This Too Is Life

Oct 29, 2017

Life Lessons Life Marriage Happiness
green and blue clothespin hanging

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov

We spent most of the crisp fall day in a downtown of a neighboring city, my husband and I, walking around the shops and restaurants, finding unique treasures in boutiques. The leaves on the ground around us just slightly losing their golden maroon color. The people walking by, pleasantly in a Sunday mood. We took selfies in front of an old brick wall. My husband eyed a piano sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, painted mural-style with dusty keys. He played a few notes from Beethoven’s “Für Elise” while I sat next to him taking in the soft breeze and smell of old books from a bookstore nearby. It was a delightful combination of senses. In short, I could not have asked for a better way to spend an afternoon.

The delight followed us on our drive home, painting the trees along the freeway colors only fall could have invented. The sun setting gradually. Drivers for once keeping their distance behind us. And smooth conversation, the kind full of reflective pauses we didn’t feel the need to fill with senseless words. The feeling of knowing this day, the memories we created, brought us just a little bit closer.

And then the inevitable walk through the front door, back home. A sink full of dishes greeting us, the dog that needs to be taken out for a walk, the laundry piling up though I did a load already four days ago.

Washing a green bowl from last night — which contained the best guacamole I had made thus far, in my opinion — a thought occurred to me. Not so much a thought, actually, but more a phrase:

This too is life.

How often have we heard others, and even ourselves, say “this too shall pass”? I know for my own sanity, I have repeated that phrase many times in the past, trying to get myself through an unpleasant circumstance. I always used to think of it as such a positive and encouraging message, a light in the darkness. But as I stood there in front of the sink, mindfully washing dishes that contained a moment from our life… I was struck by the thought that perhaps that statement is not so encouraging after all. It began to feel disheartening to me, hinting at a gloomy connotation about something you wanted to be over with. Something you don’t want to be present for.

I decided then and there, with the dishes and soapsuds and sponge as my witness, I would no longer use that phrase and instead, replace it with one I felt contained a much more inclusive message — this too is life.

Because it is. This washing of the dishes, this folding of the laundry, the sweeping of the balcony, the chores, the errands, all of it… are life. And the rest of it, the painful stuff we’d rather not face or walk through, that too is life. There is a notion of acceptance and willing surrender in that statement for me that I find much more encouraging and helpful. Yes, some moments call for silence, others downright fury, and many rightful action; but for the rest of them that simply ask for words of comfort, for a verbal opiate, or a way to arrive at full acceptance, I’ll add this phrase to my therapeutic arsenal.

We walk the dog, check the mail, and walk back with bills in hand. So much of life, if not all of it, comes down to our attitude towards it, doesn’t it? How we perceive a betrayal, a lost love, an illness, a closed door. My newly created phrase is certainly not a cure-all, but it is the beginning of suffering just a little bit less, and accepting just a little bit more of that which we can’t control. And anything that helps me do that authentically, I’ll invite into my life wholeheartedly.

It is also the beginning of finding hidden joy where we never thought it existed. Or seeing something from a whole new angle.

Joy, too, is life. It always has been. I just failed to see it waiting for this and that to pass. I will most assuredly never enjoy paying bills, or vacuuming, or taking a loved one to a hospital. But at the very least I can see it all as part of something larger that holds it all. Something that connects each one of us to one another. I can honor the event, the feeling, the person, as a passing guest in the story that is my life and be grateful for it all. And my failure to be grateful, in an exhausted moment of anger or resentment, that too is life.

The dishes are done, the laundry is folded, and preparations for another week ahead begin. I light a candle that smells of gardenia and white peach and kiss my husband. Soon enough we will have an argument over this or that, so I make sure to appreciate our current level of connection. Soon enough something in the house will break, a work deadline will need to be met, a friendship will be questioned, a loved one will be saying goodbye. But alas, all of this too is life. Let’s be present for it.