I Really Don’t Know Life At All

by Susan Pogorzelski on May 24, 2010 · 20 comments

Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day…
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

If there’s ever one thing I know for certain, it’s this simply stated fact: the more I think I know about life, the less I understand.

And the older I get, the less sure I become…about anything.

I spend my life trying to make sense of the world around me, trying to find the reason for experience, the lessons to be learned, that greater purpose to be served. But sometimes I wonder if there’s a reason for anything; sometimes I wonder if we’re not meant to understand life at all. Sometimes, it all seems so senseless.

I don’t understand how in such a populated world, we can still feel so lonely. I don’t understand how people can be so easily forgotten, discarded, like a worn-out pair of shoes. I don’t understand why loved ones are taken from us before we’re ready to say goodbye.

And I don’t understand why bad things can happen to such good souls.

I see this more and more the older I get, though I wish I could change that, wish there was some small way of preventing this undeserved pain.

I first realized that life was in every way unfair throughout the course of middle and high school when a classmate who had become one of my closest friends fell seriously ill. I didn’t know what to expect, having not yet experienced anything like this before. Yet, I knew that I wanted to be there for her, to do whatever I could to help her. She was my friend, and I wanted her to know I would always be hers.

I spent a lot of time at her house throughout those years. When she wasn’t well enough to come to school, I would drive to her house in the afternoons or early Saturday mornings for a visit, where we would play any number of board games — Hotels, Disney Trivia, Monopoly — and sing along to musicals. Though we promised her mom we would get started on some of the schoolwork she had missed, we would instead run up to her room and play the original Sims, building the biggest, most extravagant houses while decorating the yards with a hundred pink flamingos (we were quite the virtual horticulturists).

It was a time of complete innocence shadowed by an illness that no one her age — no one ever — should have to endure. And while I remember our conversations as we sat on the wood floor, watching her rabbit explore the hallway, while I remember our Dawson’s Creek marathons in the living room on weekend afternoons, there’s still so much more.

I remember her fatigued eyes, her pale skin, the understandable hopelessness that was shadowed on her face. I remember her smile when something cheered her up, her infectious laugh that made you giggle right along with her.

I remember her strength.

I remember the hope in her voice and the tears of relief and happiness that stung my own eyes when we found out she was blessed with a transplant. I remember the phone calls afterward wherein she would tell me stories of the friends she met while in recovery. I remember how much I prayed. And I remember thanking God for that miracle.

Our senior year and into college, we gradually began to lose touch and our friendship faded, as time and distance always play their part. But I still think of her and look back on those days in fondness. Throughout the years, I would wonder what she was up to and send a quick message of hello. Still, I’d feel a pang in my heart as I remember the depth of the friendship that we had shared, as I remember all she had taught me just by being her.

Recently, I saw a status update from her on her Facebook stream and read that she was working as a nurse for a hospital in Philadelphia — something that she had wanted to do ever since her own experience. And once again, I felt the familiar sting of tears as memories came flooding back and my heart filled with happiness for her. I have been blessed to have known her, to have loved her, to have been her friend. And I can’t help but be so very proud that she is finding her place, her happiness, her way of helping others.

I don’t understand why things happen the way they happen in life. I don’t know if we’re ever supposed to. But I can continue to believe that there’s a reason for it — that there’s a reason for everything.

Maybe these experiences are what help us learn to love; maybe — directly or indirectly, these experiences prove to us our own strength. Maybe they build the bridge for compassion, and maybe that compassion is what grows and helps us to replace that loneliness with a sense of comfort.

Maybe that’s all we can ever ask for in this world…A place to find comfort.

And a chance to provide it when someone needs it most.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Eran May 24, 2010

Beautiful post. It’s true – the more I live my life, the more I feel like I should know what it’s all about. But you might be right – perhaps we’re never supposed to know. Perhaps it’s just enough to trust that there is a reason for everything 🙂


Susan Pogorzelski May 26, 2010

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading, Eran! It’s hard to accept that we might not have answers because there’s a comfort in knowing, in having those answers. And sometimes, I’ve found, all of the questions, the what ifs, and the whys can feel like it’s too much. You want there to be a reason for all of it, but with some of it, it’s not so easy to figure out, to understand. I think that’s where that trust comes in. Maybe it really is all we have…

Maybe in the end, that really is enough.

Interesting (and comforting!) thoughts — thanks again!


Jenny Blake May 24, 2010

Incredible post. Absolutely incredible. The last three paragraphs almost brought tears to my eyes – thank you. I am giving you a standing ovation over here 🙂


Susan Pogorzelski May 26, 2010

Thank you, ma’am…I have to admit, I was a sobbing mess when I wrote it. And I cried again when I wrote my friend a message on Facebook. And then some tears fell when I read her beautiful response just a little bit ago. Life has its ups and downs, that is a definite…but sometimes, it has the ability to surprise you in the sweetest of ways. I’m hoping it has some of those in store for you as well.

And no…I wasn’t talking about cupcakes. But there you have it 😉 Thanks for the comment, Jenny!


Positively Present May 25, 2010

What an amazing post, Susan! It reminds me so much of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song, “Snow (Hey Oh),” which has a line something like: “The more I see/the less I know/The more I like to let it go” Like you, I’m starting to understand that the more I learn about life, the less I really understand. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s hard to accept that, but it’s so much better once it’s accepted. I know I’ve said this before, but you really are a talented writer and it makes me so happy to see your posts in my Reader. 🙂


Susan Pogorzelski May 26, 2010

Dani — your comments always mean so much to me — can I ever grow tired of telling you that? And is one thank you ever enough? Well, here we go again…Thanks so much for your belief and support of my writing — of me. I always, always love hearing your perspective and your own words of wisdom.

ESPECIALLY when they come from the Red Hot Chili Peppers! LOVE THEM!

Isn’t it funny how life works? Just when you think you have it figured out, it throws something your way, as if to say, “nope…guess again.” You’re absolutely right — it’s hard to accept that we can’t have all the answers because, as I was saying to Eran, the answers are what provides us with comfort. But maybe…Maybe we would become too complacent with all those answers. Maybe that’s what keeps us going…That search for something, that search for understanding.

Love your thoughts, Dani! Thanks!


Bryan Rutt May 25, 2010

After reading your post, Susan, I disagree. You DO know life, better than most folks do; most people sail thru it barely paying attention whereas you take the time to actually experience and – gasp – try to learn from it. Your writing continues to inspire – great work!


Susan Pogorzelski May 26, 2010

Thanks, Bryan. Honestly, I can’t imagine looking at life any other way. I don’t have a whole lot figured out and when I do finally feel like I understand one part of it, life tends to say, “whoops. Can’t have that.” I think I’m starting to become ok with that…I think that’s what keeps us growing. I’m beginning to think that by questioning, we learn. And by learning, we change. And with change, we grow.

All of you in these comments are showing me that it’s ok not to have all of the answers. And there are some things in life that we may never understand. But maybe that understanding, that lesson, comes in hindsight. Because while I will never understand why that happened to her, I know I learned compassion and loyalty from her. And I’m very grateful for that.

Thanks for the comment, Bryan! When’s that sushi tweetup gonna happen? =P


Kristina May 25, 2010

Susan, I don’t even know what to say. The post is so beautiful it almost doesn’t need a comment and yet, this post so be acknowledged in some way. You are a talented writer and I will be there taking pictures at your first book signing :).


Susan Pogorzelski May 26, 2010

Kris — seeing as I’m your official skating PR girl/stylist/blade wiper, it’s a deal 😉 Thanks for your friendship — you know how much it means to me. And I think that says it all… 🙂


Sarah May 29, 2010

Every time I read one of your posts, I learn a little bit more about you that I didn’t know before. So that means that you have to keep on writing awesome posts like these and sharing yourself with all of us who read, because I really enjoy seeing the side of you that normally stays hidden, underneath the glass. You are such an amazing person and I know without a doubt that my life is enriched just because you’re my friend. Love you!


Tom May 30, 2010

Susan, it’s a bit belated but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this! I think, it’s kind of a philosophical cliche, but this made me think about…someones idea that to know you don’t know is the first step to knowing. People who walk around like they have it all figured out absolutely amaze me, as I really don’t think you ever get it all figured out. And if you think you do, then you really, really don’t.


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