It’s Chaos. Be Kind.

Title from Michelle McNamara, as told by husband Patton in his Netflix special Annihilation. 

We buy cookies. Every time. Fat ones, from a bakery we have delivered.

Cookies and cream.

Peanut Butter.

Chocolate Chip.

They come in a box and a bag. Sometimes we buy milk for dipping. Most of the time we scarf them down dry. Grief is a dish best served with dough.

I’ve been thinking a lot about paths recently. I’m convinced that if you live long enough, it’s inevitable not to. What if I had made a different career move? What would’ve happened if I married that person instead of this one, if I gave up my child for adoption, if I learned to put the bottle down before I ever picked it up?

For me, I’ve been wondering what would have happened if a classmate had forgotten her wallet and hit the road thirty seconds later. Or if the rate of gravity wasn’t what it was and a crane collapsed slower. Or more quickly.  What would have happened if it was a clear, breeze-less day? If someone was sick or Google hadn’t bought a building?

I’ve been wondering if I could have said something differently to a boy who became a man capable of putting a gun to a boys chest and pulling the trigger. What would have happened if another boy grew up in a different part of town that celebrated the things that made him him instead of focusing on the things that didn’t. If guns were kept in a different part of the house. If people felt safe at their school or in their homes, if people assumed that parents love their children both fiercely and well and trusted them, instead of attacking them in the supermarket at the first sight of a crying child. Attacking a mother in her time of dual grief – for her son who could do these things, and the son her son destroyed.

See, this is the issue with following the paths. Eventually, you’ll go too far back. Undo everything. Yourself and the world you call home. You’ll never be able to stop. You’ll pick apart things you have no business destroying.

In the four years it took me to go from high school graduation to college graduation, 11 people had died. Students from high school and college. Old friends from childhood theater. People I ran the halls with as kids in Sunday School. One of them was in his early thirties. The rest, under 25. It’s an impossible, overwhelming sense of loss.

So, when people asked me how I was doing days and weeks after a childhood friend orchestrated a school shooting, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to say when they asked how I was dealing with each of those 11 losses, four of which came between May and August of the year I graduated high school.

I should be great at grief, but I’m terrible. I always ask the question that kills you – why. Why a young person? Why again? Why this school and that school? Why the circles of grief getting closer and closer to me?

Some days, I wish I didn’t know anyone, that I wasn’t so connected. But then I’d miss the love of a Seattle college that it hurt me to leave. I wouldn’t have a house I called the Hive that was a meeting place for a group of misfit friends who learned to call each other family. I wouldn’t be exposed to the deliciousness of aam Ras, or grapefruit vodka, or bread sticks warm on my throat.

The world is chaos that is made to not be understand. So, be kind. Love often and loud. We are a meager people given great gifts at great sacrifice. Whether you question the path or not does not matter. The wine is still sweet, the bread still buttered. Come, the table is open to you.

Eat until you’re full.

“But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 MSG

Bryce’s debut collection can be purchased here. 25% of the profits go to organizations like RAINN, 1in6, and End The Backlog. He writes short stories for free here. Support him by purchasing your next book through this special link and get FREE worldwide shipping.

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