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Since my last post, Quarantine Ghost, I have attempted to write several more entries. I have deleted some, while others sit abandoned, victims of a lack of fortitude when it came to facing down that “publish” button taunting me from the upper right hand corner of my screen. I am still down here trying to write at the bottom of the sea … even less certain now as to whether the surface is still there…

During one writing session, I started thinking about that phrase so often tossed about: what doesn‘t kill you, makes you stronger. This lead, of course, to some time spent, both satisfying my curiosity about where the phrase originated … and, well, spending time just to spend it, to dare it to move forward in an attempt at some distance. Heal my wounds, dammit. That is what you are supposed to do…

As far as the first part of my endeavor … general consensus is that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger comes from something that Nietzsche wrote in 1888:

“’Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens.—Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker,’” which can be translated as “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” It appears in his book of aphorisms, Twilight of the Idols ( )

As for the second half of my endeavor … I did, in fact, pass some time (waste?), but it wasn’t enough to bring me any closer to the surface.

What does it mean when you find that the things that haven’t killed you, haven’t bothered to make you any stronger either? What about when the things that are happening both to you and around you … beating down in waves … are leaving you drained and broken instead? What then? Is it actually supposed to be what doesn’t kill or break you, makes you stronger?

I am broken. I can feel it as surely as I can feel the warmth of the tears that so often slide down my cheeks these days … the lump in my throat. The feelings are there (so many) and as I take in the voices around me (some trying desperately to be heard, while others throw confusion into the air … intentionally and not), and watch reason try to rise above chaos, I will those feelings to work their way down to my hands where I can add my voice in the best way I know how.

I am broken, and as much as I may try to hide it, My Moon, My Sun, and Little Man are aware that something is off. This is probably the part I like the least about being broken, the part about which I feel most guilty. I guess I can hope that by seeing me broken, they will know that it is “ok” to be broken sometimes; that, at times, we need broken to understand what needs to be fixed. I don’t know. I may just be grasping at straws.

I am broken. It actually feels good to admit it, and now that I have, it is somehow easier to see other broken people around me. You see, they are not always obvious. Sometimes they are smiling and going about their business, just like I am. They are laughing and joking … hanging on … hoping. If you happen to meet their eyes when your own broken is showing, there is recognition … a brief shimmer of understanding, perhaps a half smile, or a slight nod and a warmth … maybe even a spark.

What Breaks Us

I think that we can all agree that this has been a difficult year-ish … and that we have collectively been faced with some daunting challenges: some new, like a global pandemic resulting in loss, shut-downs and social distancing when we so badly crave comfort and closeness; and, some not so new, but resurfacing because we have failed to fully meet them in the past, such as the ugliness of racial inequalities.

I think that, against such a stressful backdrop, it is easy to end up broken. We all have things we need to face in our personal lives, as well, and when everything else around you seems like it is crumbling, personal loss, misunderstandings, betrayals, and frustrations can become overwhelming. Imagine that you are in the safety of your home, looking out a window. You see that a storm is starting to brew and the sky is becoming darker. Suddenly, you feel the wind on the back of your neck, your hair begins to blow, and you realize that the only thing there is a window … and the storm is all around you…

We try to compartmentalize in order to better deal, but nobody is equipped with infinite compartments. We try to understand, but there are some things that defy explanation.

All I have are my own experiences, the will to not only be open to, but to actively search out those of others different from myself, and the opinions that subsequently form (opinions which I must never let fully solidify and should frequently revisit). And, of course, research … and so many available resources (an overwhelming number). And, yet, armed with all this, I find myself fundamentally unable to understand certain things.

I find myself personally incapable of understanding how we are unable to unite to fight something as easily identifiable as a threat as … a virus. Are there Save the Viruses groups out there of which I am unaware? Is anyone hesitant to be “too anti-virus” because their cousin’s boyfriend’s aunt is a virus? No. We know that there is a threat, and though we may disagree as to the intensity of the threat or how to meet it, there is absolutely no reason (that I can think of) to attack each other (verbally and otherwise) and to threaten each other instead of bonding together, doing our best to protect each other, and meeting this challenge while engaging in constructive conversations on how best to do it. I don’t understand.

I cannot fathom how the color of someone’s skin or the place of their birth can seemingly blind some people to the point that they are unable (unwilling) to see the similarities we all share … to see that we are all perfectly imperfect human beings. I get that differences can sometimes be intimidating, but mightn’t our own differences be just as intimidating to others?

I also cannot comprehend how anyone can prioritize possessions over people’s lives… I just can’t. I understand the hardships that come from facing the challenges before us, but I am confident that we can rise up, resolve them together all the while remembering that material things are just things.

It crushes my soul when I hear certain things come out of the mouths of people I love and respect… people who I have seen at their best … who have been there for me in my times of need. It hurts even more when they are voiced in a way that makes me understand that the person in question actually thinks I could agree with what is being said. I have always tried to be polite and accepting … I have not hidden my own thoughts and feelings, but I have tried to convey them in the most gentle and non-judgmental way I can. That said, I realize that if this is continuing to happen … if there is even the slightest doubt as to whether I may agree with certain statements or am at all comfortable with them, then I am obviously NOT being clear enough. I don’t want to lose friends and I will always be there when someone needs me, but I need to do everything in my power … I will do everything in my power to make sure that it is clear that I am not on any kind of fence when it comes to issues like those of race and equality. In the current times, simply leading by example is not enough. Actions may speak louder than words, but actions together with words are even stronger.

…and the fact that I (or anyone for that matter) care about a certain issue does not mean that other issues are not important to me. It is 100% possible to care about more than one thing at a time, but feel the need to address … to focus on … certain problems at certain times. Telling me that, because I care about racial inequality, I must not care about the lives of those dedicated to our protection does not make any sense and is a distraction. There are plenty of issues out there … plenty of injustices … plenty of pain … but if we do not address any of them because we can’t take them all down at once, we accomplish nothing.

With all this defying reason, and tearing at my heart and soul, am I surprised that one more tug, one more loss, on a more personal plane, could shatter me? Not really.

Picking up the Pieces

In the end, when you are broken, I suppose it matters less what the final hit was and more what you do about it.

I have been broken before, and eventually found myself whole once again … perhaps a bit chipped, but whole.

And, it turns out there is a lot that you can do when you are broken … while you are trying to gather up the pieces.

You can listen and learn … try to understand. There will be things that you may never comprehend. Accept it and look to the things that you can. Look to the things that can change … that you can help change, and do what you can to change them. Don’t limit your focus to your own shattered pieces: if you widen your view, you will see so many pieces from so many other broken people.

In the end, you may not need all of your pieces in order to be whole again. It may, in fact, be better to shed some, to leave them for others … to make space so that their pieces can, in turn, help you to mend.

-photo credit to Lauren Chasey-

Now, to face that damned “publish” button…

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