From my perspective and experience, our lives are enmeshed and entwined with others’ lives, from those we love the most and live with the most closely, to those in widening circles of connectivity, finally to all of us residents on earth, all the way around the world and up and down its longitudes. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much the narrative arc of my life, my story, involves intimate details of others’ journeys—especially the more intensely I’m engaged in relationships as a spouse, parent, sibling, daughter, friend, community member. So much of what occupies my heart and my mind during times of others’ deeply personal challenges and victories belongs more rightly to them, as their stories for the telling or the keeping. There have been long stretches of silence for me, when what I was going through at the time was really more about another, and I always want to hold the trust of others as I support and protect them. Talking in generalities—as I’m doing now—is never as engaging as providing details, but details are what tell and show. Details reveal.
R. and I attended a memorial service today—for a 22-year-old.
I had to engage consciously in breathing exercises so I wouldn’t faint from empathic grief for the mother.
Yesterday, before I knew about this heart-rending loss, I was studying for my program and realizing—as I stood in front of a wide range of titles on one set of bookshelves (many of the titles at least thematically connected to what I was studying), and as I repeated in my mind an earlier conversation touching on many of the points of what we owe each other—that I know almost nothing about human nature. Pre-November 2016, pre-pandemic, pre-January 6, 2021, pre-the latest Texas legislative session, I thought maybe I did. After staring into the depths of all the fault lines and ruptures over the past few years, I question now if I’ve learned anything about people and who we are from my eager consumption of the writings of Dostoyevsky and other novelists, of Emerson and other essayists, of Angelou and other autobiographers, of canonical sacred text, of the poets and psychologists, and on and on. What have I learned from all the lived moments I’ve mostly kept quiet about, where I have been admitted into the sacred heart of distress, of wrestling, of razor’s edges, of the failing body, the fraying mind, the betrayal or estrangement between people or within self? Fifty-five years of witnessing in wonder, and I’m still so at the beginning.