I’m sitting at the white desk in my small home office, essential oil diffuser filling the room with lemon, rosemary, and peppermint. There’s a golden milk latte to my left, made with almond milk, coconut milk, and one teaspoon of the Gaia Herbs blend of turmeric and ashwagandha.
Kate made this drink for me last Friday, when I stayed the night at her new apartment in Portland, and I loved the earthy flavor of it. Turmeric and ashwagandha are both supposed to be good for our immune system, and ashwagandha in particular has been shown to help alleviate anxiety and depression, and combat the effects of stress. Is that actually true? I don’t know. But it feels good and nourishing to do this small thing for myself in the early hours of the day, so I am doing it.
It’s spring in Central Oregon now, the sky is clear and then rainy, clear and then rainy. The morning air is still cold like winter, but the flowers and trees have begun to sprout their blooms and buds. Spring is the season of awakenings, and yet waking up hardly ever comes without breaking down.
All around me right now, for almost everyone I know, something significant has changed and shifted, something is falling apart.
My parents are getting divorced. My aunt died. Two friends have ended their longterm relationships. Other friends are deep in the throes of moving cities, changing careers, feeling fearful about money, struggling to decide whether or not to have children – priorities are shifting, hearts are falling into and out of alignment. Like I said, a season of awakenings, but maybe a season of endings, too.
I have just under three months left now before I leave for the PCT.
As I begin to tackle the enormous task of preparing for this hike – working on my resupply plan, making a list of missing gear items to purchase, trying to decide what I might like to eat for four months in the wilderness – my thoughts keep coming back to my grandfather, who I was closer to than almost anyone else in my family. When he was 16 years old he dropped out of high school and stowed away on a boat to Europe, which is to say that the part of me that feels constantly restless is indeed in my blood. It is literally right there, passed down through generations, so when I feel the pull to go, to say yes, to experience everything I can in this one life I’ve been gifted, I need to remind myself that it’s okay to be restless and endlessly curious, that this is who I am.
My grandfather, Arnold, died in 2014, and afterward life just… went on. It’s blasphemous, isn’t it? That life goes on while we are sucked under by such deep pain? There is death and loss, there are breakups and grief, and still we must eat. Still, the dishes need to be washed. Still, but how?
I was on the phone with my mother a few days ago, talking about the future, her future, and she just kept saying over and over again how afraid she felt. “What do I do from here?” she asked. “I am almost 69 years old, and I have been married for 35 years. Who am I without this?”
That question. That question.
It’s the same one I asked myself the morning after I quit drinking. I was 24 hours into sobriety and I had absolutely no idea who I was anymore. How did people do this? How would I do this? What comes next?
This is right around the time I started reading Pema Chödrön, thank god, and there’s a quote of hers that I copied into my journal and re-read every day for months.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again.”
I was so desperate for a solution, a fix for the pain I was experiencing in early sobriety, and these words set me free just enough to take the deep breath I needed in order to move forward. Because what if there wasn’t a solution? What if I didn’t need to toil endlessly in a black hole of pain in order to overcome this in any particular way? What if I could let things be how they were – messy and desperate and loud and beautiful and terrifying – what if I didn’t hold on quite so tightly to the hope for some future version of myself who would have it all figured out?
Because the truth is exactly what Pema says it is: things come together, yes, but then they fall apart. They come together again and then they fall apart again. Again and again.
So then how do we put ourselves back together? Slowly. We do it slowly, one nudge at a time in the direction of what feels good and true.
It will not be perfect, change and grief never are, and drinking golden milk lattes every morning will not stop you from falling apart again, even if turmeric and ashwagandha are as powerful as people say.
But loving yourself enough to make a warm beverage on a cold morning is indeed something, and in a broken world where we will bleed and cry over and over again throughout our lives those little somethings, the small ways that we love ourselves and each other every day, especially when we are in pain, those things add up. Those things are what make us.
Take care of yourself this weekend, friend. You deserve good things. You deserve it all.
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