When Life Gets Harsh


A letter to myself, and anyone who needs it:

When life gets harsh, what do you do?

It's a mystery, all of it.

The way the rain falls heavy when you need it to stop. The way a breeze soothes when you begin to panic. They way a friend stops holding your hand. The way a baby loves your smile. The way someone spits on your existence. The way a stranger affirms your path.

Pain and beauty, mixed up into the most complex recipe you could imagine. The way you sometimes feel the earth is your loving mother and then it's suddenly a mocking tomb. Oh, those contradictions, they cut you down like anything. Then, they convince you that somehow, there's still hope.

It gets confusing sometimes. The world, hurting so badly. Hurting each other, yanking at the roots where love binds us all to being part of one another. We don't really belong to each other in the sense of ownership, but we're related to each other in the sense of kinship and being our siblings' keeper. All of us. Needing dignity, human touch, purpose, encouragement, nourishment, family. There isn't one who has learned to do this life alone and survive it. There isn't one who will tell you they've never wanted love. There's nobody standing here demonstrating that a reality can be navigated without feeling.

You are a body. You need what all bodies need. You cry, and laugh, and measure, and climb. You calculate: risk, worth, ability, achievement, conquest, respect. But you always end up broken when you use those currencies. You always end up seeing through the lens of a harsh world. It's a valid lens, and you acknowledge that. But you're here with the hands that can soften the outcome. Not in a superhero DIY way. In a small contribution to a great purpose way. So you only brought one carrot to the cauldron of stone soup, but that's okay, because there's a throng around you bringing what little they have, too. And you can draw hope, courage, and will to take one more step from this knowing.

So, when life gets harsh, what DO you do? In a practical sense. In a grasp on to something that steadies your stagger way?

Maybe you can't believe in all the good things you wish you could, but there are some pieces here and there to gather and name. Reach for something sensory. Hold a small stone in your hand- the kind kids bring home as treasure. Embrace a loved one. Breathe in the aroma of a home-cooked meal or some freshly cleaned laundry. Touch some flowers and smell them, too. Delight in their color. Go ahead, taste that pumpkin spice that some people cannot fathom your affinity for. May you relish it without shame. Tell a joke. Tell a story. Tell a truth that ACTUALLY SOUNDS LIKE LOVE. 

And maybe it's not enough. But maybe life's not about qualifying what enough is other than something you want badly. Maybe enough is just another a decoy, like all this need for a resolution that only leads to more need for more resolutions. All the ways you hate being at odds with your small understanding of a big world are not a problem to solve, just a process to engage. How fascinating that you get to participate! See the glory in a heartfelt love for everyone you encounter and experience. The painting isn't finished, but it's pretty astonishing as it is now, and there's more of it yet to be seen.

That, oh yes, is a gift.

Jamie Bagley