The past nine months, my life has become unrecognizable. When I say this out loud, it means who I am is unrecognizable. But I now see myself for the first time.
In February, I hoped to write again; beginning was also deciding. I’d once said, “I’m sick of writing because I’m sick of myself.” To be kinder towards my person, I didn’t go back to that place. On a Friday evening, I was pressed for new perspective. I decided to handwrite a thousand love letters.
Love letters: They remind me of the letters my mother wrote me when we lived apart. Her letters contained her—so when I read her words, I would conjure her to appear beside me. When posting my letters to strangers, I wanted to send myself across whatever separated us geographically, but also as individuals.
The first day, I got thirteen requests. Then, thirty—from Mexico, South Korea, Indonesia, England, Canada, Australia, India, and across the block. Words like: I am a woman, girl, boy, husband, widow, baker, cheater, lawyer, orphan, judge, sinner, scientist, columnist, genius, or liar. And one common sentiment: Not one considered themselves good. They did not see themselves as generous where it was evident to me. It was profound and unrelenting. With equal hardships and joys that befall people, how could one not feel deeply for our intricacies, aches, paranoia, and resilience?
They were not strangers. They appeared to me as multitudes of myself—and myself a constitution of them. During our time alive, everyone was trying our best. My mother said in her letters, “If someone hurts you, forgive them ten times. A hundred times. A thousand times, you forgive them.” To give meaning to my childhood, I spent the rest of it grieving—for thirteen years. Though grief may add importance, it cannot add meaning. Grief is only meaningful when it’s gone. But continuing to grieve, I sabotaged who I could be. Forgiving started here.
In April, I joined a panel of writers in Los Angeles. Afterwards, I stepped outside onto the balcony overlooking the street. There was a tap on my shoulder so light that I turned around to brush off the debris that must have escaped a leaf blower. Instead, there was a man with gray eyes and red glasses. He pointed at his name tag. He asked me if I recognized his name. He said he got my letter. I embraced him. We only talked a minute. When he left, I watched him. Love isn’t something to be found, but is something to become. When my grandmother had passed, I missed her because she showed me how to hold someone steady when they could not. I didn’t know if I’d held that man or he had held me.
This is what I’ve grasped: I will not suffer. I will not suffer because of non-suffering. Suffering is not a sign that says: yes or no. In any manner of what I do hereafter, there are only three words beating against my heart: I am willing.