When you let love in after years of shutting it out, you find out you’ve barricaded yourself against everyone who has a place in your life. You learn that safety doesn’t come from the absence of danger, but from the knowledge that you’re profoundly loved. All the world’s sharp and jagged edges begin to look benign because life can hurt you. It can even harm you, but it can never isolate you.
I’ll tell you a story. Since my mother was diagnosed with cancer almost six years ago, I’ve held the entire universe at arm’s length. The earth became a sinister place because, for a while, I saw it through the lens of human impermanence. We all die. The earth knows it, and so must you.
I’ll give you a puzzle: after you lose someone you deeply loved, how do forget that everyone you love will die?
I’ll tell you my solution: Keep them all out. Feel nothing. Say nothing. Become comfortable with solitude.
I’ll tell you a consequence: Suddenly, the earth is made of granite and soot.
I’ll tell you a secret: Even if you manage to keep your barriers up, you will grieve every loss. I’ve lived an unshared life, and it achieved nothing beyond this granite. You cannot prevent yourself from feeling any more than you can become invisible by shutting your eyes. Those emotions will still be there, unacknowledged, until they bubble out in a gorgeous mess of lava.