Holding. It. Together.

This is a selfie I took in Malmö, in 2016, on the day of Olle and Luisa’s 10th anniversary:

Me, wearing a white button-down shirt, purple tie, severe blue glasses.

In the hours that followed there was a wonderful party, with fascinating people, free-flowing klezmer, and a free-flowing bar; the night ended with 3:00 a.m. falafel. It was the escape from the everyday I needed, with people I love dearly, at exactly the right time.

In this photo, though, there’s a severity, a flatness, that I couldn’t see at the time. I wasn’t happy, and that unhappiness, looking back, was spread across me.

Last summer my pal Dave emailed a kindhearted message: “You look like a million bucks,” he wrote. And it wasn’t news to me: I felt like a million bucks.

On this morning, a morning peppered with tensions surrounding mercurial moods, worry about my daughter, who’s 4000 km away as I write (and who sat on her laptop last night and cracked the screen), anxiety about finally laying Catherine to rest in a few weeks, and a deeper feeling of instability as tectonic plates shift in my personal and professional life, I don’t, at the moment, feel like a million bucks


I look at that photo, and I know that I also no longer feel that severity, that flatness.

I’m getting better at feeling. I’m getting better (little bit by little bit) at feeling okay at being angry, and especially dispensing with the self-imposed limitation that stanches anger (because being angry seldom makes logical sense). In my deepest depths I feel joy, even though that joy gets buffeted constantly, even though the price of that joy (which requires full-hearted feeling of all the things) is woundingly hard sometimes.

In the summer of 2016, I was holding it together; that is all I could muster. Oh how I wish I could reach back and say to that version of myself: “Pete,” I would say, “uncork yourself.” I don’t know if that Pete would have listened. If he had, perhaps feeling all the things would have started earlier. Or maybe I had to walk through that, to muddle my way through, in survival mode; maybe I didn’t have a choice.

I feel alive now in a way that I didn’t know existed then, in a way that I couldn’t imagine possible then. It’s hard. It’s joyful. It’s hard. It’s joyful.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Joan's picture
Joan on August 27, 2023 - 09:28 Permalink


Ton Zijlstra's picture
Ton Zijlstra on August 28, 2023 - 09:11 Permalink

Sometimes holding it together is all we can do. I've learned to also be gentle to my previous self/selves when I think I wasn't as alive at that time as I could have been. That previous self brought me to here and now, so there's always that to be thankful for.

Big hug, Peter, thanks for posting!

Olle's picture
Olle on September 13, 2023 - 05:13 Permalink

Thank you for your words. All your words. (And feelings.)