The scent of freshly mowed grass is heady. It mixes with a whiff of lilac and marijuana. I step purposefully over the cracks and uneven, upheaved sidewalk. Smiling at people on their porches, tending to the flowers and weeds in their small gardens, I walk into the street to separate myself by at least six feet.
This neighborhood is a composition of opposites. Beautifully trellised landscapes next to overgrown, debilitated houses with sunken roofs and fallen gutters. Families with a lot. Families with very little.
It is under my skin. I study the contrast, peering through the layers to my own. Dark and light. Joy and pain. Windchimes and bullet holes. They both sing in the breeze.
This time in quarantine has opened me up gradually with such subtlety and grace. I’ve watched feelings of guilt rise to the surface (they were never that far below) and fears about creativity and productivity clamor for attention. So many lives are on fire, our whole world is on fire and an instinct to run into all the burning buildings still persists.
Do I have a right to thrive while others struggle to survive? Stories around sacrifice, shame, and lack whisper in the night. It does not feel right to ask for Joy.
But she has come, nonetheless. In fits of laughter in the kitchen. In bare feet dancing in the living room. In seeds sprouting in the sun porch, warming fragile growth through broken windows.
The sunlight lands on my cheek, a light backpack strapped around my shoulders, a hint of red wine on my lips. There’s a sense of exuberance bubbling within, a determination I haven’t felt in a long time. The realization is this: I am no longer willing to sacrifice Joy in order to experience less pain.
The shelter we seek after loss. The walls we build to protect our hearts. The space we create between our bodies. Negotiations we make with life to feel a little less, to limit risk a little more.
They are part of the journey. Part of our healing. Resting. Restoring and remembering who we really are.
But they are not the destination.
I heard something I really liked the other day, “Visit the graveside. Leave some flowers, and then go back home.”
How often do we stay at the tombstone? How often do we haunt the cemeteries of our life? How long do we stay in one small room of the museum with the artifacts of our memories until we start to become them? Until our identity is so wrapped up in what once was that we start collecting dust on our limbs?
There are vast, empty spaces with freshly painted walls waiting to be curated with new life. Waiting for us to embody the hope of joy. Waiting for the creation and the creator to become one.