Live and let live.

I had a very vivid, emotional dream the other night that raised back to life feelings I have tried to bury over the last five years. Without going into detail, there was a situation in my life five years ago that had an extremely negative impact on me in almost any way a person can be impacted. I’m still not over it.

But I realized something this week. If there’s one thing that this situation taught me it’s to forgive; to not let something eat me up inside; to not retaliate immediately but to sleep on it; to let my feelings subside; to let the hurt wash away.

I couldn’t tell you how I learned it because it’s been such a painful, gradual process. I probably couldn’t teach you how to do it. But I’m actually learning to let things go and accept that some things just don’t change. Maybe you can, too.

Isolated? I’m surrounded.

Tonight, Jimmy and I watched “Up in the Air.” I found the plot of the movie to be fairly predictable, but who can resist a vulnerable George Clooney? In the movie, Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham, a lifelong bachelor addicted to living out of suitcases and in airplanes while maintaining a job through which he fires people from their jobs, gives multiple “motivational” speeches using the analogy of baggage. “How much does your life weigh?” he asks. “Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… Now I want you to fill it with people… feel the weight of that bag.”

When I attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, the now-deceased but dear to my heart Pastor Roosevelt Hunter preached a sermon similar to this motivational speech. He used a line of scripture about Saul, who was hidden among the baggage when the people came to crown him as king. I’ve heard these analogies before, and I can relate to them, but George Clooney’s character made it all the more real for me. Reason? Ryan Bingham was isolated. He believed he was surrounded by people on a daily basis, and that made him normal, but he was void of any real connection with another human being. Isolated.

When I was young, I was impressionable. Most children are. I surrounded myself with people, then found them to be the wrong people. I believed things, then found out that they weren’t true. Santa Clause doesn’t exist. Neither does the Easter Bunny. Adults lie. Other children lie. There are bad people in the world. I might be one of them.

Realizations cause pain. It’s almost like I can look back into my childhood, into my teen years, into my college years, and see the strips of innocence and naivety peeled right off of me. Now, I’m at the point where I don’t want to realize anything anymore. I don’t want to fill my backpack or take it with me anywhere. I want it emptied, and in my closet–isolated. Matter of fact, I don’t really want a backpack at all.

I should have been much more selective with my knowledge, with my circle of friends, with the pieces of my heart. But how do you know to do that until you’ve done it the other way? The wrong way? You don’t. But now I know what I should have done, what I want to do. Because in the end, when Ryan Bingham changes “for the better”–in most people’s eyes–and decides to leave his isolated life of luxury, decides to care for his family, decides to take a leap of faith for the woman he might love, what happens? He gets burned. Don’t we all?

After all, Harry Potter was a chess piece.

It’s so strange how often I find myself so wrapped up in things that really don’t matter, only to be shaken out of that egocentricity by bad news. Even though I come off as a sarcastic, confident, bossy person, I really have always had a strong sense of compassion for others. When my friends or family hurt, I hurt. When animals hurt, I hurt. And as strange as it sounds, when strangers hurt, I hurt. That’s why I went on so many mission trips. That’s why I can’t watch the news.

Tonight, I found out news that I wish I had been listening for two months ago. I found out that my childhood friend’s dad passed away in May. As soon as I read his mother’s message to me about how lonely she still feels and how it’ll never be the same, I started crying. I don’t think I cried because I remembered the man she loved so much, or because of what a good man he was. James (Jimmy) Schroeder was a good man and I do remember his kindness to my brother and me when we were young, but I know I was crying because of the people he left behind.

Loss is one of the most difficult things to face. I can’t imagine losing my husband, my parents or my brother. I’ve lost all of my grandparents, and that’s been hard enough on me–every song I hear makes me picture my grandfather’s face. I guess I just feel like every once in a while, I should venture out of my circle, open my eyes, and see what’s happening to other people.

About six months back, my mom ran into Theresa and found out that Jimmy had been battling leukemia. I didn’t search for the family on facebook or pick up a phone. I probably said a prayer, but that was it. If I had been watching or listening, I may have known about Jimmy Schroeder’s passing. I may have been able to attend the funeral, and tell Theresa how sorry I am that she lost the absolute and only love of her life. But sometimes, I’m just not paying attention. And I think sometimes, it’s not only selfishness, but fear that distracts me.

I don’t want the word “widow” in my vocabulary–I doubt anyone does. It was my husband Jimmy’s 25th birthday today. We’re young, we’re healthy. But someday, we won’t be. It scares me to think of ever having to live without my Jimmy. I can imagine that every day when something happens, whether good or bad, the first person Theresa wants to call is her husband–and he’s not there anymore. That feeling of emptiness may become more manageable with time, but it never goes away.

Life is just sad sometimes. But even though I haven’t spoken to Jimmy, Theresa or Joel in a number of years, I remember the strength and love that built their household. I know that some people, like Theresa, are meant to go on, to live on, to honor those who’ve gone before them, as an example of hope to others.

My mom and I were talking tonight about how we both want to learn to play chess. She said, “I know how the pieces are supposed to move, but I don’t know the strategy.” As cliché as it sounds, I immediately thought that what she said was a perfect analogy for life. My life. Theresa’s life. I know how to walk, how to talk, how to drive, how to do my job on a daily basis, how to function. But do I really know the strategies to life? Do I know how to love, forgive, cope, succeed, let go? Or am I just a chess piece?