Just a Little Bit Broken

My heart hurts. It feels just a little bit broken. These past few weeks have seen the reemergence of my faith. These past few weeks have felt like the body of a neon yellow arrow pointing me towards something I can’t yet see.

My father has pancreatic cancer. When I say these words out loud, everything inside of me moves and I feel closer to my mother than I ever have before. Closer and farther all at once—manifesting as quaking. I swallow the spit that pools under my tongue and know that I am swallowing something else too because my neck muscles strain under the force.

What isn’t known is the weight upon us. My parents will go see someone, probably a group of someones, who will know or not know and tell them or not tell them so. Then, I will be called and I will be pulled into action or stayed for the moment.

I think about them all of the time. I pray and pray and pray. I try not to talk about it, but I’m no good at stoicism so it leaks out all the time.

I try to find joy, but I just feel confused. I read and read and read, but the more I read the more I stop reading—the more I just see words

then letters

then symbols

then black dots on white with everything in our apartment, everything in my life, behind it.

 

And I try not to be harsh, but it feels like generalities and platitudes are all people have to offer to my other, much less significant questions and pains. How can I share this with anyone? Not now. Not yet.

And I try to see past that into their intentions, but I’m tired and my heart hurts and everything feels just a little bit broken.

Choices

Given the chance to go back and change parts of my life, I would always choose to go back and be more kind, more patient, more thoughtful, more loving, more open.

But I can’t go back, and so I go back every day in interactions I am having and will have, and I smile more now that I did a year ago. I look up at the clouds and take time to smell the air and I try to be grateful for and in my own skin. I think about people I know and used to know I hope that they feel full and secure.

These are my hopes for the world: 1) that everyone would feel loved; 2) that everyone find joy in each circumstance they’re in; 3) that everyone take some time, even if it’s only a few seconds, to be quiet and really live in their bodies; 4) that everyone would have several people/animals/communities that they can trust completely; 5) that people stop hurting each other on purpose; 6) that people would apologize and try to make amends when they do hurt others, especially on purpose, but especially when it’s by accident.

These are my hopes, I try to live them through my choices, and I try not to mind when I am judged severely, although when I am judged severely a piece of me crumbles inside and I spend all day and night looking at that new gap and wondering what used to go there.

I don’t care anymore if people think I’m weak. I care much more when I feel weak, insecure, vulnerable, because these feelings are warnings and when I don’t heed them I am being careless with myself and I cannot be the caring person I want to be if I don’t care about me.

What I don’t understand is why we, people, aren’t more kind to each other. Why aren’t we honest, and why do we think that honesty and compassion are mutually exclusive? Why do we think that we’re more important than other people? Why don’t we trust the people we have chosen to be closest to us to help protect us? Why are we hypocritical?

Why can’t I aspire to be great and still, despite my best efforts, be flawed?

Why did you stop seeing beauty in my flaws?

Why do you demand that I be perfect?

I have no face left. We’ve both whittled it away. I’ve lost 10 lbs. since we moved here—I’m slowly, slowly vanishing, and you carve out more; more merciless with me, I think, than you have ever been with yourself. I take on everything you don’t like about me, about you, about us, about life, and I wonder if the gift of my strong legs is a curse.

 

Given the chance to go back, I would always choose to go back, not because I am ashamed of my actions, but because every opportunity is an opportunity for love and these opportunities are priceless.

Given who I am now, a messy, complex, imperfect being, I work at always choosing love even when, sometimes, that means choosing me.

On Knowing What I Know

The traffic outside of our apartment sounds like a mechanized ocean with waves cresting and falling into a nearly suburban silence. In early morning hours it is lucidly quiet, and I feel the surge of ideas under my skin. I ask them, “Who are you? Why don’t you come out?” Even as I ask, I know.

I have taken this time off as a sabbatical. I have rested. I have worshipped. But these persistent questions—What/How have I rested/worshipped?—gnaw at me. I have tried to re-center myself. I have tried to rediscover myself. I have tried to be sensible. I have tried to dream, and when that is done I have tried to dream sensibly. I have tried to assess who I am, who I want to be, and how to bridge the gap between the two. My eyes well with sheer relief at reminders of who I was, and with the knowledge that for better or worse that person lives inside me and grows so that I am my own parent and my own child and am becoming my own grandparent, my own aunt, my own best friend all collapsed inside of me and nesting in each other.

Listening to an episode of Definitely Not the Opera, Sook-Yin Lee asks, “What is one surprising act of kindness you’ve been on the receiving end of?” The people she asks draw a blank, but I knew my answer immediately. Anytime anyone smiles at me. Anytime anyone holds the door. Every small show of kindness that I see is valuable and meaningful. I hope that I never take these things for granted again. I hope that I always remember how it feels to be so surprised to be acknowledged. I hope I never forget how lack of courtesy can rob one of dignity as surely as overtly undercutting actions can.

 

When I am up late enough to find myself wading through silence, this sabbatical takes its purest, most direct form. I allow the itchy ideas under my skin to unfurl until they seed in my nails and eyes and teeth. Just past my lips and eyelids and fingertips and toes, they grow to fruition and drop heavily and singly around me. The moment before I look at them, I see them all there urging me towards a future that feels so uncertain.

And then they disappear.