I used to zip my lips to pretend I agree with the surprise. I don’t suffer from anxiety or depression, but I know what it’s like to appear to “have it all” and still rot on the inside, feeling completely lost and meaningless. In the past when I read about those who took their life, I’d wonder how far, or close, I am from their footsteps.
Whether the issue is mental illness or not, the expectation that the smart, capable, wealthy or privileged among us can figure their life out on their own is a blindfold and a no-entry sign we put up to our suffering loved ones. Over time that expectation can seem to say “Stop whining. You don’t even have a reason to be miserable”.
“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.” – Tara Westover
This statement by Tara Westover got me diving straight into her memoir, Educated.
First I learned of a world, a Mormon family in the mountains of Idaho, that paralleled in time to mine but sounded to my foreign ears like a tale from a distant past.
Then when Westover shows that love trickles even through the abusive and controlling family relationships from which she painfully left, it confronts me with two of life’s paradoxes that feel impossible to hold.
First, people can love us deeply and hurt us with their best intentions.
Second, we may remove ourselves from those relationships in spite of love, as Westover shows by example, though initially not without guilt towards the people we cut off.
And she also shares how she found her ground:
“I shed my guilt when I accepted my decision on its own terms, without endlessly prosecuting old grievances, without weighing his sins against mine. Without thinking of my father at all. I learned to accept my decision for my own sake, because of me, not because of him. Because I needed it, not because he deserved it.”
– Educated: a memoir, Tara Westover
The Starbucks barista called my name, produced my drink, while not missing a beat swaying to the music they’re playing. I thanked her and walked away as usual, but perhaps it was how she was still dancing to herself that I felt something more. I warmed with the knowledge that while the drink was nothing to her, just one in a thousand and counting, but to me, she just made the only thing I know that will help me through this dreary afternoon. I’m suddenly so grateful for her. Not only am I lucky enough to be able to pay for what I want, but someone is there to make it when I needed it.
OK, I hear someone say I’m being overly sentimental. But, more so than the hot chocolate, this surge of gratitude was the best thing I’ve experienced all day.