Listening to Stars, looking up at the stars.
I didn't fold the futon back up into a couch today. Instead I took a well-timed two hour nap in the afternoon, savoured the last hour before sunset stomping around on the hiking trails behind the lower cabin, made the rest of the pasta with last night's leftover raw sauce, and boiled some mint leaves on the stove. I've done two loads of dishes today, and things are strewn over the floor from my suitcase and the table from my collection of maps and brochures. I make a place feel like home when I mess it up. But I don't think I trust this place yet. Maybe it hasn't sunk in that this cabin, this island, this little forested corner of this stunning treasure of the universe is really mine for right now, the time I ever so desperately need it to be. Maybe this effort to be so eternally grateful for everything has taken away from my reasons for needing - not wanting - to be here in the first place. I can take a selfie in front of my cabin and share my happiness with the world, and beam a little every time one of my friends sends a little heart my way. But am I really here? Can I really turn the music off, turn the lights off, and be here - with the stars, with the light pouring down from the sky, whatever time of day, in this space I managed to find myself when I need so badly for my ideas to exist in a safe space?
I remember when I prayed for the things I have now. But before even then, I remember a time in my life very vividly when I simply couldn't pray for better things, or even hope for them. I couldn't manifest anything beyond my given circumstances because I doubted, wholeheartedly, that my life would be long enough to experience such things. I remember a time just five years ago when I was just trying to make it to the next day. The next hour. The next minute. I remember a regular, weekday afternoon when I came home to my basement apartment in a house owned by my mother and swaddled myself in the middle of my living room floor, using whatever I could find - my winter jacket, a throw, maybe even a rug - and holding myself until I was warm. Until I could feel again. It was probably cold outside, but it wasn't the weather that was making me feel numb. I held myself until I could bring my mind back to the day it was. I held myself until I stopped crying. Until I could breathe. Until I could slow my racing paranoia into regular time, then slow it down even more, so that I could convince my post-traumatic mind that I was safe. No one was going to hurt me. No one was coming to get me. There would not be blood. I would not shed blood by my own doing. I would breathe. And twenty minutes, forty minutes, two hours later, I blinked my eyes back open and I could breathe again. I could make it through the rest of the night.
It was this same time of my life when I began to loathe Friday nights the way I do now. My deep resentment of weekends and the enjoyment of other people cut me deep with rage and hatred of myself for feeling ostracized. There was one Friday night when I thought I had it all together. My apartment was clean. I had stacked two black coffee tables from IKEA on top of each other and had lit tealights across the tops of both. I was listening to VCR by The XX on a borrowed double-disc CD from the library, and finally starting to feel at peace. I sat down on the floor cross-legged with a mug of tea or hot chocolate. I was just beginning to slow my breath, when I looked at the calendar: Friday. My heart sank. I tried not to look at Facebook but inevitably, I did. My friends from high school and former colleagues were all at the clubs tonight. They were all beautiful and had each other. They were all drinking and spending money I didn't have (I was between jobs and hardly scraping by, as I'd gotten laid off early from my last seasonal gig and was starting to lose my confidence by week 5 of my job hunt). And I broke. I don't remember if I cut that night, but I must have cried. Or if somehow, I didn't cry, I would have been better off doing so - because not the fear, but the pain of missing out cut me deeper than I ever could have to myself. The sting of not being invited and not feeling like I was important to anyone, the silence of my cell phone, the loneliness I was totally drowning in, was more painful than any mean words or abuse another person could throw at me. I drowned that night of some kind of emotional pneumonia. I woke up the next day and it hurt slightly less. But I never liked Fridays again after that. I still don't. I've taken to Monday as my favourite day of the week - the hated end of the weekend.
I owe that time of my life to 90% of the strength I have today. The resilience of which I forget about often, because I'm no longer poor or lonely. I've taken the family matters that broke me into my own hands and reconnected with the members I missed and cut off the ones I no longer need. I left my fake-ass city full of spoiled rigger rich kids and moved to an island of 11,000, not before traveling the world to discover beauty and uncover my roots. I loved again so many times after that. After I thought it would all be over for me. My career. My relationships. My entire future, obliterated before my mind's eye because one man didn't have the strength to hold me. So I had to hold myself. I loved long and quiet and short and loud and there's a man on Vancouver Island I'm thinking of right now, whose arms have been outstretched and waiting to hold me before I even thought to come west to find my new home. There are far more gentle words I have for my 21 year-old self than the ones I had then, which were well-intentioned but cut like knives, like everything my mother and sister ever told me. What I really want to say to my 21 year-old self now is thank you. Thank you so much for living, for breathing, for surviving and learning how to be strong in unimaginable circumstances. I owe everything I have today to you. It all belongs to you. You always deserved these things, and while I light more expensive candles now and I'm no longer trying to block out the sirens and streetlights of 20th Avenue when I look up at the sky, I know that I do so by honouring you, your grit, your integrity, your gracefulness at a time I tried so earnestly to forget in the years since. I cannot forget that part of my life. I cannot kill it, I cannot bury it. So I am honouring it. And the very reason I struggle to grasp the reality of what I have today, is because I am still that lonely young woman who hates Friday nights. I still feel like I am not safe. But I am.
Trust takes time. I need this to be the absolute safest place in the world, because I've come here to become the most open and vulnerable version of myself that will ever exist in my lifetime. It will be less vulnerable in a hypothetical, NYT-bestseller-list future. There will be edits. Autographs. Protection. Ownership. The fear and the dread and the horror comes in the deconstruction and reconstruction, the telling of my stories for the first time, silently: to myself. I will be shining mirrors and flashlights in places that have been locked up and covered for years. I will be uncovering stories I forgot that I buried. I will mourn and grieve the parts of myself that were left behind, abused, hurt, and denied, over and over and over from the deepest, loneliest, most guttural places of my soul. I will be sad and angry all over again. But in this place, I will heal all over again. Those dead and dying parts of me will sink into the earth to be reborn into something better, like everything you throw on the ground here will do. I will forgive and be forgiven. I will see the end to all my nameless apologies. And I will tell the story I've waited half my life to tell, no matter who is listening, or for how long.
People like to romanticize living the dream. Let me tell you that once it happens, you don't realize it. You don't believe it. Maybe that's when you really are living the dream, because you're waiting for the moment when you wake up and go back to your old shitty life. It's in moments like these when I realize how hard I fought to really be here. What the cost of that loneliness really is. And I really am going to see the end of my nameless apologies, once and for all, no matter what my manuscript looks like at the end of March. Things do get better. But I can never forget how hard it really was.