I have emerged from it feeling rather raw and tender and open. And sometimes, perhaps this is a necessary and good place to be.
Life is really, really hard. I don’t mean this in a pessimistic way. It’s just really hard. It never lets up. I don’t think, while on this earthly plane, we are meant to ever really understand why awful things happen to very loving and wonderful people or why we suffer such devastating loss. No one is exempt. But perhaps what we can understand is that the only thing we do have influence over is how we respond to what life hands us. Once again, I see that it is not what happens to us but the story we craft about what happens to us that we should hold as holy, beautiful, and absolutely crucial.
We lost a friend, my beautiful circle of friends and I. He was the brightest light of any of us and I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that he is not physically here anymore. You’ve been there; this has happened to you. When it happens, I experience a moment where I feel my own life is suddenly jammed into perspective. And then there are the odd days that follow, when we are left to collect our own struggles and our own pain that we left momentarily at the threshold of another’s tragedy. But there is a new tenderness that we find in ourselves. There are blessings that we are reminded to count that we, up until that moment, were too caught up in our own muck and mire to give thanks for. There are lessons hidden within the hideous, and gifts within the seemingly senseless, that are waiting to transform us but we either choose to open our eyes to them or we do not. It is a choice.
I’m thankful for the recent days of my own tears and melancholy and heaviness of heart. It has burned its purifying fire in an intense, sharp, and expeditious way and left me exhausted, vulnerable, open, compassionate, and very, very tender. I think this is how love finds its way into us. I think, in this way, love also more easily finds its way back out to the people who have the courage to sit with us in those moments.
We have such hard shells. We are told so often to be strong, to persevere. I don’t think this serves us very well. And I think true strength is being able to go fully into your pain and allow it to soften you, peel back your layers, to transmogrify your callouses, clear your slate, and be a more intimate and loving human being.
If we can understand that, if we understand nothing else, if we can truly grasp that that is our story, then perhaps we can sit with each other more often and offer up the most heart-breaking pieces of ourselves and open up that sacred space for love and joy to enter.
I am healed by your tears and my own. Come sit with me.
Valerie G. Keane is very honored to be part of the current Queens literary scene. Her work was recently published in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of the Newtown Literary Journal and she is the founder of Poetry & Coffee, a very juicy discussion group in Queens for writers and readers, where the only rule is that you cannot read your own work. When asked if she is a poet, Valerie says, “I still don’t know how you qualify as one and no one seems to know where the application form is.”