This won’t last forever.

That was the thought I used to comfort myself as I drifted back into a fitful sleep, that had been interrupted by yet another little person, heaving over me, into bed.

How many times have I breathed this mantra in and exhaled it out throughout my short lifetime? Not only as a way to navigate through the hard things, but in delight and gratitude for the beautiful things in my life, as well.

I find myself whispering these four words when I’m out for a run- gulping for air, legs aching, sweat pouring down my face- my God, it’s HARD. That’s why it took me almost 38 years to even try it. I get to my half-way mark and feel relief. Relief to have made it this far, relief and grace- that my lungs are still working- my heart is still pumping, my legs are getting stronger every day. Just a regular day, out in the woods, the brilliant sun weaving her way in and out of the clouds; in this moment I can appreciate it for everything that it is. She finds shelter and rests in the safety of the sky. The moment is over- it was fleeting, it couldn’t last.

The memory of lying paralyzed by grief, in the center of a cold tile floor, lost in a pit of despair that the death of my mother had kicked me into. How do I survive when the only person who knows me- who REALLY knows me, has vanished. Ragged breaths get caught between my curses. Immovable, on my back, the loss so heavy on my chest, I can barely sit up. I Lock myself behind closed doors. My world has ended, and another one, the emptiest of existences, has begun.

It can’t feel like this forever- I moan repeatedly into the rubber of a mat. It’s not humanly possible to feel this way for too long; I think I would like to die.

My ears, waking up in a cold hard space by the chirping and twirling of desert swallows, warbling me back to my reality- All this before I can find the courage to even open my eyes. Staring up at the clear and infinite blue above me, and when I finally feel strong enough, whispering to myself, “This can’t last forever…”- before lifting my head to meet the day. The day that would bring me release, the night that would bring me a miracle of the most intrepid kind.

Gunfire, breathing, endings that can’t be described.

Shaking, and sinking, if only to be invisible for just a bit of time.

Oh, God, OH MY GOD. This can’t last forever.

It took some time to understand, but forever will never come.

Cold and lonely winter nights, broken hearts, cracked promises, fear of the unknown, dread of the all too well known. Financial burdens paralyzing even the most prepared, the mystery of physical pain, and the suffering that comes along with misunderstandings. The shock of saying good-bye too soon, all of it, is like a brick in our coat pocket. When we first discover it there, it is all we can think about, the weight of it, its existence, throwing us off balance, as we try to survive another day.

But after some time, we discover that we will grow used to the weight of our perceived burden, and we will repeatedly, and sometimes absentmindedly, slide our hand inside our pocket in order to make sure that it hasn’t gone away, because it’s OURS to carry. No one can take it from us, and even if they could, we wouldn’t let them anyway.

The load will not go away, but be assured, the heaviness of it does. After some reflection we see that the actual weight of our experience and its impact on our life has not lessened, but our perception of its burden will.

It’s just us that does the changing, our ideas around the pain, our belief about our own suffering, and with it comes the yin and the yang- the good with the bad, the constant with the fluidity.

We see that we must hurt in order to appreciate how beautiful it really is to feel good.

We must grieve in order to understand the depth of a love that was even possible to belong to us in the first place.

We must struggle so that we won’t pass up the gift to help.

We must break, so that we can understand it is not all ours to carry.

We must go without so that we appreciate the times when we there is plenty.

We must fight so that we can understand why peace is so absolutely necessary.

We must suffer in order to understand we never really can.

The brilliant thinker, Ursula Le Buin once said that, “Light is the left hand of darkness…how did it go?

Light, dark.

Fear, courage.

Cold, warmth.

Female, male.

It is yourself…both and one.

A shadow on snow.”

So, I wonder, how long will the shadow on snow last? How long will the snow be here?

And while it was just the middle of the night, pitter patter of four- year old little feet, that led to the inevitable little boy body crawling over me to find a pillow and a safe spot to rest, I couldn’t help but see the yin to the yang as I lay there with his ever growing hand, lightly clasping mine.

My sleep deprived mind called out into the darkness: ‘How long is this going to last?’

And as we both fell back into that beautiful space of sleep, my aching heart whispered back:

“Nothing, not even this-can last forever.”