Friday, May 16, 2014

And yet, joy happened, in spite of everything

Have you ever had something happen that feels so vast and wonderful that your heart seemingly stops and you aren't able to find your breath?  Something that makes tears stream from your eyes, your hands come to your face, and you weep alone in your kitchen, just because something so transformative has happened that there is no other way for your body to express the intensity of your emotion?
I have.

And, in that moment, a burden I did not fully know I was carrying was dispersed like the seeds of a dandelion being blown away by a breath of love and justice.

I wish I could find the words to tell this story.  I wish I had the ability to lay it all out in its ugliness, its guilt, and its shame -- but I don't.  I wish I could find the words to say what it's like to have a moment when you can not only see the light at the end of that tunnel, but also learn that the light is the sun, and you can bask in a warmth that fills your soul and every cell with heart and with peace.  My heart resonates with Anne Lamott's words: "if people wanted me to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better."  These words are truth.  And yet, it's so hard to break through to find the courage to write it.  The words are there.  The courage is not.  The love is there.  The desire is there.  And yet, I just can't tell the story in the way I want to tell it.  It's too complex.  Not here.  Not now.

And yet, there is change here that I have to tell about.  And yet, I have found a sense of wholeness and a sense of rightness I thought I and my world were missing.  The world has changed in ways no one I know now can see, and I can claim a piece of ownership and agency in making that change.  There is a change that has occurred as a result of my actions that is good, and is right.  It is a small change...but it is right.  I am choosing to let myself feel proud of that.  I am choosing to let myself feel a sense of strength, and of agency, and of pride.  I have a sense -- finally -- that my suffering, and my pain was not for nothing.  I have a voice.  I am able to use it.  I did.  And it was heard. 

I used it.  And it was heard. 

When we suffer -- when something painful, or awful, or challenging happens -- so often, what we want is for our suffering to be acknowledged.  We want to be heard.  We want our suffering to matter.  When we are in pain, and our suffering goes unnoticed or unacknowledged, there is an overwhelming sense that we don't matter.  Our suffering doesn't matter.  And that?  You internalize that.  You carry that around with you.  Maybe you find one, or two, or a handful of people who tell you that your suffering, your story is important...but it's hard to compete with the stench of the systemic issues surrounding you that are hell-bent on keeping you in your place: quiet.  Small.  Ignored.  Not mattering.

You tell yourself that it matters.  You do the things you can to feel strong.  You seek support, and you try to talk and tell your story...but there is still this huge institution holding you down and telling you that your voice will not be heard.  That your suffering is wrong.  That you are wrong.  That you do not matter.
This is the reality I have lived with for several years now.  And yet -- suddenly, unexpectedly, this week, I got a small piece of news -- just a couple paragraphs -- that said, essentially and indirectly: you were heard.  Your suffering matters to us.  We cannot change your suffering, but we'll change our ways so others won't suffer in the same way. 

And, in reality, nothing can be done about my pain.  It is done.  It is in the past. 

But acknowledgment of pain is huge.  It is enough.  It is enough for me to believe that my suffering mattered.  That I matter.  That I have a voice, and I used it, and that I was powerful enough, and loud enough, and mattering enough to make change happen.  I had a hand in the fact that other people will not be hurt in the same way.  This happened.  It really happened.  I helped in making change happen.  Real change.  I helped to make that happen, in spite of everything.

I hate (HATE) the cliches people throw at difficult situations.  "Everything happens for a reason!" sends shivers up my spine, and "every cloud has a silver lining" makes me want to punch somebody.  I know you may be thinking them -- and even, in my struggle for words, I found myself falling back on these cliches.  But that's not what happened.  Everything did not happen for a reason.  This happiness, this relief, this change and justice, this mattering I have found is not the silver lining.  Why?  Because if there is a silver lining there, it is because I made it.  It is because I put it there.  If there is a silver lining, it is because of my actions, and because of my own strength and courage and resilience.  If there is a silver lining, it's because I mined that silver, ground it up, and I painted the inside of that cloud.  If all of this happened for a reason, it is because I made the reason as I went along.  It is because I built that reason from the ground up.  It is because I have found change, and I have found a sense of peace -- and also of justice.  I have found this -- I helped in creating this -- in spite of everything. 

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