I recently followed a writing prompt that suggested: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
A tough one, in a year where I mostly felt dead. But let’s see…
The moment that comes up most vividly is a recent event, one that happened during the very first date with the guy I’m seeing. I’d squeezed between tables to sit on the bench seat–something I’m now certain must have driven him a bit nuts since he prefers to sit in view of the door.
As my initial discomfort faded and I began to really want to see him again, I realized I was going to have to tell him about my son, Teddy’s, death. The idea of it made me shake. So I drew a deep breath, plunged in, and as I spoke, everything receded.
We were in a bubble, he and I; no more babbling voices, no awareness of the people on either side of me, so close I had accidentally touched the man next to me when gesturing. My guy reached across the table for my shaking hand as he listened, and then his face, his entire being, became still. His eyes–glistening, intent, looking deep, not turning away like so many tend to do, but with an element of shock reflected within–they held mine, intensely, and when I was through, he said, ‘damn–this is scary’ and then told me about Kelsey, the daughter he raised much like Ed (my ex) raised Erin, who died of an aneurysm just before her 7th birthday.
Sitting at that table, united by our clasped hands, our shared experience, our love of children who no longer grace this earth, I felt everything shift. All of me. And while I’m not sure if I felt more alive in that moment than ever before, I certainly felt more seen. More connected. More hopeful. More sad and at the same time, relieved. And I knew there really was something powerful at work, that brought us together.
I just realized my previous definition of ‘feeling alive’ was associated only with feeling good. A ‘mountain top’ experience, like the births of my three children or hiking to the top of the Apennines with friend Kate and twirling in a high meadow while singing ‘the hills are alive.’ These represent for me the pinnacles of joy.
But what I now realize is that in this experience with this man, in this moment, I truly was more alive–more integrated. This ‘aliveness’ encompassed all of me–us–grief and joy, shared experience, connection and loss, deep appreciation and the possibility of love. The totality. And that is what it means to be alive. At least for me.