“Well, any love makes us vulnerable. Whatever we love will give the gift of pain somewhere along the road. But who would live sealed in spiritual cellophane just to keep from ever being hurt? There are a few people like that. I’m sorry for them. I think they are as good as dead.”
― Gladys Bagg Taber, Harvest at Stillmeadow
This is a melting pot of a story about personal love, world love, tragedy, selfishness, forgiveness, weakness and strength. I’ve always found it interesting how life doesn’t throw you anything you are not prepared for. It dishes what you need, when you need it (even if you don’t know that you need it). It’s like an army, equipping you with all the gear you’ll need to fight in battle; mentally, physically and spiritually.
I’m no master of love. No genius in understanding and embracing its many dimensions. I’m no expert in human communications or connections. I don’t always like to accept that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel,” or “reason for everything.” I don’t have the answers, only the opinions of a soon-to-be 27 year old woman. What I can speak to, is the art of beginning to embrace vulnerability. The one word that makes many quiver, as it is a hotspot connecting to other ferocious words such as commitment, hurt, pain, fear, loss, trust, emotional destruction, love, joy, contentement and fulfillment. Funny how the negative words spew first, isn’t it? Why is it that when we use such powerful words, the negative trickles out first?
Recently, life has been a battle zone in personal love, world love and tragedy. Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath has opened the floodgates of the soul so wide, that her floods have reached far beyond the terrain of the East coast. As the steep water levels have dissipated, she’s stripped many of their possessions and opened up the topic of selfishness, charity and generosity. She’s swooped in and conquered as if to say, “WAKE UP! Get a hold of yourself! Money, material items– all the things in life which we deem more a priority than the ones we love– they are not what matters.” Destruction has come, and she kicked our butts. She meant to leave her mark, and she did a fine job. She brushed her shoulders off as she faded into the middle of the country, and said, “Take that. This is yet another warning. You only get so many.”
Selfishness is a trait that can derive from anywhere, likely fear or pain, hurt and suffering. It is easier to live in the confines of your own bubble, than to expose your heart and mind to those that can crush you, expose you and leave you for the wolves. It’s easier to be emotionless, to fence yourself in and build walls so tall that no one can come in, or go out– including oneself. You live drowning in the world of your own head, rather than stepping out for air, focusing on others, consequently decreasing your capacity for compassion, empathy and connection. Your sorrow haunts you, a daily reminder that you are too weak to face forgiveness and the strength to take accountability and responsibility for your life. You are essentially, as cold as stone, as good as dead.
As the hot embers flickered and faded, and the ashes settled from the storm, people from around the country and world have stood up, joined hands and faced the diaster head on. Putting differences aside, people first and rising to the occasion, many have opened their hearts to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Donating goods, making monetary donations, driving out to relief centers, I’ve seen and experienced a lot this past week…(not nearly as much as those more directly affected). It has motivated me to begin to look inside myself and others, and further question their love for others, motives and zest for life. It’s been said many a time; we must surround ourselves with those who support and lift us higher.
This whirlwind of a catastrophe has begun to shed light on my own life and the decisions and choices made. There are two kinds of victims. Those who fall victim to a set of circumstances in which they have created and accepted for themselves, or a victim who has fallen to a set of circumstances that are out of their control. No matter the situation, I’d say it’s time to throw your stake in the ground and fight. Fight for yourself, fight for others. Let the fight be in the name of love.
A day before the storm hit, I had my own personal experience. One in which has been a constant push and pull of emotions, heartache, drain and sorrow. I decided to confront this experience (i.e. relationship) head on. Allowing myself to accept and communicate my feelings and set aside my pride, I conveyed my deepest love that I have had yet to give. Although this has not been returned back, has gone through the motions of anger, heartache, pain and resentment, something has changed within. Sandy has started to teach me the art of forgiveness and vulnerability. The act of charity, and how its greatest derivative stems from unselfish and unconditional love– and how love may simply never be enough without the act of pushing it through…how it may never be enough if one has already dove head first and the other is still standing on the diving board staring down at you, afraid to jump. I chose to jump– I didn’t know how deep or shallow the waters were, what the conditions were going to be like or if I’d make it through, but that’s the nature of the beast and taking risks. We don’t have the answers. We don’t have the luxury of solidifying if something will work or won’t–we simply jump or we don’t. We simply have the courage to commit, or don’t.
All is true in love and tragedy. When it strikes, its razors rip open our seams from top to bottom. It floods the deepest chambers of our soul, questions our composition, burns us from the inside out. It wouldn’t be real if it didn’t. We wouldn’t be who we are if it didn’t. We wouldn’t know love and joy, misery and hardship if it didn’t. With struggle comes the opportunity to change…to change oneself, and to have the courage to face yourself and others. It grants permission to put cowardism to rest, scapegoating behind you and move on with your life.
Sandy’s fury has struck hard, and compelled me to take a very close look at the people in my life. The ones who decide to jump or stand still. The ones who have come out of the woodwork during the storm, reaching out and connecting, helping others, being selfless, opening their lives to others in need.
Jumping is scary and not easy, but I’d choose to jump any day…choose to confront my fears, be honest, trust in the goodness of people, allow myself to get hurt. I choose to consciously try not to live my life in anger, regret or resentment, but to love HARDER. To fight love with more love. Love so hard it wears me out and down. Because the flip-side? It ain’t so pretty. I can’t and don’t want to force people to jump– but I can swim away. The bittersweet confliction of moving on…is it giving up? Is it moving forward? I choose the latter. Teachers can only be teachers if there is a willingness to learn. I’ve always fought for what I want. I’ve never made myself choose to be a lover and a fighter because I think they are one in the same.
So, cheers to love and tragedy. Cheers to rising above the ashes and coming back twice as strong. We’re only as strong and loving as we make and set our minds up to be.