Over here in Sydney, the eclipse didn’t occur, and a 14-hour time jump from the East Coast means I actually often receive current events updates on a delay (while lying in bed reading them on my phone at 6am). The weird FOMO/day-ahead mentality, where my daylight is your nighttime, renders me disoriented; I feel as though I’m watching the world from a distance, as a bystander to all things America. The break from that most patriotic of traditions, the 24-hour news cycle, has been healing for me: in the absence of bottom-of-the-screen news tickers, I can choose when and how I want to be informed. But who am I kidding? I have a smartphone, and Twitter (where I get most of my news now), and a bookmarked Safari page with R. Eric Thomas’ Elle articles. I’m still a slave to culture—I’m just a long-distance slave.

Luckily Entertainment Weekly (digital edition) and Rotten Tomatoes are accessible from Australia, so after I read early reviews of The Big Sick and saw that it was coming out here, I headed with a friend to see it. The next night my husband and I went to dinner with another couple and the wife was describing some health problems she’s been facing. I took in her symptoms and was struck by how they mirrored those of Emily in the movie. Feeling hopeful and more than a bit heroic, I mentioned as much to my friend, who resolved to discuss the similarities with her doctor. A few days later, she told me that there was 95% certainty she had the same disease portrayed in the film.

Warning: grossness ahead. My first feeling, rather than one of empathy for my friend and the disease she’ll have to manage the rest of her life, was one of triumph: I had been the answer! My attentiveness to movies and people had solved a problem that doctors hadn’t even figured out yet! I AM MORE OF A HERO THAN I THOUGHT! Where’s my medal?! Then I saw the look in my friend’s eyes at the hollow victory this diagnosis brought her, and I was struck once again at how, in my own twisted way, I have never stopped trying to prove my own value to the world.

The sickness of being human is pervasive and unceasing.

A friend and I are working on a writing project together, and we keep returning to the exodus of the Israelites as we ponder our own wanderings in life. Read from the Western world at a two-thousand year remove (talk about long distance), the story feels almost like a comedy of errors. Again, Israelites?! Is there any end to your boneheaded distrustfulness? It’s the same feeling I got when watching Friends from College on Netflix recently: these characters suck. Why would I be on board with a chronically lying and cheating group of people, no matter how much I like Keegan-Michael Key? I mean, is there anything redeeming about them at all? (Spoiler alert: still not sure.) But the mental gymnastics that are really going on with these readings and viewings, when laid bare, look like this: I truly believe some behaviors, some sins, are out of the realm of possibility for me.

Then I remember that most lauded of miracles, the parting of the Red Sea, and I imagine for the first time how the Israelites must have felt compared to our reading of it. Modern-day reader: cool trick! A path through the sea! Bet they were jazzed! Actual Israelites (I imagine): Um, God? We’re terrified of the sea. And you have shown a bit of…how shall we put this…capriciousness when it comes to your punishments? So how do we know you’re not taking us between these two huge walls of pounding surf just to drown us there?

What I’m saying is that God gives us a lot of credit just for showing up. And by “a lot of credit,” I mean, “not smiting us completely.”

I spend ample time between bodies of water myself these days: Sydney’s countless harbors, and the Pacific Ocean. And much of my spiritual life has resided in moments of walking/being carried forward even though I don’t trust God fully; even though I don’t completely believe in his goodness; even though I often wonder whether he’s going to snap his fingers and let the floods come raining down to smite me. Which is to say, I often define God by my circumstances, which is also to say, I often let life and its various ills define me.

When my son was diagnosed two years ago on the autism spectrum, my denial had not just to do with the ways the description failed to fit; it was also about my own sickness—my fear of a label defining him and never allowing him to fit in; my pre-emptive and ever-present embarrassment over that which sets me/us apart and the way I anticipate how those differences will make others feel awkward and cost me more work to smooth things over because #performancementality. Sick. There’s the anti-depressant I take, which I fought against for eighteen months because of my concern over being so “officially” depressed and anxious that I need a pill. My doctor doubled my dosage last week, by the way, which I knew was necessary even as I wanted to run from his office screaming, “I’M HEALTHY! YOU’VE ALL GOT IT WRONG! I’M FINE!”

Ugh. I am so not fine.

It turns out I’m not the only one, which I discovered from friends’ Instagram accounts. Just kidding, it was longform interview podcasts. This format has become my jam because (a) it allows me to perpetuate the myth that, as Us Weekly taught me, stars are just like us!, and (b) it makes me feel less alone without having to interact with people face-to-face. Recently Pete Holmes interviewed Michael Ian Black, and if you are a human being with mental health concerns, or just a human being, allow me to advise that you run, not walk, to listen. My favorite part of their interaction follows:

Discussion of MIB’s roles in films:

Pete: I mean, what else can you ask for?

MIB: I don’t know.

Pete: More (laughing).

MIB: (laughs) More. Look. I’m scared all the time.

Pete: I think that’s really interesting. I mean, as a confident person…it doesn’t surprise me though. We all have something, kind of, shaky inside.

It was such an honest interaction that I wanted to burst into the studio (where they were no longer recording) and pull the opposite of what I’d imagined at the doctor’s office, this time yelling, “GUYS! ME TOO! I’M SO EFFING DAMAGED!”

There is so much danger in diagnoses; rather, in our reaction to them. We can push them away out of fear of being defined by them, or let them reduce us to one thing. And maybe it’s a grass-is-greener mentality, but I feel like my American is showing, as it seems to me that we, culturally speaking, are more susceptible to these wild pendulum swings, than say, people in Sydney. Maybe it’s the water.

Oprah interviewed Tracy Morgan on her Super Soul Conversations podcast, which is a sentence I never thought I would write, let alone include in a Mockingbird post, and the conversation was incredibly moving. Morgan talked about his 2014 wreck that resulted in the loss of his friend Jimmy Mack and a lengthy recovery for Morgan himself. Moved to tears throughout the interview, Morgan at one point talked about what the wreck had given him. He said that people’s responses of love allowed him to “tap into humanity”; that prior to the accident, a part of him felt that he was only loved for his comedy, but now he knows he’s loved as a person.

Touched as I was by Morgan’s observations, I can’t help but think he was close to the truth but perhaps one big step away. As humans, one of our greatest sicknesses is to try and make the divine reachable by us. Fleming Rutledge said as much in her recent interview for The Mockingbird:

“…[Christianity’s] Scriptures are written from the fundamental position that human beings are not capable of approaching God. It is God who has approached us. That’s why I think we should be suspicious of all this current talk about journeys and journeying. The emphasis is in the wrong place, putting too high a value on our strivings. The journey has already been made, once and for all, by God in Jesus Christ.”

What I think Morgan actually tapped into was the divine reflected in humans by their love, which has only one true source. Much as we attempt to deify love as an abstract but achievable concept, the truth is this: God is love, not the other way around. All we do is screw it up.

Which is the whole point, really. We bring our sickness to the table—our official diagnoses along with our us vs them, our prejudice and hate, our Instagram BS, our need for people to find value in our performance—and God, in his grace, shows up with love. Full stop. Which, to me, is the essence of a healing that starts now and is completed in the eternity ahead.