There are moments in life when all of the clues line up. The veils of illusion part and suddenly, you can see all the way to the bottom of the deep dark truth. Your stomach drops. Your heart leaps into your throat. There it is. You’re about to lose your job. Your best friend is lying to you. Someone you love has died, which means — not as obviously as you might think — they’re never coming back. Your husband is having an affair. You don’t need to wait for the biopsy. You already know. It’s cancer.
I’ve had many such moments. All of the above, in fact. Sometimes, I fell apart. Sometimes, I strove to think positive, to not jump to conclusions, to trust.
Ultimately, there’s no way around the truth. Avoiding it is exhausting, possibly life-threatening.
So I believe in falling apart.
I believe in the life-expanding power of falling all the way to the bottom of the well. I believe in tears and the teeth-chattering, knee-knocking, nervous sweat of worst fears made manifest. At my best, I play the sympathy card, gather as much support around me as I can and just plain face it.
As awful as it feels in the moment, I love when the map I’ve plotted for my life gets ripped out from under me. It’s like waking from a dream, a dream where my life’s possibilities are limited to those that don’t scare me.
If I can emerge from a gut-crushing divorce to find pleasure in moments alone, then I can go on to experience the wild joy of a new relationship, much better than I ever thought possible. If I can face a cancer diagnosis and — cancer or not — the inevitability of death, then I can risk a slew of personal and professional rejections and, maybe, a few heretofore unimagined successes.
I think of circus fleas confined to test-tubes laid sideways. After banging into the tubes’ invisible ceilings, these natural high-jumpers give up jumping altogether. Even when freed, they don’t dare jump. They’ve been conditioned to accept a limited life.
Whether you realize it or not, your life is not taking place in a test tube. Disaster can come along at any moment and smack you right in the face. If it does, please accept my sincere condolences. And my advice:
Let yourself feel it. You are not safe...nor are you limited.