A smear across a sullen sky:
But then, a little underlight —
The morning’s gray and hard and cold,
But maybe, it will be all right.

There was a time when life was kind,
And not a cause for fight or flight:
The day is full of trouble now,
But maybe, it will be all right.

Inside, my bed is soft and warm,
But that must wait until tonight:
The day is charged and beckoning,
So maybe, it will be all right.

A sullen sky of slate and green,
With just a touch of underlight:
My heart is swollen flush, and full,
But maybe, it will be all right —

Yes, maybe
It will be

All right

We all start with one heart and a view of the world as one big thing. But eventually, our heart splits into several hearts. This is because we do not have the emotional strength to think about everything at once anymore.

”Compartmentalizing” they call it. You put this heartache (and its heart) away for awhile. And then you put another one away. Sooner or later, your one big heart is split into so many little hearts, you are not entirely sure where they all went. Or if you even still have them all.

But it’s how we survive.

A heart is like a firework: made to splinter, but to shine in the process. And a heart is is almost as brief as a firework.

One year, when I was around 30 and still lived in Florida, I went with my ex-wife and my parents to watch fireworks on the 4th of July. The sky had an odd, underlit cloud cover that night, and the fireworks were the more spectacular for it, shining in the air, and reflected above, as well. The feeble underlight of the town turned bright with each new rocket.

For some of us, writing is a type of underlight, a reflection of our splintering hearts. Bursting, but shining.  Beautiful, but temporal.  Endlessly fascinating, albeit fragmentary.

There is a popular saying, falsely attributed to Plato (among others): “be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The sourcing is as poor as most internet quotes, but the sentiment is one with broad applicability. We don’t know what sorrows others may be carrying.

That young woman who seems inattentive at the restaurant may be carrying the weight of a hundred sorrows inside: she may have lost a parent, a spouse, or a child.

That colleague who seems so distant may have relatives in a nursing home, or have suffered financial reversals.

We just don’t know. But ignorance of people’s particular suffering is no excuse for not understanding the general principle, which is, to be empathetic wherever possible.

I wrote this section as a reminder to myself: my own empathy has been weak-to-nonexistent in far too many places in my day.

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4 Thoughts to “Underlight

  1. “A heart is like a firework: made to splinter, but to shine in the process. And a heart is is almost as brief as a firework.” This is just beautiful!
    Thanks also for the reminder – it’s so easy to forget that we are not the only ones who suffer x

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