I received a new lesson. Not in the mail or by FedEx although that might be more enjoyable. I have been receiving a lot of lessons lately; so many that I don’t know if some higher being is taking this time in my life to try and cram it all in there or if I am just working so hard to pay attention to my own heart that I am finally listening to the ones around me.
I have always wondered why we don’t listen to the lessons that are literally screaming out at us. Are we too busy? Do we not want to be bothered? Or is a simple matter that the lessons that others live and breathe in some way seem foreign to our own lives? Do we honestly believe that what others are going through and what they have gone through in no way pertains to the very fabric of what we are going through? Could we be that ridiculous?
I am so ridiculous in so many ways. This I have accepted as fact long before I started writing in this blog. I am simply what I am and there are things about me that can’t be changed. I will always dance in the rain when given a chance and I will always work to show my children the magic this world holds because I believe completely that it is there. I will always be able to find the world off-kilter but to my advantage; for off-kilter means that there is a place for me among it. I could go on; but what I am really trying to say is that despite even my ridiculousness I can see the benefit if not the necessity of learning lessons. And if those lessons come from another body rather than some obscure book, all the better.
My husband’s grandmother died this week. She was a woman that I never could really understand; even in my darkest, hardest days I knew somewhere inside of me that life changes; sometimes even for the better. Even when the episodes that have literally defined the ages of my life were at their strongest I knew somewhere that what I was living was not me. It was not who I was; it was a disease. Didn’t make it easier not to give up on myself but at least it was there.
My husband’s grandmother never once in my hearing showed any kindness or belief that she too will survive. She was incapable of looking at the world in any way but a conspiracy against her. She never once believed in the greatness, the magic, that was there. For her it was a simple matter of black and white – and it was always black that she saw. I, personally, was required for my own peace of mind to walk away from her not only physically but mentally. That kind of negativity, the sheer completeness of it, the actual breath of it, the living and dying reality that she lived, I could not survive. It wasn’t mental illness that drove her; it was something much worse, a literal giving up on it all.
She worked most of her life. She bore three children, one who proceeded her in death. She hated, and would not make, left turns. She was overweight like the rest of the women in her direct line of the family tree, and she wasn’t one to go out and look for friends; they always seemed like a surprise to her.
She was mean-spirited. She was crushingly disapproving. And she could, with a single look, make sure you knew who and what was acceptable to her. Because of my love of reading I escaped most of her disapproval, but not without its own price. She could not appreciate me for the great-grand kids that I gave her and she would never admit that the life my husband and I have built was anything but a luck of the draw. In that, I too was on the receiving end of her bitterness.
I don’t want to live like her. I don’t want to die like her. I don’t ever want to believe that there is nothing out there but the blackness that I don’t deserve. If and when I see the darkness descending it will be because it is my time to walk through those bloody waters one more time; not because fate long forgot me. If it is my time to once again feel the sorrow pressing down on me, it won’t be because I am more, but because I am not less. And when it is once again my time to hurt those I love, I won’t do it because it brings me solace but because it brings me pain; a pain I desperately need.
I look at her life and I can literally see the building blocks that created the woman who died. I can see her husband leaving her, her children walking away from her, the working all her life to end up in an institution that was as scary as it was literally poor. I can see the times when she would have been hit one more time, although I don’t know much of the details, and when this world would have taken another soul, her soul, and enjoyed the destruction given to it.
In this world there are thousands of kinds of people. You can’t possibly categorize them because you can’t possibly understand them. We see them through the prisms of diseases, jealousies, hatred, misunderstanding, hope, faith, and sometimes even kindness. We see this world of people and try to find our own soul within it. We try to find our voice, our life, our darkness, and even our own bit of hatred. We see all kinds of hair, all kinds of eyes, all kinds of faith, all kinds of parents, and all kinds of monsters. We see them, some we love and some we can’t; but there is one thing that is constant when we come across someone whose soul is long lost – the inability and even the strength to help them.
My husband’s grandmother was long ago out of my grasp, as was his mother before her. It was never my place to remark on the life these women led and if you look closely the same life their descendants have started to live. No matter my ties to them it was never my place to speak to them with anything but respect. There was never anything to do but smile politely and never share my own shame because of the life I led. It wasn’t my turn and no matter how long any of them live it will never be my turn. It is not my role no matter how much we can ache to fix those who have such an influence on those we love. That is one of the harder aspects of this life; we can’t save everyone, and there are some we can’t even try with. Our job is and always will be to remain the other side of the coin; the not so much opposite but contrast that is startling enough to be a wall.
The lesson I will take away from my husband’s family is that I might never have more than each of them, there maybe a time when I have less, but I must hold onto something solid, something real, to be complete. There has to be not only the light, but at times simply the absence of darkness. There has to be magic that surrounds us with all the possibilities of another world and there has to be that simple smile of joy when the world gives us a moment of pure bliss. There has to be a fight against giving up, against the bitterness, and against the hatred that can so easily fill up the cracks in our soul.
Not for us, never for us. But because one day while we aren’t looking someone is going to come in and look to us with hope in their eyes. And if nothing else, even when the darkness is settled around our shoulders like a mantel, we must never stop that hope in those eyes from growing. We must never allow ourselves to destroy the world of imagination, the world of magic, and the world of possibilities we have inside of us and all around us. Because there is someone coming who needs those worlds as desperately as we do.