How Tender and Precarious

My heart has had a workout this week.

From last weekend’s sleepless joy at the reunion with a beloved friend to the news of an extended family member’s rapidly declining health, from the birth of a new little one to the heart attack of someone I have loved since childhood, this week has made my heart expand with delight and contract with fear in unremitting waves. Everything has been happening to people around me, not to me directly, but the pain and uncertainty is vibrating off of them, undulating my direction.

It’s like the totality of life experiences threw a rave, and I was invited to watch.

My innate stoicism is trembling today as I ponder the inevitable changes coming. Some changes promise more love, more adventure, more learning and growth. Some point irrevocably toward loss and death. None of it is going to effect me directly, and I have no ability to change or help or interfere with these distant facts. I’m across the country from most of what’s happening, awaiting news via text or email, hoping for the best outcome but aware that the odds are low of every single one of the events in my periphery turning out fine.

What am I to do as I watch these seismic events from afar? I wait and worry, hold in my thoughts the people whose lives are affected, and remember with sudden clarity the impact similar events had on my life. A longish labor that brought my son into the world; the moment I learned my father, from whom I had been estranged for years, had died; sitting at my daughter’s bedside after a difficult surgery; my ex-husband’s belated and crippling grief at his own father’s death.

My brain is replaying these moments in a painful loop, a highlight reel whose only point is to remind me that every life contains thunderous highs and bottomless lows. Here they all are on display, take a good look, it’s unavoidable.

What I have done, all I can do, is sit quietly with my life, oil the cogs and gears that keep me chugging along without breaking down, and rest consistently so I am ready when life’s compulsories come my way. My fear of irredeemably breaking down in the face of challenges drives my dependence on intellectual and emotional stability, for better or worse. I guard against permanent detachment.

Today feels like a good day to have a good cry, to push myself physically, play the piano and sing and remember how tender and precarious it is to be alive.

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