I learned that if you start doing something you love and keep doing it over and over, saying “fuck it” and doing it again, you may find yourself making a living doing what you love. And it will feel as good as you imagined.
But I learned too there is no arrival, and even as you meet the moments you were sure were going to eliminate the fear – “As soon as [this one thing] happens, I will feel confident and know what I’m doing.” – fear simply morphs into a new version of itself. But you can write anyway. And you grow bored of the motherfucker.
Get a new game, fear.
I learned that I can love a political candidate and get super into the primaries (Oh, Birdie), and that I can feel actual sadness when my guy loses. I also learned that the primaries are way. way. WAY too fucking long. Why do we hate ourselves?
I learned that the moment you realize you have three years left with your oldest child is an incomprehensible one, and you feel robbed and delighted all the same, and wonder if you loved her toddler years completely, and hold on to the time like glittering diamonds.
I learned two-year-olds are still pretty annoying.
And potty training is bullshit.
And snot is an asshole.
But the way they run in quick little steps still takes my breath away.
I learned my children will surpass me with their strength.
I learned I will miss my husband’s beard.
I learned a mini-van is the vehicle of the gods.
I learned my country can betray me. I learned it can elect a man of hate and authoritarian idiocy, and that some people aren’t bothered by a President using Twitter to discuss foreign policy.
I learned we need to improve the American education system.
I learned you’ll feel a little better the day after your country elects a barely literate bullying demagogue if you go over to your best friends’ house and sing old folks songs of resistance while she plays piano and your kids run in circles around the living room.
I learned you’ll feel better until you realize the next morning that at the very moment you sang and cried, your grandmother was bleeding on a kitchen floor 50 miles away, killed by the hand of your cousin.
You will wonder if you cried perhaps for her that night.
I learned grief is a physical agony.
I learned children sometimes face evil too young.
I learned I cannot protect any of us from either.
I learned silence surrounding mental illness kills people. I learned it shatters families and massacres the dignity of life, and death. I learned one hundred human lives can cripple under agony, diminish forever, weep simultaneously for the rest of their breathing days because of the silence surrounding mental illness.
I learned of the dignity of death. I learned you can die beautifully. I learned you can die with your hands held to the heart of your wife of 67 years and the eyes of your daughters and grandchildren surrounding you through their tears, bathing you in the sunlight warmth of a lifetime together.
I learned we all deserve the right to die like that.
I learned once again that the only way through it is to move right to the center, to throw yourself into the flames, let them leap and pull and tear to make you new, turn you to ash, trusting for some godforsaken reason that the embers will burn enough to light your way to the other side.
I learned there is no other side.
I learned this is it. I learned my family is all I have (and that some family isn’t blood). I learned there is more love for all of us in our pain. I learned this isn’t bullshit mind candy. It is the ultimate reality I will always be seeking.
I learned if your grandmother is killed, all the irritation you once felt toward your own mother will wash away like a pebble pulled into the ocean – all the tiny bothers tumbling into the blue – and you will rest easy, and grateful for that, as you hold her hand to your heart and pray it’s enough.
I learned we are still here.
And with all my heart, I’m still, I’m still just happy to be here.