Forgive me whilst I wax poetic for a moment taking a stab at what has made my own humanity a bit less petrifying.
I don’t know that I have ever taken the straight path laid bare before me. To some extent, I am all the better for it. But that winding road brings with it a certain weightiness that few will know.
In 1993, December of my fifteenth year, I left home. I left no note, no sign of my leaving. I just packed a few bags and left. I spent that winter homeless in upstate New York. Wandering from place to place. Crashing on gas station floors while my friend, who was only a few years my senior, worked the overnight shift at a gas station to help his mom pay rent. In the morning he would go to his mom’s trailer, take a shower and then head off to school. I recall with intense clarity sitting with him through the night listening to him pour his heart out about how he just wanted a “normal” family and life.
On occasion, I’d hang at his house while he got ready for work. The walls lined with dark brown wood panel, stained with cigarette smoke. Where there was carpet it was a matted green shag. Worn down from years underfoot. I’m assuming at some point it was fluffy soft and new. I’d be there, sitting on his broken, hole filled couch just listening to him rant. Then one day, the rant, it kept going. Down a dimly lit hall was his room, and just before that the bathroom. He was screaming insistently out from his room about how unfair life was and how he couldn’t take any more. The air was so thick at that moment. A moment that will stand forever stained in my memory.
Through his tears, at the end of gun, he gave up. For him, the struggle ended there.
I don’t know what happens at the moment one gives up their breath. I imagine the soul leaves the body and enters into a calm, cold void. Maybe the experience is the same as being under water. Your body is supported on all sides by a pressure that pulls you up higher and higher until the surface is breached. Maybe, just maybe life is us under water and death is giving way to the pressure that pulls us up.
For my part, I flipped out and just ran into the cold night. Snow was falling. The kind of extra-large snowflakes that cover the grey, brown emptiness of winter with a pure, clean and quiet white. What the hell did I know? I was just a kid. I just took off running. And I kept running, eventually landing in Florida.
I can vividly recall days and long, endless nights spent wandering the streets under open skies. Not knowing if I was alive or dreaming or in some cruel purgatory paying for the sins of lives past. The question of whether alive or else only answered by the searing pain of the blisters on my feet and my empty stomach.
Things got worse from there and then, by and by they got better. But that, I think, is a story for another day.
What brought me to this today, (actually three weeks ago when I started writing this), was the snow.
Standing outside tonight, years and miles removed from those events, snow falls heavy. That same pure, clean and quiet snow that fell on the night that forever changed my life. In the dark of night, in the deep of winter, when snow falls the world has a way of muting. It’s not that it’s noiseless. Rather, all the noise that at once embraces us falls eerily quiet under the force of a piece of dust surrounded by ice. It’s at that moment that the world sounds the same as being under water. If we listen and pay attention we realize that we’re experiencing life at its truest essence, under water waiting to be pulled up.
That instant, so long ago had stayed subdued in my subconscious all this time but had somehow colored my view on life whether I knew it or not. And this evening, in the quiet desolation of winter, my very soul cried out.
It’s strange. The things that can take us back and force our hand to unpack a suitcase we had stored away in the attics of our minds.
“Life is only a long and bitter suicide, and faith alone can transform this suicide into a sacrifice.” Franz Liszt
So how do we unpack this?
All of us experience this life from a special perspective. The glasses we wear to see the world are colored by the paths we have walked. No one experience of our lives is better or worse than another. Nor is any experience innately good or bad. They are but threads in a tapestry, the tapestry of our lives. To remove one thread or ignore a thread is to render that tapestry incomplete.
Much of my personal tapestry is made of darker, moodier threads interspersed with bright happy threads. Experiences, like the one recounted here, were repeated many times in my life. Some much darker than these. When I refuse to acknowledge all of the threads I am rendering my tapestry incomplete. As painful as it can be, and it is, this tapestry is a thing of beauty.
That is the faith that transforms a long and bitter life into a sacrifice of beauty.
When we learn this, internalize it, and embrace all of the experiences of our lives perhaps we will find meaning behind the threads. Then, maybe we find the meaning and the faith. Then we can begin to heal. With the healing comes a wholeness. With the wholeness comes the ability to help heal others. Those others will then begin to find the beauty of their own tapestries and in turn help to heal others.
And thus, with the simple act of acceptance-accepting ourselves, our frailties, our limitations and own dark threads-we will help make the tapestry of this world in which we have been given charge just one bit better.
“I believe in the meaningless, beautiful chaos of existence, and I am ready to go with it wherever it leads.” Rajneesh