“Nothing you can see that isn’t shown. No where you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.” – The Beatles
I woke up this morning to grey skies and pelting rain on this suburban New York Christmas Eve. The dreary weather seemed appropriate to my mood – unable to sleep for days while feeling restless, unable to grasp the concept of joy while feeling existentially lonely, unable to concentrate while feeling overwhelmed, unable to express truth while feeling overpowered.
I floated into a mid-afternoon coffee with my mom, at a quaint French café where they precognitively know my almond milk latte order. I sat at the bistro table, tears welling in my eyes, taciturn, immobile, incapable of forming words from such extreme emotion. I swore I’d stop crying in public. Why am I still crying in public? I return back home, make-up washed away, self-defeated. Not aggravated at the world, but disappointed with myself.
There’s a gathering of friends in the house where I’m living. I hear laughter. I hear voices. I hear cooking…pots and pans clanging in the kitchen. I hear kids running and shooting Nerf guns (they still sell Nerf guns?). I hear the din of many people talking at once, with the TV on NFL football. Those are good sounds. Positive sounds. I allow them in. I join in. I stop crying.
It’s Christmas Eve night, and I’m upstairs in my room. It’s quiet, save for some parental elves finishing up Santa’s work for their little ones fast asleep, drugged on cookies and milk. I turn on my computer. It’s necessary to write. It’s necessary to reflect. I take stock of my year… the three different places I’ve lived, the work I’ve done, the motion, the change, the disorientation and the orientation. But most of all – the people. Those I didn’t know one year ago today, those I’ve known since I was five. Those who have been present, those who have been absent, and those who entered and abruptly exited.
A couple years ago, while I was still able to browse books at The Strand, I picked up a modern dystopian novel recommended by the staff. It was a quick, semi-entertaining read. But, one line from the novel’s ending has remained with me since – drifting in and out of my conscious recognition – as I move through my days and hours. The protagonist proclaims, “Everything ends, and everything matters.” Yes, it all certainly does. So here’s the end of another year. And here are my words in epistles, brought forth from my heart, to all of you. Because all of it… every part of it… it matters.
To my mother: There’s never been another person in my realm who cares as much about me. I always had problems saying I love you. Scared if I uttered those words, it meant you would disappear. You never had problems saying those words. In my illness and in my breakdowns, when all is dark, I glimpse your light to get me through. In my elation and my successes, when all is well, I first share that ease and brightness with you. When I feel I have nothing left to give, you remind me that my existence is gift enough. There is no greater gift a mother can give than that… my life, and her love. And for that, I love you.
To my new family: Charlie in his erstwhile 9-year-old wisdom said it best, “The only things I do not find are the things I lose.” There are no words commensurate to express who you are to me. For what you’ve given me is not just a safe home and a new family, but you’ve granted me a way back to find myself, and an understanding of how to love. You’ve given me the clarity to believe that even when I lose what I thought I’d found, it doesn’t mean all is lost. Your home, your family, your shelter, your hope, your courage, your care, your laughter, your spirit – it’s more than my heart could ever have imagined someone sharing with me. When I question “Where is love in my life?”… I know it is present through you, every day.
To my friends: Whether we once made pencils dance on our desks, dreaded the sadistic chaos of March, accidentally scattered M&Ms all over Hesburgh Library during finals week, drunkenly wandered into oncoming traffic on Bleecker and (um… where were we?) to hail a cab at 2am, downed venti lattes while setting up live events for New York’s media elite, quoted Wes Anderson lines over design deadlines, swapped Paleo cookie recipes, shared battle scars from chronic illnesses, or called each other from everywhere and anywhere to support, listen, congratulate, and reassure… you are all what makes my life colorful when it’s so easy to live in gray.
To my EHS comrades: I’m continually moved by your spirit and your strength; by your empathy and your bravery. From England to California, from Mexico to Maine, I’ve received messages of hope, support, and care, as well as sorrow, pain, and grief – from those equally suffering with Electro-Hypersensitivity and those fighting for environmental health. Within all of those heartfelt and heartbreaking emails, letters, posts, and phone calls, what I sense is a universal intuition between us. An innate understanding. A connection within disconnection. And a will to keep going, no matter what. There is no greater energy than that.
To him: One day, we shall both grant each other forgiveness. Until then, I borrow these words from a poet to send to a prophet…
“I remember the way we parted.
The day and the way we met.
You hoped we were both broken-hearted.
And knew we should both forget.”
– Algernon Charles Swinburne
And to all a good night: It’s nearing midnight. Santa’s on his way (or so says Google’s Santa Tracker). Tomorrow, I will wake up early, to the sounds of my friends’ two kids dragging their parents out of bed, rushing them down to the Christmas tree. I had forgotten that tingly feeling… the anticipation of each ribbon-tied box, the wonder of each new toy, glitter stuck to my pajamas, the warmth of a post-present breakfast. I forgot that sensation existed until now. I forgot that way of looking. I forgot that way of being.
I tell myself a lot of stories. And I write a lot of them too. Stories about my life, my grief, my trauma, my loss, my pain, and my endings. Stories about my patterns and my cycles, my regrets and my shame. But, there’s space in between these stories. There’s light in the confusion of loss, there’s movement in the distortion of transience, and there’s beauty even in the midst of sadness. Tonight, I spied a 12-year-old crawling under the Christmas tree, flipping over gift tags to find his name, beaming when he did, far too excited about tomorrow’s unveiling to get a decent night’s sleep. Maybe that’s exactly what I needed to be shown, in order to see.