The months following my father's death, I was convinced I would never laugh hard again. You know, that gut-splitting laugh, the kind that makes it difficult to breathe. I mean, how could I? My father whom I adored--my friend, my fan-club president, my protector and ally was gone. Then one day, many months later, it was summertime and I was walking in the Village. I heard a song playing by The Jackson 5 and right there on the corner of Bleeker and West 3rd, I, the saddest girl in the city, started dancing. Then laughing. Hard. It just happened.
I was still sad after that moment, after that day--and of course I've experienced more since, and for all sorts of reasons. But what remains the same, is that at the core of all sadness, is a heart that's either breaking or mending.
I was once a 3-year-old girl who feared her parents would be kidnapped by masked men, then I was an 8-year-old girl who cried when it rained because dogs and cats were outside, cold and hungry in the streets. I was a 20-year-old who sometimes couldn't sleep, imagining the elderly being abused, then I was a woman of 40 who went to bed for days after the first bomb was dropped on Baghdad.
A broken heart, a longing to turn life into art because that's what we all know it is--and the pain because there's no needle to stick inside you, no way to inject beauty and love into your veins, no way to feed your soul fast enough no matter how intense your craving.
I'm not someone who has a cocktail at night or watches TV in an attempt to escape my truth. I stare at walls, seeking balance and peace while wanting to explode inside a piece of music or catch fire inside sexual connection and romantic love. I'm hungry for life, hungry for art, hungry to be tamed and freed. I am no longer the girl who pities herself, nor do I place more importance on war than on my own grief.
Schools without books or a stain on your grandmother's quilt. The death of a soldier or saying goodbye as your dog is put to sleep. Hurt feelings on the schoolyard or a major election creeping from behind as the world holds its breath. It's all the same--a collective conscious and unconsciousness, with a self-help book by the bed, its brave but ineffective attempt to take existential loneliness to the battlefields and win.
I am a 45-year-old woman who no longer gives up but who always surrenders. I fight then drop the sword. I fall apart then stand. I hate myself, I love myself, and even when I am overcome by injustice and loss, I can laugh--and I can laugh hard.