I was walking to the grocery store, catty-corner to me and about to meet me on the same corner I’m headed to, is a man who is shuffling along mumbling to himself.
He holds conversations with anything his eyes light upon. First it was the bicyclist going downhill in one direction, “There goes Lance Armstrong and his seven yellow jerseys.” The bicyclist is wearing yellow accents and riding a bright yellow bike.
We’re walking down the hill in the other direction and he passes the flowers, “Linda.” I perk my ears up, my body’s gait changes, I straighten the shoulders because from behind me, I feel a wall of something that’s about to make itself known.
“Gorgeous flowers. Greg get out of the sidewalk. There’s no Greg. Greg’s gone.” Here is where the sob hits his voice, and the pain lashes into my heart, and BURNS all the way through me. “All my people are gone.”
In my heart, all I can hear is the chorus of voices reassuring him that, no. No, his people are NOT gone. I turn back to say this to him, but then, something stills my vocal cords. It’s the voices in my own head, my OWN people, who are quietly looking at me, having joined this man’s people, to tell me to hold still.
It was enough to have heard him, and us. So, I just kept walking, hearing his anguish, living with him.
Where was the ordeal in this, you might ask? No one made you bleed, or cut you, or hit you til you shut down all the parts of you that make and connect and do that spiritual thing that you do, so why is this ordeal?
I ask myself that all the time. I live a life with so much uncertainty- will today be a pain-free day (bad weather and inefficient sleep leave my joints all messed up)? Will there be another problem with my current job situation that I need to overcome (besides the usual, not having one that’s full time)? I breathe in the new day, and I relax myself into it, I try to maintain a fairly regular routine about it, but sometimes, it’s just the day itself that hurts. At night, I’m left holding the tattered remains of my day and wondering how it got so botched.
On those days, the ordeal was in getting through it. And rejoicing in watching the sun dip down below the horizon, watching the clouds drift in across the Bay, the way the room instantly cools and yet brightens, as the sun sets.
The ordeal is in living, the ordeal is in being present and witnessing that living while it happens.