After my brother’s suicide in 2010, as I coped with a torn reality, with bottomless grief and resultant depression and anxiety, I sought comfort through studying a variety of spiritual traditions. Ever the Californian, and ever me, I drew from many outlooks until I found a way of looking at life that brought and brings me comfort, courage and meaning.
I love the mystery of life, I love that there are creatures in the sea and in the universe that we do not yet know about. I love the mystery. I love the beauty and the grace of life. I am coming to acknowledge that after grief rained down on me, it fertilized the earth beneath my feet.
My job is primarily to help distill information into something that makes sense and that is powerful. I help stories get told in a way that is impactful, effective and as entertaining as possible. I am a writer. I write books. I write for several blogs. I am also a writing teacher, a writing facilitator and a story editor. I work with fiction writers, screenwriters, filmmakers, people needing to cope with trauma and even start up and high tech companies who need to concisely express their projects. My job, my livelihood of many years is to tell stories, to shape narratives.
And yet in my day to day life for the past 18 days, I am living in a reality that is impossible to shape into a coherent story. So many clashing narratives and emotional impulses crowd my thoughts, battling for supremacy – to make sense of the unspeakable. I am struggling to maintain an even keel but it is a very fierce battle for me.
I have discovered that my body can only handle so many rushes of adrenaline and subsequent low level dread before a spinning wheel of numbness, fatigue and general despair sets in. Imagine, wherever you are right now, as you read this, not knowing whether in the next second, a siren will blare outside your window and that you have to stop what you are doing, grab your phone and your keys and run. Any second. And when it doesn’t happen? There’s dread in that. Because it might happen – why hasn’t it? When will it come? Will you be in the shower? Asleep? On the street doing errands, as I was today? And then where do you run? It’s very hard on a body, physically. Especially over a period of approaching three weeks.
[I pause here to note that there were just three loud booms as rockets were intercepted over a town quite close to me. House shuddered.]
I can recover pretty quickly now. But the shock remains in my bones and will, I suspect, for the rest of my life.
Emotionally – the irony of teaching writers how to finesse and express stories into a narrative that is pleasing and makes sense while not being able to accomplish this in my own mind on a daily basis is taking a toll as well.
I have blogged a lot about this experience, and shared on Facebook copiously, since it helps me to cope by writing it down, and perhaps suffering from a delusion of grandeur, I have felt that by sharing what this is like from my little ol’ point of view, that maybe I can provide some visceral if pedestrian realness from those watching this conflict from so far away.
But mostly I think I am shouting into the wind.
Every day is a carousel of emotions from fear to despair to hope to faith and back again. I think that this is what courage and faith is about. To get on that carousel and try to hang onto that brass ring of one’s fundamental beliefs even when everything around you seems to challenge them in a blur. I think this is the way it is supposed to feel. Confusing, scary, transitional. I think I am in many ways extraordinarily lucky to be witnessing such times in Israel – as it happens – because this experience is showing me how much I can handle. It is teaching me that some things cannot be distilled, necessarily, into parables or easily digestible lessons with pleasing endings.
If you have endured grief, you know this. If you have struggled with cancer you know this. If you have struggled with a reality so far from what you think you can handle, you have experienced this.
I realize that I am very, very late to the Obvious Party. That until you have really, really, truly suffered through the incomprehensible, you have not really tested your faith – of whatever ilk. That it’s terrific to post neat stuff on Facebook about faith and strength and stuff but the real test of that is when you feel an absence of comfort of your belief system. When you think – REALLY?! REALLY?!
I just had a conversation with a “peace advocate” who refused to include Israeli children in her project, since she “culturally boycotts” Israel. Children. Children will be excluded. I felt livid. And then I cried. Why on earth am I putting myself in the position of reaching out to people when sometimes the result is an emotional tear in the fabric? Who needs this? Forget it! I want to scream to the sky. JUST. FORGET. IT.
It’s NOT going to be okay, you stupid California, naive, earth mama idiot!
Because some people will EXCLUDE CERTAIN CHILDREN in peace advocacy.
I felt a streak of red hot anger race throughout my body like lava. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!
Oh – my heart. It hurts. This hurts more than death, to me. Because I have a hard time finding meaning in ignorance and hate. I have an impossible time finding meaning in war and cruelty. But – isn’t that the thing? The challenge? To try? Isn’t that the very essence of faith and grace?
Maybe it’s okay that right now I feel like am free falling into a blender that is NOT making margaritas. That I feel despair and fatigue. Maybe this is what we call in story telling, the dark night of the soul. The elixir is my love of the mystery and the grace and the unfolding wisdom and beauty of the universe – even when in certain periods of time it doesn’t look so wise or so pretty. I have to raise my eyes and let it go.
I believe in unicorns and mermaids and the Loch Ness monster and in peace and in love and glitter and bedazzlers. I believe we live many lives. And I do believe that in my next life, I would like to be a very wealthy sea slug of some sort. I need a break :)