I know I am in the minority, but I didn’t love the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once. I actually felt nauseous watching it.
Perhaps it was too loud, too intense, too much action, too much of everything. The fast, frenetic quality was frighteningly familiar to me.
I am, however, obsessed with the title.
Everything. Everywhere. All at Once.
It’s a mouthful, but that’s the point.
Life is a lot, if not too much, most of the time.
I find myself repeating it often, almost like a mantra.
It reminds me that I am not alone; and that feeling like a pinball machine, trying to keep the silver ball moving, swatting at the levers constantly, never seeming to be in control and always preparing for the next challenge, is more universal than I realized.
Life really can feel like everything everywhere all at once.
Not surprisingly, I often get the title wrong, certain that it’s Everything, Everyone All At Once.
Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I have four kids and two step-kids, four of whom have spouses and/or significant others, a husband, an ailing mother, and four grandkids. Everyone everywhere seems to need me at the same moment and it feels impossible to give my full attention to any one person without disappointing someone.
Somehow, we find reserves of strength (like the superheroes in the movie), smashing through barriers and continuing to move through everything, all at once.
But honestly, I don’t want to be a superhero anymore. I want to retire my cape after 20 years of practicing law, another 20 running a business, and 30 years of parenting four kids on my own. I have done what it takes to “stay in the game”, to be “strong and steady” and to “put one foot after the other”, confronted with adversity after adversity.
I am learning that it’s alright to be less efficient, less effective, and less extraordinary. I want to be present to everything, everywhere in my life, not focused on getting through in order to deal with whatever the next challenge is, but really being with whatever is happening in the moment. The last two weeks gave me plenty of opportunities for this. They were a real life example of everything, everyone, everywhere all at once.
A week before my son’s wedding, my mother fell and broke her hip. Agonizing decisions needed to be made about what would be best for her in both the short and the longer term. Financial, logistical, and emotional considerations had to be weighed. While my sister and I want my mother to live life the way she wants to, her cognitive abilities are failing and it is a struggle to figure out next steps.
While on the plane to NY, I realized that exactly one year earlier, I was on the same plane, heading to the same place to be with my dad who died 48 hours after I arrived.
When I landed, I went straight to the hospital, as I had a year earlier. Eerie.
I adore my mother and seeing her frail body in the hospital at a time when we were supposed to be getting ready for the wedding was heartbreaking. The next few days were spent in the hospital, then in the rehab watching her struggle to take a step, confused about where she was and what was happening. My sister and I sat with our mom, a brilliant professor of literature, witnessing her begin to fade. Although she has moments of clarity and lucidity, her mind is going and even super powers can't bring her back to who she once was.
This had not been the plan. It wasn’t what any of us wanted. It could have put a damper on the wedding but it didn’t.
How do we hold sadness and fear at the same time as joy and gratitude?
We expand to include it all, not pushing any emotion away, but allowing the waves and being as present as possible.
In the wise words of the beloved and revered meditation teacher, Jack Kornfeld:
"When our identity expands to include everything, we find a peace with the dance of the world. The ocean of life rises and falls within us - birth and death, joy and pain, it is all ours, and our heart is full and empty, large enough to embrace it all.”
Sadness and grief, when experienced fully, take us to the deepest place within us; a place where love resides. Grief, after all, is love in another form.
And so, while shaking with fear about my mother and experiencing extraordinary grief on the anniversary of my father’s death, I celebrated my son’s wedding. Unabashedly. My heart was completely open, perhaps more exquisitely open because of the sorrow.
I walked down the aisle with my son beaming with pride, in touch with the deepest joy I’ve ever known. I watched my other three children walk down the aisle and I was moved beyond words. My children are becoming adults. Beautiful, productive, thoughtful human beings.
Missing my dad and mom on that special day was heartbreaking and yet, the next generation is stepping up. The circle of life, the swirl of life.
Everything, everywhere, everyone all at once.
Life is always a mixture of ease and struggle, highs and lows, ups and downs. The weekend was a stunning reminder of that.
I am reminded of the words of Kahlil Gibran who wrote:
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Everything, everywhere, everyone all at once.
Embrace it all. It’s the only meaningful option.
Allow yourself to go within and get in touch with the deepest part of you; where both sorry and joy live in harmony.
Whatever your everything, everywhere all at once is, welcome it.
Embrace it and experience the magic that’s possible when you expand your perception, your attitude, and your heart.
No one says it better than the poet, Mary Oliver:
"We shake with joy.
We shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body."
My love is strengthened when I allow everything, everyone all at once. And so will yours.
With love and light,