When I was a baby they called me Happy. Happy to sit in my playpen with a soft ripe banana. Happy to be kissed by the sun. Happy happy to have everyone around me smile when I smiled. Mommy, Daddy, everyone so happy to see Happy smile.
And now here at the end and the beginning, I am happy again. Happy with simple things. Happy with the love of my husband, daughter, friends and extended family. Happy to have survived the long dark road I traveled.
I want to open my heart and spill out the song I brought home. Listen: It’s in the key of E minor. I carried grief back, hers my brother’s. They filled me with their sorrow and asked me to bring it home and bury it. I dug a small hole in my garden under the flowering apple tree. I buried their sorrow and it freed me.
I could not fix them. I could not fix my father who died too young, weary of trying to be a success, leaving us to fight and bite and claw our way out of hell. I could not fix my brother, the dark demons that chased him down and devoured him. I could not place my warm hands on my mother’s beating heart and give her the gift of wanting. Wanting to be kind, to be loved, to be alive.
This may not sound like much, but it is everything. When I’m not fixing others, I’m happy. Puttering in the garden, writing, cooking, dancing, feeding the birds. The quieter I get the easier it is to forgive myself for everyone I could not fix. I did not know any better. I did my best.
The list of what I can fix is so small. Fix the hurts I inflict on others when I’m angry, fix the ways I hurt myself when I am scared and empty. Crawl inside the folds of my brain with a tiny screw driver and fix the ways I see the Other as the Enemy. Fix my list of priorities so that kindness wins out over speed, silence over how right I think I am. Fix me and I fix the world.
I’ve put down my tools. I’m learning to let things be, to let silence fall, to let touch speak. If I listen I can hear the dance at the edge of the clearing. All those I have loved and will love are celebrating my homecoming. They’ve waited so patiently for me to understand there is no fixing, just the opening to the grace at the heart of the world where there is joy and misery, hardship and triumph, to the grief that breaks us and the love that puts us back together again, where everything is waiting to be embraced by someone who has given up fixing.
Down near the bottom of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,
between “green thread” and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”
Resting on the page, the word is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend and sunlight were a present
sent from someplace distant as this morning — to cheer you up,
and to remind you that, among your duties, pleasure is a thing
that also needs accomplishing.
Tony Hoagland, 1953 – 2018