This here is my fridge list. I scribbled it down after Chris’s suicide, slapped it up on the icebox and kept it there for daily inspiration. As you can see, it’s a bit worse for the wear — stained, crumpled, curling at the edges – than it was when I first tacked it up back in late 2011.
The list is old news. I wrote about it in my book and blabbed about it in my TedX talk early last year, so if you’re sick to death of hearing about it, I apologize. But to me it’s as necessary and now as the morning I wrote it. Not a day goes past that I don’t stare it in the face and think, “I’m not giving enough,” or “I’m not playing enough music,” or “I’m not present enough in the moment,” and then poke myself with a silent reminder or write it on my hand (in Sharpie!).
I will never NOT need this list, because it tells me to embrace life and love no matter what, even when something reaches out and knocks me on my ass. Very often my response to such ass-knocking is to bleat: SCREW THIS, I’M NOT GETTING UP AGAIN, IT TAKES TOO MUCH FOOKIN’ EFFORT. But that is precisely the moment when I must get up. I must when I’m wounded. When I’m terrified. When it makes no sense to try. When all I want is to slouch back into my Naugahyde recliner of fruitless, lonely solipsism and give the hell up on myself and other people. (No, I don’t actually own a Naugahyde recliner. But I could.)
Life demands engagement. Life demands a Yes. Bunches of Yeses. A whole shitload of Yeses. A sequence of Yeses uttered in hope and fear and blindness. Yeses spoken knowing full well they might be shouted down by Nos. Yeses that affirm life over death, love over apathy, even as death and apathy bully and bring us down.
Yeses spawned all of us into being. Yeses brought us into union with the lovers and spouses who helped us make our babies. Yeses got us our first kisses, our first jobs, our first creative flights. No poem was ever written without a Yes. No song was ever sung. No estranged souls ever reunited without one, no ailing child was ever nursed back to health.
My father said Yes when my mother asked him to marry her. My mother said Yes, and Yes, and Yes again when she rose each day to care for my father after his suicide attempt and the dementia that followed. Each moment of their marriage was a reiteration of Yes.
I’ve been thinking of Mama lately as I glance at my fridge list. I’ve been marveling at all of her living and giving and loving and laughing, at all of her Yeses that might have been Nos. But she never bailed on any of it. She never stopped growing and learning and praying, being grateful, being present, making music or having faith — although, like me, she always failed to stand up straight.
She didn’t have a fridge list. She didn’t need one. She was one. I didn’t realize this when I first scrawled it down, but she’s all over my little blue list, every wobbly letter, every gasp of pain and longing that pushed me down and made me write it. I wrote it because I believed that Yes was enough, that No was a lie, that life is its own reward. But I didn’t stop to think that I believed because Mama believed it first, and lived it well. Yes. Yes. Yes.