How well you walk through the fire

As seems so often the case, this week my thoughts are tied up in the difficulty of life. This year has been a tremendously difficult one. And I know I have spoken to that effect here before, and I by no means want to be known as a complainer. But the truth is, life is hard. And that’s not just me. I’m pretty sure it’s hard for just about everyone. And that’s not because we’re doing it wrong. It’s because sometimes life is just hard.

I’ve had a tattoo on my arm for the past six years that speaks of perseverance. The ability to get through anything. And I got it after one of the worst years of my life. I gauged my ability to handle trauma by that year. In the same year I faced death, heartache, broken bones, broken teeth, and relentless and tiresome work. If I could get through that, I could get through anything. In fact, nothing else would seem as bad after that year.

But the problem was that life continued to be difficult after that. And there were times when that tattoo felt like a mockery. I didn’t feel like I had the ability to persevere, and when I did, it didn’t feel like an accomplishment. My life began to feel like something I was just surviving.

In 2018, I got meningitis again, the terror of which cannot be overstated. I went through a breakup. I had oral surgery. I went into debt. I crawled out of that hole only to find myself in it once more when my car broke down. Carissa’s mom died and I struggled with financial strain and overwhelming grief. I started to get back on my feet again and then I hit my head and got a concussion, eliminating my ability to function normally once more. I began to recover from that when I got the heartbreaking news that my grandpa is terminally ill. As I was reeling from that shock, I sliced my foot open, impeding my ability to walk and relapsing my concussion symptoms once more.

I’ll be honest, as I sat on the floor of my office this weekend with a towel wrapped around my bleeding foot, I lost it. I thought, how can bad things just keep coming at me?And how can I continue to live a life that is constantly beating me down?

If there is one good thing about the struggles I’ve faced in my life, it has been that every ounce of pain has been matched with an equal amount of love. I consider myself immensely privileged to have a life that is filled with so many incredible people. And in the times when I am at my absolute lowest, those people have come through without hesitation.

Friends who love without fail and offer practical support when it’s needed most. Family that comes together despite the distance. Coworkers who exude compassion and grace. That is how I will get through this life. By relying on the exceptional kindness of the people in it.

I think maybe life isn’t about getting through things unscathed. Maybe it’s just about keeping a soft heart and an open mind even as you walk through the fire. Maybe it’s about realizing our fallibility and accepting our flaws. Maybe our struggles are just a nice opportunity to welcome help from others every now and then. I don’t know.

This month has been tough. But here are some of the things that have been pretty good.

Cris came back from Thailand and moved back into our house, a welcomed addition. We finally got the opportunity to celebrate Carissa’s birthday, an occasion that was delayed due to the funeral. I got my first unsolicited writing job (they sought me out for once!) I got my shots and paperwork sorted for my upcoming trip to Guyana. Our much anticipated cross-country D&D league finally began. Which mostly just resulted in three hours of laughter in a five-way voice chat. I visited my friends Angela and Sergiy in LA, got to play with their adorable baby and delightful dog (and got an addition to the tattoo he gave me five years ago)! I received an unexpected financial gift that will allow me to fly out and see Poppy. I decided to start volunteer tutoring again. I got to take Teddy to the beach.

The tragedies always stick out, but the truth is, my life is filled with a myriad of tiny joys. And that’s the reason I know I’ll always be OK. No matter how many brain injuries I have, how many people in my life pass away, how many gaping wounds I manage to inflict on myself accidentally. Life is hard, sure. But it is astoundingly beautiful still. I know that’s a theme I often come back to here, but it’s a reminder I seem to need repeatedly. Charles Bukowski said, “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” And I think I’m walking through it just fine.

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