2011 was a great year.
In 2011, I…
shot a gun for the first time
flew an airplane
cut open two of my fingers and was whisked off to the emergency room
shaved my head
got a hair tattoo
jumped out of an airplane
was asked to give a speech about why everyone’s not-so-favorite sparkly vampire series reinforces negative gender stereotypes and sends dangerous messages to impressionable readers
became self-employed (off of this work right here, silly!)
read poetry in front of an audience for the first time… and then four more times
ate a lot of veggie burritos (according to my records, at least 20 of them)
In 2011, I also…
got really sick
relapsed and didn’t even realize it for six months (more on that some other time– it really set me up for a challenging, heart-opening year, to say the least)
ended a serious long-term relationship (this hurt)
lost three of my closest friends (this hurt, too)
found myself inevitably alone, wherever I went
Even though this list is shorter, it kind of eclipses the first. The effects of these lasted much longer, too. The scars are deeper, harder to heal.
Despite all of these, I’m more grateful for these experiences than for any of the others. They taught me more about being scared shitless than the possibility of jumping out of a plane did. They taught me bout human resilience and strength. My resilience and strength.
What’s the point of it all?
Priya, a reader and fellow warrior, asked me these questions the other day. They felt heavy and I wasn’t sure what to make of them at first.
What is the meaning of life? Is there a meaning to it at all? Why do we live? Do each of us simply give life our unique meanings so as to be able to continue life?
Do we consciously love ourselves because we have no choice but to?
If indeed we give life meaning, and we love ourselves, only because our survival depends on it, what would it mean?
[..] So what exactly is all the suffering, the pain, the heartbreak and mind games, work, play and love all about? What’s the point in all of it? I feel like I need to know what I’m struggling for, pushing myself through every day for.
First, I believe we make our own meaning in life. Mine, in just a few words, is to love, live, give, and grow. And in all of that, to do my best with good intentions.
I also believe that there’s nothing that exists without a purpose or a meaning. Otherwise, it wouldn’t even exist at all. The very fact of your existence– the very fact that you’re here rather than some alternate alien baby– already signifies that your life has meaning. But for what purpose is for you to decide.
To me, to live is to love, and to love is to live. Truly live. Every act we do can be an act of love, or not. “Consciously loving ourselves” I think is necessary because then we won’t have anything to give to others. We learn to fill our own cups; then, we learn to give to others, and help them fill their own.
But what’s the point of it all?
The point of the way we live, the way we hurt ourselves and others sometimes by accident and sometimes not, the way we end up sad and frustrated and angry and lonely– the point of the very experience of our lives?
I wrote about this in the letter a few days ago, sitting alone in a cafe in downtown Montreal–
The quality of loneliness.
For me, a question of stubbornness.
[..] Three years ago, I didn’t give up. (Three years ago; seems simultaneously so long and so short ago, now.) Three years ago, even with wanting to cry every damn second of my waking day, I didn’t give up and go home.
Here, it’s… not that hard. It really isn’t. I’m blessed, but somehow, I find in this experience a similar quality to what I experienced three years ago.
A blistering aloneness.
And perhaps, even, if I admit it, a shaky… loneliness.
It’s stubbornness that keeps me here.
But sometimes, a passing thought arises, really: What am I doing here?
What is the purpose of me being here?
And then I run a circle back to the stubbornness: because if I can’t even get through such small struggles, how can I let other people know that they can, too?
So here I am.
Alone, and maybe a little lonely, if I allow myself to admit it.
Pondering the quality of loneliness.
And the quality of aloneness that seeps into my waking life, a [..] whisper.
What are you doing here?
Why are you persisting?
To that, I always have one answer…
to why I do the difficult things,
to why I put myself through these struggles, when I know I could give up and just be happy, goddammit.
I do because I couldn’t do any differently.
(Maybe) this is my work–
to understand my pain,
to understand– “the quality of loneliness”
and to emerge
triumphantly battered and bruised
on the other side
ready to tell you my tale.
So to answer the question, What’s the point in all of it?
The point is that the more we experience profound sadness, the deeper we can experience divine joy.
The point is that this pain and pleasure is simply a part of being human– and while we’re here, we might as well make the best of it and learn to grow and blossom.
The point is that every time we realize how strong we truly are– stronger than we ever imagined– and rise up to the challenge of our suffering, we inspire others to do the same.
That’s why I’m here.
That’s why I do what I do.
And that’s why I could have taken, in any of these situations in my life, a gun to my head and simply ended it– like I would have wanted to, once upon a time.
But I didn’t.
Because I know that all of this– this damn persistent loneliness, this aching hollowness, this freakin’ miserable pain…
It’s worth it, if in the end I’ll have the experience to tell you the truth:
You are stronger than you could ever know. Life goes on and you’ll learn to let go, and when you do, you’ll realize how much more you’ll enjoy what you have when you stop grasping for what you don’t. The pain will pass, just as everything in life does, and when it does, you’ll be able to be appreciate everything wonderful in your life that much more.
And one day, you’ll learn to smile and laugh and make a fool of yourself without giving a damn better than anyone else can, because you’ll have opened your heart to all the pain that the rest of us shirk from– and you’ll realize that because of all that pain, you’re able to empathize, to inspire, to love deeper than you ever could have imagined.
You’re not alone. I believe in you. And we need you to be here, be you, and be resilient in the face of darkness– because without your strength, we wouldn’t be able to realize our own.
I hope that answers your question.