Last week, in the midst of the tragedy that struck our community, I went home and put on an Englebert Humperdinck song that I remember my mom listening to when I was a kid.
Yes, I like Englebert Humperdinck. I said it out loud.
I grabbed my partner and we danced in the kitchen and as the dog tried to make his way between us, I stepped back and looked in her eyes and realized that I’d forgotten.
She has flecks of brown that sparkle in the light of her green eyes.
I don’t know when I last looked in her eyes and registered what I was really, truly seeing - but it felt like I hadn't seen her eyes in years.
I spend most of my days looking but no seeing, listening but not hearing, touching but not feeling. As we turned slowly in one another’s arms in the kitchen I was plagued with the thought.
What else have I forgotten? What else do I not see? Who else is talking to me that I am not really hearing?
There is a Buddhist book called “Wake up to Your Life,” and though I’ve read the book the entire way through, I’m often still asleep. As is many times the case, it’s tragedy the slaps you, shakes you awake and leaves you disconcerted, groundless and confused.
But it’s also tragedy that makes you sit in front of your picture window in the mountains and look at clouds in ways you haven’t since you were a kid. That makes you eat a fresh strawberry in three bites - savoring the taste. It is stark sadness sometimes that frightens us into locking fingers with our loved ones to pull them close and say I love you with your hearts and our arms and our entire being.
From sadness and tragedy sometimes comes clarity. And pause. One Buddhist teacher refers to the sacred pause - teaching yourself to pause several times throughout your day - to check in with yourself and to see if you are truly awake to your life. Tragedy forces this pause - forces us to take inventory of what and who is important to our energy and time. Tragedy slows us down, which can sometimes feel terrifying. If we slow down, if we pause completely, we may be left with feelings and emotions that can seem like too much.
But sometimes when we pause, we can look in our partners’ eyes, and see those flecks of brown, and dance to bad music from the 70’s and for a few moments feel awake and grateful for our lives.
I don't know if I'm 1% better today. I know that I'm 100% sadder. But I also know that I am more awake today than I've been in a long time. And for that I am grateful.