So after a frightfully unscientific facebook poll I just conducted, it appears there’s too much pain in this world. You know this already, though, don’t you. Not exactly a newsflash. After all, when we humans aren’t busy killing eachother with guns and bombs, we’re killing ourselves with cancer, clogged arteries, and (literally) mind-blowing recreational drugs.
Loss is a part of life. There is no life without death. There is no gain without loss. Oversimplifications, probably, but there it is.
All we want, as people, as humans, is to live a nice and a comfortable life. We want the right amount of food with a healthy kind of variety. We don’t want to be cold, or wet, or too hot. We want someone else to do the dishes and wash the floors. We don’t want to get eaten by other animals, by bugs, or by the creepy dude who lives in the smelly upstairs apartment.
Oversimplifications, probably. But there it is.
Being “hidden”, as a rule, is pretty hard to do. It’s easy to be invisible for short periods of time, and one learns quickly how to blend in amid the chaos and agony of teenagerdom. It’s much harder to stay invisible, as time goes by. But it’s hardest, it turns out, to achieve a stable kind of “un-hidden” after many years of "hidden".
Some call it “coming out” but today that usually means letting everyone know you’re gay. This is something else though. It’s as simple, and as difficult, as choosing a life in the sun with other people and all their woes and settling down in their midsts without trying to blend in at all. It’s letting other people see, and observe, and listen and judge every fiber. And it’s continuing to let them do it. And it’s learning to trust them to do so gently. And it’s learning to trust yourself to be able to handle it when they don’t.
There is so much pain in the world. Everyone seems to be hurting these days. Even the happy ones are chased with emptiness, stress, hunger. Dark, dark shadows line every wall. Being “un-hidden” in the midst of it means opening yourself up to all that darkness. It means unsealing the sterilized emotional packet of your heart and contaminating yourself with the full experience of it all. And it will hurt.
Because of all the pain. And because of all the non-pain. Happiness hurts too. Goodness hurts. It’s alien. Being happy is hard to do. Feeling anything is hard to do when it hasn’t been practiced. It’s hard to get right. Tears come with joy. Rage comes with laughter. Laughter comes with humiliation. WTF?
Happiness comes too – often with an overabundance of pride and joy. The beloved husband just had his graduation ceremony last weekend and is a fully fledged and totally certified PhD (fancy hood and all). My beautiful nieces are growing every day into more and more interesting people with new ideas and concerns and discoveries. My folks are both strong and healthy and my in-laws are similarly brilliantly situated for an exciting, fulfilling summer to come.
It also bears mentioning that recently I got to see, live and in person, a very special touchstone of mine. Johnny Clegg was in town recently and performed in a very intimate theater that held (tops) 300 people. My beloved husband and I were in attendance. It was a truly magical experience on par with the time I spent in those few locations in Iceland. If you’re not familiar with his work, shame on me for not sharing it with you sooner. Go google him. Any of his work with Jaluka or Savuka. Brilliant stuff.
He sings a lot about pain. He sings a LOT about pain. All different kinds of pain. After all, this stuff was coming out of South Africa in the 90’s – you know, the whole apartheid gig. Mr. Clegg sang about social inequity, about injustice, about suffering and the sheer cruelty that people show to eachother. He also sang about love and honor. He sang about resilience, strength and beauty. He sang about friendship and all the things that I really couldn't get my head wrapped around in high school. His music was an emotional roadmap for me, alongside other singers like Paul Simon, the Beatles, and other totally non-mainstream musicians. I was already socially isolated from 99% of my peers, after all. I was already pretty much “not there”. No harm in listening to music nobody else cared about. (Thank goodness for that 1% who took the time to reach out to me and be my freinds - no matter how bizarre I was.)
Seeing Johnny Clegg perform was like being in a room with something impossible. It was like going to a fairytale castle and seeing sleeping beauty and realizing that the fairytale is real, after all. It was like looking into the eyes of Baldur himself, most beloved of the gods, and listening to him sing the music you grew up with. It was magic. It was a night full of euphoria, rhythm, sadness, storytelling, and harmonies which will forever remain inseparable from human cruelty.
Now that I’m trying this new path, trying all this coming out of hiding and absorbing all of these experiences properly, these kinds of nights come to me like a punch in the gut. There’s so much out there. It's hard to take all at once, but that's the only way to take it. I’ve been hiding from so much of it. Indeed I’ll probably happily spend the rest of my life continuing to hide from most of it.
It’s comforting to know that other people are coming out of hiding too, and feeling the pain and shaking their fists at the sky. I suppose that’s all I want to say about it. I’m here now. Too. In it. Just like the rest of you, my gentle readers. And the dark times will come to me too, just like the good times. It's good to know that now that I'm up to my eyeballs in it, even when the worst of it is at its most terrifying, it's worth it to be here.
And thanks, I guess, for making it worth it to come out of hiding.