August 31, 2014

This is How We Leave Our Mark on the World.


“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

So, I have some vulnerability issues.

We all do, I think.

We’re all, as a human race, pretty bad at being open about the fact that sometimes, life is hard. Impossibly, painfully hard.

Instead of being open about it, I tend to trick myself into thinking that it’s me being easy going, that I know that life happens and there’s nothing I can do about it so I’m accepting it and moving on.

But I don’t actually move on, because that’s not really how it works.

Experiences happen—life happens—and it’s true that there isn’t much we can do about it most of the time.

But it does more than just happen. It happens to us. It happens to every cell of our being whether we acknowledge that it does or not. The way we handle it is secondary, always, to the fact that every circumstance changes our lives in ways that more often than not we never even know, because it becomes our reality and what otherwise might have been is irrelevant and forgotten.

All those times that I have walked away from a person, a place or a stage in life with nothing more than a moment of stillness to take it all in one last time and a sigh as I turned around to leave, almost always without a tear shed, are still inside of me.

All of the emotions I didn’t show the world and all of the words I didn’t say are still there, too.

There were times when I know that was the right decision. My silence served me well and I avoided certain dramatics that would have done more harm than good.

But, of course, there were other times.

There were the times when my silence was painful even to me. There were times when my dry eyes betrayed me and instead of protecting me from hurt, shielded me from moments of connection and community. There are still times that I genuinely and with serious concern question my own ability to feel anything at all, because my expression of feelings is so infrequent.

All because vulnerability makes me shiver with discomfort.

And, of course, those are the times we are talking about here. Those are the times that taught, and continue to teach, me something about the way life works.

The lesson I’m learning is not to say exactly what’s on my mind.

I am a firm believer that silence speaks, and that the first word is not always the best word.

The lesson is not that emotions shouldn’t be bottled up.

Not because that’s not true, but because we all already know that.

The lesson is this:

Life is a reciprocal thing.

It happens to us whether we want it to or not. But how we happen to it, how we touch lives and hearts and leave our marks, that doesn’t come from stoicism and silence.

That doesn’t come from bucking up and accepting everything the way it is and walking away because what else is there to do?

It comes from looking someone in the eyes when we’re with them for the last time and telling them something—not everything, but something—that lets them know this is not a welcomed goodbye.

It comes from leaving our hearts on the floor, or the grass or the stones, every time we show up to a place that means something to us. That way, instead of leaving a place we can never go back to, we are imparting ourselves in a way that can never leave.

It comes from letting moments of sadness be sad and moments of joy be joyous and moments of any kind be exactly what they are—moments that are shaping our future and writing our past and changing us all the while.

We don’t have to be loud, or the boldest shade of red or fiercely courageous in all that we do.

We just have to give experiences back to the world and the people in it, in the same way that they give them to us every day.

That is how we happen to life, and that is how we leave our mark.

And, in the end, isn’t that what we’re here to do?




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 Photo: Martinak15/Flickr

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