The White Light
After an emotionally tumultuous ride in our living room, watching the final four episodes of the tv show THE BIG C, my husband and I wept and held each other. We did this for reasons that exist on a variety of levels, not the least of which is damn fine storytelling by the creators, the writers, the actors, indeed, everyone who helped to create THE BIG C. The other reasons range from the memory of loved ones who died of cancer or other debilitating illness to the thought that, one day, we will be parted by death. We wept for the joy of having each other in this life and for the gift that is the family that we have. We wept for the sake of weeping, for the toxins expelled through tears are necessarily expelled. I am certain that there are layers upon layers of emotions that go into a simple tear and we were lucky to be given that moment to express emotion. To feel is a very big adventure.
This has been an emotional week; in fact, an emotional year. Bombs are going off. Tornadoes and hurricanes leave chaos and destruction, death and despair in their wake. Men are being bashed and murdered and school hallways ring with the sound of gunshots. Why shouldn’t we weep? Politicians and clergymen turn their backs on the people every day, in order to be in greater possession of the field of power. Hatred and bigotry, apathy and indifference rule the roost in the land of the once free. Why shouldn’t we weep? Every day can be a struggle to open ones’ eyes and face another day of danger, to open ones’ heart in a world overrun with minds that are closed. Why shouldn’t we weep? I suppose we weep and cry in the privacy of our homes so that we can, in fact, open our eyes and hearts and walk down those stairs to the street and face another day with open minds of our own.
To remain positive can be a daunting task, can’t it? What is the trick? Is it mediation? Is it prayer? What about the intellect or the gut reaction that is survival instinct? Is it the hope that one person can change the world? Or is it the intent to keep the head down and just get through one more day? I don’t know. I don’t know what it is for anyone out there; I don’t even know what it is for the people in my life. I only know what is in my mind and my heart, two places that have (I am sad to say) a tendency toward choosing the darkness over the light. This admission may be a bit of a surprise to some who only know me through the Facebook Machine, public appearances and this blog. I can come across as a cockeyed optimist at times; others, I let the darkness out and people know that there is a pessimist lurking inside. The truth is, though, that I believe that our days, our lives, are simply a series of choices. I try to choose optimism. I don’t always win. Too bad. I can, though, make the valiant attempt at making the right choice. Every time that I choose hope over despair, every day that I choose not to drink, every time that I choose to smile instead of frown, every day that I choose to go to the gym, every time that I choose not to complain, every time that I choose kindness over meanness. My meanness is particularly mean and nobody deserves it: that is a lesson I learned a few years (ok, a lot of years) ago. That is my meditation.. or, at least, one of them. Choose kindness. Don’t be mean. Make another choice. Pat tells me “come from a place of love”. It can be exhausting. It can, truly – being mean and being angry can actually be very easy and freeing and less exhausting.. for a moment, at least. Focusing on putting your anger and meanness aside and being kind to someone you want to punch in the throat takes a lot of strength and energy; but it CAN be done. I find myself wondering one simple thing: If I, a simple, not particularly smart, man without a college diploma can figure that out… why can’t the rest of the world? I suppose I should put away my sweeping statement broomstick, for there are people out there who are good and kind. Why aren’t there more, though?
People in power hurt the people who have little or no power, that’s obvious. What about the people in the trenches, every day? We can all take a moment to be kinder to the people in our every day lives. Must we be so nasty to one another? Being kind doesn’t hurt. Neither does it exhaust.. not our energy or our resources. Ok, yes, there comes a point when you must say “I can’t sponsor this walk, I’ve sponsored seven other walks this year” or “I can’t volunteer this week, I’m volunteering in three other events.” Yes, we have to pick and choose in those instances; but what about the rest of the time? I don’t think there is a day when I don’t have to turn my back on some part of my life; maybe a friend I intend to email to say “I heard you and your boyfriend broke up – I’m here if you need me”, or a letter that should be mailed, if only I can take out the half hour to get to the post office and wait in line, or disc of photos that I owe someone. Every day, there is something that I wish I had done but didn’t. And you know what? I could have done it. It wouldn’t have taken that much time out of my day to send that text or to run over to a friend’s house to help move the furniture or to stop by the doorman’s desk at work, with a plate of food from our kitchen.
I am grateful for the artists who create works like THE BIG C, works that illuminate the potential we all have to do something extraordinary with our days. I am grateful for the activists who crusade to make extraordinary things happen in our world, however small, whatever their cause. I am grateful for the leaders who demonstrate their positive use of their power by making the world a better place to hang out while we are alive. I am no leader, no public figure, no artist, no activist. I have no power to effect change, except in my day to day life; and I think the best way for me to do that is to offer compassion and kindness to the people around me. I cannot do that with a black heart, so I will have to set aside my natural pessimism and choose happiness. I think we can all do it. It just takes a little focus. Or a lot. I feel I am equal to the task. I’d like to believe that other people are. Maybe we can create a place where bullying doesn’t exist, where bashing doesn’t happen, where even snark, insult and derision are the exception, rather than the norm. It’s a hopeful wish, perhaps a bit idealistic – but it is idealism that sparks action against complacency toward negativity. The world seemed to be growing, changing, evolving into one with more idealism and acceptance.. then, it settled into a place that felt like a game of two steps forward three steps back. Clearly, the people disinclined toward change are fighting harder than the crusaders thought they would; and their style of fighting is typical playground tactic: unfair and ugly. We just need to keep fighting. Until someone changes their mind. Or someone changes someone else’s mind. That’s what we do: we keep fighting. It seems to me I heard that somewhere, I don’t remember where.
So. All this out of THE BIG C. Interesting, isn’t it? Who would think that the weeping and the constant pondering about how lucky I am to have the life I have and how I’m going to really appreciate it and treat it and the world around me with more kindness and respect could come out of simply watching a tv show? Well, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter at all where the inspiration to live or to change comes from, as long as there is some inspiration in our days. As long as there is an adventure, a lesson, an act of charity or kindness; as long as our time in this place is not wasted, is not unacknowledged, the source of our fuel to move forward is rather superfluous. I believe that is why artists create their artwork: to touch someone and move on to the next person that they will touch. Artists are here to illuminate. I happen to be lucky enough to seek out illumination. This week it came from a story about a lady with cancer. The light reminded me to make the right choices, to be kind, to lend the helping hand of friendship where it is needed, to appreciate the people in my life and, indeed, my life itself. The light reminded me that every day there is the potential for joy.
That is my light on the horizon.
Every day there is the potential for joy.