I wasn’t held for the first 8 weeks of my life.
In fact, aside from nurses coming to change out tubes inside my incubator, I didn’t get much at all in the way of human touch until I was 2 months old. At this point, the role of physical interaction with babies as it relates to cognitive and nervous system health is undisputed. For reasons I’ll not delve into now, my traumatic birth led to some lifelong obstacles; this unfortunate touch deprivation meant I began life from a place of scarcity.
Severity has always fascinated me, likely due to my decades of experience swinging back and forth between scarcity-based living and abundance-based living. The harshness of the desert, for example, is made even more starkly beautiful when life manages to flourish in it against all odds. My time spent living in New Mexico provided some quality time with the unforgiving High Desert, and I was happy to spend it alone. To this day, I am far more comfortable with my own company than that of others, and I didn’t begin to value shared experiences until recently.
I would watch in awe — in love, really — during monsoon season in the desert, as the fallow land was overwhelmed by the sudden downpour it had needed for so long. It was the ultimate game of abundance vs. scarcity, and even in the middle of the desert, abundance always won when it did come around. Unable to permeate the hardened soil, rainwater would flood the valley and fill in the cracks in the ground. Life does find a way.
In an unexpected turn of events, I found that my time spent as a desert hermit primed me to become capable of receiving love and affection. I moved back home and met a wonderful man who I love so fully that my smiles sometimes ache with bittersweet bewilderment, and I see him experience that same dichotomy in certain shared moments. I never knew how refreshing a monsoon of abundance could be, and sometimes I still brace myself for the power it wields. I find myself humbly yielding to the constant showers of genuine affection, and they replenish me to the point of actually being willing and able to give plenty back. We’re happily stuck in a reciprocal perpetuation of abundance, and it’s a wonderfully ridiculous experience to have.
It’s especially important to find abundance within yourself to give to others if you’re facing your own mortality.
I’ve been undergoing one medical problem after another for months on end, and the answers I do have about my health so far are intimidating and terrifying. If you think you might be on your way out, you find you have a way of forging ahead and flourishing. Your roots reach into all the surrounding crevices to savor every last drop of nourishment. You persist. You conserve. You give more life to what’s around you to the best of your ability. You breathe in the stillness of each moment with the people you love, and you gaze up at the night sky a little more. As a friend with stage 4 breast cancer told me when she accompanied me on a recent medical trip, “Even if you do have the worst diagnosis possible, you will find a strength in you that you didn’t know you had.”
The sad truth is that most people do live in a scarcity mindset, because they assume they’ve got Time, and they base everything around this ticking, tocking, linear concept. We put things off til tomorrow until we run out of tomorrows. We use the seconds, minutes, and hours to escape life rather than live inside of it. Those who have lived long enough to be aware that their end is near have the luxury of having lived this way, but really, they could’ve been cut short at any point along the way. They placed their bets on the same thing everyone else does, and Lady Luck is no philanthropist. We don’t all get to be right. Death finds a way just as easily as life does. I always imagined Life and Death as entities who have an eternal love affair; they bring meaning to one another, and the (re)cycling of life is mutually beneficial for both.
I will always remember this love affair when I look at a Joshua tree; they flourish only in the harshest climate, and I aspire to be so impossible. No matter what does or doesn’t lie ahead for me, I do know this: my cup is overflowing for the first time in my life, and I am fully saturated with equal parts love and fear. It is the most real I have ever felt. There is no distraction from the passage of time, nor from the immense gratitude I feel for each moment I’m able to spend nourishing and being nourished. This particular brand of existential discomfort is as necessary as the desert rain beating down on the deprived soil.
With a bittersweet smile, I let it all fill me up.