Updated: Apr 1, 2020
This is a story about an invisible orb. The orb is invisible because it does not exist. It does not exist because it cannot exist. Because it is impossible to place an orb of protection around all the people you love.
For as long as I can remember, I have desperately wished that I could cover all my loved ones under an umbrella of safety and health and happiness, and yet this is an impossible thing to wish for. So impossible that it is ridiculous to even wish for it in the first place. I suppose I should call it an imaginary orb instead of an invisible orb since it can never exist outside of my imagination. But my anxious heart and worrying mind can’t help themselves. Why can’t all the people that mean so much to me be protected from everything bad in the world? And all the people they love too? And also all the people those people love? I realize this wish would go on infinitely until every single human, and probably every dog, was untouchable by the negative forces of the world, which makes it extra impossible. In a way, that is a beautiful thing because it means everyone is so loved by at least one other person. But this proves to be a problem when wishing for an orb of protection over every loved one on the long chain of loved ones in this human existence on Earth. So could you fellow humans stop having so much love for one another?! It’s seriously ruining the odds of my protective orb!
In the hopes of making this orb miraculously come to life, I often find myself doing something unusual when I’m alone with my anxious thoughts. It may not actually be that unusual. I’m talking about… praying? I suppose that is the word. Or maybe visualizing or manifesting or whatever the spiritual gurus are calling it these days. I don’t pray in a “Dear Jesus, please forgive me for my sins” kind of way, obviously, but rather in a “maybe if I put this out into the universe, something good will come of it” way. I realize there’s a chance that the good that comes of this practice may simply be the smidgen of peace it brings me to believe that my speaking to an unknown higher power that I may or may not believe in will somehow prevent any of my fears from becoming a reality. This in itself is a calming and powerful effect not to be overlooked. But for whatever reason, it feels good to have hope that maybe the universe is listening, and that maybe praying that everyone I love will be safe and healthy will result in them all actually being, you know, safe and healthy. Even so, I know there is no magical orb that can be placed around my family and friends, no matter how badly I want it or how hard I hope for it. I know the world is unpredictable and uncontrollable, and that knowledge brings me more anxiety than I know what to do with.
How selfish and naive of me to believe that I deserve to be protected from the agony of suffering more than anyone else.
Even though I wish this orb could extend over everyone in the world, it is far more terrifying to imagine that pain in my own life since this is the only existence I know; this is the only human form and set of emotional attachments that I can fully understand from my limited perspective. I can see only through my own eyes and feel only with my own heart, so naturally, I am most fearful of experiencing loss in my own tiny blimp of existence. I know humans who have lost their siblings to cancer, to drunk drivers, to drug addictions. Humans who have lost the love of their life, their parents, their closest friends. Every single day, these people live with unimaginable voids in their hearts, waking up each morning unsure whether they feel blessed to be alive or cursed that they’re forced to live another day without the person who once made their world bright. I don’t know how they do it. And everyone tells them they are so strong, that they are so amazing and brave for pushing forward and carrying on through such tragedy, as if there’s any other option. As if there’s anything else they can do. I always thought those people were just stronger than the rest of us too. I’d hear someone lost their dad to a heart attack or their mom to a fatal car wreck, and I’d think ‘wow, I don’t know how they are so strong. I don’t know how they got through that. I couldn’t do it.’ But those people did not choose for that to happen to them. They certainly did not choose to be among the “strong” ones who can handle something that devastating and heart-shattering. It just happened to them, and one day everyone starts saying they are “so strong” because they are still alive and taking on each day as it comes, even though their heart is broken and probably feels like it’ll never be quite whole again.
I guess the reason I so pathetically yearn for this invisible orb is because I don’t see myself ever being strong enough to get through that kind of suffering. And to be completely vulnerable here, I am terrified that because I have had such a good life, because my childhood was happy and simple, and because I’ve never had to cope with the death of someone that was a massive part of my life, bad things ought to be coming. This is a terrible and detrimental way to live my life–I am well aware. I know there is absolutely nothing I can do to control how my life plays out and how fortunate I have been so far. I know nothing good will come of worrying that this luck I have been blessed with could one day run dry and that the universe could decide I haven’t suffered enough and throw something awful my way, but life doesn’t work like that. Life is not a mathematical formula that balances out the good and the bad. No one deserves to suffer any more than anyone else. No one deserves to suffer, period. But in some twisted, illogical mindset that I’ve adopted, my life has been too good for nothing bad to happen to me in the future. I know that is a f*cked up way to think, but it scares me. I also know that some people have traumatic childhoods, lose multiple loved ones by the time they’re even out of their teenage years, and still more terrible things happen to them. Just because bad things have happened to you before doesn’t mean you are exempt from all future suffering, as harrowing as that is. And just because nothing exceedingly horrific has happened to me up until this point doesn’t mean that exceedingly horrific things must be coming. There is no rationed amount of pain that each person must experience in their lifetime. Some people are just forced to be stronger than others. Life just isn’t fair.
I suppose, however, that understanding the limitations of my individual human experience is comfort in itself: people go through horrific experiences every single day while I go on peacefully in my own little bubble, not even aware of the atrocities happening every second all over the world. An event can flip one person’s life upside down, and the rest of the world goes on untouched. While that is alarming and upsetting, it is a bit of a relief. I am so sad for everyone who has experienced trauma and loss in their lives, and my heart breaks just thinking about the anguish they have gone through. But in a strange way, it is comforting to know that should I have to endure some anguish of my own, it is only myself and my circle that will be shaken. Most of the world will have no idea. It doesn’t make the suffering person’s pain any less unbearable or valid, but it does show just how small we really are. And when we look at this from a positive perspective, there is a great joy for every tragedy. Yes, wars tear through homes and kill families, sick people shoot up schools full of innocent children, and tragic accidents leave hearts broken every day. But you know what else happens every day? Couples madly in love get married, parents hold their healthy newborns for the first time, families come together to celebrate birthdays and milestones–all these beautiful things happen amidst the ugly things. It always comes down to perspective. Instead of dwelling on the possibility of terrible things happening, we should focus on the just as real possibility of amazing things happening. We should always choose to see the good. This can be challenging, but the perspective we choose for ourselves makes a massive difference in the way we go through life. And why would anyone want to go through life in fear?
The only thing we can do is cherish each and every moment we get with our special people and view each day we wake up on this planet as a wonderful blessing. I know it’s so disgustingly cliché, but we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t like thinking about this because of obvious reasons, but I do think it is important to remember not to take anything for granted. Life is, after all, full of unknowns. We should squeeze our special people super tight every chance we get and soak up each minute spent talking and laughing and smiling with them. From a completely opposite point of view, it also helps to consider the ephemerality of our lives–that we are just tiny, insignificant specks of human life here on this planet for only a fleeting moment. Maybe, when you look at our little lives from this perspective, nothing really matters that much at all. No pain is going to endure infinitely, and no suffering is going to make the world stop spinning. And if our time here really is so short and unimportant, why the heck do we take it so seriously?! I’m very guilty of overcomplicating my life sometimes–but I’m sure you couldn’t tell! I think my level of sanity would drastically increase if I could just cut back on the excessive overthinking, and I bet we could all benefit from lightening up a bit. So here’s to taking ourselves a little less seriously and letting that magnificently unsettling excerpt from Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot be the anthem of our lives. (I’ll link it here!)
If you’re reading this, there is a very good chance you are covered by my invisible orb of protection, which means everyone you love is covered too! Yippee! We can still pretend this works, can’t we? And in the off chance that it doesn’t, give your loved ones a big squeeze. No one ever regrets a hug. Unless you’ve heard about my extremely awkward hug-related encounter while having dinner with relatives a few years back. I don’t even remember it now because I legitimately blacked out from the embarrassment, but just know there are few–and I mean very few–instances when going in for a hug can be regretted. But it is rare, so hug away!