I remember her determination. That’s what I remember the most. It was the first week of the new year, and my friend was, as my grandmother used to say, “bound and determined.” This year would be different. This year would be the year everything lined up straight, nothing stepping out of line. All her goals and plans would stand in resolute submission to her sheer determination to make everything right this year. This year she would make it work. This year she would be happy.
Later, I watched her scramble when things didn’t pan out quite right. Still, she worked at it with an admirable resolution. She crowded her days with new projects and plans that would surely quiet the empty feeling she was desperate to squelch. I’d seen the uncertainty in her eyes, the way her shoulders slumped when she couldn’t mend her ache. I could tell she was troubled by the ways her resolutions had failed her. There was more spending, more giving, more fixing, more talking, more organizing.
It was hard to watch.
No matter how much she poured into her life, no matter how determined she was to patch up what was broken, everything kept slipping out the cracks. Like a cup irreparably cracked, everything leaked out eventually. No matter how quickly she kept refilling her life with new things, every kind of remedy failed her. It all seeped out along with the dregs of hope she had staked her year upon.
She wasn’t the only empty cup I encountered last January. She was one of many people in my life who were medicating a deep ache with all the remedies the world promises will make us happy. Possessions, family, vacations, work, a well-ordered and well-maintained life.
We keep filling up our lives with things — good things even — but still find ourselves chest-deep in a yearning we can’t explain.
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