The Crucible, and the Party

Sometimes, it’s almost too much to witness. I know there’s nothing to be done for life’s cruelties but look them in the eye, square your shoulders, and do your best to bear them with a modicum of grace. But I’ve had a lifetime of practice and I still resist—shouldn’t the young be spared, or at least be given practice with much smaller cruelties?

Maybe, if I were in charge, but I’m not, and the universe appears to be a little random, and the young are clearly not spared, never have been. Young mothers lose their babies, children lose siblings and parents and friends, or come into the world facing a lifetime of pain. They have oncologists and neurologists and psychiatrists and endocrinologists, or a parent or child with one (or all) of these.

They exchange the happy carefree optimism I stubbornly (and naively) believe the young are entitled to for the daily reality of their illness and grief, and their young shoulders begin to broaden, their faces begin to develop lines.

Some of us, both young and old, can no longer bear it, and end it all, leaving behind others to try and bear it. But somehow, amazingly, most of us find that we’re resilient, that though we may begin to stoop, we also begin, with time, to make friends with the heart-broken face in the mirror. We begin to understand what love really is. We make a semblance of peace with our daily pain and medication, our child’s handicap, our needles, our dead dreams and missing pieces and grief.

We may, if we’re one of the lucky ones, eventually be given a pass from the pain, go into remission, face a second chance, or a third one, feel strong again. We may again be presented with the marvelous gifts of clarity, life, joy, love, reasons to laugh from deep within. Our party dresses may no longer look or fit like they once did, but we’ll be at the party again.

Much love to my young adult friends in the crucible right now. You know who you are, and though you may or may not at this moment feel like you can bear it, you probably can, and will, hopefully soon, find yourself in a softer, kinder place again.