In the pits of PTSD, I was an empty vessel. Fear had taken everything from me. Worse than feeling helpless was feeling nothing: true helplessness, not being able to muster a single ounce of emotion no matter what the situation. That was being prisoner. That was living in the dark, in the void, floating on a chain in space, and none of that; that was the fog at its thickest: nothingness for light years, not even room for more, just an endless lonely lifeless landscape and me. Even I barely existed, just my fear in my place, like a rabbit’s quiver alone.
I think I’ve been hollowed out,
all those times behind closed doors
that did the jagged job, and I can’t find a reason
to stay to rot in whichever ground I’m found in
the end. Called out to the deep dark sea, I want
a taste: how many were there who yearned
to return, without a trace, a clue
what to do
with the waves and brine
without its soul, an apple peel,
a swimmer’s suit, floating with the push-
pull of a person drowned.
In this headspace, I had no sovereignty, owned nothing. Only the emptiness had power: an all-powerful numbness. I was a ragged dog chasing its tail, and not in a funny way: desperate, hopeless, disturbing … the harder I tried to feel, the more it escaped me. I was powerless to find myself. I remember when it came to me in the middle of the night: I wrote to myself, “I can’t feel music anymore.” I remember searching for feeling in the melodies pouring into my ears like waves of water upon the deadness of rock; I remember searching the sky for a song in the clouds, searching the walls for meaning, searching myself for some unlocked door. I remember wanting to beat it out of me. I remember wanting to cry like a thirst. I remember thinking it would never end, but holding on anyway. I remember thinking let’s see how far this goes. I remember feeling recklessness mingle with the nothingness. I remember becoming fearless in the face of the abyss. I remember starting to heal without knowing it.
I remember watching the rain out my window, knees on the edge of the bed, hands on the windowsill, remembering what it felt like to be a child, and feeling a crumb of joy. I remember reading books and not having to search for anything, the words filling me one by one, like patient footsteps toward something faraway but good. I remember collecting moments, very small instances that resembled emotion, and recognizing them silently and cautiously. I remember so many moments alone, smiling only on the inside as I learned patience for the first real time in my life, as I began to come alive the way nature does: so slowly you can’t even see it. I remember watching Arya Stark exchange her Braavosi coin for a place on a ship and feeling wildly excited about her journey. I remember feeling destined to make a similar voyage, the fog lifting and the landscape transforming into an ocean horizon, seeming endless still, but knowing there’s something to sail for, somewhere to be, a way to get there.
It’s October 3rd, and the fog is thinning
like a blanket sliced into ribbons,
blinds on a window that show the day
outside, green turning yellow, change
blowing in the wind: I am alive.
There is a clarity that was lost
that is sure of itself again, that knows
that what it knows is real: I am alive.
I’ve almost reached the open space
that allows one to kneel and thank
the spirit above and within
for the safe return and the consistency
in death’s gift of birth and dark’s promise,
a vow to light, life’s first
and final enduring matrimony.
I am alive, I am alive, hear my ache
and fever from the deep narrow
doors of empty forests: I am alive!
The sea was its own beast, a journey to discuss on another day or not … but the point is, I got there.
I cross the shore to meet her,
she soaked in shadow and sea,
I bare and crying and clean.
Her scars echo my healing,
and she reminds me of the day
she wrote of this, and together
we tilt our head back
and laugh all the water out,
and we sit and hug
our legs to our chest and rock
in gratitude, in joy, in self, in love.
I am here now: full. I swim the notes of violins and harps, bathing in song. I have dialogues with the heavens. All the doors are open, or else I have the keys. I hunger all the time and get my fill, as well. I look back and see the past weaved in with the rest, and I look fear in the face like a friend and smile. For over a year, I’ve poured into myself, collecting, gathering, cleansing, feeding, fueling, filling to overflow.
Last month, the outside world began to peel, began to fall apart from the unwanted news of the presidential election results, and at the moment of reading reality, I felt the rabbit’s quiver swallow me. A strange feeling after so long … but with the unbounded uncertainty of the future, the mind-boggling incomprehension of the lack of consciousness, the lack of feeling on the part of so many and him … I am still now at a loss for words. It is difficult to describe the disappointment and the way one might chase her tail trying to undo it, or trying to accept it. To this day, though I know there is no way but forward, a part of me cannot accept the truth of it. The years ahead bring nothing short of fear, and it’s been easy to be hollow, to lock the doors, to lose oneself in the waves and hope to be brought ashore somewhere else. It’s been easy to taste our vulnerability and want to spit it out, want to purge until nothing is left to hurt.
It’s been easy to avoid really looking, keep our eyes on something else, keep our ears covered; it’s been easy to pretend, to think it will not have an effect, to think history has told of this and has told of the downfall and the rise again, to think it’s just four years, to think that because we need the transformation, the process becomes less heavy, less horrifying, less hard to bear, less poisonous, less insidious. In some regards, all of this is true. But in day-to-day reality, in terms of each kindred tree, each hunted wolf, each oil rig, each besieged indigenous tribe, each day without clean water, each morning someone wakes with cancer and no money, or a pregnant womb and no rights; in terms of a synagogue smeared with filth, another woman harassed and another person of color murdered, a gun bought by a boy, a family torn apart, a mother sent away, a father imprisoned; in terms of sinister foreign connections, careless use of power, the breeding of fear, the indulgence in ignorance … four years is a long time; the downfall is a long way down; the transformation is going to hurt like hell.
But one thing is for certain, and I vow it now. No one or thing will take from me what is mine. And no one can, for it is within me, at my core. I am now the lion-hearted girl. And I am ready for the fight. I will never be powerless again. Whatever happens, whatever nightmare takes place, whatever breaks, whatever shatters, whatever must be endured … there is something solid, something strong, something undefeatable within me, so far within it can never be touched. I planted this seed and will protect it for eternity. It is not my faith that conceived it, but it that creates my faith. I have seen the endless well, both dry as ash and like an infinite river. I have quivered, fretted, agonized; I have gone in the cave and come back alive, come back with superpowers, come back wide-awake where it matters. I am ready.
Let the future in.