My sister gave birth to a baby boy last night. He’s a tiny perfect human and this is his first day breathing air. He looks like a cross between an angel and an old man.
The older I get, it seems, the more astonished I feel by this whole business of being born, and living, and dying. The baffling, stunning mystery of it all.
“Gabe!”, I say to my own son, “Can you BELIEVE that you grew inside my body? And now you’re sitting in this kitchen, with this whole life of your own? I mean, think about that! What is going on around here?”
He is, understandably, more interested in seeing if he can roast his green bean in the candle’s flame. He hasn’t been here long enough; he still thinks the grown ups know something about how this whole place works.
As I edge toward thirty-five, which seems solidly adultish, I can say with great confidence that this is not the case.
This being human is such a clumsy endeavor. Despite my best intentions to stay awake, I am routinely confused, lazy, sleepy, hooked. I contradict myself.
I’ve spent a long time hoping that I would arrive someplace clear and free of it all, as though being human were a condition to outgrow. I have an idea in mind of what a more spiritual, more compassionate, more organized, (more perfect) Molly would look like and I am always falling short.
I’m ready to shed this perspective because it bums me out.
I want, more than anything, to be alive while I’m living.
(There’s a difference, you know.)
That inner striving good girl is so fervent in her quest to get it right that it’s a constant practice to stay open to the whole of myself, to the whole of life.
In a moment of grace at 17, I found Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in the school library. I remember sitting on the floor between the bookcases, tuned in and turned on, heart beating in my ears.
“And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is…
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool
and composed before a million universes…
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes…”
Words for that nameless knowing, balm for a restless and hungry teenage soul. I promptly stole the book.
Proof positive that we do. Contain multitudes. My little nephew, newly minted, is not a blank slate. We come in fully human. We come in, as Brene Brown says, wired for struggle.
The only problem with that is thinking it should be otherwise.
In celebrating this new member of my family, I feel an urgency to celebrate us all. To celebrate the whole unknowable mess of it.
We can relax with being human, we can give up hope that we are ever going to get it together.
We think that when something is wonderful or terrible, it will be that way forever. Not so.
Whatever is, this moment, is for this one time only. Never again.
I don’t want to miss it.
There’s a great anonymous spiritual speaker who says something like this: “My problem with perfection was never that I couldn’t attain it. My problem with perfection is that I can’t recognize it. I don’t know what it is.”
You see, I wouldn’t design life this way. I have all kinds of smart ideas about how it should be and how you should act and how I should be different. And so long as I’m caught in a story of perfection, I’m asleep at the wheel.
Life celebrates itself, else why such elation at a newborn babe? Our greatest offering is not some cleaned up, self-improved version of ourselves. Our greatest offering is embodied aliveness, our whole and beating hearts.
In case you haven’t noticed, life wants to rip open the seams of your smallness. The worst thing in the world so often turns out to be the best thing. If we pay attention on purpose, we expand our capacity to be with the all of it. Joy and sorrow can live their full lives within us and we can equally surrender to the murk of the middle grey days.
Everything is sacred or nothing is.
I’m betting on everything. I choose the path of loving it all; worlds within this world, a million universes.
Welcome, little soul, to whatever this is.