By Jen Pastiloff. From December 2012, London.
There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true. ~ Ernest Hemingway
I am only about halfway through Tiny Beautiful Things but certain things gets stuck, as things do, and one of them is Cheryl Strayed’s connection to the truth. To what is most true.
Sugar, her voice in Tiny Beautiful Things, seems to keep directing the people who’ve written her towards one place, and one place only. And that place is The Valley of the Most True.
Here’s what is true: Family is hard. Family is full of dirty tricks and history and You did that and How could you’s?
I have a small family of 3 people. My mother, my sister and myself. At one point there was more people and at one point less (my sister has had children) but the core nucleus is us. Tight-knit, protective and defensive, self-reliant and totally and utterly dependent.
And I would run in front of a bus for any of them. My sister has two kids, one of whom has special needs (Prader Willi Syndrome) and the other has more energy than a banshee on crack. He is gorgeous and lovely, but, truly, if you left him alone, he would swing from chandeliers and climb the walls naked and eat sugar from the bowl. That’s just who he is. And he’s perfect. Just wildly alive.
The other, with his rare genetic disorder, could literally eat himself to death if not watched, so a lot of vigilance must take place.
There’s a lot of back and forth as there is in any family, a lot of movement and progress and then: nothing.
Days of backward movement, even years of back peddling and Haven’t we been down this road and How are we here again? and I thought you changed. No, I thought you did. The ebb and the flow of any natural pattern, a family being no less a pattern than the weather or the way we react to holidays. They change. They stay the same.
It took a lot to unravel me but when it happened my limbs flew about and scattered everywhere and it took some time to collect them but what was never found was the heart. The heart was never found.
All these years I’ve been searching.
What is also true: Marriage is hard.
Tonight, at a pub in London, my husband and I somehow started chatting about what would happen if one of us cheated.
I would walk away. That’s it, he said.
That’s it? You wouldn’t fight? Me.
Marriage is hard. There is so much compromise. How can you say you would just walk away? I thought. And then I said it out loud.
I sipped my wine in the pub overlooking the Putney Bridge and wondered How we can be opposite and work? and yet we do. And my family: Where did I come from? How can we be so opposite and yet, so the same and after thirty some odd years how I am still triggered by the same shit and will it be this way with marriage as well?
I sipped my wine and ask my husband how he can be so final?
How can you walk away and know that it was the truth?
What if it wasn’t? What if it was a lie and a mistake?
It’s all true.
As Hemingway said. It was a lie and a mistake and deserves walking away but who ever gets what they deserve? is what I am asking?
Look, I am not cheating and neither is he, but I know that I would fight and beg and scream and kick, just like I do with my family. It’s all hard.
Easy is: text messaging and complaining and drinking wine, but family- family and marriage, those are hard. Hanging out with your in-laws, and conversely, judging them, comparing them to your own little nexus of a family as if they are qualitative things to be measured with a spoon.
I am reading Tiny Beautiful Things in pieces (if I read it all at once it will be over and I will never again have that first time experience with it) while I am here in London and as I walk down the High Street and listen to the click clack of my boots I think about what is most true in my world.
That’s how it works doesn’t it? There aren’t really ultimate truths.
What is true for me. Right now. And in the realm of true, in that filthy and gorgeous jungle, as it were, what is more true: that or that or that? If you had to choose a tree in the jungle which would it be? You have three and you must choose one. That or that or that?
And so it goes. It’s hard. Like I said.
But not that hard. Because once we face what is true we usually decide to stay. Or not.
It’s when we are not facing what is true that we get stuck.
I am staying with my family and my husband and his family and all the rest and I may take breaks every now and again, little breathing stints out on the roof like I’m dodging out for a smoke, but I will always come back, and if need be I will fight and beg and kick and scream, because no one said it would be easy. Yes, I have heard that cliche and I have lost my heart somewhere along some Jersey street for it, but I will stay because I have looked into the truest light and taken it head on like a warrior.
My heart was never found, but the thing is, it left an imprint. It left a soft imprint and when I hold the light up to it I can see it like it’s still there pounding away. I don’t know where it went, but, as most, or rather, all true things go, it doesn’t matter where it went because what I know is that it is there in my chest pounding like a motherfucker, beating the shit of my life, pumping the hell out of my blood, and telling my bones to Keep Going, Keep Going, Keep Going.