Opinion: Finding peace in the chaos
I had one of those moments this weekend that turn you into a cartoon character for a brief moment and the light bulb levitating above your head hums to life and shines from the energy of your newfound knowledge. (Or, for all the Oprah lovers out there, this is her famously coined “aha” moment.)
On Saturday afternoon, I sat around my grandparents’ kitchen table enjoying the ultimate Bucciere family treat, known as the "nana grilled cheese.” This particular grilled cheese isn't really famous for anything other than the fact that it's the classic combination of white Italian bread, a Kraft single and a generous helping of soft yellow butter — and it's forged by the hands of a loving grandmother, which instantly makes anything taste better. During this glorious meal, I should add, I seriously contemplated sending a picture of its majesty to my siblings and cousins, but was fearful of what kind of catastrophe their jealous rage would incite, so I mercifully refrained. There’s my good deed for the week.
As I ate, I listened to my papa reminisce about old memories of his time spent serving his country overseas in Japan and the childhood delights of his Christmas traditions. When he spoke of these precious memories, his smile widened, forcing the well-earned creases around his eyes to settle into their natural place. I love watching him tell his stories just as much as I love hearing about them.
Since I became sick and suffered my amputations, I’ve had a difficult time dealing with the big questions. Most of the time, it feels like I’m still searching for something to ground me — to make me feel like, in the end, this ride will be worth it. But watching my papa’s eyes light up as he recalled his memories, I realized that, for him, this was his answer. His memories are the sacred relics he cherishes that give him purpose. Entering the army at age 17, riding street cars to his relatives’ houses for Christmas Eve, giving in to his children’s pleas to keep Lucky the stray dog — when he muses over these memories, a peace settles over him like a warm blanket on a winter night.
As I’ve been struggling to find the thing that will make me see what life really means, I realized then that there might not be an answer proportionate to the immensity of the question. What matters is that you find something sacred to keep you tethered to the ground — not tethered in the way that holds you back, but so as to keep you steady when it seems like the world is crashing down around you.
For my papa, it’s his memories. For someone else, it might be their faith, their family traditions, the feeling they get when they’re doing what they love or the smiles on their children’s faces when they wake up Christmas morning to the bounty of presents under the tree. It’s the pull on your heartstrings or the wave of tranquility you feel when, all of a sudden, the puzzle pieces fall into place. For me, it’s the existence of pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies awaiting my first bite. Just kidding. Or am I?
In all honesty, though, it’s the thought of my family that grounds me when things feel out of control. Realizing there was a time when I came extremely close to never seeing them again has translated into a feeling of complete serenity when my thoughts center on our weird traditions and family jokes. They center me. They are sacred.
Find what gives you the feeling of purpose. Locate it, cherish it and cling to it when chaos is bound to ensue. Although it may not remove the storms altogether, it can create a way to weather them.