Living and Loving with One’s Whole Heart
by Windy Cooler
I haven’t been adding much new content to my blog. At some point it seems every blogger says something to this effect, breaking a several month’s long silence. I think I haven’t been writing because what I actually want to write about is so different than what I used to write about. Doing justice to the hope and happiness I feel, simultaneous to the grief and anger, is, well, hard. Mostly I don’t try to do it justice. Do I have anything to offer someone I don’t know? Well, I don’t know.
I think I am deeply happy. The truth is, though, that my happiness is the happiness of a baffled survivor, and though I see this resonating in the lives of those I love (which is to say those I know), I do not see this as an idea resonating into a short form way to explain it to myself or to anyone else. There is something vicious about the ideal of happiness, that total happiness that people who stand amid ruins seem to desire. Something cannibalistic and cold and cutting. It actually frightens me. That image we have of the weed pushing aside stone being the symbol of new life? Terrifying. And I am standing amid ruins crushed and made into ruins again. I keep seeing in my mind’s eye the Egyptian Sphinx, her ancient and slave-made nose shot off by bored French invaders unimpressed with the integrity of her antiquity or her thousand stories, none of which belonging to her exactly. I think my happiness is more like satisfaction. I am satisfied with my path through the ruins I only partially chose to be moving through.
I’m also not really happy about anything. I am grateful. I am grateful to see that I know how to play, really play. In the last month I have had a water balloon party. My partner actually let me beat him at chess, or showed me how as the case might be. I have handled chickens and bees. I have prepared journal suggestions for children in my Quaker community. I am watching both of my sons really claim a place through their skills. Mac is a great cook and a great friend in his world of friends and finding a vocation. Ob, at the age of seven, has found an entire community of adults and kids to do meaningful work with in the form of a local Maker Space. And I have learned, after two decades of looking for equity in my life, that somehow or another geeks (with whom I commune because of Ob) have the social skills to treat other people with kindness and respect, with no overarching ideology to do so. I am filled with awe by this. In the last week, when I needed comfort, friends helped me without hesitation and with warmth and tenderness.
I am grateful to be loved, probably most of all, and to find within myself the ability to love, not transact business or be, or expect of myself to be, a good deal, a pleasant mix of traits; nor in my partner or in my friends or in my children do I expect this. Love is commitment, by its very nature, to reality. As I divorce, I am grateful for the cold legal system, in some ways, though I am ashamed to be grateful to it, and I am troubled by my gratitude. I am troubled, I think, to find that I am not really divorcing a man, but more a way of being in relation to others, many others, again. Again and again this lesson is learned, first in my paid work and now in a family. My family. And the lesson is somehow bigger too, than work or family. It’s a lesson about listening well and sharing well, but not taking out the parts of me that hurt and letting someone else hold them outside of me, for me or for themselves, whichever or both it is, and do with them what they will. But I am divorcing a man too and I will never call him a friend again, and this is big because this is not what I wanted, or what I think is best, and I fought so hard to not be here. I lost that fight, I am baffled to say. And while I am grateful to be able to choose another life, outside of brokenness and confusion, well, maybe I don’t really get to choose another life either because, well, I am not recycled plastic. I am a woman. And I can be satisfied with this lesson.
I am exhausted by the cultishness of renewal. It has done me no favors and I don’t think it is sincere. Sometimes, I am ashamed to tell you, I think it is actually dumb and to call it insincere is giving it too much credit.
I am also uplifted to have been entrusted with a friend’s pet fish for the summer. That’s pretty big too. To see the rings on Saturn. To be looking for the words to share with you, whoever you are. To be in this with you. None of us are alone. There are thousands of stories, only some of which belong to any one of us, but are there in the home we make amid the ruins, and they always will be. Though the weed may think of renewal being the only story, or the soldier his bored destruction, both are a part of so many more, and this is the life I am grateful to love and to live with my whole heart.
Windy Cooler is a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision. A long-time organizer and former teenage-mother-welfare-queen, she writes about the emotional lives of homemakers and activists. She has two sons and lives in suburban DC. She blogs at windycooler.com, and can be reached at WindyCooler(at)gmail.com.