So many times in life we search for answers, look for ways to predict the future, understand the past, or ask for signs about which way to turn now. It’s perfectly natural to want some stability, to want to know there’s a point to all this, to want to feel that your past had a purpose and that your future has one, too.
You can absolutely find your purpose while you’re here, and your life can be filled with meaning. If you allow yourself to open to the ever-changing nature of things, and to the vulnerability that’s required if you’re going to embrace reality as it is, then you also grant yourself the possibility of incredible love. It requires open hands, an open heart and an open mind, and the ability to say, “Yes, I embrace this, too. Even if it breaks my heart and I don’t understand why and every fiber of my being feels it’s unfair or senseless or tragic, I still embrace it because fighting it is pointless and I am here to open. To learn. To grow. To continue to begin again, even if right in this moment, I have no idea how to do that. I’ll start by reminding myself to breathe in, and breathe out.” If you do that, your time here, however much you have, will be beautiful. You can count on the people in your life who know how to love, to give it and receive it, for as long as you have each other. You can trust that there will be beauty and experiences that stun you into gratitude. But if you want everything wrapped up in neat little packages, and you want to understand every single thing that’s happened in your past and try to exert a lot of control over what happens in your future, you’re going to have a very tough time.
There’s a difference between having an idea of how you’d like to share your gifts, and an attachment to the idea that everything is going to unfold according to your five-year plan. You can absolutely move with intention and focus, but if you don’t also factor in the possibility that your plan could easily be turned on its head on a sunny Tuesday morning without any notice at all, or on a rainy Saturday when you planned on being at the beach, you set yourself up to be knocked over sideways by life. We never know and not everything is going to make sense. Sometimes the best you can get to is acceptance.
This is true on so many levels. I get emails from people who are trying to understand why someone hurt them or left them or betrayed them or neglected them or abused them or discarded them or were taken from them without any warning or any chance to say one last goodbye. One last, I love you so much I don’t understand how to make sense of a world without you in it. There are many times I sit at my laptop with tears streaming down my face. There are plenty of times I sit at my laptop laughing, too. But there’s never a lack of the unexplained in life.
I have close friends who were ditched suddenly and without explanation, by a couple they’d known and loved for years. Their families vacationed together, their kids grew up like brothers and sisters, they had a standing dinner Sunday nights. They were at graduations and weddings together, and one day it all ended. That’s as rough as any breakup and when my friends tried to ask what had happened, what was wrong, why they were being shunned, there was no real response. Their friends were just suddenly busy all the time. The kids are left to pick up the pieces, and thankfully they’re old enough to make their own plans, but everyone is hurt and confused, and no one understands. There is no resolution or closure. There are only so many times you can go to a person and ask to talk. Eventually you have to shed your tears and shrug your shoulders and take your ball and go home and remember other people will want to play catch with you down the road. If someone won’t communicate there is no hope of working it out. There’s just painful mystery and acceptance and the rest of your journey.
There are also people who get stuck in the past, and feed it and stoke that flame, even if the past was brutal, because it’s a familiar misery. If you work at it enough, you can feed that flame until it scorches everything, even your present. Your past may not ever make sense. Maybe there are questions you have that can never be answered. We all have some. Rilke has a beautiful quote about this, “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.” Embrace all of it. Even the mysteries and the tragedies and the lack of closure that happens sometimes. Let it open you so other travelers who are also seeking, and will also never find answers to all their questions will know yours is a safe hand to grab in the dark and a good one to hold onto when it gets sunny again. Wishing you love through all of life’s beauty and heartache and uncertainty, and through all of its joy as well.
May we all live the questions with our hearts open,