There’s a pathway behind the office where I work called “The Urban Trail”. If I were more outdoorsy or ever exercised I could probably tell you how long it runs in total, but in all honesty, I’ve only walked half a mile or so of it, and as far as I’m concerned that’s as far as it goes. I use it when I need to escape the harsh light of never ending spreadsheets or when I feel antsy or when I eat way too much barbecue at lunch.
This past week I used it to take a couple of phone calls. The first was an old decades long friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. She asked me to call so when I had a moment to take a break, I headed outside into the blazing mid morning heat to dial her up. She had good news! News of life! As I walked my little section of trail, up and down, tears filled my eyes listening to the joy in her voice and I no longer paid any attention to any other trailblazers as I laughed with her and told her only about 1 million times how ecstatic I was for her.
It was a very good moment.
Five hours later I would be back to sweating on that very same stretch of trail, my phone in hand, but this time staring at it in disbelief as news from another decades long friend came. This time news of death. Tears of rage filled my eyes and curse words tumbled out of my heart and mouth as I refused to believe what I was being told. I now walked in grief and disbelief the very same steps I had walked earlier that same day with joy and laughter.
It was a very bad moment.
As time has moved on since that day on the trail, I’ve thought a lot of the paradox of those two moments. Same location, same blazing heat, mere hours apart and yet somehow also two worlds apart. And all weekend as I have remembered the new life I had been told of, joy would spring into my heart and put a bounce in my step. And as I would recall the news of death, profound heaviness would weigh me down.
At Open House at Levi’s school earlier that same week, we read an “About Me” story stapled outside Levi’s classroom that he had written about himself. Each line was a different prompt each student filled in with a fact about themselves. Along with finding various ways to express how cute he thinks he is (note to self: stop telling him he is cute), he had this line:
“I understand….life can be hard.”
Get outta here with that one! When I read that line in Levi’s school on Wednesday night, I immediately felt the crushing guilt of the realization that he most likely learned that hard, pessimistic truth from me. I’m too hard on him. I don’t show him enough light. I need to be more glass half full with him. The accusations in my head went on and on.
But as I stood on the Urban Trail the very next afternoon, sweating hard from both the setting sun and the fierce waves of anger coursing through my body, I saw those words again in my mind: “I understand…life can be hard.”
They echoed around as I went about the rest of my week, like a scratch on a record, until I finally unearthed the hidden, nagging truth of them. It would be obvious to say the hardest part of that day last week on the trail was the grief and anger I felt at the news of loss. And it was hard. It was hard in that moment on the hot trail and it’s hard now as tears begin again even as I type these words. But what is really hard about life, is the fact that both good news and bad news blow through our lives like a constant wind. The good like a cool breeze on a hot day bringing relief and life and the bad like a hurricane gale, bringing with it floodwaters of destruction. The winds of life are always blowing and we have to find ways to bend with each new gust.
The hard part of life is actually learning to celebrate with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who grieve and to often do it all on the same day! Scroll through your Twitter feed right now. Turn on the news. Ask a friend what’s new with them. I’ll bet you find something like this: What’s new is heartbreak. What’s new is the finding of what was once thought permanently lost! What’s new is a shiny new job and what’s new is an old bad habit. The winds continue to blow.
I’ve decided I’m ok with the fact that at the age of seven Levi has already realized life can be hard. Because, in reality, that’s actually the easy lesson to learn. Now we can begin the hard part, the real work of teaching him how to live in the wind. How to cry both tears of joy and sadness with and for the ones you love, and sometimes on the very same day.