The Thing About Life


I was walking with my two tall girlfriends in a sunny seaside town. Roses and bougainvillea spilled over white fences, shops brimmed with odd collectibles, wind chimes sang and sea glass mobiles glinted. We stepped over the chalk outlines of an abandoned sidewalk hopscotch game, inquired about weekly rentals for one of the daughters, and among us bought blueberries, saltwater taffy, and a brightly patterned bedspread.

Suddenly I had that feeling, that infusion of complete alive-ness, that awareness of everything humming and vibrant and heartbreakingly beautiful, even in, and maybe because of, its poignant impermanence. I think it’s the light that triggers it, although the fragrance of orange blossoms is certainly contributory. Everything pauses for a moment at such times, and the day washes over me, and maybe what it is can be called a sense of wonder, but it doesn’t announce itself by name. It’s a little bit like being happy, I guess.

“The thing about life…” I said out loud, right then and there, a lofty way to start a sentence, and I meant to continue, but there was some interruption, and a series of distractions, and so I left it dangling.

“Now, what were you saying?” said nobody, and I was off the hook.

I’d been so depressed the previous day I could barely get out of bed. It was a combination of painful memories, disappointment in myself, and the toxic horror of the political situation. (A hundred days?! It’s only been a hundred days?!) Also, I don’t sleep well, and the wind has been howling relentlessly, and, okay…I’ll admit it…I miss my daughter.

But mostly, it’s the sadness at the core of me. I can never shake the sadness. It comes from experience as well as DNA. I’m hard-wired to be sad.

And nothing has changed. But the thing about life is that even while you’re carrying around that unshakeable sadness, a concurrent moment of joy can simultaneously surprise you, and somehow the two coexist. There’s a trick to it. I’m learning.

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