Chris turns over on his side of the bed and grabs his computer. It’s the first thing he does many mornings – turn on a device. “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he says one morning. “The next 9-11. The next something. Know what I mean?”
I know exactly what he means. I suspect many of us do.
I spent much of my life hesitant to open doors of public bathroom stalls, sure that eventually a dead body would roll out from one. And for a year in my early 20s, if I closed my eyes while taking a shower, I was so certain that Ted Bundy would be there when I opened them that I was almost more scared when he wasn’t there.
Jumpy. I used to be very jumpy. My ex tells my kids the story of coming home late at night when I was already asleep and how I’d bolt upright in bed screaming.
Now I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about whether we’ll be able to afford college. And then whether college is even anything worth attending any more. And then whether if you go to college, especially as a young woman, you are safe. And then of how and where and when my kids will find happiness in this crazy world, or whether they’ll be pissed and alone — two things that are certainly understandable given the circumstances. Though of course I hope they’ll discover the path of love – it’s so much lighter.
Hours later, after making lunches and driving people to school, after walking the dog and stretching and sitting and staring at trees, I turn on my computer. I know already from my husband’s earlier scan that that no apparent shoe dropped last night–unless you count the seemingly endless rise of Donald Trump or the refugees out in the sea on plastic rafts or the story shared by a friend on Facebook of marching band members downtown last weekend chanting a song about “gang rape twice a day.”
If you somehow discount all of that as proof that the shoe is falling and make it to opening your computer hours later you may be greeted, as I was this morning, with the annual story of the MacArthur genius awards being given out. The foundation makes direct phone calls to the recipients, telling them that until it is public they can share the news with only one person. There are always funny stories of how the people receiving the calls (and the very cool thing about the MacArthur awards is that these are all sorts of people, activists and scientists, playwrights and historians) not believing the news on the end. Shut up, Bob. Stop teasing me. I seriously did not just win $625K, no string attached. After the initial news comes the really beautiful part is this: the MacArthur person reads to the recipient WHY he or she has been chosen. That means that you’re standing in a grocery store or picking your kid up from school and a stranger on the other end of the phone is telling you how amazingly beautiful you are, how meaningful your work is. It’s like this message from the world to persevere.
I think we all need to be allowed a few points in our lives where we request that a group of our friends, mentors, colleagues, and perhaps an outside reviewer or two, gather and tell us of our worth. How easy it is to overlook this – our worth. How nice to have a mom or a partner who reminds us, but how hard to believe that this worth extends beyond her eyes. In this Life Review, our work would be collected — work in the absolute broadest sense of the term, including daily acts of kindness, the bhakti yoga that goes so unnoticed and is rarely the stuff of headlines.
And standing there in front of this board of appreciation, naked with humility, we would soak in what it means to be alive. We would gain sustenance to keep going on the path, no matter how foggy the next steps might appear. We would know that no matter what shoes drop, we are indeed full of love.