Sometimes people go through experiences that lead to questions like, “What’s the point of it all?” Most people asking this kind of question have faced desperate situations. There are people coming out of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. People who’ve endured the kind of loss that makes you weep if your heart is open and you allow yourself to stand in their shoes for just a moment. Sometimes the pain is really old; I have a friend who watched his father die of a heart attack when he was eight. That will never be okay. My cousin lost his six year old son to brain tumors, and my cousin is one of the best and kindest people I’ve ever known, and so is his wife. I know a woman who drove her daughter to the school bus and watched her get hit by a car as she crossed the street. The parents in Newtown Connecticut who are still suffering and still trying to put their lives back together in some kind of way so they can get through today and tackle it the same way tomorrow. I don’t think everything happens for a reason, or that everything happens for you and not to you. I think some things just happen, end of sentence. I think all kinds of things happen. I know how much we want things to make sense, but some things fall so outside the lines of sense, sense is just an idea. Things happen, and then there’s the way you rise up in the face of the things that happen, and you may be able to grow beauty out of your pain at some point, but it will probably be the kind of beauty and understanding you’d gladly give back to undo the thing that happened.
I wrote something about horrendous things happening to good people recently, and most of the responses were compassionate and kind, but one person said it was Karma, and life is fair, and people get what they deserve. No they don’t, not always, and that’s not a true understanding of karma, either. People who believe in karma and reincarnation feel the soul is going to get the lessons it needs for its evolution, it’s not a vengeful thing. It’s very hard to imagine anyone needs to lose their child violently for their soul to evolve, or that 40 of those parents happened to all live in the same town in Connecticut, and needed the same lesson. Someone else said it’s a person’s thoughts, that what you think about is what you attract, and that you will create what you believe you deserve spiritually. Can anyone truly believe people create that kind of devastation because they think that’s what they deserve? Or that anyone could have thought a thing like that into being? Yes, your thoughts affect your reality. Fear will shut you down, and tremendous amounts of worry and anxiety will create dis-ease within you, there’s no doubt about that. If you suffer from anxiety or are recovering from trauma, there are so many ways you can work with your nervous system, and there are different healing modalities available to you. (If you need help with that, feel free to message me privately). If you’re optimistic and you feel that life can be full of pain, but that it can also be full of joy, and you head into the world with an open heart and a lot of gratitude for what you do have, it will have an effect on your day, on the way you’re moving through the world, on the way people respond to you. But if you have worries about dropping your child off at school from time to time because we are living in a world where some people are slipping through the cracks, you are not creating a horrible outcome for your children or yourself. You’re simply awake. You cannot wrap life up into a neat little box any more than you can go gift wrap a wave from the ocean.
On Friday I had just finished teaching and someone at the studio told me to call my kids’ dad right away. He picks the kids up from school on Fridays while I’m teaching. When I went to get my cellphone I saw a text from a friend saying he hoped my kids were okay and then I saw a text from their dad saying nothing had happened at my son’s school, but they wouldn’t let any parents in, or kids out. A mom at my son’s school had texted saying we were on lockdown, and then a student in my class said there had been a school shooting. I felt the blood drain to my feet. I’ve never felt anything quite like that. The room went a little hazy, and I lost my peripheral vision. My hands shook so much I struggled to hit the right buttons to reach their dad. I didn’t get through right away, so I looked online to see if I could get the story. The shooting happened about fifteen blocks away, and at first they reported the possibility of more than one shooter. I felt personally reassured that it hadn’t happened at my son’s school, but to be honest, I really wanted some kind of visual. Someone to tell me they’d seen my boy and he was okay. Until I saw him myself, I really didn’t breathe normally. My heart went out and goes out to the families of people who were killed on Friday, who did not get to end the day feeling thankful. My six year old spent two hours in a bathroom with eighteen of his friends and their teacher while all this was going on. She played quiet games with the kids. I love her. My son said he wasn’t scared or worried. They didn’t say much to the kids about what was happening. This has become so commonplace, there’s now a procedure for school shootings. That’s the part that might break your heart if you let it. i hope you let it.
You have your wounds in this life. Some are greater than others. Some strip you right down to the bone without mercy, and level you so have to remind yourself to breathe in and breathe out, and sometimes you’d rather not even do that. I understand, but I’m going to tell you something. Just as much as there’s incomprehensible grief, loss and suffering, so too is there joy, love and fulfillment. You get everything in this life, and some people get more of the pain, and others get more of the joy. And maybe everything is happening for a reason, but you’ll never hear me say that because to a person grieving, what could be a more alienating thing to hear than, “I’m sorry for your loss, but it happened for a reason.” Or, ” I’m sorry you’re gutted but it will make sense to you one day” ? Some things will never, ever make sense, and some things will never be okay. Accepting that is often the doorway to surviving it. Staring it dead in the face and realizing you’ll have to carry this with you. This part of you that’s been changed. This scar. But as much as possible, allow your wounds to open you instead of close you. Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Leonard Cohen on the subject, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” You might wish for less of a wound and less light, so to speak, but we don’t get to choose.
What happens after this? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. I can tell you what I believe. I do not believe this is it and then we’re worm food, but I can’t prove that to you, it’s just my hunch and my hope. I wouldn’t even try to prove it because you have to figure out what makes sense to you. Sometimes people scream from rooftops or mountaintops or their Facebook page or the subway platform about what they think. A person who thinks this is it, when we die it’s over, can’t prove that to you, either. You just have to wrestle with these questions yourself and figure out what feels right to you, but also try to open to other points of view. Then you really have to get down to the business of making this life beautiful, even with all of its pain, of connecting and loving and giving and receiving and experiencing. Of being as awake as possible in each moment. Of opening to your own kindness, and to the kindness of other travelers. Of discovering your gifts, and giving them away. Of laughing with those you love until your eyes well up. They will if you let them. Have chocolate sometimes. Go for a hike, feel the breeze on your face. Watch the sunrise or the sunset, or stay up and be amazed by the next full moon or the stars in the sky when you can see them. Go to the ocean and let yourself be humbled by your smallness and your limitlessness, all at once. Take your heart, your open, wounded, gorgeous heart out into the world without fear, and without any delusion that you won’t suffer sometimes. If you come out of abuse, you may have to unlearn the idea that you are unworthy of love, because that is a lie, and you might need help with that.
Love is where it’s at, love is the point of it all. I’m pretty positive about that. If you miss out on opening to the limitless well of love within you and around you, then I think you will have to wonder what the point is. Because it surely isn’t amassing stuff or being a size zero or driving a fast car or keeping yourself relentlessly busy, numbed out or on the run. It isn’t about your bank account. No amount of money can save you from the vulnerability of this thing, but a lot of strength comes from accepting it. You are vulnerable. So am I. We could make ourselves less vulnerable in this world if we opened more to love, within ourselves, and with each other. There’s such an incredible amount of joy to be experienced and understood. I think it’s easy to miss if you buy the hype. If you think you can outrun the experience of being human. People do it all the time. They run from stuff that isn’t even chasing them. Stop. Stand and open to it all, hold it all. Some of it is so achingly beautiful, it would be a real shame to miss. It’s the stuff that makes it all worthwhile. It’s the point of it all.
Sending you love,