From the time when I was very young, I have had a sense of life as being a journey. There is a road we are on, and yes, I believe there is a destination we have to reach — or maybe more like a series of destinations. Our destiny. It may be big or it may be small. It may be something great we have to accomplish, something that touches the world, or it may simply be someone we must become. The road is a living thing. It changes as we change. We make choices, and each choice either moves us further towards our next destination, or impedes our progress … or even changes our destination. I firmly believe that reaching our destiny is a matter of choice. It is destiny, not predestination. And yet I believe that the universe bends itself towards us also, and if we stray too far, or stop too long, it is likely to send something along that will get us moving again.
The thing is, traveling the road just isn’t always easy. I think that the most transforming experience in the world is loss. Loss reaches into our hearts and souls at a depth and with a strength that is simply unparalleled. A really deep loss will cause us to die inside, a little or a lot. It makes us often wish we could die completely, just so we wouldn’t have to feel the pain any longer. But it also forces us to dig deep into our resources. It forces us to muster our true courage, just to be able to get up and keep going. It forces us to choose life, as we allow the rain to fall in our hearts and bring those places that have been killed back to life. And ultimately, it teaches us what love really is, because whenever we embrace love, we lay our hearts on the line.
There is something reassuring about all this. When we suffer, it helps if we can realize that it is not meaningless. They say that whenever one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes it can be really hard to find your way to that door. When you are lying on the floor, just wanting to die, it is hard to even open your eyes enough to see an open door, much less get to it. But if you have faith that it is there, maybe you can just reach out and grab hold of that floor by your fingernails, and drag yourself forward. If you can look into your pain and see that you are being transformed into something new, maybe you can find enough purpose, just a little bit of joy, in knowing that it is all taking you a little further down the road to who you can be, to being the person you are meant to be, to being able to accomplish those things you were born to accomplish, because in that, you will ultimately find a much greater fulfillment. It’s still gonna hurt, but you will perhaps be able to get up off the floor and find that opening door.
I must admit, this is all less romantic and intriguing than it was when I was eighteen and first started pondering these things. I’ve felt what it’s like to be down on that floor and to hurt so much I wanted to die, and it is not an experience I would ever welcome, whatever its benefits. To that end, I’d rather try to keep moving forward, try to keep evolving, so that life doesn’t have to blindside me to get me to get back to doing what I should have been doing in the first place. This is not to say that I am successful at this, because I’m not always sure of where I’m supposed to be going, much less how to get there, and I am not always courageous either. I’m often too scared to take a step even when I feel a need to. In fact, I have completely shut down for years at a time, hidden away in a cave of my own making.
I don’t mean to sound glib about all this. It has been an area of struggle for me, as you can imagine. And it is even possible to see my theories as a rationalization, a self-protective mechanism. In these last twelve months, the resurrection of Michaela’s case honestly brought me right back to where I was in that first year after she was kidnapped. What I have found to be really remarkable is that my reactions have been almost a mirror image of what they were at the end of that first year. It is as though you s im underwater for so long, then you just have to break through the surface and come up for air. There is this overwhelming need to break free of constrictions. My faith, my physical appearance, and my relationships have all changed, evolved in one way or another, both then and now. I’d almost be tempted to say that it was some form of denial, some kind of burying of my feelings, and yet both then and now I have also immersed myself in the world of feelings in other ways, like music and writing, to a far greater extent than I had in the times preceding Michaela’s kidnapping or the events of this last year. I think it is really a matter of having to seek the sun after the darkness, because I can tell you, clearly and unequivocally, that in this last year I did become extremely depressed for a long time. I walked around almost paralyzed by the weight of grief that literally flowed through my limbs and sat on my shoulders like wet cement. It is not simply self preservation, though. I knew these things long before any real loss had ever touched me. I do believe them to be true. We grow, we evolve. We pick ourselves up and we open our hearts again, and we love.
Because in the end, it isn’t really the loss that transforms us. It’s the love. And it is the giving of yourself to love in the first place that transforms, rather than the loss of it. You know, the happiest of love songs can make me weep as though my heart is broken, and I guess that is why.