You cannot schedule your meeting with sorrow.
You won’t be booking hardship into a two-hour block on Wednesday.
Trouble isn’t always a train you can decide to take. (“No, not this one. I’ll grab the next one. Thanks!”)
The far-too-serious parts of life will always meet you on their own timeline, and they will always be hard to handle. I wish I could tell you otherwise. Unfortunately, the uninvited guest picks its own room.
You can never be ready for that which does not require or need or tolerate your readiness. The moment simply appears. Here is life in your grill: real and gritty and you’ll want to run away. Oh, you’ll want to wake up and open your eyes and live your old life, the one you had before the moment that changed everything.
But that won’t happen.
And when you find yourself on this ride, when you wonder if you will live through it, through the pain to come, the hard times, the ride you do not wish to take but upon which you find yourself suddenly thrust, thrown onto the back of the galloping wagon, bump bump bumping along and you open your mouth to scream but no sound comes out, just like in all those nightmares, all of them, the long ones that left you parched when you woke up, as if you had run 1000 miles in your sleep (maybe you had), when you find yourself here, remember this:
My mother told me that once, her piercing blue eyes boring into me as they always did, even though she tried to soften their power with the small smile always tugging at the corner of her lips. She was 86. She had seen so much. More than most of her friends, most of her relatives, most of this world. They had died and still she lived, her wisdom mounting with the years as her eyes seemed to get lighter and lighter, as if the sky itself had melted into the sun and there was no yellow and no azure, just the faintest hint of blue that anyone had ever seen.
“People ask how we live through this, through this sadness,” my mother said that day, after we had buried both my sister and my nephew and the cancer in their cells within the span of six months. We were all broken in ways that we would never talk about.
“What else can you do?” she said, “You take this thing, and the next. It is life. And you keep living.”
Or at least I remember her saying this, although those words would have been mine too if I had spoken aloud. Perhaps I did, as I pulled the leather gloves over her bony fingers and her paper skin. Neither of us could have told who spoke what that day. She hallucinated regularly and I was a writer. We were almost the same.
And now I wish I had magic words to help you in this moment of discomfort, some kind of salve or even an armor that you could put on and take off, to shield you from the pain now and from that which will most assuredly come. But no such thing exists. There is life and loss and sorrow and ache and a thousand tears that you will cry today and again tomorrow and again and again, the chasm yawning in front of you but never filling, never filling, the pond cruelly always able to hold more.
As dark as it will get now, as hard as the sorrow will pound on the tin roof, cascading down and scaring all with violence and sound, as bad as it will seem, remember in the midst of it all that one day—one day—the pain will ease. The sun will come out again—at least for a bit—and you will smile. This, I promise you.
But not now. Flip up your collar. Huddle with the others under the awning. The winds are picking up. You will need one another. Stay close.