Do you ever feel like your body is too small to hold all your emotions? You know, those times when your chest burns from trying to contain joy and sorrow at the same instant, and you’re already dizzy from a life that loves to square dance and swing its partners ’round and ’round and ’round?
Just two days ago, I learned that my father-in-law is officially cancer-free. He. Beat. Cancer. Hours later, I heard that my friend’s pregnancy ended far too soon. Her. Baby. Is. Gone.
First elation, then grief.
Three days ago, I landed a crucial, career-boosting meeting only to get home and find that the long-awaited offer on our house had been withdrawn.
Success, followed by disappointment.
But five days ago, I really had perspective on this duality. I was standing in D.C.’s Newseum, poring over an exhibit of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs. It was the most moving collection I’ve ever seen, and it left me leaking both laughter and tears, feeling like I needed to lie down. Lie down? All I did was look at glossy re-creations of what other people actually lived through.
There were children playing right beside children dying of starvation; unconditional love showcased next to proof of humanity’s incurable darkness. But it wasn’t just the harsh images that rocked me; it was seeing so much anguish and jubilation all jumbled together, and realizing that there really is no separating the two.
Bittersweet isn’t a flavor, it’s a reality.
Yes, my heart was ripped out, but then it was tenderly stitched in again. Then I shuffled down three feet to a new photo, and the knife came back for more blood.
What is this life? How can we fly so high and then fall so fast, over and over, without constant e(motion)al sickness?
This morning, I signed on to Twitter to post the fortune from my Chinese takeout last night. Trivial, quirky, good for a laugh.
Before I could share, I learned about #IAmJada. Rape, humiliation, rising from the ashes.
The human experience amounts to a shining junk heap of love and loss piled senselessly together. There’s no organizing it, no making sense of it, no way to pull out the treasures without brushing against something dirty. So I posted my silly little picture, and seconds later I wrote a message about this morning’s harshest news, and then I went back to work.