Winter break is ending. My five am alarm has been set. I am ready to get back to work, back to my students, back to the flow of my working self and life. I did not “do” anything during this break, nor did I do the work stuff that I was determined to accomplish. I barely left the apartment, except for two trips to DC, and to walk Poops (who will remember this break because it is when he lost his masculinity), but except for not seeing my older daughter, I feel at steady.
Over these two weeks, a friend told me that her future mother-in-law passed away suddenly, another friend told me that two of her relatives are suffering as they continue to battle breast cancer, another friend told me that a friend of hers, who she just went ice skating with, recently had a double mastectomy.
Another friend wrote an essay that reflects her deep internal pain at the suffering of so many people in the world because of the brutality of wars and conflicts and racism and sexism and anti-gay agendas and general hatred of the other.
So much pain, it makes me stumble. That stumble, though, is a part of groundedness. At a certain point, after going through my own pain, there is no way to return to a bubbled existence. You are pulled so deep into yourself as you suffer and exist in your pit, that when you exit it, you are pulled so far out of yourself because you realize that to live means to be a balance of yourself and those who make up your life—in both deep and barely existent connections. There is no cocoon, there is only open air: the inhalations and exhalations of pain tempered by the connections of being.
Stumbling with pain, mine, yours, ours, seems to be a sign of honest existence. Steel tempered by fire, but the steel never hardens; it is always pliable, bent by tears of pain and joy.
A new year, a new beginning. A cycle of endings and beginnings. In school, it is the middle of the year. Beginning. Middle. End. Something to look forward to, and something to recall, and something to get through. But most certainly, a knowledge that this cannot be wasted because too many of us fight to continue the cycle and it is up to us to honor that, because we get as we give, tear upon tear.