When I was a child, I thought happiness was like a rushing river – once I jumped in, it would carry me forever. It would rush around me, swallowing me piece by piece until only my face remained above the water, and I would be Happy. I thought it was a constant, a plane of existence that I never dreamed I could grasp. I could dip my hand in the water, sure, but somehow I never jumped.
I remember nights with my friends, all packed together in the basement, as we told stories and drank grape propel, and I thought, this is it. This is happiness! But morning always broke and with it some new symptom, some new heartache, and I felt happiness drip from the palm of my hand. I couldn’t hold it, not for any longer than a moment, and I felt broken.
But still, I grew. I changed my surroundings, both my landscape and my social scene. I cleaned all the poison out and waited, wounds open and weeping. I surrendered to good moments, good people who I knew could flit out of my life just as easily as they wandered in. I found joy in the mundane, in the smallest interactions between myself and the world, in wondering and laughing and trying to do good.
Slowly the moments built up. I stopped watching the river – stopped pursuing happiness as a permanent state of being. And I was amazed. The moments of happiness tasted sweeter and lasted longer.. some days I forget I was ever chasing happiness at all. I’ve fallen into it, head first, and I’m not afraid of its ending any longer. Somehow I know that I can find my way back, no matter how far I’ve strayed.
I was planning to leave.
Not now, but soon enough. I saved money, I checked out travel books, I asked friends and family and travel writers. I reached, stretched out, until my fingers were nearly across the Atlantic.
I was going to be gone. Far enough away that I’d be more memory than woman, more reflection than flesh and bones but now…
Plans change. Dreams must be flexible or they’ll die, you know, so adjusting my course isn’t a sign of surrender – it’s the only way forward. I’m not giving up.
If I stay, if I run and find a little room of my own, I can create on my own terms. I can belong somewhere. I can feel at home. Maybe I’ll be able to breathe again. The air in my lungs is stale and muggy, made thick by time and tension. It’s made me so tired.
What else can I do, really, besides linger at the edge of a life I never imagined?
I suppose I could jump. Let the wind carry me if it must. Find somewhere new, seek the sun. Who knows, who knows, who knows.
Learned today that most young girls
wake up crying after sedation
Doc pulls the needle out and before
their eyes open,
hot tears, a riverbank bursting,
nothing sweet about it – just sad
on sad on sad
the gauze lining their beaten gum tissue
fades to red as they shake
Doc is gentle, Doc is good
but I know this will not be the last time
a man carves bloody craters there
I know these girls will be
floodland women, jaws aching
as they struggle to pry
calloused hands from their bruised tongues.
I’m stretched out on a couch in Hawaii, island air sweet and heavy on my tongue. I want to put words to the past year – to pin it down, to hold it accountable – but my thoughts are scattered, rough.
Here’s what I’ll say.
I’m older than I ever imagined possible. My relationships are richer than I thought I deserved. Even if I had the chance to go back to myself at 18, at 15, at 8, I would never have believed life could be this good. I would’ve thought it was a cruel joke.
Some days still feel like that. Things still hurt and there is still work to do.
But I’m here, I’m breathing and creating and stretching myself in new directions. There are beautiful places to find, there are new people to meet, there are three thousand ways to break my heart that I haven’t even tried yet. And you’re here. There’s a certain magic in that.
Two of my babes have deemed 2017 as the year to do what you want. I think I’m going to chase that. My face is toward the sun – I might finally be ready. I hope you are, too.