I remember feeling on the edge of so very much at this time last year. The very physical sensation that things were just beginning. Some yet-unnamed critical shift having taken place--or taking place. And the feeling that sense was about to sweep in and create an order out of chaos.
On the last night of the year, I wore a white dress and gold shoes and went to a very fancy, very large party. But the hotel was crowded and messy and before long I was covered in champagne, watching small fights break out, suddenly craving the comfort of home.
Three weeks later a-man-who-would-never-love-me left me at the airport. It is the story I tell more than any other. Because with its perfect narrative arc, and extreme circumstances, it makes for very good, very easy storytelling. But it is not the story. Not really. What I don’t talk about is how eleven days before, on the sixth day of the new year, I was unkind to the one person I actually adored--a man who looked at me like no one ever had before. It was a self-preservation-thing. But we never really recovered. It was a fleeting, fragmented moment. And yet it is my greatest regret of this last, terrible, mess of a year.
2014 swept in, a tidal wave of chaos. The year itself a vociferous declaration that it be heard, and I be changed. But nothing changed me more than that moment, right at the start--that very quiet moment when kindness was offered and I wasn’t courageous enough to take it. How differently it all might have gone.
But we learn how we learn.
Now, of course, I’d reach out with both hands--open, sweaty palms facing up. Because his kindness was worth my reveal.
This last year was a thing.
Uncomfortable and messy and at moments nearly unbearable, but important. Even as it was happening, I knew it was important.
But I couldn’t say how. Couldn’t round my lips around any set of words that made any good sense of the whole thing.
But then two days into this new new year I wrote in an email to Laura:
I'm letting go Laura. Letting go of the desire for stability. For the known. Making peace with the grey and the murk and what is so clearly unclear. And you know what? The very action of doing that...well, suddenly I feel more secure. More like I'm solidly on my own axis. A stability that emanates from my very core. And holy shit, it feels good. Because it enables risks. And risks are good, too. It's like skiing--the more control you give up, the more you have.
So the lesson of this last year?
I don’t know.
Oh gosh, sorry--that’s unclear.
Not that I don’t know the lesson of this last year, but rather I don’t know anything. I don’t know what’s coming or where I’m going or what’s around the corner. And so the sense will wait. And maybe the point of the chaos isn’t for it to be ordered and explained, but for it to simply be.
I. Don’t. Know.
I don’t know, and yet I’m okay.
I don’t know, but no rush.
I don’t know, but I don’t need to.
At a bar one night, late in November, a good friend accused me of chapter-titling my life.
You’re writing the titles to your story, labeling what they are and how they’ll go before they even happen. Stop it.
Immediately I knew she was right. I knew because she is smarter than me and cooler than me and never flinches when telling the truth.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. | Rainer Maria Rilke
Finally, more than ten years after reading these words for the first time, I understand them. Not because I have lived my way into the answers, but because I have lived my way into the questions. Which somehow feels more important.
I’m still learning that very rarely do we know what’s coming, even--and most especially--when we think we do, and happiness has a remarkable way of catching us unaware.
Not that happiness is the point. But certainly it is a part of it--and a very good part, at that.
I don’t know what’s around the corner, but something is--because such is the inevitability of life.
2014 made me sturdier. Which actually means softer. Which actually means clearer and less afraid.
And letting go of the desire to make things known has much to do with letting go of expectations and attachments, which means I am more adept, and more sure of who I am.
So here I am on the brink of more unknown, but with hands open, palms exposed, willing to try again.