We are all trying to do our best.
There is so much we don’t know in this life, so many things we are faced with that don’t have clear answers or clear directions. We’d love to be able to google the answer to life’s questions, or go to a trusted person who knows everything about anything. It would be great if we could open the Good Book and see a passage blazing that tells us what to do when our kid has just thrown up all over the bathroom floor and we don’t know if he needs to go to the emergency room, or someone attacks or harasses us without cause.
But often, we are walking through life as though in a dark cave, with only a candle to light our way. We see a little here, and a little there. We move through one passage, then another. And we are left wondering if we’ve made the right decisions, if we did everything “right.” We observe others who have hurt us, or made decisions we think are wrong, and we carry that in our hearts, not knowing what to do with the weight of it all.
No one knows, fully, how to do this thing called being human. We just try. Day after day. We find tools. We breathe. We meditate. We read books by people who seem to have figured things out. We observe what others do, others who seem happy, or seem successful, and we try to mimic them. We develop a personal compass to live by.
But the most important thing you can do is simply be you. And understanding who you are, and why you are the way you are, is a big part of the journey.
You are not perfect. You will never be. You will never have all the answers. You will never reach a place in this life where you only feel bliss and pleasure and no suffering or loss. That place just doesn’t exist.
But you do get to be you. And you do get to live fully, for however long you’ll live. And you do have now. This beautiful, palpable, blanket of possibility and wholeness that only exists right now.
Years ago, when I was packing up my house to move after divorce, I spent a long weekend going through old things: letters, cards from friends, short stories I’d written. I found my wedding dress and veil. I found pictures I’d taken when my kids were babies, where I nursed them and changed them in the house that held so much love, the home I’d made with my partner, surrounded by walls we’d painted yellow.
And I was overwhelmed with sadness about things not working out. Of losing the person I thought I’d be with forever. About my kids not having a mom and dad living together, taking care of them in unity. I was depressed about moving to a smaller place that wouldn’t be as perfect as all the perfection I wanted to offer.
At one point, I dropped to my knees in the dining room and cried. Big, heaving sobs. All I was, was a crying woman who didn’t know where she was going, what she had done wrong, who she was, who she was going to be.
And finally I looked up, out the backdoor, at the tree I’d gazed at so many times while I was doing dishes. The sun was shining through it, lighting it up. And I heard a voice in my head, a kind and compassionate voice I’d never heard before.
She said, There is so much goodness in you.
That’s all I wanted to hear. That’s all I wanted in the world. Just the assurance that no matter what happened, how I had screwed up, how feeble my efforts were, I had goodness in me.
You just don’t know what’s going to hit you in this life. You don’t know how it’s going to go. And there’s no way to find out, because when you think you’ve mastered the puzzle, some bowling ball rolls in and breaks up all the pieces. As much as we want it to be, our lives are not usually orderly or neat or clean.
We can’t know the answers. We can’t save everybody. We can’t remove the pain of the world or end suffering. We are not God. (And even God may not be able to cure us of that!) We can only be ourselves, every moment of every day, and do the best we can in that particular moment. We can only work on being open enough to understanding what a moment calls for. And even then, every act is, in some way, a leap of faith. Our movement through this world is the lighting of a flame.
Crying on the floor is a good thing. Confusion is a good thing. Not knowing where to turn is a good thing. Because it is in those moments that you discover who you are: vulnerable, human, wanting to do what’s right, wanting what’s best. That’s who you are all the time. That’s all you can ever be.
And when you feel this for yourself, when you understand what’s in you, at root, you open up the passages of the dark cave and realize that’s what’s in all other people too.
We are all children, trying to find our way.
But we do have these candles.
And when we find each other, and we put all the candles together, damn if we don’t light up a room.
Categories: spirituality and faith