I was six years old when I learned that I could escape into stories and immerse myself in a make-believe world which existed within bound pages of print.
I was 12 years old when I learned that reality was a land that didn’t always have a warm embrace, and that not all caresses were kind.
And I was 32 years old when I learned that I could crumble into a million scattered pieces on a cold kitchen floor and scream with the agony of heartbreak and unraveling.
I had in fact been unraveling for a few years before I finally found myself to be whittled down to a single strand.
Yet, still there was an element of surprise. As though I hadn’t quite realized that I might ever reach the end of me. The frayed edges of the yarn, that had never really felt like part of the fabric, was now quite undone.
My world had been spinning on an axis of others for some time. My identity was determined by the approval of the women I wanted to be and the men I wanted to be noticed by.
I had been stumbling in and out of a relationship that was torrid and turbulent. The spaces of calm which had nestled themselves in between the erratic hours were becoming more and more slender. Sometimes I couldn’t see them at all.
The relationship had seen me folded, over and over and over again. Until I was the smallest square of obedience. Timid and tiny. Cornered and caged.
Every day was an elaborate balancing act, every word was measured, every action was weighted. My existence was made up of scared seconds that were clinging to the edges of the person I was trying to be. Even my much loved make-believe world of books didn’t feel like the refuge it once had.
I looked in all of the wrong places for all of the elusive answers. It felt as though nothing would survive those years. Including me.
… there was a day that followed that was exactly like the rest, and also, nothing like the rest. I was never sure afterwards what had set it apart, what specific sequence of events had culminated in the words that were spoken to me. The words that would take that torrid relationship and finally place its difficult chapters very firmly in the past.
It is strange how we persist in holding on so tightly to the hearts that harm us. Fear convinces us that an intolerable reality is a better friend than unknown possibility.
On that day, I had no desire to hear those words. I had no appetite for their cold truth. But still they were spoken. A bag was packed and a door was closed, and it was never, ever reopened.
And so it was that I found myself on a cold floor, emptying my lungs of every last breath of the hurt I could no longer contain. It was over. I was over. Going, going, gone.
But somehow, amongst all the mess of what was, I had the tiniest hope of what might be. Because reaching the end of me also meant that I’d found the beginning of me. I could create a new tapestry.
So I took the single, frayed thread of who I was, and I began to stitch myself a new story. The canvas seemed so big and so bare. I wondered who I was to dare think that I could fill it. I worried about getting the pattern wrong, whether I’d be mocked, ridiculed or judged.
As it happens, the life I was weaving together did look a little haphazard at times. Or a lot. It was not a picture of any kind of perfection. It was messy and strange and glorious and real.
When you have been the smallest square of obedience, it is daunting to spill over and out of the confines of your folded being.
But the wonderful thing about folding so far into yourself is that when you unfurl, it’s the greatest, grandest opening. The most expansive release. And everyone looks and wonders, who is this person filling up the room?
Sometimes we think that the defining moments in our lives will be born from celebratory milestones and memories that are destined to be commemorated in heavy silver frames.
But sometimes our defining moments are found in broken hearts on kitchen floors and barely-there whispers from within that softly say, No, this will not be the loop of my life. This will not be repeated.
And so it is that the path forward is forged.
Rarely is that path smooth and steady, rarely is the view an illustration of constant beauty. But still, it is a path.
It is a path.
There will come a time, someday, someplace, when something within you will waken. And afterwards, nothing will be ever be quite the same.
The darkest night will fall, the greatest grief will come, the hardest hurts will seep into your skin. You will try to hold on to the moving landscape, to steady yourself as your world spins and somersaults with no mercy.
In the speeding seconds that see you hurtling towards some kind of surrender, there will be a pause. A moment that is longer than the others.
It is there in that pause that you will remember the thread of you.
This will be the break of your own dawn, the light of your own rise. And though the shadows may still seek you, they will not claim you.
This shift, this beautiful knowing of who you are and who you are yet to be, will live forever in the heat of your belly and the fire in your heart.
It cannot be taken from you. Not by anyone.
Sometimes survival looks like a scrapbook of moments that catch your eye just as you teeter at the edge.
You are the greatest of those moments.
You are the reason to stay.
You are everything you need to remember.