I was supposed to post a blog last week, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t have one. I didn’t have anything to write about, is what I kept telling myself. I was too overwhelmed with life to write about it. Ariel and Heather were generous and loving and let me take a pass. And now it’s my turn again and I continue to have the same excuses. And then I realized: my heart is hurting, and I’m hiding. And that’s exactly when I should be writing about what’s going on.
I am coming to this moment from a place of significant privilege. I am white, middle-class, and educated. I am cisgender and I can hold hands with my partner in the street and I don't have to feel worried that someone is going to hate me or hurt me based on who I love. I have resources and community, a job I love, and my mental health is consistently stable. I didn't ask for these things, and many of them I didn’t earn. I was lucky to be born into the family I have. I am not a person who is typically vulnerable. The deck is stacked in my favor on a daily basis.
I am also a tender-hearted person. I can’t remember being any other way. I was a child who wore her heart on her sleeve and grew into an adult who does the same. I obsess about animals being cold outside at night in the winter, and the opportunity to hold a baby is a holy moment. Sometimes things come together in a way that rips me wide open. For me, this is usually reflected in the balance of the beautiful things in the world and the worst, most heartbreaking things. Does that ever happen to you? Those times when you feel like the luckiest person because you get to squeeze your niece whose cheeks are quite possibly the loveliest cheeks in the world, and she looks around and says “wow” in her tiny baby voice, and you remember your roots and where you came from and you see your family who has been through so much but they still laugh and love you unconditionally? Then you come home and you are walloped with an illness that lays you out for days and you feel helpless and sad and alone? And then you finally start to recover and you learn that yet another senseless act of violence has been committed and so many people were murdered and people just don’t understand why it means so much, why it carries the weight that it does, and your heart breaks into a million pieces from hurt and anger and sadness and empathy? And that’s the thing. This isn’t about me. But it hurts so much. It hurts my heart as a person, a human being, and it hurts us as a collective.
Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. We all are. Holding sorrow in my heart feels like too much. We must all carry the pain of what happens in this world. It is not okay to say, “this happened to you, so you deal with it.” No. The pain, the hurt, the death, the reverberating loss, the damage we are doing to hearts and families and communities and generations to come is ours to hold. It doesn’t just go away. We are all swimming in the stew of what we put into the world. We are ignorantly creating our future when we turn our heads or chalk it up to “oh, that person is just crazy.” Sitting with this truth is uncomfortable and overwhelming.
There are so many opportunities for love and connection. Our world could be different and I want to remember that. So what I try to do, especially when my heart hurts, is seek out those opportunities. Give extra hugs, listen a little bit longer, be real about my sadness. Recognize there is much more than what is happening in my home and heart, and my experience is not universal. Call out the bullshit as I see it because it’s safer for me to do that than it is for other folks. Ask my friends if they are okay rather than assuming they are. Bake a cake, say I love you, write a card, light a candle. Be with other tender-hearted people. Cry. Hold space, sit in the back, allow others to speak their truth. Sometimes I need to get under the covers and make a plan to never come out, and I let myself do that because we don’t have to be strong all the time. And then I will see the sun come through the curtains this certain way and I hear the breeze in the trees and I just want to cry for how beautiful our earth is, for how short a time we get to be here, how we change each other’s lives every day, how we don’t know what’s coming but we keep taking steps forward. Somehow I get through. We all do. That alone is a beautiful thing.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of witnessing Andrea Gibson perform spoken word for the first time. I had never heard of Andrea, but when they performed this poem, I ugly cried in the dark in a room full of people whose hearts were hurting too. And it reminded me that we are never alone, even with death and loss and pain and grief and anger. It’s okay that my heart is hurting and it’s okay that yours hurts sometimes, too. I’m here with you, and I am so so glad you are here with me.
The Nutritionist (here is the link if you want to see the performance--fast forward to 2:06)
The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables
Said if I could get down 13 turnips a day
I would be grounded,
Said my head would not keep flying away to where the darkness is.
The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight
Said for 20 dollars she’d tell me what to do
I handed her the twenty,
she said “stop worrying darling, you will find a good man soon.”
The first psychotherapist said I should spend 3 hours a day sitting in a dark closet with my eyes closed, with my ears plugged
I tried once but couldn’t stop thinking about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet
The yogi told me to stretch everything but truth,
said focus on the outbreaths,
everyone finds happiness when they can care more about what they can give than what they get
The pharmacist said klonopin, lamictil, lithium, Xanax
The doctor said an antipsychotic might help me forget what the trauma said
The trauma said don’t write this poem
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones
My bones said “Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River convinced he was entirely alone.”
My bones said “write the poem.”
Considering the river bed.
To the chandelier of your fate hanging by a thread.
To everyday you could not get out of bed.
To the bulls eye on your wrist
To anyone who has ever wanted to die.
I have been told, sometimes, the most healing thing to do-
Is remind ourselves over and over and over
Other people feel this too
The tomorrow that has come and gone
And it has not gotten better
When you are half finished writing that letter to your mother that says “I swear to God I tried”
But when I thought I hit bottom, it started hitting back
There is no bruise like the bruise of loneliness kicks into your spine
So let me tell you I know there are days it looks like the whole world is dancing in the streets when you break down like the doors of the looted buildings
You are not alone and wondering who will be convicted of the crime of insisting you keep loading your grief into the chamber of your shame
You are not weak just because your heart feels so heavy
I have never met a heavy heart that wasn’t a phone booth with a red cape inside
Some people will never understand the kind of superpower it takes for some people to just walk outside
Some days I know my smile looks like the gutter of a falling house
But my hands are always holding tight to the ripchord of believing
A life can be rich like the soil
Can make food of decay
Can turn wound into highway
Pick me up in a truck with that bumper sticker that says
“it is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society”
I have never trusted anyone with the pulled back bow of my spine the way I trusted ones who come undone at the throat
Screaming for their pulses to find the fight to pound
Four nights before Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington bridge I was sitting in a hotel room in my own town
Calculating exactly what I had to swallow to keep a bottle of sleeping pills down
What I know about living is the pain is never just ours
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo
So I keep listening for the moment the grief becomes a window
When I can see what I couldn’t see before,
through the glass of my most battered dream, I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.
So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin, don’t try to put me back in
just say here we are together at the window aching for it to all get better
but knowing as bad as it hurts our hearts may have only just skinned their knees knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming
let me say right now for the record, I’m still gonna be here
asking this world to dance, even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet
you- you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.
Raising your bite against the bitter dark
Your bright longing
Your brilliant fists of loss
if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other,
my god that’s plenty
my god that’s enough
my god that is so so much for the light to give
each of us at each other’s backs whispering over and over and over