I saw The Swell Season in concert this weekend, and the lyrics from one of their songs have been playing through my head ever since:

“You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you had a choice
You’ve made it now”

It’s a beautiful song, but in particular it is the line about raising your hopeful voice that I keep coming back to. I think this is because it feels like that is exactly what I have been trying to do lately. So much of the pain has unexpectedly lifted this past week, and I feel as though I am finally remembering how to breathe. Even more, I am remembering to look for the beauty. Take, for example, this morning when I was walking to my 8 a.m class, steaming latte in hand, and I found myself pausing even though I was already late, just to notice the way the morning dew was clinging to an upside down, pale white rose. And I hesitated, standing there, and thought to myself, just for a moment…maybe I can do this after all.

Now before you start to show signs of nausea, and begin to think I am going all soft on you, I would like to add that this change in the tide is scaring the shit out of me. If I were approaching this from a psychological view, I would say something along the lines of how these past few months have taught me a sort of learned helplessness, or at least a learned hopelessness. Which is why is scares me now to find the pain lifting, just when I was getting myself all geared up for a fight. I am scared to hope that there might be beauty in this, and not just pain. I have been surviving for several months now on the coat tails of low expectations. It’s safer that way. When your expectations tend to hover right around the level of hoping to make it through the day without crying, and maybe even managing to do a load of laundry once every couple of weeks, it is not easy to get disappointed. When you keep everyone at a safe distance and automatically assume they will reject you given the chance, your only option is to either be right, or to be pleasantly surprised.

But I have never been one for living in the numb, middle ground. I am reminded again of the lessons I learned over the past year, working in a place where gang fights and suicide attempts were daily occurrences, and a good day meant that nobody had threatened to kill you. I called it the theory of beautifully fleeting… meaning that the beautiful moments are all the more beautiful, essentially because they are so fleeting. It seems you have two options in the presence of such pain: to learn numbness, or to learn to take the risks that come with experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion; to take what lessons you can from the pain, knowing that it will be what makes the beautiful moments all the more beautiful, few and far between though they may be.

And so today, I am fighting the urge to shut off and withdraw, now that things are finally looking up, and choosing instead to raise my hopeful voice. I am still figuring out exactly what that will look like, but I think it is going to have something to do with staying here, being present both for the pain and for the beauty…having the more difficult conversations with all the strength and grace that I can muster. Right now, this voice of mine is starting out not much above a whisper… but I think that gradually, it will get stronger.

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