For so many years I tried to outrun my sadness and my sensitivity, but no matter how fast I went it trailed behind me, stuttering on the pavement like the cans tied behind a bride and groom’s getaway car. No matter how hard I sprinted I could not evade it, this lingering sadness, this strange but overwhelming sense of loss that infused even the most ordinary moments, this heartbreak that hovered around the edges of my life.
In the last few years that heartbreak has caught up to me. My deepest wound finally opened wide enough that I could no longer ignore it. I’ve been slowly circling the black hole at the center of my life, drawn inexorably towards it even as I fear the heartbreak that lives there. That black hole is the brutal truth that it all passes, that every single moment is gone even as I live it, that no matter how hard I try, how fiercely, white-knuckled, I cling, I cannot hold onto my life.
I’m certain it was my children who forced me to turn and to stare into the sun of my life’s blinding, but evanescent right now. To fall into the place where the heart of my life beats. Paradoxically, they demonstrated both the unavoidable drumbeat march of time and the critical importance of being still in each individual moment. They inhabited the now with an impossible-to-ignore stubbornness, yet they also marked time’s passage in a visceral way. Unaware of this contradiction, they tugged me to the place I’d always shied away from. They taught me that being present is both the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done and the only way to truly live my life.
In the strange, out-of-regular-life lacuna that the last week has been, I spent some time thinking about how the way that I interact with the world has fundamentally changed. It’s no insight to observe that a marked rupture from status quo can jolt us into reflection and a new perspective on that normalcy. I realize, not for the first time, but again, that I’ve stopped – for the most part – those hiding-from-my-life behaviors. Instead, I now live in a permanent state of broken-heartedness. The savage and beautiful reality of life’s impermanence colors every moment of my life.
Sometimes I am jealous of those who are less porous, who can walk through life without being so frequently brought to their knees by the pain and brilliance of it. My every conscious moment is filtered through this prism of my piercing awareness of how fleeting it is. In the last few years I’ve become almost painfully aware of every detail around me. The sight of a half moon, one edge ragged, foggy, in the morning sky makes my breath catch, a cascade of emotions tinkling inside me like windchimes: the physical beauty of this planet, the sky’s being near and yet far, the concrete evidence of time’s passage in imperfect not-wholeness of the moon. I suspect this, the way I am so attuned to the most mundane of details, is either an attempt to fully inhabit each moment or an effort to freeze it, like an insect in amber, but I don’t know which.
And what I realize, again, fiercely, is that this is how I want to live: in the right now of my life with a broken heart. I want this, in full knowledge of the pain it carries, far more than I want to keep hiding from my life. This is a decision I make not in one grandiose declaration, but every single day, every single minute. It’s not even, really, a decision so much as following my intuition about the way I want to inhabit the world, and it lives in where I choose to place my attention.
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