I read a book recently. A couple of them actually. Beautiful books, both chalk full of honesty about horrible awful things and times, and beautiful wonderful things and times. Both different stories on life and love and loss and shame and grief and the lot of it... both embracing the mess. Stories of darkness and redemption of a kind.
These used to be my bible.
There was a time when I would read them, and make them my new mantra, my new standard to live up to... my aim, my becoming, my new way to live. Each new way, path and story, would become my SALVATION. The way that I would un-become what I am.
I would be better. Truer. Braver. Kinder. Wiser. Funnier. Lovelier.
But more than all that... I would finally be GOOD.
Good is my antidote, you see. It is the thing I need to counteract the sneaking suspicion I've had all my life... the one thing I have not been able to shake for as long as I can remember...
that I am bad.
That there is something wrong with me. That deep down, no matter who loves me or how much they do... I can't be trusted, because really, the truth is, I'm awful.
So you go through life thinking that no one really knows you, not REALLY, because if they did, they'd know the truth that you know: the truth that you are un-repairably flawed, and deeply, unchangeably... bad.
I wish I had a more compelling word than "bad", it's not very poetic... but it fits. It is a word that describes guilt and shame perfectly.
It is the sum-total of all of the things we are taught we shouldn't be. It is that old time hymn of morality and religion, even if you're not a champion of either one.
It is all the ugliness, failings and awful things. It is all the terrible things about life, and about ourselves, that we cannot ignore or unsee. They are there, and there is nowhere to hide from them. These qualities are all around... but more than that...
they are right here, in me.
I read the books and I hear the old familiar call: that I will dive in, and dig deep, and I will come out shining—that I will dive in, and dig deep, and I will finally BE SAFE.
Safe from myself. Safe from life.
Safe from the terrible, awful.
It won't stop the terrible awful from coming, but it will finally make ME good in the face of it... it will finally make me good enough to walk through it all. With grace, or wisdom, or a great sense of humor. That will be my safety. My safety will be that I know at least I am good or trying my best to be good... but my heart sinks, because I can't escape the truth that I already know too well...
I will not be safe.
I will not be safe from myself, or from life. I will not be safe from the terrible. The truth I do not want to face but know: I do not trust myself, because I know that I can't.
It is crushing, and I know it is a crushing thing to read. Nobody wants to read this shit. It is the terrible. But I cannot trust myself, because I cannot keep the whole of me out.
I cannot banish the "bad" qualities. I never will. I cannot trust life, or others to not hurt me or disappoint me either, because others are life, and life is the whole enchilada. I don't want to hurt anyone, and yet, I do hurt people just by being and doing what I am.
It doesn't matter if I want it, I can't escape it.
I'd like to be nothing but love and truth, welcome and bravery,
but that is not all I am.
I'd like to think that I am advancing, learning, growing and becoming more true and real and good by the year, day or week... but I cannot escape my knowing that I'm not.
I am like these mountains on the screen behind my note pad: in the right light they are beautiful and warm and welcoming, every detail rich and full of splendor—you could climb to the top and feel their glory—but in an INSTANT they could become a very dark and cold place. A place that feels cruel and unforgiving.
The mountains do not intend to hurt, or to love... they just DO.
It is the effect of their existence at all...
it is all of what they are.
They look beautiful, and full of glory. They look terrible, and awful. They cannot be trusted to be either one, and only that. They can be trusted to be BOTH, and neither, at any given time. They can be trusted to be everything they are.
So can I.
I can be trusted to be beautiful and ugly. Warm and cold. Kind and cruel. Honest and dishonest. Embracing and isolating. Wise and idiotic. Funny and embarrassing. Proud and humiliated. Clean and dirty. Plenty and none. Welcoming and rejecting. Non-judgemental and judgmental as-all-hell. Unconditionally loving and withholding. Fun and boring. Balanced and gluttonous. Innocent and guilty. Sweet and sour as spoiled milk, and more.
I can be trusted to be all that.
That's the one thing you can count on...you can count on life being all of what it is. I can count on not being safe from any of it. Lawd help me, I can at least trust in THAT. I know how that might sound, but it's really the sweetest thing to come to terms with...
I'm not safe. I'm not good.
I am the mountains, in all their terrible glory.
It is precisely their ability to be both of those at once, that amazes us so.
I look at my loved ones, myself, the whole world... in awe of their ability to be all of it, to KNOW all of it unflinchingly, and hold it.
To hold life even when it feels like it will never—and could never—hold you.
You are doing such a great job.
My god, would you look at you?? You are doing the impossible, impossibly well. And I love you—in your rawness and realness—I do. and when I say you, I mean me, and all of this.
We cannot understand, or explain this all away into tidy little boxes,
we cannot grasp what is constantly shifting and changing...
but we can behold
the terrible wonderful glory...