18. Sometimes I see the value.

Recently it occurred to me very strongly: August’s death made me a member of the human race.

I spend a lot of time in my head. More than most other things, I think, I’m a thinker. Considering ideas; feeling my way through and around new theories; exploring my feelings and trying to root down to where they came from and why. These are the things that I do, pretty much constantly. Sometimes I drive my daughter, Pearl, around this city, and she babbles and plays in the back seat while I muse in the front seat, and then at some point I snort awake and think, “Oh! I haven’t said anything to Pearl this whole trip!” And I feel bad, and apologize to her: “I’m sorry, honey, I’m not ignoring you. I’ve just been…thinking.”

My point is that, of course, I have always been a member of the human race. But I live mostly in my head. I am a romantic and a storyteller, and I spend a lot of time telling myself stories about life, and trying to fit new layers, new experiences, into my grand, overarching story, my work-in-progress, my magnum opus: Being Human Here on Earth, Right Now.

Since August died, I have been so much more vulnerable to stories of others’ pain and loss. I am like a gigantic wound, one big raw nerve, a mass of pure emotion and empathy. People whose babies died kill me, of course, but it’s not just them; anyone feeling devastation and hopelessness makes me cry in commiseration.

I think I’m winding around what I’m trying to express because I’m not quite sure what, exactly, that is. It may be really simple. Let’s see:

Living within the pretty, strange and terrible stories inside my head sometimes distances me from life, truth, and what it really is to be human — which is ironic, since that concern (what it is to be human; what life is for, what it means, what we should do while we’re here, and why) is the central focus of my in-my-head musings.

August’s death made me more human because it put me really, firmly, in the same boat with everyone else. Where I already was, but didn’t know it. Now I do.

Sometimes I walk around filled with my own sadness, my own story of sadness: This is what happened to me. My son died and everything changed forever. I am a sadder person now, and I always will be. Sometimes I tell that story.

Just recently, though, I had the very quick follow-up realization that — wow — I’m not the only one. Most people are walking around carrying their own heavy story. Loss, depression, addiction, abuse; whatever it is, most of us are wounded. I’m not alone or unique in this in any way.

That is such a beautiful thing for me to realize, and it’s humbling. I’m glad to be here with the rest of you. Right where I’ve been all along, and just didn’t know it till now.


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