I’m not trying to get all metaphorical or anything on y’all. I mean, it’s going to happen, obviously. But still. It’s not exactly my intention. It’s just that things are so good right now. For a long time, things were difficult. There was Kim. There were the things surrounding Kim. There were other things before and after, things that made me sad, shoved me around, and tore me to pieces.
Then Make it Happen happened. And things began to change. I got healthier. I got happier. I started to write professionally. I started to run. iWill ran with me. I watched the kids I nannied grow and change and turn from sweet little babies into amazingly, wonderfully unique and fun little kids. I got a new job, writing all day, every day, for a company that is fun and exciting and fast-paced, a job I could only love more if I were full-time and not contract. I’m learning more than I could have hoped, even in just the four short weeks I’ve been there. And I watched iWill become an Ironman, then complete his first huge trail race, as our friendship grew into something else, something kind of great and something that makes me happy every single day.
This is what I took with me as I headed off to Burningman this year. I took all the good things that have come after all the difficult things in the last year. I took my fears about everything good disappearing. It’s a valid fear. I’ve learned that things can change quickly, faster than a person can imagine. But instead of being paralyzed within my fear, or not moving forward or accepting the good things because I don’t want to deal with the pain of losing them, I decided to focus on something bigger: gratitude.
Whenever the fear hits, I take a breath and acknowledge how lucky I am, how much happiness is in my life. I say yes. I say thank you. And then I ask for more, please. This is what I took with me to the playa. And as I sat, covered in magic playa dust, thrilled to be back in the place that pushes my boundaries and teaches me how to ‘be’, I felt more gratitude for what has been given to me, and a newfound level of respect for what has been taken.
Last year at Burningman, I felt Kim’s death for the first time. This year, I accepted her death. I’ll never understand why things happened the way they did, why she had to die so young when she fought so hard to live, but I accepted the reality of her outcome, of what she meant to me, and how my life has changed because of her. I thanked whoever you thank for those things, those precious, ridiculously painful things. I made something for Kim, telling her story, just a small piece of her story but words unique to her all the same, and I hung it in the temple. And then, on the final night of the burn, I sat surrounded in a cocoon of my people, my RV crew, Lovely, Go2, Belle, and Curious, and we sipped tequila and pineapple as we watched the temple burn, at the exact moment we saw my art piece fall into the flames. And a few seconds later, a swirl of dust was sucked into the sky, like a dancer twirling, alive and happy, like someone who had been set free. I knew the feeling, felt gratitude, and thought of the one person who was missing in that moment, whose hand I wanted to be holding and who makes everything a little brighter. I hope he joins us next year. We’re already planning a playathlon because how else do you challenge an Ironman?
Last year at Burningman, I climbed a tree made of light. I overcame my fear of heights and climbed the metal branches, as fast as I could, as if climbing higher would take me away from all the sad things that had happened. I needed room, space I could only find above the noise and neon and thrumming energy of the playa. I felt alive and free, just for a moment, but it was exhilarating all the same. This year, our neighbors set up a huge structure with a rings course. For the first few days on the playa, I watched as people lined up to try to swing the length of all six rings. Finally, I decided to give it a try. I made it three rings before falling. So I watched more closely, determined to make it all six on my next try. Thanks to a lesson from an amazing and beautiful blonde acrobat, I not only made it all six rings, but I made it back to the starting platform. I was flying, swinging, laughing, and feeling stronger than I ever have before. I wasn’t trying to hide from anything. I wasn’t avoiding anything. I was swinging myself toward whatever will come next, good or bad, happy or sad, because life is life and I have very little control over what happens but I always have the one thing that makes everything seem like a gift.
This is what the desert taught me, this year. I am grateful for the people in my life, the opportunities I’ve been given, the lessons I’ve learned from mistakes I continue to make. And as I sit here, on my purple couch, sipping hot tea with milk and sugar and nursing a playa sore throat for one more day, my heart feels light and my mind is wandering to the future, to what might come next, to making it happen more and more every day.
This is where I am, right now, in this moment. Dusty and happy, thankful and still.