We micromanage, we plan, we predict, we protect and we perfect. We guard ourselves against the unexpected and the unpleasant.
I think I spend a good amount of time and energy trying to get to a place where I feel like I have a grasp on my life. Somehow, my life always feels slightly out of reach and I’m constantly forcing myself to retract my hand and admit that I, in fact, am not invincible and that I’m vulnerable and that I’m mostly just along for the ride.
But then there are a couple of things that completely shatter all sense of control that I feel, and then I feel small and helpless and – surprisingly – completely free to be a human being, subject to humanity.
Weather and death are two of those things, and I’ve experienced a lot of one and a little of the other over the past two days.
There’s a lot that’s beautiful and mesmerizing about the whitening of the world. It brings a lot of silence and stillness, both in itself and because it forces life to slow down a lot.
However, as I found out, snowstorms can also be terrifying if you try to defy them.
Yesterday, I tried to go to the grocery store just after the snow started falling. Not only did I never make it to the grocery store, but I also couldn’t get home for almost two hours. At first, it was because of traffic – everyone decided to drive home at the same time. But then the roads got bad way faster than I had thought they would, and I was stuck.
There were several heart-stopping moments when my wheels lost traction and I lost complete control of my car. Once, I slid right into the curb – thank God it wasn’t another vehicle. Shortly after that, I called my mom to tell her I didn’t think I was going to make it home without crashing my car.
The road got better a little further along, and my panic quelled a little bit only to come back when I was trying to get over the last hill before campus. As I pressed my gas pedal all the way to the floor over and over again, my car moved forward in little spurts, and I prayed aloud that I would make it over.
I did – only to get stuck on another hill a couple blocks away from my house. I slid backwards and then turned around, realizing I had one more option and if that didn’t work, I was going to have to leave my car somewhere and walk home in my sweatshirt and cropped running leggings.
I made it home. And then the snow became much more beautiful. But as I looked outside for the rest of the day, I was no longer fooled by what appeared to be innocent flurries. The world can be beautiful, but I had experienced its wrath in a way I won’t soon forget.
Snowstorms are powerful – much more powerful than I am. As I slid or got stuck on a hill, there was absolutely nothing. I. could. do. And the rawness of that isn’t something I experience very often.
Today, we woke up to a white world. When snow fell again this afternoon, the whiteness became even heavier – the sky, the trees, the ground, the houses – everything gets covered in a spotless blanket of powder and ice.
Like little kids, my friends and I played in the snow. We ran, jumped, slid and sledded. And it was beautiful to play like a little kid again and forget all responsibility or obligation because the world had shut down around us.
Zeke was old, probably about 13, and he had suddenly developed cancer. His quality of life had rapidly deteriorated. The thing I love about Zeke is his joy, and I can’t imagine seeing him live without being able to race around the yard or put his paws up on the chair while I eat at the table.
So I’m glad he went peacefully, and I’m confident he had a long and happy life. But unfortunately, there’s always something tragic about death. And I’m glad I felt that, because if I hadn’t, I think I would have felt heartless instead – which is actually much worse.
Again, I felt another kind of rawness. Yesterday I felt fear, this morning I felt wonder and this afternoon I felt sadness. These are a lot of emotions to experience in such a short timespan, especially because none of them are very ordinary.
The common thread between all of them is that they made me feel human and subjected to my own humanity. And this made me feel free.
I think we spend a lot of time leaning into lives that we’ve hand-stitched to resemble our best attempt at perfection. There’s a lot that feels forced about that, and I think there’s a lot that’s lost in that. But not the obvious kind of lost – the kind that you only realize is there once the lost thing is found.
I don’t feel fear because I avoid most situations where I feel fearful. I don’t feel wonder because I like to know what’s coming next. And I don’t feel sadness because feeling sad seems like being weak.
I think that since people feel things, it must mean we were meant to feel these things, or else we just wouldn’t. And if you follow that train of thought, when we deny or refuse or avoid feelings, it means we’re missing out on something we were made for, even if that’s just the simple awareness of what it is to be human.
Feeling things can be really, really hard work. When you go to places within your heart that you just don’t want to, it feels the same as running a half marathon or building something or playing in the snow for hours – exhausting, but good. And right. And like freedom.
Today was one of those rare days where I left some skin in the game. It’s a day ending in exhaustion but also a sense of wholeness.
I think that, at the end of the day, what we really are looking for is a sense of being alive. And maybe I would feel less alive if I had played in the snow by myself or cried about my dog where no one could see me or had let a snow day go by without taking advantage of it.
Regardless, I feel alive, and that’s enough. I might feel smaller or less in control, but something about actually realizing those things makes them a lot less daunting.
I lived hard today. Today has been a day well lived.