I stopped, said, “Hol, wait, I have to grab a picture of this, I have to write about it.” She’s used to me saying such things so, thankfully, waited patiently, if with a knowing chuckle, as I got my shot. Writer Anne Lamott talks about always keeping notecards and a pen in her pocket, so she can jot down what she sees that she might write about. Me? I whip out the iPhone and snap a memory.
Maybe it was simply right time, right place, but whatever the reason, I saw this wall hanging and I thought, “Yes, that’s it. THAT’s this feeling I’ve had lately. That’s how I want to begin my 41st year, knowing, deep in my bones, that yes, everything is going to be okay.”
“Everything will be okay in the end, and if it is not okay, it is not the end,” — these words from one of my all-time favorite movies (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) came rushing back as I stared at the wall, as did the holier-sounding words that express a similar sentiment from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
I’m always afraid of sounding quippy when I write about hope or about things being okay. I’m always afraid I’ll hurt someone who feels very not okay. I worry that because my best defense mechanisms and coping skills are grounded in humor and a quick smile, that I’ll come off as paltry or shallow. And..maybe, 10 years ago, at 31, when I was mostly unscathed by heartache and fear, that might have been more true…but these days, as a friend said to me last December, as I was, for the first time in my winter-loving life bemoaning the cold and dark, “You know things now, Julie. You know the pain of such dark and cold.”
Maybe so. But what I also know is this…”if it is not okay, it is not the end.”
I posted the wall hanging picture on Facebook, and made it my phone’s wallpaper–not so much for anyone else so much as a reminder to me. Because the truth is that some days do not feel okay. This is true for all of us. And for some people, for whom life has been particularly cruel and unfair and ugly, “okay” likely seems a foreign concept. I know this. And I desperately want to respect and hold space for it. Because this world, it can be so damn heartbreaking. And in the midst of that, “okay,” is some days just downright laughable.
But (and I know for some of you this will be Julie sounding like a broken record, so just bear with me): I believe with all that I am that we are not alone. I believe with all that I am that love wins. I believe with all that I am that heartbreak and terror are not the end game. I believe with all that I am that a better way (past disease and poverty and violence and greed and hate) is possible.
Yesterday, Curly Girl and I had a conversation about “what to do in case of an emergency if something happens to Mommy.” We’ve had this conversation before, yesterday was just a refresher. She said, “I use your phone, and I call Daddy, and if I cannot find Daddy, I call…” and she began to list the nearby adults she’d call, “…Meg or Susan or Chad or Holly and I know how to find all their numbers in your phone.” And then she stopped, smiled, and said, “And they all love me and so would help.”
A lump rose in my throat. Fighting the lump back down, I looked her straight in the eye and I said, slowly, deliberately, “Baby girl–you’ve no idea the number of adults in this world, friends and family of your mommy and daddy, who would do anything for you. And because of that, no matter what happens in this life, you will never, ever be alone. I can promise you that.”
She got this very solemn expression on her face, nodded her head, and then she smiled, and said, “Ok, Mommy.”
Right now, all I know to teach her about everything being okay is that she’ll never be alone. That she is surrounded by people who love her. That she’s been lucky enough to be born into a family that believes we find God in one another, that we see what’s holy in the love that dwells in the spaces between us.
And because we’ve been lucky enough to know and experience this, it’s our job to fight for those who have not known and experienced it. It’s our job, as people who believe it will all be okay, to help make it so for those who cannot believe such a thing, not with what life has handed them.
Full throttle into my forties, this is what I believe. This is what I’m staking my life on. This is what I’m after for all of us.