photo: ‘a beautiful captivation’
“all changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” — anatole france
one of my favorite things about being a grown up is being able to cuss in IHOP or Denny’s or some other family dining establishment. i find myself doing this on purpose, sitting over my $6.50 eggs benedict and peppering “fuck” into the conversation in every acerbic way possible. and i think i really like doing it because, despite stern looks from WASP-y moms two booths over who are afraid their children’s ears will start bleeding, i can.
i’m not 7, my parents aren’t there, and i don’t have to say “thank you” to the server for wiping up the water stain from my perspiring glass of water, or that i’d like salt, please.
what i grapple with is what to do when your life is like $6.50 eggs benedict and you want to cuss at it. there’s no salt anywhere, the waitress sucks and nothing is going as planned. the eggs are sitting there perfect, but there’s something missing that’s ruining the experience of your life. it’s in those times that i wish i could put on headphones and turn them up loud enough to drown out everything. i feel like that’s an overused sentiment — turning up headphones and drowning out everything — but i don’t care. i’ve had “Hospital Beds” on repeat for 2 days and “the joy and misery, the joy and misery, the joy and misery” just permeates my brain and everything kind of makes sense. it’s always a mix of joy and misery. it’s always a mix of life just being hard and callous as hell, but realizing how beautiful and peaceful that is. that you’re better for going through the struggle, that you’re being shaped by the roughness and that your hard edges are dulling away. you’re becoming kinder and more understanding, and the core of you — the core that laughs hysterically at your own jokes, and thinks that fireflies are good luck, and that wells up and says a prayer for old people sitting at bus stops — is starting to shine through.
and the brighter you start to shine, the less important your body becomes.
like old people, whose bodies get smaller and smaller as they age — and especially when they’re about to die. like their stature was once made up of habits and personality traits that got tacked on as they went through life. a bad marriage made them an inch taller. a drinking problem, two. getting hurt and becoming defensive added 15 pounds. and so on and so forth until they’ve reached a point when they start being at peace with their lives and families and decisions — and especially, when they realize that it wasn’t ever about the car or house. that they’d rather see their grandchildren than anything else in this world — and all the calcium deposits of life begin to slough off. they become softer and gentler and more beautiful.
and so much smaller.
but while their bodies shrink, everything else becomes bigger: when they smile, they smile wholeheartedly. unapologetically. without mind to their missing or yellowing teeth. or the lines in their faces, or their wrinkled hands. because they know that the kindness is shining through their eyes, and they know that hearing a friend or loved one laugh is the best sound in the world. and they want to give that gift to you.
the sound of their laughter.
they want you to jar it and keep it in the pantry, where it will glow and light and dance every time you open the door to grab crackers and peanut butter. or aspirin, when you’ve been drinking too much. or the 5 pound vat of olive oil when someone is coming over for dinner and you feel too grown up to use the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in the fridge.
they’re giving you that gift to use. they’re passing it on. and when they’ve given all of it up — all the laughter and kindness they can, all of themselves — they die. and you’re left with an empty mason jar — you can’t tell if it’s still glowing, or if it’s just your imagination — and all the hard edges in your life.
all the hard edges that will wear you down until you have your own light to give away in a mason jar.