Middle child 

The Observer is not given to writing for an audience of one. We're mass communicatin' here! Shouting, week to week, out this bare little window, hoping to be heard by the greatest number of people: folks sitting at bus stops and in doctors' offices, in restaurants and bars, folks like you, who may be sitting there right now, flipping these dead-tree pages one-handed or scrolling through digipages with your thumb while trying to keep mustard off your blouse. The Observer has lots of lunchtime readers. Sitting on the john readers, too. Hopefully no driving in on the morning commute readers, but people are crazy so you never know.

This week, however, The Observer is writing for a single person, a pal of ours who is going through a dark time, as all people must sooner or later. We're posting it here not because we couldn't just hit her up on Dr. Zuckerberg's Book o' Face, but because the feelings our friend is experiencing are so universal, so human, that we know what we have to say to her will apply equally to every person out there, even Yours Truly. So we figured we'd kill two starlings with one stone, speaking to her while simultaneously genuflecting toward that great patron saint of journalists everywhere, Phil D. Hole. And so, this one is for her:

Yes. Everything you love eventually turns to shit.

Everything The Observer loves eventually turns to shit, too. Everything your grandma loved eventually turned to shit. Everything your Dutch uncle, direst enemy, dearest friend, preacher, dentist and/or proctologist loves will eventually go that way as well. Unless you're somebody like Ludwig von Beethoven, Emily Dickinson, Freddie Mercury, Marie Curie — somebody who is going to live as long as human beings have the brain power to open a book or operate a crank Victrola — everything you love is eventually going over the cliff. Here is the hard truth about the human condition, my friend: Everything goes to shit eventually. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. The wolf of entropy is constantly scratching at the door, and she is persistent. Icebergs melt, sea levels rise and people you care about come down with leukemia. Killer comets streak out of the depths of the void and take aim on peaceful blue marbles. Eventually, the sun goes supernova and burns the dearest of her obedient chicks to a lifeless crisp. Shit Happens is not just a bumpersticker, kids. It's the truest statement ever spoken in the history of mankind, because stories with happy endings are just those stories you haven't read all the way to the end yet.

The hardest truth of all: Even when relationships work perfectly — even if two people meet at 19, get married, spend every day in bliss, never fighting over bills or sex or whose turn it is to wash the dishes until they're 90 years old — the end is STILL going to be variations on the same tune: He died, then she died; she died then he died; she died, then she died; he died, then he died. That is the song of all creation. Beginnings suck. The end is worse.

But ... .

There is the middle, my friend. There is the time after the awkward beginning, but before the inevitable end. After the first date, but before the breakup. After the first kiss but before the last. After that first bed bathed in moonlight and longing, but before the last bed, to be stripped and cleaned for the next patient, the next family, the next end. And here is what you must never forget, even now: The middle is worth the end, because the middle is where we get to live. It is where we are all allowed to forget for the moment that things fall apart. The middle is where we get to be free. But if you become so afraid of endings that you vow to never begin again, there will be no more middle. There will be no more sunlit days between the first dawn and last dusk. No more sweetness between the first sip and the cup being taken from your lips. No whispers in the quiet house between the first hello and the last goodbye. No sidelong glances between the first moment you saw her and the last time you watched as he drove away. None.

Yes, you will never have to feel the pain of the end again. You will save yourself that inevitable heartbreak. But in the process, you will have robbed yourself of the greatest treasure a human being can give to herself: the bliss of the middle, your sails full of wind, the end still a bad dream somewhere on the far side of the horizon. Yes, the middle is fleeting. It does not stay, because beautiful things never stay. But having it even for a moment today is worth any amount of pain tomorrow.



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