Perhaps you are like me, and you will know what I mean. You will know the physicality of it, the fluttery hummingbird heart, the throat lump, always there, the easy tears in seconds. You will know the sadness that stretches like pain, to your fingertips. You will have memories like mine, scalded into my brain, white light images, from long, long ago, thirty or more years past. Seven years old, in 1983, by myself in our basement family room, I stood just feet from our television and watched the footage from the Ethiopian famine, sobbing, sobbing, those children. Their bones beneath thin skin. I would go there; I would feed them. I still feel this way. I feel this way about anyone vulnerable, which is to say...everyone.
Perhaps you are like me, and the world vibrates with connection and meaning. You have read so much, thought so deeply, felt so conflictingly. In my twenties, visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Austria, I cried several times a day. The cathedrals! The Kiss, Gustav Klimt's original painting, my favorite! The Alps! I stood on a glacier, ancient gray ice, and felt the eons of molecules stretching behind me. History never leaves us. Beauty pushes me over the edge. Mind of their own, those tears.
Perhaps you are like me, and you tried to find your footing, a way to help. You gave a lot, sometimes too much, or to the wrong people, or in the wrong way. And many times, you gave just the right thing, and in just the right way. From teenagehood through college and beyond, I worked at soup kitchens, volunteered at Special Olympics, led retreats, gave talks, cared for children, found homeless people in Boston and weekly gave them soup or mittens, tutored, spoke to Congress about abortion, picketed, handed out fliers, organized groups, sat-in, stood-out, hugged trees, wiped noses and bums, cleaned up vomit, bonded deeply with adults with cognitive disabilities, led a youth group, taught, painted faces, donated, prayed, wrote poems, made art, grew food, talked people back from despair. And then I had lots of babies, and opened up a fresh vein to the planet. And then I felt tired. But I know it's still not enough.
Perhaps you are like me, and the lovely flipside is your humor, your sense of adventure, and the way your home is open to people, and that people come for an hour and stay all day. My home is chronically, enthusiastically messy, so much to do! I like making people laugh. My sensitivity makes me absurd, and observant. Nuance is not lost on me, and I usually find it very, very funny.
Perhaps, like me, you wonder how to function, sometimes. Four paragraphs don't begin to describe all the days of my thirty-seven, nearly thirty-eight years of living raw skin turned inside out, my brain dictating possibilities turned reality. Awareness will do that to you and lies mutate into truth. But that's for another post. For now, I will step outside, after snuggling my children to sleep, their kissed cheeks still moist, and I will listen to the woods behind our home. I will think about you, and hope if you are like me, you will find your way, the path between exposed nerves and solid rest.