Eight years ago this week my life was very different from what it is now. I was sad, so very sad - a sorrow so impossible, so inconceivable, so bottomless that there is no word for it. I was saying a long, slow good bye to the love of my life as he lay, surrounded by family and his best friend, decimated on the battlefield of cancer.
In the aftermath I felt broken. No, not broken. Shattered. Shards everywhere. Little pieces of me scattered about, glinting like tears. Daylight was too bright, nighttime too dark. Everything felt out of step. An eighth of a measure behind.
Then the moment came. I remember sitting up and saying aloud to an empty room, "I did not die with him. I'm still alive, damn it!" Those words changed something. They became a paradigm.
It wasn't so much that I woke up. I was lucid enough before that. I became aware. I paid attention to what alive felt like. I noted the moments that made me feel most alive. I don't know how else to say this but that I began to be alive in my life.
I took measures to change the way I lived my life, which had always been answering to everyone but myself. I stopped worrying that the world would end if I didn't live up to some other person's expectations. I only worried that I wouldn't live up to my own. Because alive felt fantastic, and I wanted to live alive.
That makes it sound easy. It wasn't. It isn't. But it's as vital as drinking water and breathing air.
There are other people (I recognize kindred spirits) who've come to this place without losing the love of their life. Maybe they lost some other loved one, maybe divorced, maybe had a scare, maybe hit rock-bottom on a boozy trail, maybe just woke up from an epiphany of a dream and thought, "Enough of this shit. I want alive." It doesn't always take something completely catastrophic.
What it does take is willingness. Willingness to feel everything. Because to be alive is to feel, to have awareness of each moment. It takes allowing the bad moments, even when there's nothing more to learn than, "Ouch. That hurt."
I'm not one of those that believe that there is a lesson in everything, or a reason for everything. It's just what is. It's the reality of the moment, good or bad. My days of ecclesiastical excuses for what happens in life are long gone. If I thought that way, then I'd be obliged to think that John had to die so I could meet Steve - that's not reason, that's insanity and stupid and cruel and entirely unfair to all three of us.
Alive. To live alive. To be aware and love every moment of that awareness. It is what this life is for. Some might argue that it's selfish, but it isn't at all. If we are truly alive and aware, we are exactly who we need to be and where we need to be and what we need to be.
I wouldn't change a moment. I wouldn't smother that shattered feeling any more than I would smother the moment of pure joy I felt the first time I realized that I'd finally unleashed my artistic side. It's not the sum of the parts, baby... it's being whole. Alive is absolutely whole.