Sometimes it is a small shuddering mouse, shaking in the darkness, afraid to come out for fear of death. It darts quickly around, hiding, sneaking, and trying desperately to be unseen. Twitching, sniffing and cowering, it is convinced danger is lurking behind everything and everyone. So it keeps to the shadowy, dark corners and doesn’t let anyone in.
Sometimes it is a hungry tiger, twisting primal urges forcing it to seek some kind of satisfaction. It lurks large, but not without stealth and a need to be sneaky and calculating. Forever unable to quench the desires deep inside, it hunts and roams with a desperation swelling with each passing second. Moments of boldness are followed by a deeper need to hoard away the spoils for fear they will be taken or lost.
Sometimes it is a black hole, feeding on the memories of past disappointments and the future failures lurking just ahead. Self-loathing bubbling always at the edges, it eats through everything else until there is only black and nothingness. It is a great expanse of darkness perfect for hiding in, safe from the colorful world of choices and chaos.
Dreams bring me images of running in a meadow that is free of gnawing animals and hidden dark holes waiting to swallow me. I can almost see the expanse of waving stalks blowing in the gentle breeze. I can almost smell the sweet lavender and honey-scented air filling my lungs. I can almost feel the soft wispy flowers brushing against my bare legs and the squishy earth beneath my toes.
I read a bedtime story to my daughter and she puts her hand on my chest, feeling around and pressing into the skin. She finds comfort in the squishy warmth and her body relaxes preparing for rest and renewal. I kiss her. She embraces me and whispers her love into my ear. It floods me and takes me to the very edge of the meadow where I sit longingly and yearn.
I look at the stack of paper; the manuscript I finally wrote after years of letting the relentless pursuit of perfection slap me and kick me into the ditch of you can’t do it. When I let it go, the words spilled out in a tumble of excitement mixed with promise and joy. I giggled and typed until my neck ached and my family drew me back to them.
Yet pride and accomplishment are glued to qualifiers that I feel I must give you. Don’t think because I wrote all those words, they are something worth reading. The story is nothing remarkable, nothing amazing, nothing life changing for anyone but me. I feel you must know the fear of having my words read is almost greater than actually writing them.
You speak words of encouragement and love to me. I eat them. I crave them more than I should ever admit and even as I swallow them my focus is on all the words you didn’t say. The unspoken truths hidden just behind the door that I am certain I can hear knocking and rattling the handle.
The words ride on the backs of the beasts as they trample me down, sharp teeth tearing into my soft flesh and erasing the kindness you shared. I hear only what isn’t there and twist it into the perverted truth I insist on believing.
I long to have skin built tough and strong, an impenetrable fortress fortified with self-confidence and loving thoughts. Meditation. Affirmations. Love. It is never enough. My skin stays thin and fragile. A small look of disappointment, an intake of breath, an awkward moment of silence; all punch holes that fill quickly and relentlessly with emptying darkness.
Those of you who suffer like I do, we know the truth. We do not choose this path. We don’t consciously run away from the meadow and dive head first into the dark pit that surrounds us.
We are driven there every single day by forces we can’t control and minds that betray the real us. The moat is deep and everywhere we turn it surrounds us. We can try to jump over it and sometimes we almost do.
As I write these words I’m aware my attempt to convey my feelings falls short and might be taken as excessive and trying too hard. I’m so desperate to somehow find the right words to be profound and make you understand. I want it so badly.
If I can reach you then maybe you can reach me. Maybe if we both lean across and stretch our arms and fingers out we can connect and find a moment of solace and peace together.
I am scared and terrified at what you think of me. I feel the judgment before I even hit the publish button, yet some part of me knows I will do it. I will take the leap and let it fall where it may.
I keep doing hard things.
I keep crawling back out of the dark, even with the knowledge I will forever be pursued by it.
I keep running toward the meadow.
I just keep running.