who through her brief time on earth, changed my life…
and the trajectory of human existence.
This one’s for you.
Vincent van Gogh painted Starry Night during his stay at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in 1889. His heavy brushstrokes illuminated the turbulence of light and clouds in the night sky. Far ahead of his time and not a man of science, the theory of fluid turbulence hadn’t yet been discovered: fluid turbulence, that is, the theory of the transfer of energy between ‘eddies’ (an eddy is a circular movement of water, air, or smoke). Maria Popova, as she always does in her literary masterpiece of a website Brain Pickings, examined and tied the pieces of van Gogh’s mind and the science that later arose that ended up proving his magnificence.
Andrey Kolmogorov wouldn’t introduce the theory of fluid turbulence until 1941, and then in 1965, he introduced the theory of randomness now called Kolmogorov Complexity, which states that the complexity of an object is the length of the shortest computer program that can replicate that object.
I’m sure that Kolmogorov would agree that van Gogh’s brain couldn’t ever be replicated. There isn’t a computer program that could deduce what made it possible for van Gogh, in 1889, to be able to understand the theory of fluid turbulence.
In space, according to Jose Luis Aragon, the breathtaking turbulence that was observed by the Hubble Telescope in 2004 was likely caused by the intermingling of dust and gas.
At the time, NASA stated, “[The] Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting, is renowned for its bold whorls of light sweeping across a raging night sky. Although this image of the heavens came only from the artist’s restless imagination, a new picture from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope bears remarkable similarities to the van Gogh work, complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of miles of interstellar space.”
van Gogh painted this from his window in an insane asylum — in his darkest moments, he somehow not only discovered a scientific theory that had yet to be discovered — he found beauty in the world despite his own turbulence.
What we learn from physics and from van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ is that it isn’t turbulence alone that is beautiful — it is how we create beauty in turbulence. Both van Gogh’s painting — and the night sky we can look out to every night — exhibits that in exquisite detail.
In the following pages is my attempt to find beauty in my own turbulence.
From the time that I was a kid, I dealt with big things — the things that other kids don't generally have to deal with, so when you become old before you’re supposed to, there are pearls of wisdom that come with that — some of them are, indeed, pearls, and some of them are defects that are reflective of the understanding of the fragility of Time. When you don’t know how much you’ve got of it, but it seems to be going at a bit more of a hastened pace than everyone else, you have less time for nonsense. I’ll never find that there’s enough Time to do all that my soul requires me to.
The concept of youth became canonized for me — it was something so far out of my reach that I couldn’t fathom what it even would feel like anymore. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and inflammatory arthritis young meant that I had the appearance of a kid: I looked like a kid and smelled like a kid, but I didn't feel like a kid. I felt like an eighty-year-old woman. My days started every morning with the first hint of consciousness, wiggling my toes, bending my neck from side to side, deciding what it felt like to be in my body that day. If it ached and I felt my swollen knees throb against the sheets, I was bummed. I knew that I was going to have to work that much harder that day to have the appearance of normal.
Now, even as a healthy woman sitting here today, the painful existential realization of my mortality isn’t something that ever really goes away — and I don’t know that many people can relate to it or not, or if it’s just something taboo that we don’t discuss — but nonetheless, it can become isolating, and I struggled with that as a teen and young adult. Now I’m in my thirties, and that’s practically 200 in Kelly years, and I’ve still got a laundry list of things I need to get done. I have found only one truth in my existence: in the midst of darkness, you have two choices: perpetuate it or illuminate it, and I think that might be my sole purpose on this earth.
Somehow, along the way, I was lucky enough to find my soulmate on a school bus when I was five, and at 16, managed to convince him that we should be fellow adventurers. In Sonnet 116, Shakespeare talks about “the marriage of true minds” and I can’t think of a better way to describe what I found in Sean. Bruce Springsteen described this kind of love when he said, “We all have our broken pieces. Emotionally, spiritually in this life, nobody gets away unhurt. We’re always trying to find somebody whose broken pieces fit with our broken pieces and something whole emerges.”
My life has been an exploration of trying to answer the following questions: How does trauma impact our physical selves? How do we navigate adversity instead of succumbing to it? How do the puzzle pieces — the good and the terrible — all somehow perfectly fit together to lead us to the lives we’re capable of living?
In his memoir, Bruce Springsteen said, “In analysis, you work to turn the ghosts that haunt you into ancestors who accompany you.”
I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying to do that, and I hope that this book helps you to do that as well.
We bump along a dirt road and I say,
“I wonder where this goes.”
Sean looks at me and says,
“Lil Lady doesn't need to know what's at the end of the path for her to go down it.”
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