Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gray's Anatomy ...

Years ago, a friend of mine was going through a bad breakup.

Some breakups are good, for the most part. They might sting for a little while but you quickly move on. This was not one of those. This breakup was confounding. This breakup hurt.

And so we spent many nights on the phone, my friend and me, as he tried to come to grips with what happened and why. Of course, I couldn't supply a "why." The only person with the "why" was the one person to whom he was no longer speaking.

My heart ached for him. It's hell to be in that pain, torture to have to move through every day, to find the strength to outlast it. Because time is the only real cure. And time moves at its own bittersweet pace.

One night, he said he wished that he didn't have to feel what he was feeling. And I remember saying something about us not really wanting to live in black and white, that life happens in the grays. Or, as it came to me tonight, white is birth, death is black, and gray is our life in between. Or maybe it's black when we're born and white is the light at the end of our lives. Either way, our days are grays.

Some days are darker. Some days are lighter. Gradations can be moments or minutes or hours or days. If white is bliss and black is despair, some days fall much more toward the white end of the spectrum, some days fall much more toward the black.

Of course, bliss and despair are relative. As much as some might like to think they suffer, suffering is relative, too. Whenever me and my friends get pissy about something ridiculous, we simply say, "Tsunami." As in, "You think you're having a bad day? Try having your entire family, home, village, and means wiped out in a single moment." Sadly, there are plenty of other similar trigger words: Darfur. AIDS. Katrina. Wildfires. They're all relative to one another and you can rank them any way you like. The point is, if your hair doesn't behave or someone scrapes your Mercedes or you lose your cell phone, life ain't so bad.

Last week, after I left J-D's salon, I drove past Catholic Charities in River North. I was stopped for a light and noticed the queue of people lined up around the building. It was cold that day. I suspect they were waiting to be let in for the night. And there I was, in the car I'd recently paid off, coming from a salon where I would have dropped $200 for my hair color if I'd had to pay for it, headed to my warm home. An entire home. For just myself. A home with a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. And a comfortable bed. Where I can take a hot shower any time I feel like it. For as long as I want.

Because money is another shade of gray. Some have too much, some have none at all. And yet, nice as it is, money can't buy happiness. All of Kanye's money couldn't buy his mother's life. JFK Jr. could afford his own plane but the weather doesn't care if your surname is Kennedy.

I like to think that I could divest myself of my worldly goods and live a contented life. Or, more realistically, that I could return to my life in my first apartment, a studio, and be happy with that small amount of space and many fewer things.

But I'm here, now, in this house. It's not a big house, but it's a nice house. I feel safe. Sometimes it seems like too much – I can only be in one room at a time, after all – but it's where I live my life today.

On my birthday, I caught myself wishing for the things I didn't have, and quickly reminded myself to be grateful for the things I did. How dare I not cherish the friends I had around me by letting myself wish, even for a second, for the friend who wasn't there?

I've now been on this planet for 38 years and two days. And I can count on one hand the days when I've felt true anguish, grief so strong my body could not contain it. All in all, my life is being lived in the lighter grays.

I have my darker moments lately. But I'm grateful for them, knowing that they're necessary milestones on this current road, that the only way to complete this journey is to travel down this path.

Toward the light.


Anonymous Alison said...

This is a great post. Thanks.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks, Ali. A friend wrote last night to say, "Jesus, Beth. That's heavy."

Well, yup, it is. But they can't all be about bunnies and rainbows.

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tears in my eyes beautiful.


9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How's your friend doing?

8:19 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, much better. It was a long time ago, his pain, and time really does heal. As well as provide perspective. He can see now, I think, that it wasn't the right relationship for him.

But it's always hard to be clear-headed at the time. The pain clouds everything.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Haizum said...

That was a really nice read. :D I'm subscribing! :D

Glad to know your friend made it through okay.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

That was a really great post. Depressing, but great. (-:

4:46 PM  

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