“Learning — slowly, slowly — to open up and love when I feel scared, rather than curl up like a threatened porcupine.”
That sentence was written in 2012 as my father was dying. I put his last days on Twitter because it helped anchor me as we floated around the hospital waiting for him to cast off into the next great adventure.
I’m thinking about it now because the anniversary of my father’s death is the day after Thanksgiving and I re-posted the tweets as a “Happy Death Day, Dad! You Were A Good One!” gesture.
Now I keep finding my eyes skimming over that one sentence - and worry that I’m back-sliding.
When we have these experiences, the ones that crack our hearts open, the raw vulnerability feels like it will last. Like this feeling of being broken open will last forever. There’s relief and even joy in it, as everything you’d kept bottled up comes flooding out.
But we rebuild. New experiences come in - like the explosion of three relationships in three years, whoops - and we start adding brick and new spackle to those heart walls.
As humans, we want to feel like we’re on a general upward trajectory. Moving forward, learning the lessons, growing. Onward and upward forever more.
But things just keep happening. Which is the definition of life, I guess.
Life: That Time When Things Kept Happening.
(Quick, someone give me a Pulitzer.)
After the implosion of three relationships in three years, I find myself being careful. Hesitant. Unwilling to blaze in the way I did the last three times.
I don’t want to curl up like a frightened hedgehog, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.
How do you continue to open up and love when it feels like the last few times you tried, your rib cage got caved in by a baseball bat?
I know it’s possible. People do it. I’ve done it.
But letting go of the old experiences to allow in the new ones feels scary. Like I’ll forget something important if I do. Like I’ll lose something.
But I don’t want to be that person who lets fear win. Partly because it doesn’t sound like any fun, but mostly because I want to be smug about trampling fear beneath my fuzzy boots.
Love may not win, but smug will.
DEAR LIFE, I WANT TO BE SMUG ABOUT HOW BRAVE AND LOVING I AM. GOT IT? K THANKS.
How do you throw yourself off the cliff again? How do you face down the baseball bat and say TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT! RIB CAGE OF STEEL, BABY!
Since I don’t know the answers, it seems I’ll just have to keep living life, life where things keep happening, and do my best to show up for the life I want rather than quaking at the mercy of things I’m scared of. That’s really all we can do. While taking whatever opportunities to be smug - and happy - that we can wrangle.