When I feel lucky.
When I eat a hot bowl of chili and sip a cool bottle of hard cider and appreciate how delicious it all is.
When I snuggle up on the couch with David to watch TV, and Cooper clamors on top of us and pushes his way under the covers and I feel so happy that they're both mine and I get to hang out with them every day.
When Little Mac's antics make me laugh.
When I have a conversation with a friend and afterward I feel like I can take a deep breath for the first time in days, and I'm grateful for these people.
When I leave a yoga class and I'm so stretched and relaxed and focused that I ride that high all the way home.
When I grade a quiz and see how much one of my students has improved, and I feel like I am actually teaching them something.
When I watch Parks and Recreation and it's so funny I laugh out loud, really loud.
When I redecorate our backroom a hundred times in my head, entertaining myself for hours as I rearrange furniture and imagine how it might all turn out.
There are moments when my life isn't just bearable, it's actually enjoyable. It's a good life. Almost a great one. My sadness for Eliza exists right alongside all of those moments, but it does not wholly overshadow them.
I have grieved for that baby girl as intensely as I could possibly grieve for anyone. I continue to mourn her loss, as I will do every day until forever. But the truth is, there are moments when life gets a little of its sparkle back--a glimmer, a sheen. It might be gone in an instant, but I'm trying to appreciate those moments for what they are. Not signs that I'm "over it" or that I'm "okay again," but signs that life is full of gifts to help balance our heartaches.
I'm learning we need to clutch our joy at least as as tightly as we hold our grief. Because the hard part never goes away, and if that's all we focus on, we miss out on so much of the good.
In the early days, that lesson was wasted on me. I lived and breathed my grief and it was all-consuming. These days, I'm trying to appreciate the good that comes my way. It will never be good enough. It will never make up for what's been lost. But life can be terribly, horrifically, unbelievably shitty. So if a bowl of chili and a bottle of hard cider gives me a reprieve from the sadness, I'll take it. And I won't feel bad about it, or guilty that I'm somehow being disloyal to her memory, because I know that no matter what happens, I'll never, ever in a million years have enough joy to make up for the sadness of Eliza's death. But I'm starting to see that this doesn't mean I can't have any happiness at all.
The poet Jack Gilbert writes, We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.
I've never had a problem being stubborn. And the analogy of a ruthless furnace seems a pretty apt description of the world I'm currently living in. So this is where I am--try to accept my gladness when it comes, and trusting that when it goes, it will return again. Life is hard. But there are moments when it's a little softer.