The doom and glory

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was Dostoevsky and Dickens who taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who ever had been alive. Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people. An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian. His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are. He has to tell, because nobody else can tell, what it is like to be alive.”

— James Baldwin

Melissa Sipin, ever a radiant spirit and daily inspiration, shared this quote on Facebook earlier today.

Perfect timing too. I haven’t been feeling very well the last few days and despite knowing better, I still tend to retreat deeper into myself instead of embracing negative feelings.

It’s a coping habit of a lifetime. Tough to crack.

I’m no writer, but I’ve always found solace in the words of countless others. It’s why reading has always been so important to me. It’s one of the earliest comforts in my memory. And although it can often be a very solitary act, I never feel alone because it connects me to other human beings in a way I haven’t managed to replicate in everyday life.

So many of us are caught up in the minutiae of eking out our individual existences that we forget to be kind, to be patient, with ourselves and to others.

We’re all wrestling with the “doom and glory” of who and what we are. And while this struggle manifests in myriad ways, as far as I can tell it is a uniquely human struggle, and one to be mindful of as we move through our lives.

For myself, I live. I’m alive. While I spend an inordinate amount of time shackled by my old friends Depression and Anxiety, I still have moments of clarity. Even then, half the time I don’t know what I want out of life, only that I hope my life brings joy and comfort to others, however small.

I often think back to a moment at my grandma’s wake in 2008. A woman I’d never met before walked up to me. I was steeling myself for condolences, which, while well-meaning, were just falling on my grief-stricken deaf ears.

She took my hand, looked at me (I mean really looked at me), and told me,”You have your grandma’s kind eyes.” I remember feeling terrified and deeply comforted by the encounter. I realize that I don’t know everything about my grandmother, but I do know she loved her grandchildren unconditionally. It was awe-inspiring. While none of us were (or are) saints, it didn’t matter. She gave us as much love and patience as she could.

I’m not sure I’m capable of that kind of love, but I aspire to it. I hope I do have her kind eyes. I hope that the people in my life know that I care very deeply, even if I have a hard time showing it. I hope that in my darker moments, I’ll remember the people who care very deeply for me too.

I hurt. I love. I care. I’m alive.

I’m happy you’re in my life. I’m glad we’re friends. I’m sad that you hurt, or feel anger or despair. I’m sad that there sometimes has to be a division between self-care and caring for others.

It’s the “doom and glory” of learning who and what we are. Ever a balancing act.

Well, tl;dr perhaps. I’m getting sleepy and my thoughts are muddled. I’m pretty rusty at this writing business.

Good night!


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