Okay. So it might one day happen that you’re rushing through the grocery store on a school night, somewhere on your hastily scratched list between fire-roasted tomatoes and PB&J fixins’, just rolling the cart and contemplating life and what kind of cereal to buy.
And by you, of course, I mean me. And by me, I really mean all of us. Because that’s how these things work. That’s why we tell stories, ‘cause we’re all more the same than we are not, and it helps to find a home in the words of another.
But on this particular day in this particular aisle in this particular store, a song starts playing that has only told one story for longer than you can remember. You stop, can of organic tomatoes midway between shelf and cart, heart on the floor under the wheels of the cart of that exhausted looking mom and her sticky faced toddler rolling down the aisle toward the granola bars and fruit snacks.
It happens, it does, in the achy times. The holders of memory, — the songs and spaces and snippets of moments — they seem to be chasing us, reminding us of what was and what is and the big gaping hole in between the two. They come and find us, and we end up standing where we are, grocery store or concert hall or school or office or auto mechanic, rushing to cram our hearts back into our chests before anyone notices.
Right then, it’s possible that you could crumble into a pile of blame and self-recrimination. It’s possible that the sadness could take you over, because the loss, it is real and (on a good day) you’re way past the place of blaming yourself for having really big feels.
And listen, if it comes to that there’s probably a corner over by the organic lettuce that you could go hide in to shed some tears, but there are kids to feed and work to do, and reasons enough to soldier on. And besides, you’re trying to stretch this time.
Not trying, love. You ARE stretching. Because there is nothing else to be done.
So now you get to practice. Stretch past the way it’s always been, past the myths and repetition and separation. Stretch past the lies that love looks or feels a certain way or follows a timeline or shows up when and how we want it to. Past the self-protection that wants to shut it all down. Stretch past the really small idea that you ever know what is possible or what will happen or what the universe has in store.
While you’re at it, stretch WAY past the voices that have told you that the damage is too great for you to love and be loved and have love and know love.
Because that lie is the most wicked one of all.
And you, dear, you’re not just looking for a new way, you’re working for one. Walking on purpose toward something that looks like real healing. Something inside of you that dares to show up and stay steady and sustain. Something with courage and a lionheart. So instead of letting that song take you over, you take a breath right now, and you do what you’ve gotta do.
Focus in on the wisdom instead. Ask yourself your own best question.
What do I know to be true, right now?
And then answer (yes, right there in that grocery store aisle). No time like the present and the song is still playing, after all.
You can’t hold on to what isn’t, of course, that’s true. But you can dig deep into your gut and determine what it is you believe. Not the beliefs that landed you here (those were based on some seriously self-sabotaging bullshit), but the ones that live deeper than that.
You can ask yourself what the highest manifestation of love feels like when you’re wide open and ready, and you can channel that with all you have. You can slip-slide all sneaky like past the hurt that likes to close things down and expand into the open space on the other side. You can remember that a wise man once told you that you’d be happier when you quit trying to make meaning out of everything. And that a wise woman reminded you that the hardest thing of all was to stop being at war with yourself.
So stop being at war with yourself. Just for this moment.
You can remember that you’re here to love, and the only way you ever want to fight for anything is with unclenched fists and a wide-open heart. And yeah, open hands are good at letting go. But sometimes letting go is the only thing (fuckery of a cliche that it may be) that allows for the fullness of truth and the only way to allow space for a thing to return.
And you know what else open hands are good for? Grabbing possibility and holding on tight when the time comes.
You can remind yourself that you’ve written your own instruction manual many a time before, finding almost decade-old words in the deepest recesses of your brain, floating toward you as if delivered. Back then you thought you were writing to another, rather than freezing in time for yourself to breadcrumb your way back to one day in the canned goods aisle, but no matter. They are here now for a reason.
“Find your way to living in that sweet spot – between grief and acceptance – welcoming the ache but not nurturing it, holding the angst but not feeding it – and you’ll come to a different place.“
So when this happens, because in high likelihood it will, you’re going to have to put down that can of fire roasted tomatoes and you’re gonna have to reach deeper and deeper into the place where the love lives. The place that is the foundation and bedrock of you. The one that trusts and believes and hopes and knows. Sink down into that, because I promise it is here.
What do you believe? What do you know to be true? What does your heart tell you is still possible? Just how big can you love?
Whatever the answer to the last question, I guarantee is exponentially bigger than you can imagine. It always is.
You are here to love, and to heal (you’ve written all those words to yourself under the guise of writing for others too). The world knows it and mirrors it back to you every damn day. Give yourself grace for not always remembering, but deep down, I know you know it too.
The outcome of love (this or any other)? Not yours to know, nor control, nor wrangle into submission. Love is a slippery thing, and also when it’s time to stop sliding, all you can do is root down and hold your ground.
So find your roots. You’re gonna need ‘em.
So, what is yours? That can of organic fire roasted tomatoes and the cart full of nourishment. The eyes able to see the truth, the wisdom that knows it is time to seek healing.
And yes, the heart. YOUR heart. Fumbling and messy and wise. The heart that finally knows fully what it wants. And if you get steady enough with that, there’s not a sad song in the world that can shake you.
So pay for your groceries. Load up the car. Return to your home and sit down to type. Because moments of wisdom, they come and they go.
But a story written lasts forever.