love is // livelovesimple.com

There is a Japanese phrase, “Shikata ga nai.” It translates too, “It cannot be helped.” I came across it for the first time about a decade ago when I read Snow Falling on Cedars for the first time. It seared into my mind like an iron brand and has remained there. The Japanese use this phrase to maintain dignity in the face of unavoidable tragedy or suffering, especially when the circumstances are beyond their control. It is a “letting go,” if you will, an acceptance because it has to be this way, even when it hurts, even when the suffering takes you to your knees.

Over the last three years, as I’ve trudged through the excruciating processes of separation, divorce, new relationships, heartache, and love—I’ve come back to this phrase often. It’s been a balm on my weary heart in the moments when I felt my soul collapsing. Cheryl Strayed wrote that most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.

My life this last year has become about acceptance, learning that the more I struggle, the tighter the rope becomes around my throat. But when I let go, the rope slips away, and I am free. This lesson I have been learning and re-learning for a lifetime, the one that perhaps I was put on this earth to master because I am presented with circumstance after circumstance where the only way forward is to let go.

In the end, it is true that love is the ultimate law of life—in fact, it is the only thing. I will spend my life loving others so radically that they wonder why. It’s the only true thing that we have to give, the most important thing. Shikata ga nai. It cannot be helped. It has to be.

Leave a Comment