I don’t believe in fairy tales. I think I did once, but only a little. I did believe in Santa Claus. Or else, I believed that there was a “should” to finding surprises and delights left in your living room to be found on Christmas morning. And I believed that there was something in the universe that demanded there be candy-filled eggs for children to find at least on Easter Saturday. The thing I find tripping up my heart these days is that I still believe in Narrative. As though the universe had dictated our western narrative form and as a result, human-conceived stories are somehow a natural reflection of true order.
There would be a prince. And everything would be swell.
With my mind, I could see the absolute fallacy of the assumption. Look at the world. But the idea had lodged deep inside my heart and my mind had no chance of getting a word in edgewise. Somewhere, deep down inside, intelligence had lost the battle. And that is what sets a woman to waiting.
I think that the”swell” part of the idea had a lot to do with suddenly stripping away all my self-doubt, self-loathing, native feeling of inadequacy, selfishness and ineptitude – oh, and reluctance to go out of my way to do something I didn’t want to do for someone I didn’t necessarily adore. That being loved would expose me to myself as a shining prize – it would finally make me acceptable, lovely, chosen, adored for good and intelligent reasons. I would, in other words, suddenly realize that I had been, maybe all along, a Real Boy. And I would finally believe it. And really, wouldn’t that be swell?
I will tell you now what I really believe in – now that I have lived well over half the time we spend here on this planet. I believe in work. You pick up your life in your hands, and you quietly go about shaping it. I guess I am saying that joy does not fall like manna; it is made, formed, created by hand. It’s the same with the self. And it’s the same with partnership.
I think I don’t believe in waiting, either. I think the work has to start long before the point where the result is badly needed. And if you get tired, and you put the project down, it – like the food in the fridge that looked like such a great idea when you bought it, but somehow never quite inspired you to actually cook it – the project will begin to wizen and shrink.
Joy is a balloon. One filled with breath. It won’t stay in the air by itself. It must be constantly tossed up. And that’s where the laughing comes in. During the tossing.
This was a spring over thirty years ago. It was like this one – not convincingly spring-like, but striped with chill wind and sharp with cold.
We were warm, standing together. Standing on the steps of a solid house of God. My mother knew who I was then.
So many years later, and another cold spring, there is a life here that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s not spectacular or rich or famous. But it is beautiful. It was put together piece by piece. Sacrificed for on all sides. I think of it as a gift given, but I am wrong about that. Rather, it’s the result of someone picking up a million tiny gifts and sticking them together into something bigger, something good. And if I see it that way, then I think that the life, what is good about it, is actually a gift I have to make and give back.
And that is enough.
Now – toss me that balloon.