This week, I woke myself up crying at about 1 AM, which is weird, because I usually don’t ever cry for anything. Like a lot of people, I had to learn not to cry as a young person, and I have not yet quite learned how to do it normally since.
I was dreaming about her again and all the memories of a childhood I don’t like to spend a lot of time thinking about. I remembered the Walks, the Tennis Courts, and Church, and so much more. And I woke up and between awkward sobbing I tried to talk myself through it. To say that she is dead, but despite all that happened, she was kindhearted and tried her best, when she could. And that I have to accept that she’s gone, and that we won’t ever have the talk where I fantasized we’d fix everything. We won’t ever be friends, find resolution, have a normal relationship like in movies and like I always hoped we could have.
And then, after a few hours of trying to figure out the grief I’ve been hiding from for months, I had to come back into this shitty-ass world and keep showing up for a virtual job I don’t care about to pay bills I don’t give a damn about to survive in a world that, frankly, I often don’t even want to be in anymore.
I want to give myself and everyone around me a pep talk, but I don’t have anything profound or deep to say today.
I don’t have any ancient wisdom to share, or poetic words of inspiration.
I feel sad, and angry, and scared, and depressed, and drained. Perhaps above all, I just feel profoundly empty.
And that’s okay.
Life doesn’t require us always to have a stiff upper lip, or to pretend that we always have our shit together. Sometimes, life feels like a fast-flowing sewer in which we’re clinging desperately to the biggest, smelliest turd, trying our hardest to stay afloat a few seconds longer as we approach the vile whirlpool at the center of it all.
In general, it’s important to practice gratitude and all the other things that our pop spirituality gurus tell us to do in their Netflix specials and Luminary podcasts. But you know what? It’s also thoroughly okay sometimes to be mad at life for being a fucking asshole.
In the old Jewish legends, I think that’s why the Ultra Saints like Moses and Job were always kvetching and picking fights with God. Because, three times out of five, the Lord of Hosts was being a childish asshole and people were tired of the Almighty’s bullshit. And like so many bullies, He was so gobsmacked that someone actually stood up to Him, that he actually relented.
And maybe there’s a kernel of wisdom there, maybe that’s the ancient philosophical lesson for the day. That while we strive to be patient and wise and spiritual and cosmic and all the rest of it — sometimes you just have to be human, do shots, and find some way to express and be honest about how you feel.
In the end, maybe learning how to face and be honest about our struggles is what gives us the credibility with ourselves and others to do the deeper spiritual work of being human.
Maybe part of this bizarre journey of Life is taking a few moments away from the Power of Positive Thinking, Logotherapy, Zen and Tao, and everything else to simply say, “everything hurts, this fucking sucks, and I don’t want to be feeling this way right now.” There is space between faux Instagram positivity and teenage nihilism, between William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, and between (say) pop music and Scandinavian death metal.
Because with all the energy we save by NOT playing word games and pretending everything is okay, maybe we can go back into the struggle with even more strength to overcome the bad days and build the lives we want.
So yes, I’m sick of people dying. I’m sick of people in my life dying or friends walking away. I’m sick of a world where humans brutalize and torture each other and all other living things 24/7. I’m sick of a world so obsessed with quarterly profits that it is turning daily life into misery for billions and destroying the planet in the process. I’m sick of 24/7 lies from media corporations and politicians of all flavors that are all owned by the same kind of powerful, wealthy assholes that seem to own everything in every era. I’m sick of people CHOOSING to be stupid and cruel.
Perhaps most of all, I’m sick of seeing all the darkness and stupidity and laziness and cowardice, not just in the world, but in MYSELF. I hate that I’m not a heroic, competent human who is standing up to play some powerful role in fixing everything. I hate the FEAR that festers so near my core.
But in the middle of the worst of the darkness and diagnosed depression and miserable news cycle, I take encouragement from the fact that I can still feel that way. The fact that this nauseates me, that I know deep down that this is WRONG, that the world — and myself as a part of it — are meant to be bright and beautiful, this is a sign that there’s still hope.
Because the day it all becomes normal, the day I submit and stop NOTICING these things, that’s the day I will truly be afraid. But the fact that I and hundreds of millions of other people are waking up and realizing that this constant cycle of inhumanity and SUCK — that it’s not NORMAL nor is it NECESSARY — this means that we actually have a shot to CHANGE IT.
And I’ll die before I give up my faith that, one way or another, sooner or later, we’re going to figure out a way to work together to do exactly that.
Yes, today does suck.
But tomorrow is going to suck less. For all of us.
And that’s a promise.