It is de rigeur, I believe, when one is afflicted, to declare the illness a "blessing in disguise." To offer up a little chicken soup for the soul.* To draw the public eye to the less frightening bright side of the situation, and in so doing, one's own eye as well.
I won't bother with the "in disguise" part. Because you know what, shit happens. Shit happens to everybody. Somebody is always sick or hurt or sad or low, someone can't afford some important thing they need to live, someone is in jail or bailing someone out of jail or sitting in the fucking courtroom again waiting to forgive a son for stealing her savings. The bad stuff is guaran-damn-teed.
So there's no disguise to it. There's just life, happening the way it does.
Blessings sure do abound, though. In my eyes a blessing is anything that emerges above the roiling sea of inevitable crap: sometimes a life preserver, sometimes a floating pile of debris to hang on to. Sometimes a boat full of people, arms reaching in to haul you out. Whole islands upthrust from the sea floor. It never comes in the form you expect, and you won't see it coming.
Grace means a mercy unearned, but really that's any goodness at all. Because you don't earn the things that happen to you, bad or good. There's no great tally somewhere in the sky and if you think that's what karma means, then you better RTFM**. Blessings, grace, it's all religious-sounding language but them's just the tools I have in my hands, you know? I think you know what I mean.
Whatever it is, it shows up in sharpest relief when the sea is darkest.
So yes, maybe it's a little gray around here, of late. Not unrelentingly. But I have seen so many of your hands extended to me. So many, I don't know, styrofoam coolers tossed my way. (Those float, right?). Sandbars under the waves, places I can stand with my head above water even when I'm not all the way out and sometimes I find myself, unexpectedly, walking on land. And this grace, it has appeared from unforeseen corners. People near and distant share things, my God, I had no idea -- good things, bad things, ways we are alike I never would have guessed. People have been kind, forgiving, gracious. I have done the same, offered up little shoulder-squeezes that felt so inadequate, but I get it now, how even the simplest stumbliest help is such a comfort. Just to have the roughness acknowledged. And then, you know, a story shared, a resource pointed out, banana bread, let me watch your kids for an hour.
This is how we don't drown.
Forgive me, now, for switching metaphors in midstream: You know what it is? When the bad things happen and the good things happen too? It's chicken manure. (Hey, man, it's one thing in which my life is ever rich.) It's the shit that happens, it's piles of crap that build up in astonishing quantities. It needs shoveling out or the fumes will sear your chickens' lungs. You can't put it directly on your garden; it's too hot with nitrogen, it'll burn your plants.
So you throw it in the compost pile with all the odds and ends from the kitchen and yard, zucchini ends and coffee grounds and onion skins, dead leaves, the plants that died. You let it sit, grow horrible with larva (which the chickens eat, which make the eggs so rich; that's a metaphor for another day), but when the season turns you return to it, and it's something almost magical: rich, black, fresh-smelling, the best thing to feed your garden, wholesome and useful.
If you're lucky. If there is grace. If the bad things don't kill you, as does happen. You wait a few turns of the season. And while you are looking away, shoveling shit in other places, something rich and useful becomes yours: different, for sure, from what it was before, but maybe better.
You all, you all are helping, whether you mean to, whether you know it or not. Everyone. A cashier who smiles, someone liking a stupid Facebook status, a story shared in private, a little forgiveness for some social misstep. Every kindness, every interaction. Every connection.
I have faith this time will feed some tree I haven't even thought to plant yet. I trust I will not drown.
**Look it up.