That Kind of Thing

You've seen the image before--in a movie, in a photo, in an ad. Someone's sitting on the edge of the bed, his hands on his knees, his gaze cast forward in a way that's possibly blank, possibly vaguely worried, quite possibly full of mourning. The upshot is always "There's this difficult and unpleasant thing facing me (a funeral, a courtroom in which I lose everything I now have and know and love, a truth I couldn't imagine) that I wish I didn't have to deal with, but I'm a functioning adult with the desire to remain such. So I must confront it. I must wade through it. I must believe that sooner or later I'll emerge from the other side."

On Sunday morning, I actually found myself sitting on the edge of my bed with my hands on my knees, only half conscious that I was adopting that posture. A few hours later, I sat in my car in the Inner Sunset, in much the same position, trying to steel myself for what was ahead. And when I came back to the car a bit over an hour later, with what felt like every bit of my face swollen with crying, I sat still for a few moments and thought, All I have to do now is get through this and go on.

In an essay that appeared in O Magazine a few years back (a piece I've quoted here before because it's trenchant and heartbreaking and flat-out, whatever you might think of O), Amy Bloom writes, "What I hadn't understood, until recently, is that sometimes love is not enough. And that is the worst news-from-the-universe I have heard for some time. ... Love takes us further than we thought we could go, but it does not take us past the limits of our nature. And that is a hard thing to know."

On Sunday afternoon, I heard a truth that crumpled my heart but, at the same time, set something inside me to calmness. It was a hard thing to hear, but nevertheless I felt a tinge of gratitude to hear it. And for sure it's a hard (and painful) thing to know, but even I would rather a hard truth than a soft lie. Sometimes love is not enough.

So I return again and again now to that edge-of-the-bed image: each of us, for a while, sits there feeling too heavy to stand, knowing that what awaits us is a horrendous goodbye, a run-in with heartbreak, an encounter with the understanding that we're no longer what we once were, or we no longer have what we once did, and once loved so much.

But sooner or later we do stand. We stand and (to quote Marge Piercy) hold hard, and let go, and go on. Because there's no other worthwhile choice

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