fragile resilience: grief, knowledge, & showing up.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the weekly newsletter as I always do. It was full of the tricky territory of grief, of still living here, knowing that what I’ve built, what we’ve built, can be swept away in an instant. An ordinary instant.

Shortly after I sent that newsletter out, I received news that a dear friend’s son had been in a horrible accident. An instant. An ordinary instant.

What I had written just days before blazed into life: how do we live here, how do I live here, knowing that everything can change? Knowing what I know about the fragility of life? How can I live here, knowing that I don’t know anything at all about what is to come?

How can any of us who have lived intense grief, who know far too well that the unusual and unlikely do in fact happen, all the time – how do we keep showing up? 

It’s not a question with an answer. It’s an edge even I don’t like to walk. But it’s there, it’s constant. The knowledge that every beautiful thing can disappear, and yet we make beauty anyway.

The knowledge that when we choose to love, we choose to face death and grief and loss, again and again and again, just as much as we choose the friendlier parts of love.

It’s all there, present and contained, in everything.

So, my friends, today’s post is part of that newsletter I sent out a couple weeks ago. Because this is such a tricky thing, this love, this living here, it’s all worth saying again:

When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I knew I was moving to a place full of rivers. Yet somehow I didn’t realize what it would be like for me to live in a place full of rivers.

Watching my partner drown in a fast moving river has changed my experience of water. I mean… obviously. The tricky thing is that I still love rivers. I still need them. When I first saw the Columbia River as I drove into Oregon, I burst into tears. I was home, and I knew it. I knew this was the river that would take me back home.

The reality, though, is less poetic and more forcefully brutal: as the weather warms and I begin to wander the shorelines with new friends, the fragility of life-as-we-know-it shouts extremely loud. Being at the waters’ edge, I can’t shake that intense feeling that everything I have worked so hard for could disappear in an instant. Again.

Standing in the shallows, watching seals chase the salmon, I found myself saying to a friend, “Could you do your best to not die, here in the river with me? I know it’s not totally in your control, but really – please try your best not to die.”

I know what that’s like. I don’t want to live it again. With as strong as I am, with as strong and resilient as I have become, I know it could all disappear in an instant. My beautiful life is transient. Temporary. Not safe from anything, though not in danger either.

All of us, each one of us here, knows how suddenly, how irreversibly, life can change. In an instant. And yet we are still here. Still doing our best to live in this unstable, unpredictable life, where everything we build can be swept away at any time.

We do our best to show up, to love, to keep loving, even when we know nothing in this life lies inside our control.

How do we do it? How do we continue to live here, in this fragile, resilient existence, knowing what we know? How do we keep exploring, growing, connecting, knowing that indeed, yes: it could happen again?

For me, these days, this means moving slowly, with intention and gentleness for myself. It means being honest about my fears while not letting those fears shove me into a tiny, unsatisfied life.

It means coming back to the water.


How about you? Are there places that the tenuous nature of life shines (or shouts) most clearly? How do you keep showing up, knowing things can change at any time?

As always, I love your questions and your comments. Send me a message. I’d love to hear from you.