Several years ago I watched a Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on extreme success and extreme failure. She made the point that both positions catapult you out of your normal range of emotion and so both are hard to process. Both feel surreal because they aren’t everyday occurrences. Her point is resonating with me because I just got back from my sister’s wedding.
Not only did I see extended family for the first time since 2015 or 2016, but I also saw my sister’s friends from middle and high school. These are people I know too, although obviously not as well. They aren’t my friends but they are people who were tangentially in my life. We reconnected for a brief moment in time, a few hours, and that was it. Not only did I see them, but friends Rosie and I have in common, and, of course, immediate family, who don’t live close to me. It’s hard, really hard, to connect with people who mean something to me and then separate again.
As much as I would like to maintain relationships with all the people I love and care about, it’s not possible. Having a weekend where that happens to a degree is difficult because I get a small taste of what I want, but just that small taste.
Maybe other people have already made peace with this and don’t really care, but that’s not me. My Sanskrit name, Radha, means the personification of love so in my ideal world, I’d be close with every person I hold in my heart. I’d see all of them regularly. We’d be up to date on each other’s lives. We’d have adventures together. We’d travel together. We’d be integrally connected. But that doesn’t happen.
Maybe instead of trying to force the impossible, I can embrace the ephemeral. This is why people talk about living in the moment, right? Because this moment and the next and the next aren’t repeatable? As much as we try to recreate experiences, we can’t, can we? That means sometimes life will take you far and wide. You’ll experience moments that are so surreal they’re hard to comprehend. It may be extreme success, dismal failure, or the convergence of multiple people from various points in your life. Whatever it is, I’ll bet you’ll have surreal experiences too.
I don’t have a lesson here. I don’t have any advice. The best I can do is recognize sometimes I won’t be able to integrate certain experiences because they’re so outside the range of normal that I can’t. And that’s OK. That, too, is what it means to be alive. Embracing the surreal is just a part of life.
I dream of a world where we recognize we will have moments that aren’t in our normal range. A world where we understand some things will feel surreal. A world where we embrace that, accept that reality and make peace with it.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.