Every day, I write texts to someone who doesn’t receive them.
I keep the texts in my Notes App, which is starting to look like a chaotic found poem of varied sentiments from the past few months, ranging from “LOOK at Rihanna’s Vogue cover” to “WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT PETE DAVIDSON” to “I forgot my headphones on the train and the person watching TikTok out loud next to me is sending me into rage” to “I miss you so so much.”
Before, I used to text her all day every day. “This is the friend I text the most,” is how I introduced her, a testament to our easy bond.
She and I have a vast collection of shared interests that looks more like Kandinsky’s concentric circles than a Venn diagram: a bunch of loops and layers of pop culture, Frank Ocean lyrics, spiritual proclivities, cultural critique, elaborate dissections of reality shows, an album for every mood, hopeless romantic ideals, and attunement to justice. We’ve maintained rich nonstop conversation since we met, a recorded witness of each other’s small thoughts and big steps.
She is FUNNY and I wish I could share some of her texts to brighten your whole day, but I’d have to ask her permission and I can’t do that—not right now.
My dear, funny, idealistic friend has been recovering from emergency brain surgery since November. That means: she’s here, but not in a familiar way. That means: she’s alive, but I miss her. I keep writing her texts in my Notes app to share with her some day, which makes me feel less but more lonely.
She would love being out and about today. In my phone contacts, I put a sunshine emoji next to her name, because she told me that she used to draw chalk suns all over the sidewalk when she was a little girl. “Oh that’s your essence!” I replied, because she illuminates every room with literal sparkle—she loves sequin clothes and neon nail colors. Today is outstandingly sunny and her inner child would capture it well: a massive yellow circle with dozens of rays saturating all of New York.
Today, Easter and Passover and Ramadan overlap (surrounded by Vaisakhi, several New Year festivals, and a full Pink Moon!). As someone who has passionately studied Abrahamic religions since middle school, this is my Super Bowl.
I am an Easter-celebrating individual myself, but the holy overlap has plumped up the weekend with extra collective energy; my bones stand upright with attention. New York is fully abloom and suddenly warm; I intuit mass relief in the air even as the world continues on with its usual cruel nonsense.
The subway and sidewalk are sacred grounds. We’re all participating in the shared festival of our city’s post-winter rebirth, when daffodils planted in October prove that frozen winter soil is not fruitless. There was growth underground, all along.
The Easter traditions are relatively new to Christianity. Early Christians did not see Jesus' death as a means to atonement (Eastern Orthodox Christians still don't), and who knows what his personal network thought about it. Greek and Roman mythology heavily influenced the writers of the Bible, and the resurrection narrative echoes all kinds of motifs from classical stories.
The true story is unknowable, and no doubt very very weird, but it’s been smoothed into this pink-tinfoil-packaged triumph mixed with Pagan and consumerist additions like pastel eggs and marshmallow bunnies (no complaints there). Somehow, the holiday now serves as a peppy symbol for “Everything’s okay now.” This is confusing when things are not okay.
The way Easter is positioned, particularly in some contemporary faith traditions, you’d think it was the final say. You’d think it was a cure-all for any doubt or depression.
Rilke wrote, “No feeling is final.”
As much as I naturally embrace sorrow and loss as an inevitable and enriching part of life, I regularly buy into the messages of finality. I’m really mad that my friend hasn’t fully healed yet. It makes me so angry that someone so vibrant and needed has to endure this tough journey. In my personal design of how the universe should operate, she’d be fully recovered by Easter and we’d be skipping around the city right now collecting hyacinths and sunbeams.
It seems like spring should bring full redemption. It seems like there should be no more cold days. We were in winter, now we’re in spring, okay world? Everything is good again, right?! Isn’t that how symbolism works? Isn’t that how the pandemic was supposed to go: a period of pain with a guaranteed end date and an epilogue of constant dancing in the streets? Here Comes the Sun and Happy Days Are Here Again etc, forever and ever, the end??
This is the year I finally realized that the ritual of celebration is a repeating discipline, not the final say. Springtime is not the completion of sorrow; it’s a punctuation of sorrow. A comma, not a conclusion. Life is really really really hard, AND here is a day to honor renewal, to appreciate growth, to commune together in collective hope, and eat lots of chocolate.
My dear friend loves the musical Hadestown. She’s seen it a couple times, once right before the blood clot formed in her brain. Hadestown is the fabulously creative retelling of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, a tale that has become all the more beloved to me as my own Eurydice has descended into her own Hades: an isolated, disorienting, and liminal space where redemption is unknown.
Hadestown opens: “It’s an old tale from way back when, and we’re gonna sing it again.”
Anais Mitchell, who wrote the lyrics for Hadestown, was asked why the musical feels so relevant today. “Because it’s a myth,” she said. Myths are timeless, and thus can be constantly repeated. Myths whittle down the human experience to its essential desires and disappointments, which haven’t changed in thousands of years. We just keep singing it again.
Something I love about Hadestown is that the ending is surprising in its unsatisfying strangeness. The story is hardly redeemed. We still don’t know what happens to Eurydice.
It's an old tale from way back when
And we're gonna sing it again and again
It's a tale of a love from long ago
It's a sad song
We keep singing even so.
“We keep singing even so” is my stubborn theme of Easter this year, though perhaps it would make more sense to sing “It’s a happy song/We keep singing even so” because of how challenging it is to muster up happiness for so many reasons.
Drafting texts to my Hadestown-loving, sunshine-drawing friend every day is a mini daily Easter. It’s my repeating discipline of love and hope, acknowledging “This sucks and it’s so profoundly, completely not-right”…and yet “We keep singing even so.”
Easter too is a myth (possibly a true one, but a myth nonetheless). Its optimistic themes of rebirth and life-among-death will never not be relevant, even in times when optimism sounds like a joke. Likewise, the other holy days of this potent week whittle our human tasks down to the essentials: intentionality, freedom, compassion, and joy.
My texting ritual is sacred. My celebration of Easter is sacred. And today, I recognize that the sacredness is not in the redemption or result, but in the repetition. I repeatedly keep loving my friend through writing to her, and I repeatedly keep hopeful through celebrating springtime.
Love, hope, repeat, repeat, repeat.