Thursday, March 31, 2016

jaywalking with caution


My roommate turned to me one day, and spoke of how she is afraid that one day she will just wake up and find herself depressed. Without warning, she will find herself mired in the pit of depression, which seems like a pit easier to fall into than to climb out of. Depression will have descended upon her like a fog, and there it will hang, until the weather feels like changing. We are at the mercy of the elements, it seems. Those of the winds, and those of our own minds.

I told her, with empty confidence and sophomoric optimism, that that just doesn't just happen. That surely that could not happen to us--mens sana in corpore sano us.

Then I sat across from my own dear one at a small, sweetly lit table in the only interesting wine bar that Uptown (Minneapolis, not Manhattan) possesses. "Troubadour", it's called, which lives up to its name by very live musicians singing very loudly to a small crowd that includes seven of his closest friends, and ourselves.

Over wine and twinkle lights, at our table tucked against a pillar, hidden from everything except the music and the sparkling night out the window, he tells me of the crosses that his family bears. Internally, I enumerate the crosses that my family bears as well. And I wonder: how can we escape this? We seem doomed by genetics. We will one day wake up, fifty-seven and utterly desolate, with only our expensive alcohol addiction to color the boredom of our grey, dull depression. It's a fate that seems knit into our blood.

It is a bleak idea to wrap your mind around when you are twenty-four, that one day your spirits may not be so naturally chipper (or may depend on spirits as a crutch), that your bones will wear down and begin to ache each step you take, that anxiety and paranoia will overtake your senses, that your mind will begin to lose its acumen, and that life will become faded and rain-stained.

Then I stop my imagination from wandering down this rabbit hole of fear.

Today has enough crosses for today.

And there certainly are crosses.
There is the pain of separation, and the longing for one another.
There is the cross of still being a work in completion, journeying towards fullness.
There is the cross of my own imperfect, stuttering attempts to love grandly. Not to love in a small, mean manner. But to love with all the magnificence of the love I have been first loved with.
There is the cross of death, of sundering, that looms over each waking moment.

There are certainly crosses for today. Let the crosses of tomorrow take care of themselves.

Today, I am more cautious in my jaywalking.
I still jaywalk-- heavenstoBetsy-- I live in Manhattan. And you'd get nowhere notime soon if you didn't push across the intersection just as the light was turning red, or right before the opposing light turns green, before the SUV rumbles itself into motion or before the taxi weasels it way through the double-parked cars to zoom across the intersection.
But, now, I am more careful not to race the sedan to the intersection. I think of how quickly a vehicle darting across the intersection can stop my breath--the only breath I have--and how a future can be severed from me in just a moment.

So I am more cautious in my jaywalking, because I am, prudently, I suppose, preserving my future.
But I am cautious, I think, because I am more aware of the present.
I am aware that, at this moment, we are both breathing.
I take a breath, and you take a breath.
And there are many time zones and square miles between the both of us.
But we are sharing this one moment,
and this one breath.
I am more thankful for this moment, for this breath, than I was before.
And I do not want it to end in a crumple of bones and shattered lungs.
So I wait a few extra moments for the walk sign to appear, instead of darting in front of buses and speeding town cars.

When I grow afraid of the future, afraid of what I will look like when I am fifty-two, what I will sound like, and feel like, I think of all the crosses we have borne together in just a few short months.
None of them have broken our backs.
Rather, each cross has been met with grace and sweetness.
Perhaps that is the particular joy and grace of bearing crosses together.

And I think that is the future:
the endless rolling expanse of days, and the many crosses that life will bring, the hailstorms of living that batter at your windows--
of course that will be the future,
because that is the present.
The present is: the daily barrage of crises that test you, that fray at your patience.
These daily pitfalls and pratfalls are the present.
And we have met the present with love and joy. We have kissed her and welcomed her, tattered and broken though she may be.

If this is the present, will this not be the future?
Whatever crosses are born, whatever via dolorosas are laid out before us, they will be encountered with love and joy. Perhaps not always gladness, and perhaps with some small muttering of complaint. But, certainly, with grace.
I realize, slowly, that this is what grace means.

Grace does not mean that you will live a life that is perpetual sunshine. But rather, grace means that, even in the nights of darkness that sometimes fall over your life, you will still be able to find the light. Perhaps it will be dim, perhaps it will be comfortless, but it will always be there--a small flame of unquenchable hope that burns relentlessly.

Grace means that genetics do not dictate the joy in your life, or your response to all the crosses genetics bears unto you. Grace means that the story is not set in stone. That forgiveness can wash over a multitude of sins, that you can have a chance to begin again tomorrow, refreshed and renewed. That each person's story is a little different than the others', that no day is the simulacrum of the one before. Grace means that although we are not perfect yet, we do not have to give up the attempt to become so. And that our foolishness now will develop into wisdom later.

Grace means that the crosses of today are borne merrily in the present. It means that patience and kindness are possible in the midst of distress. It means that each moment, each breath, each person, can be seen for the miracle that he truly is. And it means that all moments--even the ones with crosses--can be borne as a gift.

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