He reignited within me a desire for joy by sharing his commitment to only take on work that brings him joy. Even in important, life-altering work, joy is possible. Even with something as heavy as supporting people around substance use and recovery, joy is possible. I want to work with people who are open to wonder, awe, delight, even in the hardest and heaviest of times. No doubt watching a loved one struggle, fearing for their life, or losing them certainly are some of the hardest, scariest, heaviest times I’ve known.
And yet, even after Nate’s death, there are turkeys in wildly unexpected places, owls everywhere, feathers dropping out of nowhere, song lyrics, people appearing out of the blue to amaze and delight us, to touch our hearts, to wake us up to the mystery beyond what our little human minds understand. Even now he reminds me to be touched by the life we shared, the moments of joy and delight, the laughter, the not-so-serious times before things got so serious, and even the joy we found while they were very serious.
I don’t need to carry the yoke of his death around my neck forever because the delights of life are also still available to me. Wonder and awe are everywhere if my eyes are attuned to look for them. Joy dances in my heart, waiting to be set free. At a campfire, watching grown women blow bubbles, listening to heart-wrenching music with my sister while coyotes yip and yap in the nearby hedge, feeling both invigorated and a little terrified all at once. Dancing and singing at a P!nk concert, surrounded by glitter, boas, pink tie-dye, and neon landscapes, holding my breath while she soars overhead, praying that cable and harness hold. Taking in the early morning sun as it casts its light on the hills, on the lake. Appreciating moments of silence, the stillness of this day. The fact that I get another day. That I get to have time with friends who are delightful rays of sunshine. Getting to connect with one of Nate’s close friends, and being able to bake for her and get to know him through her heart and eyes. Time for yoga, time to clean if and when I feel like it. Making time to write and letting go of any rules I might have once held about what a blog should be. All these things carry their own kind of miraculous wonder and awe.
Yes, there is a lot of shit in the world. A lot of angry, scared, exasperated, and aggressive people out there. I see them every time I hit the highway - their energy shouts at me from their window stickers and their rapid pole-positioning. I see them online venting their frustrations and accusations. People who are afraid act out; they try to control because too much feels out of control. I get it. I’ve been there.
And yet… music is still being made, gorgeous cakes are being baked and decorated, birds still sing, butterflies dance unaware of this craziness, campfire flames leap and kiss marshmallows to golden perfection, stories are shared, memories held, poems melt hearts, dreams ignite, and beauty is everywhere.
If only we slow down enough to notice, even when our hearts are broken, love and wonder, awe and delight are everywhere, available, waiting. Each day, each moment offering a new beginning. We do not need to buy into the story that life must be a slog. We do not need to take on the “poor me” persona that comes when people know you’ve had a devastating loss, are facing a dire challenge, or are in treatment for a disease they’re calling fatal. Hope can remain. Miracles abound. Truly.
Sometimes it’s a game to catch Nate’s signs and to simply delight in them. I let him know I get it. I see him. I hear him. I feel it. I laugh. I thank him.
Life does not have to be a burden to bear. Couples do not have to play out the sitcom roles of annoying and being annoyed with one another. Workers do not have to surrender their joy for a job they hate, be available for it when they have nothing left to give or when they’re supposed to be done for the day. No one is obligated to be on call all the time. Turn off the damn phone and be present with the people right here, to this moment offering itself for your delight.
We can take back the joy. Even after the unimaginable has pierced our hearts. Our hearts still long for love, laughter, excitement, delight. They really, really do. Don’t worry. It doesn’t erase the pain or negate the loss. But, living in endless suffering honors no one. Living in constant fear serves no one. Pushing beyond the point of exhaustion is good for no one. So, bring on the joy. Show up to life and embrace it wildly.
Let life live through you. Yes, I am broken hearted at the loss of my son, and still I get up each day and engage with life. Yes, I wish he were still here and we had one more chance, and we don’t, so I choose how I will continue to live.
Where can you find ways to say, “Yes, this bad thing has happened or is happening, and… still I will ____ (have fun, find delight, rest, create peace, etc., whatever is true for you).” or “Yes, I do have this responsibility/commitment/obligation, and still I can_____________”
Where can you free yourself to live life a little less burdened and a little more playful? Where can you get curious? What opportunities might you give yourself? Because one thing I now know for sure is that life is one big improv. We don’t know what will be thrown our way, and so it’s up to us to choose, moment by moment how to respond. How to engage.