By Duane Toops
Your heartbreak, your tired desolation, your forsaken desperation and despair; I know them all so well. I understand better than you think. They have been my world.
I know your grief. I know your loss. To watch all your bridges burn away before your very eyes, knowing that you were not even the one to have set them all ablaze. To witness a life that had been meticulously built and bolstered crumble into a billion lonely pieces. Everything gone in an instant. Shell-shocked and reeling, the silence deafeningly ringing, you are dizzy and still wondering; wondering about what it would mean to rebuild and recover, how to live amidst the absence and the emptiness, how to exist within the rift, how to persist within the tear, trying to understand what normal is, and what it would mean to be so now, wondering if the idea of healing holds any meaning, or if it is simply a faint whisper of a dream far too fragile to even speak. I know.
I still have so many days where I miss the life that once was; all the shapes, sounds, and colors, all the artifacts and trinkets. They were all so half-noticed and taken for granted at the time, but now they all seem as though they were sacred objects and holy relics; blasphemed and taken from the altar of all we once were, pillaged and defiled, stolen, sold, and carried away, never to be seen again. How deeply I can hear you. How much I can see you. You paint on a smile, finding hidden places to cry quietly. The loneliness is suffocating, I know. But you are not alone. You have never been, and you will never be.
I don’t have any of the answers to all the swirling questions about what comes next or what happens now, the truth is I’m still trying to figure that out too. But, you have come too far to falter. I know you’re tired but you have to find a way to reach; reach hard, reach with everything you have left. There is still some light within you. It may be covered with debris and buried but it is still there. There is still a glimmer clinging. Hold on to all the tiny bits of light you can find, and you reach.
Breathe deep and cry long and reach. These are the sturdiest parts of yourself. The parts of you that are sure and standing. The parts of you that are stable in the fact that YOU ARE STILL HERE. You have been beaten and scarred, but you are still here. Pieces of your resplendence have been stolen, but you are still here.
You are lost, and confused, and you feel so agonizingly stuck. Give yourself grace. Bestow upon yourself the heaps of kindness and care that have been withheld from you. Recognize that, as Cheryl Strayed says, “Compassion isn’t about solutions, it’s about giving all the love that you’ve got.” Strayed exclaims that, “This is how you get unstuck…you reach…[you] live the life that is yours, the one that includes the sad loss”, the one that grants you permission to grieve, and to mourn, to lament, and travail. It is the only one that you have. It has made you everything that you are. And it is the only one that will take you to a place of exuberant joy and exhilarating wonder; a place of such overwhelming vastness, a place of healing and refuge, “a fierce place”, as Strayed explains, “a giant place…a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark, and glimmering light, and you have to work really, really, really, hard to get there”. You will have to reach.
You can be both broken and complete; healing means learning to walk with a limp. It is proof that you have struggled and prevailed.
Break when you must. Cry when you need to. The only promise I can give is that I will cry at your side.
Reach and breath and cry and laugh and reach, that is all the work to be done today, and it is enough.
Reach dear ones reach
Reach out deep and long and hard
Stretch toward the places where the light gets in
Reach with everything you have and then reach a little more
Not because all wounds will heal
Some will not
Not because all manner of things will be made well
Some simply won’t
But reach regardless
Reach because it is worth the risk to reach
– Duane Toops