I sit, knees curled to my heaving chest, stained toes subconsciously digging into the dark abyss of what they call dirt. My fingers tracing the sides of my calves. Up and down they go feeling the prickle of my haphazardly shaved legs. My shoulders drawn up touching the sides of my ears, still tense even though I am here. My back makes an arch, my chest pressed against my knees, eyes closed, merely listening. And that is all I do for the next eternity of time, or at least what feels like an eternity.
The wind blows a smooth whistle of air, the leaves rustle in return. Although my eyes are closed, I feel a golden leaf from the tree next to me swaying back and forth, slowing dancing its way back to the dark floor. With a soft sigh it lands to the right of me. In a few days this golden leaf will begin to brown, dry and give back to the mother that created it. Year after year, wind will blow, leaves will fall, the ground will catch them and they will return to the earth. Year after year, wind will blow, leaves will fall, the ground will catch them and they will return to the earth.
Cocking my head up, I stare into the sky, blinking away the rays of light that invade my vision. Branches block the majority of vast brilliant blue that lies above all of us. I breathe in, heavy, long, rasping. I breathe in for air. I breathe in for life. I breathe in for it is all I can do at the moment. I shake my head, feeling the wisps of my hair gliding back and forth across my cheeks. Back and forth they go. I shake my head in hopes my emotions with fling off into the forest around me, its own stable cycle, it’s own predictability hopefully absorbing my own chaos. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to happen, and I sit with a dark chasm inside my heart. It was one of those days where the pain wouldn’t cease. It was one of those days where I woke up with hollowness. A hollowness that caused a sorrow that underlined my smiles and laughs. Smiles and laughs that never felt fully there. I was never fully there during this time. My mind, my emotions, and my body all in another realm.
“Cassie, are you okay?” my mother said in a hushed voice.
“No, no I am not.” I whispered, knees curled to my heaving chest, toes against the floor, and arms wrapped around my bent knees.
The memory continues in my mind. Her soft arms encompassing me, stroking my hair and assuring me I would be okay, perhaps not now but eventually.
“What can I do for you, Cass?”
“Take me somewhere beautiful,” I responded.
And that is what I did on days when I hurt the most. I ran, I drove, I sought. I ran to hills of wildflowers, I drove to redwoods forests, I sought the sheer coastline.
Walking into the forest, my footsteps echoed, step after step hitting the dirt below. I walked with my eyes hard pressed on the floor, the earth bleak, downbeat and black. It seemed hard, cold and sorrowful. But now, sitting with my hands upturning moist pieces, it is not hard at all. Earthworms bob their heads up and down. Uncertain beetles weave through fallen leaves. A drop of water falls, offering life to a near by tree. The soil feels warm in my hands. It coos to me, motheringly and soft. There is life in the darkness. The chasm inside of me recognizes the black of the earth, one full of breath and beauty. In the mornings of emptiness, when a shadow clenched my heart, I would say blackness is nothing but a bottomless pit. But here, now, among the uncertain beetles, the bobbing earthworms I would say no, there is light in the dark.
I wrote that prose months ago, apart of the process of me trying to make sense of the shadow that looms over me from time to time. I wrote it with an ending that sounds wholesome and optimistic for I realize people want a circular ending. One that doesn’t leave you feeling sorrowful. One that allows you to plaster a smile onto your face and continue with your day. It is hard to deal with other people’s emotions when we all are struggling with our own. We are conditioned to respond “Good” when someone asks, “How are you?” even if you are full of pain. But by the same token, perhaps we chose to say “Good” because if not we are admitting to others and ourselves the crumbled or distressed state we are in. Moreover, society tells us that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. I find that statement to be such a shame because I think there is so much beauty in admitting when you need help. There is so much strength in gathering the courage to acknowledge your true feelings and experience them in their full form.
This event comes at an interesting time for me because in the month of January we are taught to reflect on the past year. What times we loved, the things we learned, how we have grown. For me, the year 2014 was one of healing, self-love and admission. I took spring semester off for sorrow invaded every crevice of my being. The truths and constants I held onto shattered before me and left me cracked. I admitted to my loved ones I had been suffering in and out depression for countless years. While the sun shined outside I spent days in a dark room withered and curled in a ball because I couldn’t stand to lift my aching body out of bed. I spent time wanting to rage against my shadows, puncture their darkness and yell I am stronger than you, I can conquer you. But there, right in that sentence is everything I learned not to do. My depressive inclinations do not define me rather they are apart of me. I accept the emotions I feel for I know they are real that they deserve to be paid attention to. I say there is no real ending to my story because even through the self-healing journey that took me from wallowing in sorrow to wide smiles, home to travelling alone in South and Central America my depressive inclinations are not gone nor do I expect they will ever fully go away. I admit the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with is myself. For there are demons that reside in my mind wanting me to tumble down a dark hole. There still are days where sadness sweeps in like a tropical breeze taking hold of my mind. Days can be hard and at times I feel afraid. As I write this I can’t help but want to justify those emotions with the experiences, knowledge, compassion and love they have brought me. And truth be told there are always two sides to a coin, I struggled but I have also found sheer joy and unfathomable strength. But I do not want to focus on the happiness I feel or the aftermath of my pain. I think it is important to know and express that not all of us are okay all of the time. That there is nothing weak about what you are feeling. That strength does not mean facing everything alone. We all feel a bit dark sometimes, and that is okay.
The fact of the matter is, there will always be apart of me that is slightly fractured, slightly on edge to fall apart, but I want nothing more than who I am and I have made friends with my shadows.