This is from my own life experience. I wrote it the day after Robin Williams died.
She goes into rehab again. He has another affair. Just yesterday there was alcohol on her breath. A neighbor says, “What did you expect? She’s been an addict for years.”
Sometimes they get better; sometimes they don’t—no matter how much we love them. Bitter shards of broken hearts litter the ground like shattered Christmas tree ornaments.
I tell myself that anyone can get better. All that does is show my fear and my ignorance. Addiction is as dangerous as terminal cancer. I have no idea how to cure metastasized tumors, and I have no idea how to cure addiction.
It’s terrifying to watch someone like Robin Williams go under. I think, “How could he not be happy? He had wealth, recognition, success, family. Millions loved him.”
But this fails to respect the humble truth of each one of us.
I am just me. Even if I get decorated with lights and whistles and enormous shiny balls, I am still just me.
If there is beauty in me, it comes from my deep essence, from the divine spirit that sometimes shines in my eyes. But most of us are blind to that light.
Is it enough to be just me? After all, I have some ugly flaws. What can I use to hide my cracks? How can I make myself look bigger? I try money, prestige, children, fame, plastic surgery, busy-ness, lies and addiction. Nothing works.
We judge certain illnesses very harshly. “She’s a drunk. He’s depressed again. She’s a slut.” We feel shame if we see the symptoms in ourselves and pretend nothing is wrong.
We don’t do that with cancer—“Why can’t she pull herself together? How could she get another tumor?” We don’t hate ourselves for catching the flu.
We’re alive. We’re human. That means is that we still have lessons to learn.
It’s frightening to admit how easily we break. It’s a myth that someone, somewhere has it all together.
Princess Di didn’t have it all together and neither did Elvis. It’s not that they were worse than others.
It’s that none of us has it all together.
But this is where it gets good.
I sit in utter darkness. I can’t tell if my eyes are open or shut. I am in despair.
Some days I lie without moving. But sometimes I manage to push myself up to sitting.
What was that flicker? A spark? Maybe I can mutter a prayer. Maybe I can call for help.
I clutch a few shreds of kindling. The spark catches. A tiny flame grows.
It’s so weak that a puff of air can blow it out. But I watch it, just for today. Maybe this time it won’t go out.
Sometimes, no matter how hard I work, no matter how courageous I am, the little flame goes out. I am back in the blackness. I’m too tired to try again. This has gone on too long. And so maybe I am one of the ones who just stops.
At a funeral, the brilliance of the love blinds us. We fall to our knees again. “And He will bear you up on eagle’s wings.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rRea9qnjK4
But for other people, back in the blackness, maybe there can be a fresh start.
I am still weak and broken and sick. Somehow this time, my tiny flame catches, just barely. It flickers and slowly grows.
This is grace, the amazing grace of the song. It is possible. It happens. With help, I add thin pieces of dry wood.
Slowly, in months or years, my fire grows into a beacon. It has to burn so brightly because it knows how very dark the cave can be.
I burn for all the others. This roaring blaze might be a feeble spark in their darkness.
But I cannot make it happen. I cannot do it for them.
I can respect the difficulty of their struggle. I can love them without conditions.
Knowing my own darkness, my own battles, I can say, “There is nothing you can do that will make me hate you or judge you.”
If they hit me, I step out of the way. If they play me, I protect myself. But I can always love them.
If they heal, I can dance with them. We clap our hands and shout with joy.
But if they fall forever, I can pull their spirits to me, hold them close and tell them how very precious they have been. I tell them we have always been together. Maybe now they can hear it.
They are in me because we are one. There never was any separation. That was false. I was wrong and so were they.
Everything becomes clear.
There was always just the love. It has no beginning and no end, and that is all that matters—especially today.
–Reprinted from and with the permission of Elephant Journal, http://www.elephantjournal.com