We live with many powerful beliefs in our culture.
Life is conquerable, controllable.
We are entitled to a ‘good’ life.
What gets in the way of the ‘good’ life is a burden.
If we don’t have a ‘good’ life then there is something wrong with how we are living it.
Do whatever it takes to get over, get rid of, move past, the bad stuff…so we can get back to living the ‘good’ life.
But this IS the life. All of it is life.
The truth is, we aren’t entitled to anything. We don’t deserve anything. We are given life with each breath. And we live until we don’t breathe anymore.
Last week, my grandson received a new heart valve. He’d had two open heart surgeries in his first two years of life (his first on his first day of life). After his second open-heart surgery when he was just two, the doctors told us that researchers were working on a valve that could be delivered to the heart by catheter through the artery in the groin. It seemed like science fiction that he might not have to endure another open heart surgery when this valve wore out.
Eleven years later, this past week, that’s exactly what we experienced. He received his new valve without having to open his chest again.
His life is not easy on many levels. Multiple complications from that very first day of life have presented him with a life that has its challenges. But this life is his life. It only seems it should be different when we compare it to some damn ‘ideal’ of what life should be, a fictional ideal that is paraded around our culture on a daily basis, but an ideal that just doesn’t exist.
Yes, on the surface, some have it ‘easier’. Yes, on the surface, some have it ‘harder’. But none of those comparisons actually help in the living of one’s life. And, at the most basic level, the comparisons are not logical, because life doesn’t compare. Life just creates and lives its creations.
What does help is how we hold life. Do we see it as a burden to try to get through? Do we see others problems, or our problems as something to fix so our lives will become the glistening, gleaming perfection we’ve been told they should be?
Or, do we live them in open honesty, at least with ourselves. Do we tell ourselves the truth? Do we allow ourselves to see the messiness of human love that we are, love in a human, frail body, attempting to live as if we are perfect, while all the while denying the divine imperfection that is our humanity.
Life isn’t supposed to feel ‘good’ all the time. How do I know that? Because it doesn’t.
What I discovered this week was that I was holding things in my life as if they were a burden. I was tired of grief, tired of pain, tired of feeling as though another shoe was going to drop. A part of me wanted that easy, gleaming life. But I came to see that it was this very perspective that was causing it to feel like a burden. I was making it happen in my own mind. I was pushing life away, rather than drawing it near to me.
As the day of my grandson’s procedure (yes, they call it a procedure instead of a surgery because he didn’t have to be opened up!) grew near, I realized how damn lucky I am to be his grandmother. And after the procedure, as I sat next to him in recovery, as he slept and his heart beat with gusto, I laid my head and hand on his heart and felt the life move through his body. I felt the pleasure of being with him, the tenderness of the moment borne from joy and elation that he had a new, vibrant lease on life, that he was alive.
I touched his shoulder and kissed his forehead. And, I simply sat with him and felt grateful.
Life isn’t supposed to feel ‘good’ all the time, but it can feel real.
Life isn’t binary, a series of on and offs, zeros and ones, goods and bads, blacks and whites. It just isn’t. No matter how hard we try to make it that way, it isn’t.
Life isn’t a machine. It’s isn’t the enemy. It isn’t something to fix.
I am not a machine. I am not the enemy. I am not something to fix.
There is no good life waiting for us at the end of the rainbow.
Everything moves. Everything changes. We control none of it. All we can do is dance, open to what is here, do our best to be present to it, receive it, sit with it. We can touch it, love it, feel it pulsing, grateful to know it as it is. We can hold our life in our hands and know it wasn’t made for our benefit, it was made for life’s benefit.
This has been the greatest reminder for me…
I was not put here on earth for my benefit, I was put on earth for life’s benefit. Am I living this?