There is an invisible world out there, and we are living in it.
If we hurt, if we know loneliness, if we feel shame or alienation or abandonment in our heart, we’ve simply forgotten the invisible, or started to say it isn’t true because it isn’t solid. Apology shocks us out of our empirical, ego self and into metaphysics, into soul. It is the wound in us that will be our healing. The wound shunts us past the obvious and into the sublime. Heaven is not what we thought it was, being everywhere. Ear is a doorway to god, memory a key to open every door in the house of our life, apology is communion, and heady.
To be alive is to be alone. But we are not born, only. We’re also alcoholics, or lost children, or soldiers or lovers who cheat or prone, a little bit, toward violence and cruelty. We add to our dismay by all the little times we’ve screwed up. There are some who say that selfishness is the root of addiction, but I think that selfishness isn’t an addict’s problem so much as it is the condition of our being women and men.
It hurts to be alone.
But we are not only alone, not entirely, not ever. The ego, the self, that existential loneliness is true. But it is not the only true thing. We are also some magic, shifted thing that belongs to all the others. We don’t own that thing. We don’t even ever really know it entirely. We live lives that are remembered, shared, worried over, cussed out, gossiped over, prayed for, regretted, craved, and we generally don’t have a clue. These parts of ‘self’ are just as real and meaningful in the greater universe as whatever thoughts and feelings I happen to be having at any given moment…but my ‘self’ forgets.
They are not all good. Many of the traces I’ve left behind me are proof of my arrogance, my lack-of-care, my laziness. There are a lot of people in the world who might hate me – either personally or because I happen to be or believe something they see as wrong.
But those are parts of me, too.
In the long year that was my divorce, I asked my husband ‘where does our kitchen go, when we no longer live in it?’ It hurt me to think that something as solid as a kitchen table simply no longer existed, that even the heavy weight of ‘love’ and ‘ceremony’ could so easily disappear into nothing.
I didn’t understand, then, that the things do go on mattering. That even if it exists only in our two quickly passing hearts, that is existence still.
I am the doors I have opened for others, the gratitude I’ve extended, the help I have offered. And I am the pain I have caused, the girl who never showed up, the one who jilted or scorned. My indifference has ricocheted off walls I’ve never even seen.
I heard of a wealthy man who’d spent the better part of his last years giving as much as he could away. What did he leave? asked some financial minded on-looker, and a friend answered ‘he left everything’.
At my grandmother’s funeral there were four hundred people, though she spent most of her life in a town of under two hundred. One woman was introduced to me as her best friend. A few minutes later, I met another woman introduced as her best friend. I sneered at this, until my grandfather smiled. They were all her best friend, he said.
When I hit one year sober, I stood in front of a room of people and was given a medallion, a little coin. It was my sister who gave it to me. She said I was the bravest person she knew, and that she was happy. She was happy because she didn’t need to be afraid for me any more.
Call me thick, but it had never really occurred to me that her fear was real. Just as real as anything my ego or ‘identity’ or ‘plans’ ever were.
Do you remember the willow, she asked. And I realized the terrible, awesome weight of all the invisible things in the world. The memories that she and I have – from that tree to the way I used to make up stories to help us fall asleep – are invisible to any body else, but heavy as god.
I spent most of my life grieving because my ideals were ‘unrealistic’, because the suffering of the world seemed to trump ‘justice’, because the heart of me knew only loneliness, hurt, shame. Sex, love, art were broken, I thought, and I gave in.
I was wrong. They are more real than anything I am.