Only Now Alive
It has been fifteen months since my skull was sliced open and, nine hours later, the skin closed shut with 52 titanium staples. A massive benign brain tumor was removed and I was left with a voice inside my womb that’s whispered, all of the 463 days since then:
I had heard it before. “Life is short.” Live fully now; it’s all we’ve got. Don’t hold off ’til tomorrow what you can do today.
Yet, for the first 46 years of my life, somehow those messages landed just partially — until brain surgery, when yellow streams of light flashed before me in the ICU and my pelvis was tattooed with their whispers.
The streams of light said, Jessica, if your life is really all about Love, then live it fully now.
I got the memo. Decided, done, no question, above all else, I am Love’s servant. Why? Because I Am Love. Love is Who We Are. Literally.
Walk up to a grocery market cash register? See Love in the cashier’s eyes. Reflect it back to them in yours. Pass a pregnant woman walking down the sidewalk? Adore her with your eyes’ praise. Get yelled at by your husband because he thinks you’re lazy and you’re doing things half-assed? Take a jog listening to heavy metal; let your anger move through your blood vessels and out with your sweat; see the innocent little boy still living inside of him, who was told by his father that he was unworthy of Love. Pull up to your favorite café on a bike? Greet the 90-year-old man with a reverent hello in a country that’s lost its marbles, tossing elders into the ditch of loneliness after 32,850 days of service and breath.
Yesterday in Texas, once again America saw slaughter. I cannot know the grief inside the mothers’ hearts whose babies lives were stolen. I pray to never know this pain myself.
And yet again, there is a memo: You are having a human experience. Your body is mortal.
Covid reminds us of this. Cancer. Fatal car crashes. Suicide. Our bodies die. And yet somehow we walk around in a daze, encaged by our own pretending. We think we can wait one more day or one more year to tell someone we love them. For six weeks after brain surgery, there were dozens of people who flooded my living room with flowers and my phone with “I love you.” I was near death. Were they waiting until they almost lost me?
So we wait. Until one day, our loved one is laying in the hospital, and at last we spill our tear drenched words upon their final breaths: I love you.
Love is who we are, and one breath is all we’ve got. Will we wait until our head’s sliced open, or our child is murdered, or our mother’s on her death bed, to remember this?
The deepest canyons are carved inside the human heart. Grief coats our planet today around what happened yesterday in Uvalde, Texas. Here’s one of the best captures I’ve read about it, Tragedy in Uvalde by Marianne Williamson.
Human being is a vivid, messy, despicably painful and gloriously beautiful thing. Choosing to live as the Love we are isn’t easy. Yet it’s simple. In her poem, “Wild Geese”, Mary Oliver reminds us, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Listen to her reading it, to support yourself in choosing Love today?
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, was born with a divine pen in her pelvis. She is a lifelong letter writer, a thought leader in Love, and she writes memoirs. Our blog and conversations are devoted to Jessica's greatest passion: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.