Matters of the heart
I’m reading “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed – an incredible account of all the dark places life can take us, and the truth and beauty, that can also meet us on the other end. I couldn’t recommend it more. I think I plan to give this book to all my friends for the holidays.
Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.
I found myself starting to read this book on a plane ride to LA to visit dear girlfriends, to get together in honor and support, of one of my oldest, best friends who recently lost a fiancee tragically…too suddenly.
When he passed away this July, the very next morning I booked a one-way ticket home. It was the only thing I knew to do. Life could wait. We flew in from all over – Australia, California, Colorado – we all held the space, helped her pick up the pieces, and supported. Words meant nothing, but the mere presence and ineffable friendship and love, could at least provide some ‘glue’ to hold.
Although we cried together each day I didn’t want her to see me lose it – she had enough tears for all of us combined. At one point, one of my other best friends who had also flown in, caught me retreating to the bathroom as tears fell down my face, my lower lip quivering. “It’s too much,” I whispered. She followed me and we proceeded to hug each other and sob. Knowing our tears and sadness were only the tip of the iceberg for our friend, in the kitchen, we needed our own breakdown. We cried for our helplessness as we couldn’t take away any pain for our incredible friend, who has always been selfless, loving and deserved the best.
The insides felt tender and soft, too easy to rip, like tissue paper.
Each night, we crawled home to our houses we grew up in – high school photos dotting the walls of our room, the rafters holding old memories – it was always near Midnight when we had that first moment alone. We were just the supporters, to imagine what she felt, was almost too much.
I was home for 9 days. Time stopped. It was exactly where we needed to be and a month later, we made another trek to LA to get away from it all to find some laughter and to honor and celebrate his life during the weekend that would have been their engagement party.
That’s what friendship means – just being there no matter what and I feel so grateful to be part of something so strong. She would do the same for us, in an instant. She’s a giver, someone who always puts others first. Then time, we insisted, she come first.
Her strength inspires me and although our hearts break, alongside hers, we’re trusting in the power of love. And feeling the pain – not denying it, just accepting it, not trying to understand it and knowing it doesn’t have to define us, forever.
He was bright, energetic, a father, a son, a fiancee and a friend. He lived to make people laugh, and I’ve never seen my friend happier or her smile that bright. He taught her what respect, kindness, love and chivalry really was and gave her everything. He was wildly exuberant, enthusiastic and was a hard worker. He was in the process of building his own business, off to create a life for them together and the rug was swept from their feet. I can rest assured, their love was the purest and just to have experienced even a drop of it, reminds us that love is real and life is fragile. I honor him each day and my dear girlfriend, as I know he is watching down and she lives on, reminding herself he would want her to laugh, to be taken care of, to finish school to be an EMT and to continue on.
That’s the thing. We all have our stories, our loss, our gaping voids. It’s what connects us as humans and reminds us to just keep living and walking to the edge in life, living the best way we know how. It’s all we can really do.
Tears streamed down my face as I read through the perils of inquiries, that Sugar eloquently answered in a fierce, honest and real way as I thought of my friend, this recent experience that rocked our small town and what it all meant.
I scribbled down some of my favorite quotes from Sugar in Tiny Beautiful Things. I’ve shared them here – I hope they speak to you in someway, like they did to me.
Don’t be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word “love” to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will. We’re all going to die, Johnny. Hit the iron bell like it’s dinner time.
This is how you get unstuck, Stuck. You reach.
That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light.
Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.
Write like a motherfucker.
It’s going to be difficult but that’s no surprise. The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply, in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.
Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it.
Note: These are in no particular order and picked out separately as part of Sugar’s “answers” to the inquiries throughout the book.