There is tremendous value in having a created a purpose in life. Meaning is purpose. Having a goal-oriented, purposeful life can replace a depressed, subsistence level lifestyle
Starting with a blank screen-the modern page-anything is possible.
Drawn lines could create meaning or abstract shape with the paper page. Now there are digital photographs.
The paper page could even transform into a plane or swan with flat becoming 3 dimensional. The flat screen offers video.
But words remain the same.
People come and go out of all of our lives.
But some make an especially strong impression.
When looking at photos of a special someone I used to know, I trace the lines that build his face, eyes, mouth, lips, and hair. I wish I had more photos of his back and torso, legs and hands, the rest of his body. But I am thankful at least that I have photos of his face. I can remember at least his face, even if the rest of him fades away as memories dull.
Actually, just such a fear prompted me to ask him to make a voice recording for me. I had deleted a previous one where he read some encouraging statements I wrote to remind myself that life could go on and that I could become a different person. That I could become a happy person or happier than I had been beside him.
However, this second voice recording was genuine, his own words, slightly goofy and sweet and included his natural intonation and even a cough.
That brief message and so many photos from our life together: these consist of the evidence of a history I may someday forget.
But for now, I can’t forget or move so far away. Instead, I trace lines of his face in my favorite photos. I trace the lines of a face of someone I used to know.
Once there was a very silly boy named Ben. He wore sweaters on hot sunny days, exercised at the wrong times, and took naps right before bedtime.
Clearly Ben is a very silly boy. But he looked very dashing in his sweater and did everything else at the right time except for exercise and naps. But for the latter, Ben took a warm bath, drank a cup of chamomile tea, and listened to a bedtime story. Afterwards he fell quite deep into sleep and stayed well asleep all during the night.
Good night, Ben.
A friend told me it “happens and then you get back up”.
“How?” I asked.
“How with two broken legs, sprained ankles and messed up knees?”
Let go, move on, pick yourself up, power through, move forward, get over it, be stronger, stay positive, get better, try harder, gotta do it, don’t give up, carry on, hold on, it’ll be better soon.
Fun sings, “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground.”
And I do want that. My feet, their step, resounding sound, eyes straight ahead. walking forward.
But for now, I’m stuck in this hole. The sides go up above my head.
How did I get in this mess? Was it my fault? Someone else’s? Fate or destiny? God’s punishment or His gift? I don’t know. Could I even remember with my memory slipping away? And does it matter anyway?
Because all I can see are these walls all around me. Surrounded by the dirt on every side with only a glimmer of light at the top of my world.
Am I strong enough? With all these broken bones? With this debilitating fear?
I feel weak. I feel pain. I have wounds. I wake from nightmares to this nightmarish world.
I am just sitting on the dirt ground for now. I know that I must have fell down here. How? I don’t have the memory. It seems like it has been this way a long time. Maybe always.
Given a little time, I am going to get up. Going to climb my way to the top. It is going to take sweat, dirt on me, smeared all over me body. Muddy dirt during the rain isn’t going to hold my weight. I will slide down even as I try to get higher. But I can’t give up. I don’t remember what is up there, but there is absolutely nothing down here. Not even food or water. So what will my life be here and how long will my life be?
And when I am up there, I am going to leave everything behind. All those feelings and all those things I saw before are going to be gone. No people from the past, just people in the future. No memories because even if I clung on, my brain won’t go along with that.
Even down here, I don’t want to remember anything. I don’t want to dream of anyone I used to know. I don’t need anything that before I used to love or use. I don’t have room enough in this hole to care about anything else, but where next I will place my hand or foot. There will be new songs on my lips and I will give up the words from before.
I will do more than brush off. I will become clean. I will use the rain or a lake or a river or even the ocean if that is what I find. Because I won’t let fear win. I will leave it behind in that dark hole. I will know I am the strongest after climbing up those dirt walls. And already now, that fire of a belief swells up, feeding on the oxygen of my breath.
To live, I will give up everything. Everything I have known. Everything I remember. Everything I believed. Everything in my past. Because I want to see the future become the present.
There is nothing back there. Nothing of my past is coming up with me. I don’t want or need it anymore.
You don’t get to use my name. Who are you to me anymore?
You left and put distance where there was closeness. You made space where we had been intertwined together.
So, who are you to use that name of mine? You are already gone. You’ve moved on. There is no us. There isn’t we hope, we try, we go, we enjoy, or we together. There is me. There is myself now. There is memory where there once was you.
So don’t be familiar and use my name. You don’t know me anymore. That woman before who was with you: she is dead. There is no resurrection and there is nothing left of her for you to use her name when you talk to me.
My name is my own. Friends use it. Co-workers use it. Family use it. Acquaintances and lovers and sales clerks and new relationships use that name. But not you; you lost that right already. You don’t know me anymore. You made yourself nothing to me by making me nothing to you.
And nothing can’t call out my name. Nothing can’t even speak. So, I can’t hear those collection of sounds from you.
After all, those sounds used to be intimate. My name spoken by you. It used to be something beautiful. Why pretend that intimacy exists anymore? You severed that connection willfully. It was your decision. Am I even person enough to you to be called by a name?
My name is special. I am going to protect it from now on. You don’t get to use my name. Not anymore.
I remember, after a religious conversion, seeing the sky. It was blue.
It was as if the world had suddenly burst into vibrant color. I was Dorothy and I found myself in Oz when previously I had only known sepia Kansas.
I took this as evidence of the correctness of my new religion. Years later, upon reflection, I realize that I had found something more powerful, although more vague and mysterious: hope.
My life prior had been fully greedy, violent, resigned, and indifferent. My life changed at this time and I gained some freedom. That freedom gave birth to a fragile hope. And the world bloomed in color as it became more beautiful than I had ever known it could be.
The world was the same, of course, but I had new eyes.
But the dark world of my past came back to haunt me. This time it was more menacing, powerful, and hellish than I had ever felt before. It was a long time of grief.
Again, the reality we interact within and share remained as it is and I was the change that threw my life into chaos. Whether stolen, forgotten, or abandoned, the result was the same; my hope was gone.
The bright blue sky, same wherever it is visible-no matter where you are-was fading to some pale gray tinged derivative. I would still try to find that perfect sky from five years ago: tropical beaches, small boats on the ocean, fields with distant horizons.
But my hopeless was gray. The weather was brutal winters. The kind that bite deep into your bones. Or it was dingy, soaking rain with no umbrella. Or oppressive heat that sizzles and bakes away energy and time.
The places around me were full of ugliness and cruelty. Or indifference to me, as I became isolated from life.
I saw joy and love others’ experienced from life as if separated by a thick panel of glass. It was clear. My vision didn’t seem distorted. And the scene was somewhat familiar. But even if it had been strange, it would have been radiant still, beautiful still.
My life on the other side of the glass was dark. Trapped in this small cage, I couldn’t find any way out.And as days, then months, passed, my energy started evaporating. Trying was harder as hope died. As it was dying, fear crept in. After fear made a home named anxiety in my heart, resignation settled in.
Isolated, in pain, hopeless, despairing-that is how I existed. And the days and months added up to years. As I moved geographically, my despair and grief packed up and moved along with me. I was chased across the world, through time zones and countries, by a dark shadow only I felt.
Myself was dead. Somehow, while I was drowning in intense pain, who I was became less than a memory. It was as if she had never existed.
The conscious moments were I chose the wrong instead of the right had led me somewhere inescapable. My mistakes that created despair that radiated outward to everyone in connection to me. I was only sobbing, messy, dirty, and disgusting.
And because hope had already died, anxiety taken rooted, and resignation crowned, this hell was the only reality possible. That glass wasn’t one-sided. Those who looked back at me felt as helpless as I knew I was. No one could help, many tried, the only ones who survived were the ones who gave free gifts of love over and over to an unchanging, unrescued prisoner.
This grief is called depression.
This was the darkest depression I had ever felt in my short life that had already many times been tainted by darkness.
Accepting yourself, when you can’t see anyone else who does, is the hardest.
It takes strength. It takes courage. It takes what is strongest in the entire world. I don’t know that I have the bravery to prize myself unconditionally.
Instead I remember the criticisms, rejections, speeding indifference, and loneliness of being alone, trapped inside a form I didn’t believe deserved love. The most beautiful souls would implore me to see an answer beyond my understanding, that I am enough to love me. And they are right. It is the only real answer.