five points for a day

August 16, 2014

1. PHOTO

three girls, blurry, taken in a mirror with a streak of white fluoro throwing shadows. the one in the middle is in red, striking, face tilted, arms around the others. the one on the left is in grey, poised and posed; the one on the right holds the camera, her face emerging from the dark like a coloured moon. this is a shoutout to my girls, it says. oh to be sixteen again (when trying on Zara clothes was the closest you’d ever get to owning them). besties for over a decade and going strong, it says.

they are tagged, the one in plaid, the one in red; this photo belongs to the girl in grey. these girls inspire me to be the best that I can be, she says, but also remind me that they love me for me, and not for what I accomplish.

two years before this photo was taken, these three were my best friends.

 

2. ROOTS

I have been thinking again of uprooting. about what it does. about isolation and belonging, about relationships tenuous and relationships uncertain; about things that last and things that don’t. I suppose I’m thinking about loss, but I’m always thinking about loss. I have been thinking about the way I see death. and I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s because I know that all things are impermanent that I never –

 

once I had roots. now I do not. and I will never be the same again because of it.

 

3. FEAR

it appears that life is a series of exercises in learning to be afraid, and to cope with each successive fear. I will never be as unafraid as I was at eighteen, mad with the newness of things and the joy of being unleashed, frenzied and exploding into all the things I could do. I had no boundaries and no end to all my possibilities. I had no fear. there was no limit to all I could be; I was endless and endlessly resourceful, endlessly capable. there was no end to me.

and I will never be as unafraid as I was at thirteen, when I had never known what it was to not belong, because I had always belonged somewhere, and my roots went down deep through the concrete and the brickwork, and I was at home wherever I was because I had never been away from home, and I was powerful and I was strong and I was blind. I was secure in the soil of my growing-up, and I had never needed to fear.

and I will never be as unafraid as I was at six, when I was a child, and I knew nothing of loss, and the world revolved around the sun that I was, and the joy that I knew in everyday living, and the joy that I knew in being loved.

these are caricatures. I have always been afraid of something; the dark, my parents, the shapes of trees, the anger of others, punishment, deadlines, failure. but I had not made fear into a way of living then, and that is the difference.

 

4. ISLAND

No man is an island, and no woman either. Yes. But if you are the floating island of Buyan, that is a different matter; if you are a piece of land that got broken off and now drift from sea to sea, bumping up against the shores of other countries, lodging for a little between one fjord and another narrow creek, bobbing in an estuary for a while, you may trade with others, but-

and the answer is simple: you will always leave, or others will. not because people are evil, or difficult, or dangerous, or because they mean you harm. whether or not they want to leave is immaterial. everyone leaves. everyone dies. everything is impermanent.* I have never been particularly upset or disturbed by death because each death has always felt- expected. Obvious. People leave you, it’s what happens; this is what living with death in the world means. I find it hard to expect otherwise.

and so I love lightly, and I hold people lightly. I care about others for as long as I have them, for as long as they’re mine to care about, but at the heart of this is the awareness that this is temporary, and it is a warning to not care too much. Life is an exercise in learning not to expect people to stay. And being grateful when they do.

 

5. GRATITUDE

Grateful is not quite the correct word for it. Grateful is not big enough. The people who are still here are the people I hold the most precious; the people who still love me are the people who, sometimes, I look at with astonishment and joy and a thing a little like wonder, a little like what I feel when I listen to incredible music or see something so soul-fillingly glorious it takes my breath away with the wideness and nowness and realness of it. That you are still here is a miracle. That, after all this time, you are still here, is a blessing I have no words for, no breath in my lungs for. It is breathtaking. It is gravity-defying; it is death-defying, that against all entropy and against all odds and against the natural order of time and decay and what I expect from life you are still- here. Faithfulness is a hard commodity for me to find and to give, and sometimes the sheer act of having a friend who is still a good friend after all these years seems like winning a lottery, like a thing made purely of happenstance and chance; time and space and circumstance all collude against, and there are my evident flaws and problematic energy levels and periods of non-contact, and life happens to us all, brutal and complicated and bruising hard. But against all odds, you are still here, across time and space, and I am blessed, ridiculously and utterly, wordlessly, completely blessed, to have you still present and active in my life. and I marvel at it.

 

 

*Not everything is impermanent. But until we enter a land where death itself has died, where all things can be trusted to stay because their end has gone forever (eternity is the eternal death of death) we live here, where everything, nearly everything, dies and does not stay.
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