Love Note to Life: Keep Breathing, Believe it’s Enough

Love Note to Life: Keep Breathing, Believe it’s Enough

by Stefani Rossi October 04, 2018 6 Comments

In just over 3 months, I will become 3 years younger than my father was when he died without warning. The closer I get to that number, the more sobered I am by how young he was. Even more than that, I am sobered by how much he accomplished during his life, and—comparatively speaking—how much I have not.

I have not nurtured connection with an intimate partner for any length of time, let alone for almost 30 years. I have not managed to become someone’s priority, to inspire love notes, or to trust that someone would stick around if we had a had a knock-down-drag-out fight. I have not procreated and then lovingly raised children. I have not read them stories, tutored them in homework, or made space for them to be curious and feel cherished. I have not purchased a house or financed a mortgage with enough stability that the people residing in that home are free from anxiety regarding where they will lay their heads at night.

While I have earned an advanced degree, it is not in a field that helped advance diagnostic and curative medicine, but instead is one that garners little respect, is considered unimportant, and often is believed not to require much skill. I have not managed to sustain a collegiate teaching career. Nor have I contributed to my field of study in a way that merits posthumous accolades from my professional organization. (Indeed, my professional organization knows of my existence only through archived membership rosters). While I have accumulated copious skills, I have not monetized them—or my training, really—in a way that advances long-term goals. My hobbies have not produced work that became part of a national treasure that was recently restored, preserved, and had a book written about it.

The life I’ve curated feels so small compared to all of that, and what I've listed isn't even the complete picture.

I cannot see how, in the next three years—or even in the next 30—I’d realistically be able to close that gap. In order not to be crushed by the weight of unmet potential and expectation, I look toward my own life, to acknowledge what I have done.

I have known heartbreak. I am acquainted with being passed over, with foolishly investing in, or even loving people who are never likely to love me back. Still, I have loved. I have mourned losses—some that still cause my breath to catch in my throat. I know what it feels like to have life shrink in a heartbeat and to be a little bitch-slapped by circumstances. And though there are some setbacks that I have not yet managed to move past, I have managed to pick up, rebuild, and move forward—even if the forward motion  a little clumsy.

I am still here.

I have hiked the mountains of Hiroshima before dawn to see the sun rise over the clouds that sink low beneath the peaks. I have climbed to the top of the Duomo and looked out over the city on a day with brilliant blue sky. I have sipped tea slowly with people in an arid garden in China. An old man, whose name I will never know, kissed my cheek outside of a bank in Tirana. Later, in Korçe and Pogradeç, I learned to savor Turkish Coffee and unhurried games of backgammon. I have watched the sun set over the Aegean Sea.

I lingered into the wee hours of morning on a dock in Catalina to laugh and watch shooting stars with a friend. I raised my voice in song to celebrate the weddings of friends or to help others celebrate life. I have composed words and sent them to the mailboxes and desks—some belonging to friends, some not. And while I don’t know how those words have landed, I knew they were right to send. I have made things of beauty, and while they are unlikely to ever be housed in a museum, they have been enjoyed, and some have even been memorable.

People on two different continents have re-named me: “praiseworthy fragrance” and “maker of safe spaces.” I have cultivated gardens even in limited plots of soil; that has made me more whole. And I have cultivated friendships, a few of which merit dropping everything when it’s needed. Those, too, make me more whole. I have gathered people who would not have otherwise connected for leisurely meals, and I’ve delighted to see them discover common ground and mutual enjoyment. I have learned to laugh more easily and be present with people who are in pain. I have chosen to be generous even when it’s foolish, because I have grown to dislike the feel of myself when I am stingy.

I have been a student of people and their stories. And for nearly 3 decades I have been a student—perhaps a poor one, but a student all the same—of ancient texts and poetry that ask me to believe this: that the metrics by which our society assesses and assigns worth are not very consistent or reliable or fair; they depend upon chance as much as they do on choice, and often they diminish important things that ought to be seen and celebrated. These stories and songs exhort me to believe that life—no matter its trappings—is a gift, that to rise in the morning with breath in one’s lungs should inspire songs of gratitude.

On some days, that’s easier to believe than others.

When I look at what I have done in light of what I have not, it’s hard to imagine that my collection of days matter all that much, or—in the grand scheme of things—that they amount to much significance.

But I know they are meaningful.
And I am still here.
And I still have breath in my lungs.
How can I keep from singing?

---------

You might also like The Meaning is in the Waiting

 

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash




Stefani Rossi
Stefani Rossi

Author

Stefani Rossi studied painting and printmaking at the University of Puget Sound. In 2010 she received her MFA in painting from Colorado State University. Her work has been exhibited nationally in solo and group exhibitions. Stefani served as Ruminate Magazine's visual art editor from 2008-2017. More of Stefani’s work can be viewed at www.stefanirossi.com



6 Responses

Stefani
Stefani

October 21, 2018

@YAJAIRA,
Keep singing. Keep bringing yourself to this wide and wonderful and mysterious, bewildering, heartbreaking, ad magical world. So glad that you are part of Ruminate’s community.

Yajaira
Yajaira

October 17, 2018

“On some days, that’s easier to believe than others.” I am reading this one one of the days when it isn’t easy to believe it, but after reading this I am reminded of all those songs and of the breath in my lungs. Thank you for your beautiful words and for the reminders. Thank you for making it a little easier to believe.

Stefani
Stefani

October 08, 2018

@Laurie Klein—
I love the way you distilled the thoughts!
Thank you for reading, and for sharing parts of our stories in tandem!

Stefani
Stefani

October 08, 2018

@Madeline Tooney—
Thanks for reading! I’m always thankful for the Ruminate reader community.
May you enjoy the Autumn months ahead! :)

Madeline Twooney
Madeline Twooney

October 07, 2018

Stefani, this is so poetic. I also love the names you have been given by others: “praiseworthy fragrance” and “maker of safe spaces". They are precious, valued and insightful acknowledgements of your character. Wonderful!

Laurie Klein
Laurie Klein

October 07, 2018

“Still, I have loved. … I am still here. … I have made things of beauty … I have been a student of people and their stories … and of important things that ought to be seen and celebrated.”

I am grateful to be one of many touched by your deeply meaningful life and friendship, artistry and hospitality.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up. We don't allow comments that are disrespectful or personally attack our blog writers.


Also in Ruminate Blog

Faith and Femininity
Faith and Femininity

by Ananda-mayi dasi December 13, 2018

When I watched my ponytail fall to the floor, I was surprised by the lurch in my stomach. The definite markings of my femininity would soon be swept into the forest, leaving uncertainty: How would I embody femininity now that I had chosen to withdraw from traditional feminine expectations? 

Read More

The Grace of Waiting and Its End
The Grace of Waiting and Its End

by Sophfronia Scott December 11, 2018 1 Comment

There’s a magic that comes of waiting and watching—a magic only apparent when the waiting is over. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Queen of Waiting. I have no problem waiting out anything, even if it takes years. I have a patience born of soap operas.

Read More

Small Miracles & Happy Dances
Small Miracles & Happy Dances

by Brianna Van Dyke December 07, 2018

With each order that comes through we seriously do a happy dance knowing that the good work of our contributors will be seen and held by more hearts and our little nonprofit is earning the funds that will help us start the new year strong. Our staff is deeply encouraged as we witness each intimate act of one human sharing something they love with another. 

Read More