I went on a long walk today. With…well, I am not quite sure what to call him. Boyfriend sounds weak. Silly. I mean, I had one when I was eleven; it’s not the same, the relationship I have now with this guy.
In fact, I’ve googled alternative words to use. These are some suggestions I found:
- My Man
- Pa Pee
- My Boo
- My Baby
- Solemate (yes, spelled like that; like the bottom of a shoe)
- Sexy beast
- Stud Muffin
You can understand, then, why I am still at a loss for a defining title. Yes, even after consulting Google. Or probably, especially after consulting Google. As fun as it would be to refer to my special friend as a Sexy Beast, I think this conversation:
“I am so excited to hang out with my Sexy Beast tonight; I think he’s taking me to a real, REAL nice place. Cloth napkins and everything.”
…SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN.
You try slipping the words Sexy Beast casually into any conversation and tell me how it goes. It’s like attending a dinner where everyone’s cutting their food with normal sized knives. You take a machete out of your purse and hack away over small talk then wonder why nobody is responding to your remark upon the pleasantness of autumn.
People take notice, is what I’m saying.
All that to say, I was walking with my boyfriend today. Or maybe he’s my beau. That’s not so bad. A little old fashioned and French, but there are worse things to be. All I know is he’s the kind of wonderful that’s gotten into all the spaces that fill me up. My brain is constantly trying to think of ways to make him happy, to make life look brighter from where he’s standing. He asks me to draw him a picture of an alien, and I want to draw him an entire alien battalion; I want to wall paper his room with aliens, each hand drawn by me. He’s that kind of wonderful, you know? Worthy-of-millions-of-images-of-aliens wonderful.
Oh my, look how many sentences it’s taken me to tell you that we were walking to Trader Joe’s. My apologies. I was looking at families milling by. Parents swinging their children in the air every three steps while their laughter rings out, the very sound of bliss. And what is it about joy that makes us remember sorrow? Is it that we don’t understand the brightness of light without the darkness to compare it to? Maybe so, but I couldn’t help thinking about the people who are now grieving their children. The mother whose two and four year old sons were swept from her arms in the flood during this recent hurricane. Another mother–also here in New York City–whose two small children were murdered by their nanny.
And then–what? Life goes on. People walk to the Trader Joe’s and other families still have each other, and, man, life goes damnably on.
This is a double edged sword.
When the man I loved left me, it hurt unequivocally that life went on. I couldn’t understand why people still celebrated Christmas. Why I had to eat. The mundane things of life and the celebrations of life all came together and felt like one big slap on the face. Like a mockery of the pain I was in. I still have to brush my teeth?! You’re kidding. Surely, the dead don’t brush their teeth. People leave them alone. Blessedly. Rest in peace and all that. I feel dead…but I’m not, which is why I’m holding this ridiculous toothbrush right now, I guess.
And I wasn’t dead.
Because life goes on.
You see, the fact that life goes on is a good thing. It is healing, actually. It was while continuing to do the rituals that define our humanity–the birthday celebrations and trips to the gym and classes to take and auditions to attend and conversations with friends and meals to make and eat and messes to clean up and woods to hike and words and songs to write and performances to give–I realized that, yes, life goes on. That it isn’t a life sentence–living with this pain–but rather, it is a gift.
LIVING, I mean.
Pain or not, it’s a gift.
Life didn’t end, actually. Darling, wake up, this is your life and your job is to live. It’s a tall order, yes, but nobody can live your life but YOU. Just today, is all I’m asking. And maybe it’s all you can handle. Then, maybe you can do it all over again tomorrow, but right now, your job is to live today.
Life is a hell of a thing sometimes. Especially in senseless tragedy. I hate the lesson that life goes on. And I love it, too. It’s brought me here; and here is wonderful. Here is where I thank God that life didn’t end the day I wanted it to. That He had other plans, better plans–even though I couldn’t see them in my grief.
As we walked back from Trader Joe’s, he (you know, my Sexy beast) looked at me and blurted out, “Were you as special then? You know–before the bad stuff happened?”
I laughed and asked, “What do you mean: as special then?”
“Well,” he said, “I think that what happened to you has made you even more special. I think it’s a kind of branding, but a good one. And it’s made your heart an even more special place now–that’s what I think, anyway.”
Life goes on.
It gets better.
These are things we say; they are trendy pop therapy one liners we tell each other.
And sometimes they show up.
In real life.
On the canvas.
Sometimes those tired phrases are brand new, bold strokes upon a canvas we thought we knew. Thought we’d memorized the picture long ago. But then Life Goes On and It Gets Better show up looking like peace in your heart and joy in your laughter and hope in your future; it’s different for me than it is for you–the details, I mean. Don’t make the mistake of comparing my details to yours and then assuming that Life Goes On won’t come in such a way that helps you, and I will try my best to do the same.
Because it does.
Like I said, life goes on. May you see this as kind; may you see this as hopeful.
If not now, then someday.