My husband tells me I’m surrounded by tragedy. I know too many people who’ve faced terrible circumstances. I laugh him off: I run a fertility charity, of course I know tragedy. I know tragedy intimately both from my own life’s journey (and those I love) and because I am the type of person people want to confide in. I know many people’s stories.
Sometimes I feel like a deep well. People come to my well to make a wish, say a prayer, beg forgiveness, to give voice to their angst and sorrows. They throw the stories at me and know they will land safely, secrets buried amongst other stories. My well runs deep so I can take on these stories and hold on to them so others may feel less burdened. Their burdens don’t live with me so I am able to take on many.
I love being a storykeeper. I also love being a storyteller.
Once in awhile, I hear a story and its words envelop my heart, squeezing tightly that then the tears come; not because I’m an empath (although I am an empath) but because I am human. And humanity requires compassion and sympathy to fully feel and live.
Once in awhile, a tragedy triggers my well to overflow with other stories long buried. They marry together and create links I didn’t think I’d find. Our human experience is this interwoven web of stories, stories of love and tragedy, happiness and grief. These webs are Life. And these webs are what give me some of the greatest lessons in my Life.
These are the stories that bring clarity and wisdom to my own life. It doesn’t feel right that other people’s pain bring lessons into my own life. But then the tears come. I weep for the child who has died. I weep for the couple divorcing. I weep for the friend who is sick. But once the tears have fallen, I feel another feeling I don’t feel right feeling: relief. I feel it for my husband, my kids, myself. I feel relief that tragedy isn’t striking us down amidst the millions of possible ways it could be. Is it luck? Is it chance? It is fate? Why are we okay when so many others aren’t?
Relief is an intruder in my compassion and empathy. Following behind it is guilt because I shouldn’t be thinking of myself and my circumstances when bad things are happening to good people. I shouldn’t have to feel this surge of gratitude for my life when suffering is rampant around us all. Shouldn’t my gratitude be a constant feeling everyday?
Everybody’s got a story that will break your heart
Why do we need to hear bad stories to appreciate the good stories in our lives? Why must I hear about a dying child to look at my child and thank every being that ever lived and has lived and will live for him? Why do bad things wake us up to the good things we were previously taking for granted?
Why can’t we relish in the good things all the time?
I wish I had an answer. We get caught up in the mundane: get up, shower, get the kids to school, work, come home, make dinner, take kid to soccer, bath kids, bedtime. Repeat.
People always say time feels like it’s going so fast. But is it actually? No. we’re just doing the same things over and over so the routine becomes predictable and therefore feels like the days are flying by.
How often do you truly stop and take stock of everything around you? How often do you walk through a park and enjoy the park? How often do you stop and literally smell the roses…or lilies…or geraniums? How often are you present?
That’s what this ultimately comes down to: presence. How often do you show up 100% for your loved ones, without distractions? How often do you focus on your body, your body, your awareness? How often do you allow yourself to stop and do absolutely nothing without guilt or the inner chatter yelling at you to get shit done?
How often do you stare at your kids while they sleep and thank the stars or God or whomever that you were chosen to be their mom or dad?
In the last ten days or so, I have been making an effort to stay present for my kids. This means no phones around them, listening actively to everything my daughter says, playing ponies (even though I hate it), and giving both my kids many hugs and kisses. I’m doing this because they could be taken from me in an instant. I know this so clearly and yet, I get caught up in the mundane nonsense of everyday life. Lately I’ve been overcome with love for them. It brings tears to my eyes, especially when I look at my son. Why him? Why did he come to us? What did I do to finally have my prayers answered? My gratitude right now is limitless. But will it always be? Or will this be a constant ‘to do’ item I need to give conscious thought too?
I have nightmares over the ways they could die. Sometimes they’re waking nightmares and I come out of it wondering, WTF was that?
All of the stories I hear have been a blessing bestowed upon me for many reasons. One, they teach me a lesson in humility and grief and wisdom without experiencing the actual event. Tragedies have collateral damage but there’s also collateral beauty. The beauty is the stories we share. Storytelling has been a part of life since the dawn of man. We use it to teach and to connect. Two seemingly different people can connect through mutual circumstances. Tragedy can unite people. Tragedy can heal people.
I don’t want the constant barrage of bad stories around me to be the reason I am grateful every day. I don’t want to feel relief or guilt. I want my gratitude to be as easy as breathing. I want my gratitude to hold steady in the face of tragedy. I want to be a steady rock for those around me so that one day, they can be mind. I want to be a pillar of strength for those people entrusting me with their stories. I want to love everyone and everything this hard every day, no matter what.
United, we will rise,