It’s been a year of learning. It’s funny how that happens. The years we learn with, the years we live with after that — ironically, my Mother quoted that line, from some movie she had seen where the pithy lines spoke for her — said the things she hoped were true, but never played out quite right. She played out roles in movies — Giant, Lonesome Dove, even that old favorite Gone with the Wind. It was part of that “ southern literary” self that she gave to us, the edges of the artist that my father was, the morsel she hung on to where she could be “free.” Of course, a movie set is no place to live a life. It’s smoke and mirrors and I hold it against her. She could not walk into her role in life — she had us, after all, it should have been enough to stick around for. Life is, obviously, not a movie and we are not given scripts from which to read, roles to play, endings to be made happy. This is what I, the oldest child, say to myself in the dark of night. When I need answers.
“I have found that life is just life”( cliche) which is just another truism that sounds poetic but has little meaning when one is sorting through grief. Making peace with loss and death and trauma…. how does one navigate through these murky waters? In the early stages, when we are “in” it when the reception lines, the rows of seats placed neatly on the edge of a hole that will soon be covered in dirt, the casserole exchange, the pleasantries and fond memories, sustain us. We are “fine.” The forest is not too dark, the path not overrun with brambles and fallen branches. The trail is clear enough that we can leave breadcrumbs, we hope this will guide us back to the path, guide us home.
But when we turn back, the breadcrumbs are gone. We act surprised but we are not. We had heard the flapping of the wings, we had felt the shadows overhead. The birds were waiting patiently. The way back is never easy. It most surely will never be marked.
The movie was a myth, the characters abandoned their roles long ago, the script never really worked, the plot continued to shift and fall apart, then shift back together again. Now, there is no happy ending, nothing tied up neatly in a bow where the heroes and villains were clear and predictable. But a “happy ending “ is almost never a “real thing” and should not be the goal. Life is lived, loves are played out, families are made and experience is rich somewhere in the spaces in between.
“The courage to continue before the face of despair is the recognition in those eyes of darkness we find our own night vision. Women blessed with death-eyes are fearless.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice