My life is a series of shelves on a wall. On each shelf is a carefully placed box, tied tightly with a ribbon. Some boxes are disheveled, duct tape holding their flimsy frames together. I’ve had these boxes a long time. They are tired and torn and the shelves sag beneath their weight. They are just too heavy.
Some boxes are much lighter. Some are prettier. Some boxes are brand new, their lids not entirely sealed yet. Their ribbons cut too short or tied too hastily to work right.
I have delicately placed each box after wrestling with its contents. I swear and sweat as I try to get them to settle and squeeze their way into their compartments. I judge myself for what I have held on to and get mad at myself for how difficult it is to organize and store it all away.
My life is keeping these shelves in order. Every now and then I open a box to examine its contents and see if I can make peace with the heartache inside. I’ve tried that a lot. I haven’t been successful yet. I keep trying anyway.
Too often, after I have the shelves in order and the contents have stopped running wild and hasty through my heart, a freight train comes along. (These boxes are filled with the aftermath of freight trains). I recognize the sound, I’ve inhaled that scent. I know what happens next.
After a blinding impact, I look around my life. My shelves are eerily vacant. The boxes are scattered. Lids have been sent flying and the sludge – a slick, thick, black oil – is leaking everywhere. My mess is a mess once again.
Then, I set about slowly, methodically cleaning it back up. Through blurry eyes I begin sorting and folding and scrubbing. I wipe away tears with the back of my hand and continue mopping the walls of my heart.
I don’t know if the goal is to build a more durable shelter or to get better at cleaning up the mess. I hazard a guess that it is a bit of both. But I do have a nagging instinct. I do know that I can’t avoid the freight trains. I can’t avoid stepping out and living. If I hid, if I stole away from the risk of love and life and being daring and free with my heart, it wouldn’t be worth it.
So I won’t hide my heart. I just won’t. The freight trains will keep coming, but so too will the audacious beauty of having lived.
Give ‘Em Hell