Monday, September 14, 2015

The Sweetest Thing

These are words that have been aching at the tips of my fingers for some time now, and after successfully pushing it down for the last few weeks, they're bursting out. Now is the time to turn away if you don't like the raw, vulnerable, uncooked-meat-kind-of-emotion that only some people are brave enough for.

My step-dad has stage 4 metastatic melanoma. While this has been happening, I've been experiencing a tremendous amount of success at work. There are other things happening that make me incandescently happy. There should be a new word for happiness this big.

Do you know how terribly difficult it is to feel all these big emotions all at once? I don't have the room in my brain or my heart to handle it all. I have had to learn to compartmentalize every second of every day. One moment, I'll be full of euphoric happiness. The next moment, someone will ask me how Mike is doing. The next moment, I have to meet with a prospective parent and enroll a new family. The course of my brain-thought shifts moment to moment.

There have been many other times in my life where I've been holding two very different emotions simultaneously, but this is so different. There's something so much....bigger....about these feelings. They lack description. I often don't even have words to capture how I'm feeling. People ask me, "How are you?" and I can only shrug because words don't exist.

One of my favorite quotes is from Frederick Beuchner. It says, "This is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." The reason I like this quote is because it's real. It doesn't try to paint this fake pretty picture of life as some magnificent piece of art that you paint once and it's finished and on display for all to see; perfection forever. It sets life up as the ridiculously ancient canvas in your basement, which is cracked and peeling from all the layers of paint you've thrown at it over the last however-many-years. You can see the bits and pieces of what you've painted before, peeking out from behind the other gobs of paint you've thrown on it more recently, but none of it makes sense. It doesn't even look like anything. It's just a mess. It's a big, fricking mess. It's your life, and it's a gargantuan, painted-over, blob of nothing that makes sense to no one but you. And that is why you love it. You can interpret and appreciate the big, beautiful mess.

The point I want to make (mostly to myself) is this: The beautiful things and the terrible things can be together. They can happen together. They can coexist peacefully. I've been grappling with guilt over being as happy as I've been the past month or so, because of what's happening with Mike. Beautiful and terrible things, I remind myself, not beautiful or terrible things. The quote says nothing about them not happening together. In fact, I think they may need each other...

Maybe....we need the beautiful things and the terrible things to happen together. Maybe the beautiful things make the terrible things easier to bear, and the terrible things make the beautiful things that much more enjoyable. Perhaps it's like the light and the darkness. We don't understand light without darkness. The darkness makes us appreciate the light, and the light reminds us that darkness isn't forever.

I might just try to let the beautiful and terrible things happen together, and see where they lead me.

Listen to this.