It must have been so easy, I think to myself. Sitting in a car seat just looking around. Waiting for a grownup to come along and give you a bottle or plop you down in a high chair and cut your cream cheese and jelly bagel into tiny bite-sized pieces. Sure, you're one hundred percent vulnerable and exist at the whim of the adults around you. On some level you know this, that you could literally be sitting in your own shit for hours. But if you're consistently well cared for, it probably barely registers.
You're a blank slate of potential, cabined only by your genes, your environment, and luck. In other words: everything. You have no idea what's coming: the inevitable trauma of existing.
Life is a total shit show and it beats every last one of us to a bloody pulp in one way or another. No one wants to say that out loud because it’s a scary fact to face. No one gets out of here alive. And no one gets out without taking a few knocks and bearing a few scars. There are so many shitty things that happen to every one of us. You can feel grateful for your blessings while at the same time acknowledging how hard it is just to BE.
The vulnerability of infancy never really goes away. Yes, you're in control, but not really. You realize that you're the grownup now, and you can eat Apple Jax for dinner if you want, and maybe you feel like life is good but sometimes it's just awful and your sense of control reveals itself to be an illusion.
Maybe your kid goes to rehab or overdoses, or is bullied in school, or is the bully, or gets into a car accident with a drunk driver. Maybe you get raped or molested. Maybe your best friend dies of breast cancer. Maybe you see their body taken away on a stretcher. Maybe you get fired from a job you loved. Maybe someone you trusted betrays you. Maybe you have a chronic mental illness that keeps you in bed, unable to move, for weeks at a time. Maybe you can't pay your bills. Maybe your spouse leaves you for somebody else. Maybe your ex is a stalker or impossible co-parent who doesn't pay child support. Maybe you fall down some stairs and end up in a wheelchair. Maybe your computer fries in the sun and you lose the novel you've been writing for five years. Maybe your house burns down and takes all your family heirlooms with it. Maybe you finally have to put your dog down--your loyal companion for so long. Maybe you screw up and go to jail. Maybe you run away from a good thing because you're self-defeating and scared.
Maybe that feeling of vulnerability--that inevitable trauma of existing--is enough to make you curl up into a tiny ball, put your hands behind your neck and your head between your legs and earbuds in your ears, under a weighted blanket, in the dark. As dark as you can make a room, and you feel like life finally has you beat in the seventeenth round.
But then there are glimmers of light. Like maybe you fall in love again. Maybe your kid wins a soccer scholarship. Maybe you stand on a mountain ridge under the sun with your friends, your cheeks ruddy and the wind in your hair and your damp butt on a mossy rock, and you look out over the ocean and taste sea salt on the smushed cheese sandwich from the bottom of your backpack, and it's the best thing you ever ate. Maybe tears form in your eyes while you're skiing down a mountain listening to the Beatles or watching the sun melt into the horizon on a faraway beach. Maybe something makes you laugh so hard you almost burst.
Maybe someone bakes you a pie, or knits you a hat, or invites you to a party, or buys you lunch, or writes you a letter, or a song. Maybe you write your own songs or buy someone else lunch. Maybe you feel the rush of performing in a play or telling a story to an audience. Maybe you get a promotion. Maybe you learn to play the guitar. Maybe you finish your degree. Maybe you save someone's life without knowing it, or they save yours. Maybe you put your head on someone's shoulder or they put theirs on yours. That's the good news.
The good news is that human connection, love, and empathy are First Aid for the inevitable trauma of existing.