Part of me will always be suspended in disbelief. Dangling where there is no ground, no up or down, nothing more substantial than a mysterious ether. But I am not afraid. I am grateful.
I know there are plenty of reasons to be worried, sorrowful, pessimistic. Plenty of tragedy, injustice and hate embedded, looming and ever-present. I do not turn a blind eye. I do not dismiss them. I do not pretend they are not there. I will always be ready to fight for my values, as well as to listen and to improve if love or sound reasoning and evidence call for it.
When I look at my own life: the incredible luck, the reversals, the choices, the surprises, I feel overwhelmingly thankful. Thankful not in comparing myself with others or holding myself up as a smug idol of virtue. I am thankful simply to live, to have the freedom to figure out what it is to be “me”, and to have such a kind, loving and wonderful group of family and friends (including you, my internet friends)!
I am the child of a woman who was born at the very moment bombs were dropped above her. Japanese warplanes were bombing her village during WWII. The roof of the birthing house was within seconds of collapse as my grandmother gave her final push. It all came crashing down as the infant took her first breath of life, falling so fast that the midwife had only enough time to pull my grandmother to safety, leaving the slick newborn alone on the bed. When the ash cleared, the two women went back to the crumbled house in tears, fearing something gruesome, but discovered the baby alive! Alive by sheer luck of angled fallen beams!
My mother continued to live with incredible luck. A few months later, when the soldiers began mercilessly, indiscriminately to kill women and children, she happened to be taken by a soldier who had a sudden mysterious change of heart. “I persuaded him with my cuteness and smiles,” she liked to quip later in life. But we all knew it was just luck. Sheer luck.
Like my mother, I’ve had an incredible amount of luck: surviving a car accident, an abusive relationship and debilitating depression. But I’ve known enough of hate and violence to know luck isn’t enough to live by. You have to love yourself. You have to become your own advocate—at times your fiercest advocate. You have to fight for your life.
Opportunity is lost every moment spent criticizing, comparing and diminishing yourself and others. For every compliment, there is a naysayer. For every paradise, no matter how great, there are those who only see a mess—and are reinforcing (if not creating) that mess. The forces of destruction are always there, poised to dismantle that which has taken millennia, generations, years to birth and countless fragile processes to sustain. It’s easier to destroy. Anyone can shrug and deny. Anyone can destroy. Any fearful, ignorant fool and self-righteous coward can destroy.
But life’s greatest potential can only be achieved by those who strive for it. Who strive even through pain. Pain is not always something to avoid or forget. When not in the form of a toxic person or a malicious act, pain can also be something to accept. It is a crucial component of growing awareness, compassion, humanity, love. It is through pain that we can connect, grow stronger, and become more resilient. Even amidst great pain there can be a blessing.
Life’s blessings are there for those who appreciate them. Even those who have learned never to expect them.
Text and images by M.P. Baecker.