Don’t hold your sweet self up against tales of heroism—you’ll be holding yourself down.
This life isn’t a vaunted tale of heroic victories over evil obstacles. Joseph Campbell may have had it right when he held up ancient myths as lessons, as mirrors of our modern lives. But heroes aren’t heroes, if you know what I mean. They are flesh and blood, and the only heroes I know are heroic in their soft fallible brave kindness.
Life is not a victory march. It’s boredom, and busyness. It’s defeats, large and small. It’s senseless, cruel tragedies born by others’ uncaring. It’s good luck, and bad luck.
The through line is only our ethics, our inner vision, our mission. That mission is developed by parents, for good or ill, by friends, by life’s bumps and how we bounce back, or don’t, or veer left or right like a grown-up tree with a bend in it from that snowfall 40 winters ago.
I’ve had some big bumps, mostly two years ago, and the algorithm loves conflict and loves pathos, so folks have responded to and seen and cared about me in those times, and thank you. But I’ve shared just as many victories, large and small, and everyday banal notes and questions and wishes and observations. Life is like that, a symphony of emotion with pauses in it.
The pauses are, often, the good stuff. Don’t take them for granted. Use them to appreciate your life, one another, your kitchen sink (whether there’s dishes in it, or it’s crystal clean).
This long, short life isn’t a competition. It isn’t a tragedy. It isn’t a victory march. It’s a little of all of it, and it’s a lot of none of it—it’s real.