Sometimes I think fear is like a matryoshka doll. You sort one thing--dismantle it and put it away--only to find something else within it or beneath it. And on and on this goes in an uncomfortable infinity.
Months ago I wrote that suffering is not a prerequisite to loving one’s body. I think about this often. I think about who I was when I believed that it was. I think about the cultural messages that women receive that makes this idea seem so sound. I think about the mathematics of it. Suffering as equity to later spend on something else. Nonsense, of course.
And yet, I wonder, if on some level, I still think that suffering is a prerequisite to loving--or living--my life. I’m not talking about basic human suffering--sadness or loss or the hum which occasionally dips down into those low, bluesy notes. I’m talking about suffering through things. Bad relationships, ill-fitting jobs, crummy situations. I wonder if I don’t pursue happiness as recklessly as I otherwise might because I believe in paying a perpetual penance. Or is it that I don’t think I’m worthy of the risk that happiness so often demands? And yes, I am aware that this fear and frustration is a decidedly privileged problem; I am not fighting each day for my life, worrying each moment about potential death or expulsion, which means I have the luxury of energy to hook into a problem, that in any other context, would be a non-starter. I know, I really do know, I’m aware. And yet the feeling persists. And with it--right alongside it--shame.
Kiribati is an island in the Pacific Ocean. It is sinking. The sea is taking it back--reclaiming it. One of its inhabitants is a man by the name of David Katoatau. He dances. He lifts weights and he dances. He hoists heavy weights into the air and when he puts them down he shimmies his feet and he waves his hands at the sky and he smiles. And he does it because his island is sinking and it is the only thing he can think to do. It's preposterous. His island is sinking--his home, his people, his history-- are all facing total devastation (all accelerated by mans' actions and the resulting climate change), and so he dances. It is so ludicrous. And yet, and but, and also, wildly important. I have thought of this man nearly every day since I first heard his story. I have thought of his grace--I have wondered at his ability to meet such loss with levity. Nothing about his response makes any rational sense, and yet, I feel keenly--acutely--that to try and make sense of it is to miss the point. So, okay, his response to suffering is to dance. And if there is such a thing as divinity--which, surely there is--it lives there--in that grace-filled, wild, nonsensical action.
So if on some level I feel I must suffer, I will meet that feeling with grace. I will choose to dance. I will chase meaning. Because the sea will come for all of us, and I don’t want to waste my little plot of land while I still have it.