Life, as I left in a comment the other day, is something I identify as a two-fisted business; it is not a game we play with one hand behind our backs. Whatever we have, we need to bring, even if it has to be carried in swap meet suitcases and duct-taped plastic bags.
Nearly a year ago - June 28, 2009 - I posted the following. I am re-running it now as I am inspired by readers - and writers - to keep excavating and sharing what I find.
Reprinted by no popular demand whatsoever:
A good life and a pain-free life are two different things. It may be that this information is widely available but somehow I have come to it late. In the first place, I cannot imagine how one is actually alive and without pain. Ever. Of any description. How much anaesthesia would that require?
There is too much meaningless hilarity around us, or so it seems to one for whom an authentic, unforced lightheartedness was unimaginable and unattainable for so long. Many of us - and there are days when I am certain the numbers are much higher than that - come from places we recognize in the work of Joseph Campbell as he tells of mythic struggles, trial by ordeal, shamans as wounded healers. Abuse, neglect, exploitation, violence, indifference, damage and despair were not explored in Nancy Drew books. If only she could have solved that mystery, shone any sort of light on all the ways in which children had their souls stolen by predators in business suits, clerical garb or masks that could pass for ordinary.
These children grow with the sense that they have no control over their actions, choices or lives. A malevolent force resides in the space that should belong to heart and spirit, as though even those stout allies fled in helplessness once they assessed the gravity of the wounds. Sometimes the demons win. Sometimes the pain overshadows the ability to believe in anything but the pain. For more years than I can say I thought healing meant that all the hurt would be taken; that what was lost would be returned, like for like; that clarity, decisions arrived at through thought and caution, sobriety and consistency would result and only grow stronger. I believed the past could be rewritten, or more accurately, erased; it never happened. This is what I longed for.
But a piece at a time, over 24 (and counting) years of relentless recovery, I discovered that to exclude certain moments, to somehow have the warping, indigestible parts of my life removed like a curse lifted, would leave me a different creature. I realized there were aspects of me which I actually treasured. I didn't possess the wisdom to know what should stay, what should go, if it had been possible to undo what already was. Which left only one choice: repair what was still fixable, modify or alter the seriously wrecked bits into something that would work well enough, keep moving forward.
(An aside: In the Los Angeles Times of Tuesday, June 16, 2009, there was a front page story headlined, "Cars in Ghana can't be totaled," which told of the Odawana neighborhood of Accra in which no car had ever been seen as too broken to be fixed. The writer described the area, saying "(it) teems with industry and purpose." Reporter Robyn Dixon added, "nothing is ever useless junk.")
Reclamation, restoration, redemption - themes to which I gravitate in movies and stories - result from the pick-and-shovel work of this earthly incarnation and Divine intervention. Pain in some measure still shows up and asks to stay in our spare rooms; in small quarters it sleeps on the couch and leaves its stuff everywhere. And still life is a gift. It will not happen, that all those whom we lost to the darkness will be among us again, with buoyant spirits and anxieties forgotten, so our best plan is to celebrate resilience, grace and benevolence without limit that has never given up on any of us. One day, like the cars in Odawana, we will realize that we, with masterful help, have become the "daredevil surgeons" and found a way to bring our crumpled pieces back to function and purpose. We will continue to grieve, but not every moment, and less for ourselves than those for whom the journey was simply too long.