Today was a struggle and yesterday was too. It felt like the very force of life was being squeezed from me, like a cosmic hand gripped at my center until my eyes bugged out all cartoon-like and surreal. I’ve tried to fight it, to curl my tiny fingers beneath the hold and pry it off so I can catch a breath. But it’s had me for so long I’ve actually begun to cope. I can breathe, albeit shallowly. I can move, though slowly. I’m exhausted to my core but I still do my chores and show up to this life. On days like yesterday and today, I try to recall how it once felt to be normal. I try to remember what a mind that isn’t compressed feels like. In the pondering, ideas form. Theories, really, of how and why this happened. I wasn’t always like this. Stuck. Odd. Wheezing for air on a bright fall day. No, I once had dreams. I had vision. The life force now squeezed from my very bones was lit up like a string of firecrackers and daily they sparked, popped, lit up my eyes with purpose.
Back then, thirty-year old me stepped down the stairs of our second-story Starbucks in town. I looked out over a river and thought how idyllic and child-like it’d be to find a stone and toss it in to make a wish. Like dropping a coin into a fountain, this was my chance. I’d hold the rock at the center of my hand and believe with all my might that every ounce of hope I had for my future would seep into the minerals and when it kerplunked into the water, the mighty river would guard it for me and keep it safe. And I believed this nonsense because I was that desperate, that happy. Back then I drank caramel macchiatos knowing they were bad for me. I relished the sweetness. I thought I deserved to taste good things and live a big, beautiful life.
I spent time with my journal and only wrote with fancy pens, the ones that flowed ink like lava oozing from an angry volcano, wet and plentiful. My words were plentiful. They cascaded across the pages in verse and song and curious phrases. And though I had nothing, I had everything because I still had hope. Every page was laced with it. My heart. My story. Back then I was proud of my story because I thought it was still being written and I really loved the next chapter. I could hardly wait. Antsy, almost sick with anticipation. Lovesick.
I loved my future.
But as the years passed, I grew tired. Weary. Death touched my life. Pain. Chronic illness. If I once had daily glimpses of my goals, soon they were siphoned away by survival. Survival is the enemy of hope. And I stopped believing that good could happen to me, that I deserved any of it. Worst of all, I started to believe it was my fault. That somehow I contributed to the chaos that descended and stole my spark, wrapped around me and smothered my snappy firecrackers. Because maybe I was never good enough and it was never going to happen, no matter how many rocks I tossed into rivers or how many dreams I scribbled in the journal.
This is real talk. This is real life. Sometimes you want something so badly the rejection of it feels like a rejection of YOU. And we all have a choice to cling to the dream, loving ourselves as it slaps us around, or dream a new dream.
This is what hurts the most, choosing, because my dream long abandoned me and nothing else seems as meaningful. It’s all crap now. A big mound of stinking crap.
I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that if we want to breathe again, the grip around our lives has to go. And to remove that third-party’s intrusion, we have to be willing to sit with the disappointment. Journal with a pen that isn’t pink with glittery flecks. Throw rocks at a brick wall until they smash to smithereens, screaming that you did dream a good dream and it was a good idea, and you would have been great at it. But life happened and it isn’t your fault. And although you can’t imagine anything else you’d rather do, there is still hope and it’s not rooted in lofty things or abstract ideas or dreams. It’s in the fact that you and I really do have something beautiful to contribute to the world. It’s terrifying to not know our purpose, like beginning a cross-country trek without a map or even a destination. What if it’s hard? What if it’s not what we expected? What if it’s inferior to the place we wanted to stay?
This is the hand that grips me: What if I’ll never be happy again? Even shallow happy. I’d take it right now.
But everyday I do the hard work. I stop kicking and screaming and fighting, and I think to myself, “It’s going to be okay.”
Now, is it? I don’t really know. But I like to believe that even if I never throw another rock in a river and jot my dreams on my journal, or tattoo them on my arm, even if I never taste another caramel macchiato, I will be okay, because I’m still here. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll breathe a little deeper tomorrow and dream something new. Take spark and live again.