilating water buffalo. But truthfully, who is really graceful in moments of raw worry or fear? That is something you have to convince yourself to do, reasoning with your lesser self. It is probably the best choice. The second is to sit down in the darkness. Remind yourself that there’s really nothing to fear. Wait it on. The lights will turn back on. You’ll see what there is to see. You just have to wait. Waiting without knowing is the hardest thing I’ve yet to fully master. Without a finish line, an end zone, a set place of ending – something to achieve – it is terrifying thing. What-if it never ends? What if I never understand? What-if [insert thing here]?
What-if. It’s a bitch.
But in the face of what-if, the best thing is to have faith. To believe. To sit back, consider the heart of the situation, and remember that there are a few things in life that are always true: laughter cannot fix a situation, but it can right the most crooked moment. Fear is only good if you use it as a guidepost to bravery. Love is the strongest force on this earth.
I don’t think much in life is black and white. I don’t think most things are easily figured out. I believe in the power of the heart, of the way life gets complicated when we least expect it to. But I think that at the end of the day, we know exactly what it is we’ll fight for. Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, there is truly a monster in that basement. The lights go out. Your phone suddenly dies. The door slams shut. And you have, again, two choices: you let the damn thing eat you, because you’re paralyzed by fear OR you fight. Because you’d rather go down swinging than curl up in a ball and give in. That is the most important thing: even when it’s absolutely horrifying, you fight. You don’t just accept that the monster is going to eat you.
When that happens, the entire world changes if you know that someone is on your side. Someone believes in you. Someone is willing to risk everything for you. In that spirit, here is the truest thing I know – even my worst days, even when I’m scared, know this: I’m here. I love you.
Have you ever felt completely unlovable? Thought to yourself, I’m too this or too that? I’m awkward or unfunny. No one is going to be able to love me. How could they? I’m [x,y, and z]! This is for posterity, so be honest.
Of course you have. Because we all have those moments that shake us to the core. Things we’ve done or said, secrets that we carry like Sisyphean boulders – the bloody albatross hanging precariously from our necks. It is all to easy to believe that our flaws and our wrongdoings make us who we are. It is all to easy to accept the notion that we are defined by our past. And that past, perhaps, makes us unworthy of love. I think it was Stephen Chbosky who wrote that “we accept the love we think we deserve.” And, in our darkest moments when we cannot bear to look into the mirror, he is right. We get used to the idea that we are unworthy and cannot get around it. Even, perhaps, when the love of our life is standing in front of us. In that way, we are all occasionally broken in our eyes.
Last night, in the premiere of ABC’s Once Upon a Time (Broken), Rumpelstiltskin was reunited with Belle. Magic has returned to Storybrooke, but it is a different magic. A strange magic. One that no one really understands (at one point, Regina tries her magic and fails spectacularly – only to succeed a small while later). True love, however, is repeatedly called the most powerful magic of all. When you look at Rumpelstiltskin and Belle, there is love there. Palpable, tangible, heart-singing love. The kiss scene by the well? That was absolutely beautiful. But if true love is the most powerful magic of all, it also should be said that difficult love can also be true love. As David/Mary Margaret illustrated last season, the course of true love ne’er did run smooth. Belle makes Rumpelstiltskin promise not to kill Regina, not to let his need for revenge win – and if he honors that promise, they can be together. Robert Carlyle expresses more with a look and a kiss that previously thought possible, and Emilie de Ravin was beautifully sincere and hopeful as Belle. She is a strong character. More about that later.
Elsewhere in Storybrooke, happy reunions occur, a mob tries to kill Regina, who is rescued by the Royal Family. (Interesting exchange between Charming and Dr. Whale. Whale vehemently retorts that Charming is not his prince, either implying that his allegiances lie with a different royal family OR that he knows that Charming isn’t really a prince. He is, technically, the prince’s twin brother.) Emma is still reeling from the revelation of her parents (Snow and Charming), and eventually she explains that while the intentions were good, being abandoned as a baby left deep scars. It wasn’t merely an altruistic move, as she points out; it was also done to save the kingdom. Essentially, Snow and Charming sacrificed being with her/raising her knowing that they would not see her for 28 years. While part of that reason was love, it has to sting a bit.
Technically staying true to his promise, Rumpelstiltskin visits Regina, marking her with the symbol of a Wraith. A soul-sucker that doesn’t stop until it kills its victim. When Belle overhears what he’s done, she is hurt and furious. Rumpelstiltskin is a master of words, of saying on the right side of promises, while doing what he wants. Belle tells him, “You toy with words. Like you do people. You’re still a man who makes wrong choices. I thought you’d changed.” From a place of defensive hurt, he viciously rejoins, “in the hour you’ve known me?” Despite his apologies, she leaves, pain plain on her face. The parting shot of his face is one of shock, leaning toward, “What have I done?”
Meanwhile, Snow, Charming, and Emma struggle to save Regina – because Emma promise her son Henry. And yet, he seems to regret that promise a little while later when Regina nearly kills Charming, his grandfather. Whoops. Armed with Jackson’s mad hatter hat, they attempt to send the Wraith elsewhere, but Regina can’t make it work – until Emma puts her hand on Regina’s shoulder, signifying that Emma possesses magic, possibly more magic than the Evil Queen. While Regina is, indeed, saved – the Wraith pulls Emma down the hat with it, and Snow jumps in after her, determined not to abandon her daughter again. Charming attempts to follow, but the hat portal closes before he can. (All this makes me wonder exactly where Jefferson is hiding.)
Congruently, in Fairytale Land, Prince Phillip woke up Sleeping Beauty – and Aurora and Phillip are happily reunited, with some help from Mulan. They are in a part of the Kingdom that is miraculously untouched by the curse; when Emma returned to Storybrooke, she started time in Fairytale Land too – which is an interesting link between the two worlds. Unfortunately, Phillip is marked by the Wraith, dooming him to death. He tells no one, but sets off to sacrifice himself so that his beloved Aurora (and his dear companion Mulan) may live. When the two women discover this, they rush off to find him, Aurora realizing keenly that Mulan carries a hidden torch for the Prince. Phillip dies at the ethereal and dark hand of the Wraith, which was brought back to the land by Emma and Snow. That was an interesting twist.
If this episode were based on a question, it would be this: what are you willing to sacrifice for love? For Snow, it was everything – when she jumped into that hat. For Emma, she saved Regina for love of her son, resulting in unimaginable consequences. For Phillip, it was his life. He sacrificed himself for the woman he loved. Which brings us full circle to Rumpelstiltskin. He sees himself as a monster, as Belle pointed out, a “man who makes wrong choices.” He allows his pain, anger etc to rule him. And yet, with the introduction of Belle, there are cracks in that dominant motivation. He truly does love her, and she him.
What, then, does Belle sacrifice for love? Everything. Because she comes back to him. Despite what he has done, she returns – which is something we’ve seen in the past. She asks, “So, you didn’t get what you wanted?” And, clever as always, he says, “Well, that remains to be seen.” Her resolve seems to crack completely when she sees the chipped cup from their time together in Fairytale Land. He has saved it, and in season one, fought very hard to get it back when it was stolen.
Then, Rumpelstiltskin attempts to make a sacrifice: he tries to send Belle away, for her own good. He is, once again, giving up his own heart for her. He tells Belle that “despite what you hope, I’m still a monster.” As love is a thing that reveals us all, she will have none of it, fighting for him, even if it means fighting him. Touching his shoulder, tears in her eyes, she replies, “Don’t you see? That’s exactly the reason I have to say.” That is love. Love stays, when others would flee. Love risks, attempts to rescue us from our darker selves.
You see, Rumpelstiltskin may think himself a villain, but in her eyes, he is just a man who makes wrong choices. And that is something someone can fix, something you can rescue someone from. He is not an evil man, though he’s done bad things. Belle SEES him for who he is and who he can be. She sees past all his defenses, all his mistakes, and refuses to allow him remain apart from his heart – it is that heart that may be his salvation. Rumple is his own monster. Yet, she forgives him for his flaws, which is all anyone really wants in love. To see, and to be seen, and for all things to be made right through love. What is, perhaps, broken or chipped like that cup? It can still be cherished, because love is forgiveness.
…the light of a single candle. ~St. Francis
Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned that I will let a stranger hug me if I’m upset enough. I know what it’s like to literally watch someone take their last breath. I know that life is hard, change is inevitable, and love is always the answer.
Since my mother passed away, people have done one of two things: reached out or said nothing. Now, depending on the relationship, this is normal. Some family members who I considered close have done or said nothing. Even something as simple as a facebook message. That is strange, because it takes two seconds to write a single sentence. That polite absence isn’t something to forget.
On the other hand, friends who I haven’t really spoken to in years have reached out. Cards have been received. And I’ve realized that I am lucky. Despite the few people who have (quite deliberately) remained silent, there are a wealth of folks who are wonderful.
It is a good feeling that, despite the horrible situation, someone calls at 6:30 am, because he/she heard and needed to call. It is a good feeling to have the solidity of such sweetness. It is a small light amid the darkness, gathering with the other small lights of words and gestures. I am lucky to be loved. I am lucky to love. And I am going to remember that, when the days get rough.
My best friend is a wonderful person. She didn’t leave my side for about a week. Then she distracted me with an old fashioned sleepover. My absolutely fantastic friend Liz and her fabulous sister Catie drove 7 hours both ways to attend my mother’s viewing. THAT’S FOURTEEN HOURS, people. That’s love, folks. Pure and simple.
When the dust settles, and things are less sad, the love is still there. I am reminded how that is all that really matters. T.S. Elliot once wrote about measuring out life in spoonfulls of coffee. While that is totally valid (because without the coffee, I stop doing the talking and the walking and the words putting into sentence doing – just like Lorelai Gilmore), measuring life is terms of love is much more important.
I am lucky in that department. Because love makes us strong. Love makes us brave. Love makes the dark and terrible moments a little more bearable. Love is hope, without strings. It’s a promise, without pretense. It’s everything, really. And because of all the love, I feel stronger than I otherwise would.
“To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu
My heart is full of both strength and courage.
It’s too easy, sometimes, to ignore the good moments when things are tough. The difficult bits are the monster in the closet that’s going to goggle you up in the middle of the night. They are merciless and resilient, a cleverly drawn shadow. A jabberwocky — all the more worse because of what your mind twists its existence into. Carroll got that quite right: what we imagine is always worse than what is put in front of us.
But my point isn’t about the painful parts, silences, or whatever — it’s about the things that keep us (okay, me) sane. It’s the silly jokes and video chats (I have to say, I’d like to kiss whoever invented google video chat). It’s the laughing over silly things, “Did you just offer me a box of pudding and some pills? Have you hit your head?” (That really happened, last night, with my BFF. It’s funnier than it sounds, because then she also offered me peanut butter in such a way that had us laughing on the floor.)
I am grateful for the people in my life who know when something’s wrong, who listen even when I say I don’t want to talk, and who tolerate my inability to properly exit a driveway (sorry about the tree stump! And the rock! And my dignity!). I am blessed to have a group of friends, near and far, who are there — even if I rant too much. It’s so important to remember that you don’t have to have the RIGHT words to help; sometimes, you just have to be there.
I know that I can admit to being a total disaster, sometimes, without regretting it later. I can laugh about ridiculous things that happen, because it seems like something out of a movie — except no, that’s real life. And YES, that DID just happen. And no, Tori Spelling will NOT be portraying me in a lifetime movie. Please let it be Lauren Graham. I beg you.
I’m happy to have coffee (occasionally supplied by awesome friends), brand new nail polish, and a few minutes of quiet. I’m immeasurably grateful for the cranberry wine consumed last night, family that loves me (despite my crazy), and the flickers of hope and possibility that are (to bastardize Assisi) are a light against the darkness.
I love the smell of cookies baking, even if I’m making a kind I don’t eat. I love having a garden, even if it’s small — and you’ll always find me with a basil plant on the windowsill. I find it physically impossible to NOT feed you if you set foot in my home, so please have a seat and some coffee. Food, in my house, is just another form of affection. I’m ridiculously lucky to have a group of writer friends who are supportive and helpful in equal measure; you all are a little tribe of awesome. I am glad to have learned so much over the past year or two, lessons too innumerable to list; just know that I’ve been paying attention.
I love saying yes, instead of no. I love laughing at myself. I am continually surprised and amazed by humanity, sometimes for the better. I know that having a sense of humor is often the best defense, and that there’s nothing better than reading a good book by the pool, even if the temperature is just shy of the surface of the sun. I’m grateful for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, and Once and Again (despite the fact that I’m STILL angry there’s no season 3 DVD. WTF?). I’m grateful for Foucault, unfortunate incidents during Victorian Lit with a lawyer and a grape (don’t ask — or do. It’s a funny story), Shakespeare, Hughes, and Neruda. I’m indebted to my freakishly good memory, the insane depths of my own heart, and the fact that I can still recite the alphabet in Spanish (why do I STILL remember that?).
I could go on, but I’ve blathered enough. Tell me what, and whom, you are grateful for. And if that should be ‘who,’ instead of ‘whom,’ shove it. I need more coffee.
“I expect, like many another, you’ll spend your life oscillating between fierce relationships that becomes tunnel traps, and sudden escapes into wide freedom when the whole world seems to be just there for the taking. Nobody’s solved it.”
~Ted Hughes, in a letter to his son Nicholas (Reid 513-4)
“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all. […] that’s how we measure out our real respect for people—by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate—and enjoy.”
When the dust of things settle, I believe that we are simply boiled down to our emotions. Our capacity to feel, the reasons that we feel, and the limits inherent therein. If life is a series of relationships that either trap or free us, as Hughes expresses above, there are two kinds of people in life: those who tether us (either knowingly or unknowingly) and those who set us free. Opportunities seized and missed, all part of an unsolvable puzzle.
Hughes goes on to say that the only thing that matters is the heart, how much it was invested and how much the heart can stand. The heart, I think, is a strange creature; it is often a wild thing of unimaginable depth. People make the mistake of assuming they know their heart, like knowing a certain road or a well-used recipe. It is a map that is always shifting, yet it is infinitely the same. You dissect it, but never really understand it. It may be the first and last great mystery in each of our worlds.
Time and again, we try to trap ourselves with explanations, parsing out sentences until they’re unrecognizable, save to say that once – they made sense. Once, they meant something. But meanings, like people, change. Transforming from one heartbeat to the next, lit up like lightning from an unexpected and clear sky.
How much heart to really invest, daily? In people, in passions? It’s a scary thing, I know. It’s akin to cracking open your chest, unaided by skills or anesthesia, while standing in the middle of Times Square with a scalpel. Or a chainsaw. Next to a very hungry serial killer, holding Chianti and Fava Beans. Basically, it’s not for the faint of heart or the relatively sane. Because to love? Or to try to love? It’s an act of total balls-out crazy. The potential for pain is so great that it is a wonder we chuck ourselves off that Cliff of Insanity time and again. The trouble is, the potential payoff shines like the aurora borealis, pretty and ethereal – almost not real, except for what you witness. That is love, really: what you see and feel, no matter how surreal it may seem.
I believe in risk. I believe in the heart, as unreliable as it can sometimes be. I believe in grand speeches and honesty. I believe in doing a stupid thing for the right reasons. I believe that foolishness and bravery go hand-in-hand. I believe that we regret the things we do not do or try – more than we regret the wounds we nurse because of the times we’ve landed on our faces. I believe in unnecessary smiles, the beauty of a perfect kiss, and wisdom of kindness. I believe in numbered chances, forgiveness, and somewhat ridiculous grins. I believe some things should be spoken softly, while others deserve to be shouted or sung. I believe in singing, loudly, even in the supermarket.
I do not believe in holding back. I do not believe in fear-worship. I do not believe in running away, speaking in riddles, or failure through inaction.
What do you believe in? What do you invest in? And what are the things that hold you back? (Whatever they are, demolish them.)