Have you noticed that no matter what happens, there is always at least one big, bad problem in your life, the thing that makes it impossible for you to be really happy? Like, when I was super young, and had an eating disorder, the problem was I was fat. (I wasn’t.) Then there were bad relationships. Then there were money problems. Then there were custody battles. And on and on. And always, the reigning big, bad problem righted itself just in time for another big, bad problem to take its place.
Looking back, I see the beauty that was sprouting in the middle of those big, bad problems, and I long for it. Yeah, I was in the middle of an ugly custody battle, but I got to tuck the two most beautiful children in the world into bed every night. What I wouldn’t give to hold them in my arms again and read them When Cats Dream. (I try now, but my 6’3″, 200 pound son will only put up with so much. Desi plays along, but I can see in her eyes what she really wants is a glass of wine.) Yeah, I was in a shitty relationship, but my daddy was alive, and I could show up on his doorstep and have him hold me when I cried. (I would live in a cardboard box and eat roaches if it meant I could hug my daddy one more time.)
I’m learning to see the beauty sprouting in the middle of my big, bad problems as it happens, instead of retrospectively. I’m learning to cherish the gifts the big, bad problem drags in its wake.
Right now, my mom has cancer. It’s ugly, undoubtedly, but weirdly, it’s also incredibly beautiful. I have seen whole new aspects of her radiant, sensitive soul I never even knew existed until now. I have let her see pieces of me I’d kept hidden. We are closer than we have ever been. And I’m finding pieces of me even I didn’t know were there. Life feels very raw and authentic, the way it should be. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so we have now. And it is a huge, huge gift.
I laid in bed last night praying, processing, and all I could really do, looking back on all the big, bad problems that have come down the pike in the last few years, is say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Because in spite of the suffering, so much beauty has blossomed in the desert. So much change has happened in my relationships, life, and heart. These days, my big, bad problems are never so big and bad that they touch the core of peace that now lives at the center of my being. I used to be perpetually tortured, inside, no matter what was happening outside of me. Now, I’m perpetually peaceful and grateful, no matter what is happening. Not that I never feel pain or cry. But there is a solid rock of faith inside of me that is unshakable. And the big, bad problems brought me here.
Like all the big, bad problems before it, this big, bad problem shall pass too, along with all the beauty that comes with it. I’m not wasting my time wishing the big, bad problem away. I’m not playing victim. Instead, I’m noticing the beauty, cherishing the gifts that only exist right now. I’m looking around at this breathtaking, magical, miracle-infused life of mine–the light glinting off the rocks, the way my mom’s face creases when she laughs, the taste of coffee, the warmth and agony of profound love. I’m drinking it all in. I’m saying, “Thank you.”
I can’t control this ride, but I can be grateful for it. I’m learning to trust the river of life. I have learned that even when it dashes me against the rocks, it is carrying me somewhere more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.