Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Falling Backwards Off the Sofa

As I've mentioned ad nauseum, I'm 43 years old. That's not particularly significant except when I look back on the totality of my life and see how much I've learned, and how much I have yet to learn during the next 50-ish.

When I was in high school (in ALPS, for you former ALPSters), we did one of those team-building exercises where you take turns falling backwards off the arm of the sofa, into the waiting arms of your teammates. At the time it was a horrifying idea, but today it seems like a tiny little metaphor for real life. Everyone should have the experience, sometime in their life, of falling and being caught by the people who care about us. It's both humbling and empowering. It reminds us (well, me, at least) that my worst fears, the things I lay awake beating myself up for, often look inconsequential to other people.

It's like the monsters in the closet: Throw open the door and turn on the light with someone to hold your hand, and the monster turns out to be an old garment bag. Once you look at it, you're free. Then you can marvel at all the ways you twisted your life in knots to avoid going near the closet for years.

So now, at 43, I try to remember to notice and be grateful for the people in my life who have helped me learn to fall off the sofa. Since Wanda's son died, I keep going back to this thought...How can a person be so loved and feel so hopeless? How do we forget to show our children and our friends and our partners that we'll catch them when they fall off the sofa?

When I feel like Atlas, carrying the world on my shoulders, I can feel the despair and helplessness that made suicide seem like a good option for a 22 year old. But despair is sort of an illusion...If you really stare hard at it, you can make it seem huge and black and impenetrable. But if you can step away from it, it turns out to be more of a garment bag than a monster.

Kwachie mentioned something in passing the other day about getting suicidal people to agree to live until Friday, because after a couple of days things almost always look better. And that reminded me of all the small things that ordinary people beat themselves up over, and how little any of it will matter in 10 years or 100 years or 1000 years. The universe doesn't care if your bills are paid on time, if you pass your algebra class, if you get fired from your job. But I believe that the universe does care very much that we hang in and remind the people we love to be brave, that we'll catch them when they fall off the sofa.

It's hard sometimes to remember to care about the right things. Maybe that's Mel's legacy...he reminded the rest of us to be grateful for the people we love. My heart aches for his mother. I hope her pain subsides, and her memories help her live with her grief.

I love you, Katie, Robbie and Carrie. Don't ever be afraid to fall into the arms of the people who love you.

And I love you, Lori, with more depth and breadth than I thought was possible. Thanks for catching me so many times.


1 comment:

Carrie said...

We love you too!!!