We know that we need water to live. We know we need clean water to live and having to boil water before drinking should not be necessary, which is why we have created pipes that deliver clean water to people's houses.
Water is a substance that cleans us out, helps our systems work. It is also what wears against our coastlines, creating pictures like this:
Life is water.
Life is not the sum of our experiences, but a force that pushes against us, attacking us daily with things we cannot understand and which we must bend or yield to, or figure out how to avoid.
For instance, there is a woman sitting across from me on the subway, who is clearly angry about the newspaper she's reading. I can allow her anger to infect me, also getting angry (though I cannot know what she's so upset about unless I investigate) or I can dodge the whole issue by reading my own newspaper, and letting the news affect me the way it will. In these days, the first year of the Ego in Chief's Presidency, the news will upset me, unless it's about a few moments of resistance, which may or may not have any effect on the Ego in Chief.
My father died a year ago, and my mother is becoming a widow.
My mother became a widow a year and a half ago, when her spouse of over half a century decided to stop cancer treatment and allow the various ailments attacking his body to win.
My mother is a widow. Saying that mother is becoming a widow suggests a process, a metamorphosis, and that the process will change her.
My father's ailments were not attacking his body, but were attacking the systems in his body that continued his life. The medications he took to treat these ailments produced other problems and they did not all make his life easier.
The collective ailments drove a hole in my father's life and wore away at his independence as he needed to take medications that were injected, swallowed, or rubbed into him in order to continue to live.
In order to continue to need other people to help him live, Dad's sense of independence was worn away and his sense of self was altered or made to be aware of the interdependence of us all.
The ailments that attacked my father's body did not win, but merely wore down my father's desire to live. Living is not winning. Living well may be winning, but then who would lose?
My mother was a good caregiver, but her life was filled with aspects of being a caregiver. When being a caregiver was no longer her prominent role, she changed.
She did not change, but things she allowed herself to feel, changed.
Feelings wear at us. You don't believe me? Have you ever been angry for a day? Have you never felt the weight of fury wash over you and been aware of how lighter your shoulders feel when you scream that the milk has gone sour because NOBODY remembered to put it away after Sunday brunch?
Weeping is allowing your sorrow to flee your body through your eyes. Sighing is allowing the tension your are holding to exit in a controlled fashion; not as you pant when finishing the race, but as you finally wrap that last crepe and look at work well done.
Everything that happens can affect you, and your mission is not to say that your partner's death won't change who you are, but that you will remain true to the person...
Fuck that. The man you chose to spend your life with was a force that helped make you who you are. And when he is gone, you will change and discover things that he might not have liked, but he's no longer there to tell you. What he would have liked is not up for discussion, because he took himself out of the game. What he would have thought, felt, said, is a mystery and its absence is a force of its own. Negative space that you might as well recognize, but there's no need to fill it with something else.
The negative space is a force of its own. Its absence forces you to feel what might have been there, should have been there, or would have been there, if life had not worn away at that spot.
Many years ago someone told me he was a product of his experiences. I nodded, sagely, because he was telling me that people had hurt him and he was waiting to be let down by every new person he met. I wasn't going to let him down, I thought. I was going to show him people could be trusted.
He let me down by lying to me. All we were to each other were tools to prove that our prejudices were right. Did I provide him with a new experience where women were truthful? Or did my allowing myself to be worn down (see, there's the metaphor again) by his deceit prove him right? I don't know, and I no longer believed what he would tell me would be the truth.
I have a picture of my grandparents and great grandparents. I keep it with me at work, thinking "all of them would have been proud of who I turned out to be," but I don't actually know that. My mother agrees that they would have been proud of me, but since only three of them lived long enough to see me become anything, we can't possibly know what these ancestors would have thought now. How their lives would have worn away at their thoughts. We can only interpret and project.
And we must project, because even what you're reading right now is interpreted through your own lens of feeling, misinterpreting, understanding my life through a lens I don't see through.
All those interpretations change what we see and feel. Even the words we hear might be different. And the world attacks us with experiences we couldn't imagine, and all we can do is try to stay true to something. And even that something might change over time.
Let your life wash over you; it won't make you clean, nobody said life was clear water, but it is a force. It will change you, we just don't know how.