The Radiance of Pain

Before Now After (Mama, Mummy and Mamma)--Njideka Akunyili CrosbyLately I keep remembering the phrase, “We’re all just walking each other home.” I don’t remember who said it. A Google search would cough it up fast enough but I like not knowing who said it, as if it were as common as “sly as a fox” or “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” I wish it were.

What’s made me remember these words is the pain I’ve witnessed this year, especially this month. I don’t normally talk about my clients for the simple reason that if I did I would not be a very trustworthy intuitive. I’ve heard some psychics discuss their clientele–usually when they count celebrities among them–but while I understand the urge and assume everyone is being discussed with their consent (hope, anyway), I feel intuitive work must adhere to very clear ethics because it’s not otherwise regulated and because it entails such fragile, precious material (souls).

Rule number one is hold your counsel.

Still, I feel comfortable in saying that many have experienced more than their fair share of pain this year. It’s not just that the public sphere has penetrated the bubble of our daily lives, though it has more than any year since Dad pulled me awake so I could watch Richard Nixon resign. It’s that any soul unsure of its place took leave this year, and only some did so in peace.

Personally, I’ve had tougher years–years when I was not sure how to pay for food, let alone rent. Years when people I loved turned into wolves and my love blinded me to their transformation. Years when I lost so much that I did not know if the world wanted me at all.

This has not been that kind of year. Rather, it has been a year in which many people I love have suffered terrible, multiple tragedies, and my job has been to breathe with them until they could breathe alone. It is true that my romantic life has proven as confounding as ever, but I resigned myself long ago to the fact that I was a priestess rather than a wife, so romances would offer the most profound and therefore challenging of spiritual lessons.

But these matters of the heart are nothing compared to the hits others have sustained. On the news, in my friendship circle, and in my office, I have solemnly borne witness as the suffering have wept and raged at the heavens. I have sat with them, refilled my Kleenex box, charted their healing paths when I could. I also have marveled. For in their pain these humans glow.

Parents and partners and pets and compatriots have died, lovers and jobs have fallen away, bodies have foundered, and roots have been pulled out not only in individual lives but in our burning, burnt-up nation. So many Public Crosbyhave reached their bottom, as the AA parlance goes, and as they have told their stories, they have emitted the softest, purest light. Their eyes have been puffy, their complexions blotchy, their hair matted, their clothing stained. Many stink that particular odor of the grieving: an acrid, rotten lemon. Yet they never have been more beautiful. When I squint my eyes, I see they are bathed in rose and amber, the color of sunrises, of spring and autumn all at once. When I close my eyes I still see the glow.

It is true that when hearts are broken, not everyone sews them up afterward. Some hearts stay open rather than scarring over. Some don’t just soften their ways; they soften all of our ways. They light our walks; they connect our hearths. Some–so many—are radiant in their pain.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy