Heaven and Hope

I hope the gates of Heaven were open for you when you got there. I hope you were welcomed by understanding angels with gentle hands. I hope you knew you were in a place forever free of harm. I hope you saw bliss in a future of abundant freedom. I hope you knew nothing would be asked of you there. I hope you understood you would never be bound by ropes again. I hope you felt every burden lifted. I hope you found comfort among the clouds. I hope you discovered the green grass stretching beyond the horizon so you may gallop alongside Seabiscuit and Secretariat.

I hope you felt the sun on your back, but were never burnt. I hope you felt the breeze lift your mane and tail, but never shivered. I hope you discovered the kind of joy you couldn’t find here. I hope you found companions so you would never be alone. I hope you found every piece of yourself you may have lost here. I hope you have forgotten what pain feels like. I hope you have forgotten what fear feels like. I hope you have forgotten what frustration feels like. I hope you found peace. I hope you understood your purpose here was fulfilled. I hope you could feel the reflection of the rainbows on your coat. I hope you embraced the rain, kicked up your heels, and flew; I hope you flew with the angels over the endless, vibrant green of the pastures and the crystal blue of the rivers. I hope you landed among flowers of gold and yellow, and pranced among them, allowing your beautiful personality to blossom.

And I hope you knew how much you helped this broken girl, how you changed her life and her heart. You held her self doubt, her pain, and her memories selflessly. You were patient with her mistakes. You were forgiving in a way most people are not. You surrendered your time, your effort, your trust to her. You gave her your heart, your everything, and she gave you hers in return.

I hope you cannot feel my tears, or hear my cries for you, for I promised you I would never cause you pain. I hope you forgive me for not saying goodbye when I had that chance. I will always need your strength, and your warmth, and your comfort. I miss you so much. They called you I’m The Lucky One, when actually I should have held that name; I am so blessed to have had you in my life. Eternity would not have been enough time with you. I hope you will always remember me. I will never forget you. I will look to the obsidian sky and find the brightest star, and there you will be.

And I hope you will wait for me; I will look for you when I walk through the gates.


In loving memory of I’m The Lucky One, “Jeffrey,” who went home in November of 2017. You will always be in my heart. I love and miss you.

*Photo Credit – Jesse Turner

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From A Glass House

What can you do when you witness a spark ignite a single piece of pine straw lying among debris littering the matted dirt of a forest trail from inside a glass house?

You can watch as the flame jumps to the surrounding pine straw, remaining on the trail for only a few moments before grasping for the crisp, lifeless leaves surrounding the trees. The vibrant, livid orange climbs them, crawling up their trunks and spiraling toward their branches, turning everything it touches to black, and ash falls like snow to the ground. You can watch the birth of a wildfire explode within a place of peace, of comfort, of unadulterated life. You can watch horrified animals run, frantic, their homes being destroyed without remorse in front of you; you begin to sob because you know what it feels like to have that taken away, and because you understand what that kind of fear feels like.

The next second you blink, and your aching eyes notice another acre is engulfed in flames, the fingertips of its rage seemingly touching what once was the sky, clouds of black billowing from the forest into the air, no longer clean and refreshing. You can smell the scorched Earth, feel the screaming heat, hear the constant crackles from the flames and the thundering crashes from falling trees and limbs. You put your trembling hands against the glass, swollen eyes wide in terror, as you watch such a beautiful place get ruined by hate, and rage, and anguish.

The only thing you want, the only thing you want is to save what’s left, what’s untouched, what’s still new and beautiful and hopeful, but the best you can do is lean wearily against the glass, your inconsistent breath fogging it, and your tears leaving wet stains on your cheeks, on the floor until you are too weak to stand anymore. You can fall to your knees, your heart so incredibly and irreversibly broken you don’t care if they shatter under your weight.

You can recall the buckets of water sitting behind you in a row, much too small to have an effect on this disaster now, and remaining within the glass house holding them hostage; half of the forest is smothered now, tarred and smoking, the rest waiting for what seems like an inevitably malicious ending to its peace.

The glass is too hot to touch now, your tears turning to steam, but in here you are safe from the flames, despite your total disregard for own safety. This fire cannot touch you, but the howling of the forest, the panic of the animals, the scrutinizing pain from watching something you love so much getting destroyed right in front of you… that can touch you, and it does in a way that shreds you to pieces.

You wish the spark had chosen your toes instead of the pine straw, for it would hurt far less. You can pray for rain, for a tsunami, for a monsoon, for a hurricane to end this. That’s what you can do. That’s all you can do.

Weighted Games

A sky of blue, and leaves of green

A breeze that whispers through the trees

Autumn colors and falling leaves

I hear them crumble beneath my feet

A sun as bright as this fall day

Should make the demons go away

But here they linger, and here they’ll stay

To keep me company, so they say

Vibrant golds, and greens, and reds

Distract my eyes but not my head

So still the demons whisper dread

I wish them gone, I wish them dead

The air is cool, the day a splendor

This Friday in the mid November

But a fire burns, I feel the embers

I can’t forget, only remember

I’m not alone on this flawless day

For on my shoulders heavily weigh

The burdens I carry in every way

Wherever I go I hear them say

“You are fragile, you are weak,

Soon you’ll land hard on your knees

For you will never truly see

What we can do to make you bleed.

You know by now that we won’t stop

Until we get what we all want

All of this, it’s all your fault

So we’ll just wait for you to drop.”

So in this sodden grass I’ll sit

Watch my cigarette burn while lit

And watch the tables turn and flip

Set down the burdens, weighted brick

Always I feel so alone

Nowhere really feels like home

Spending time just throwing stones

As nothing here is all my own

Except these demons that I carry

That make me tired, make me weary

And still I fight with each one daily

“Why won’t you go? Why won’t you leave me?”

The answer is always the same

“We love to play our little games.

You just give and we will take.

You’ll eventually give in anyway.”

Ill try to keep my thoughts away

And think about this gorgeous day

Maybe they will stay at bay

At least for a moment, that’s all I pray

And maybe one day I’ll find peace

Where monsters don’t crouch under trees

That sway along the Autumn breeze

On that day they’ll leave me be

Luminescence – A Love Letter


A heart made of thin glass, lying in trembling hands and unsteady, was something I offered you years ago. You didn’t understand the depth of risk I took, but you accepted the gift with kind eyes and a gentle spirit. I knew you very well then. You held my faith, my trust, my confidence, so I felt you may be willing to carry such a burden. You were so magical in how you unveiled your ability to mend something so fathomably untouchable and torn.

When I cautiously lifted the hindrance to you, I could feel it begin to fall back together. With every respectful touch, every subtle glance, every glorious, careless display of personality, you slowly pieced the glass back together and gave yourself to me. You entrusted me with your everything, with all of you. And I had never felt so much pride and joy as I did with you. You were a comfort, a warmth unparalleled. I did not have to ask you to be with me; you made that choice your own. And I have never experienced anything so beautiful as that. As you. 

You were in every way gorgeous: your movement, your intelligence, your talent, your ever-present openness. The way you looked at me with those large, dark, caring eyes brought an irreplaceable sense of purpose. Love radiated from those eyes, and like the gleam of a harvest moon, my world was illuminated. I loved watching you, calm, at peace, with a quiet mind. It was clear my broken heart was no burden to you at all. What I couldn’t carry anymore became weightless on your shoulders. You were the only one who could effortlessly hold it together.

I owed you everything. I loved you with everything I had. I was wholly yours. 

One cool October day I was forced to face a decision that, had you not been holding my heart, would have shattered it completely beyond repair. And I had to go. I imagine you did not understand, but you may have understood I left my heart with you, as you watched my car pull out of the driveway for the last time. I still wonder if it took time for you to realize I wasn’t coming back, or if you felt the unadulterated agony you kept with you, and just knew. Still you held it, now more a burden than ever, and still now you keep it. Is it still weightless? Is it still effortless? 

It must be, for it’s been nearly five years, and I have yet to get it back. So please keep it with you if you’re willing; I know it is safe. And when you feel it glow, warm with joy, know then that I am thinking of you.

Ivory

     I found the ivory envelope in the hotel room on the fifth floor. The bed was to my left, flawlessly made, red covers pulled tight, white sheets peeking out from underneath them, and a variety of red and white pillows stacked neatly in two rows. The floor was just a shade darker than white, the popcorn ceiling similar, and the walls were a solemn shade of grey. Two paintings were hung, one a portrayal of a brilliant sunset on the far wall between two small windows, the other of a sole red rose, just above the bed. After setting down my collection of belongings on the wooden desk to my right, the ivory envelope captured my attention. It was placed at the foot of the bed, in the far corner, and wrapped around it was a blue ribbon, twisted into a bow. It was not addressed to anyone, but there was a small, handwritten heart in thin, red ink on the top right corner.

     I felt my heart rate increase, my chest tighten as I walked to the firm bed and sat next to the envelope, bringing my legs to my chest. I lifted my right hand to my mouth and began biting the skin around the nail on my middle finger… Anxiety rushed over me like water. I had an idea of what this was, but I was hoping it was just a love letter, or something else. There was a heart on it, after all. I argued with myself about opening the letter; was that a violation of privacy? Was this intended for a specific audience? Do I actually want to know what’s inside?

     I took a deep breath, and with quivering fingers I unwrapped the blue ribbon from the ivory, and hesitantly opened the envelope. It was not sealed. I pulled out a single piece of paper folded in thirds, thin, college ruled, lined in black ink. The handwriting was neat, small, each letter obviously carefully placed.  I noticed there were areas where the ink had bled, blending a couple words into one. Like the envelope, the paper was not addressed. I began to read.

     If you’re reading this, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for caring enough to open the envelope, pull out the paper, and letting your eyes skim across the lines. I wouldn’t have to apologize for the illegible sections of this note had I been able to type it; ink doesn’t run when tears land among the keys on a keyboard. 

     I tried. I tried so hard. I tried so hard for so many years. I’ve lost so much of myself I don’t know who I am anymore. That carefree, outgoing, beautiful blonde girl with bright blue eyes and a bright future is gone. And no matter how hard or how long I fought for her, I couldn’t get her back. I guess she was broken a long time ago. All I wanted was to get her bright eyes back, see her hope and joy and laughter and life in my eyes, but all they hold now are secrets of how my mind and body betrayed me. I have spent so long trying to fix a body that didn’t want to fix me back. Trying to find the pieces of me I’ve shattered, or the pieces people have stolen from me has proven to be an impossible task, and I’m tired. I’m tired of just be patient; tired of smile, it’s not that bad; tired of keep your chin up; tired of you’re strong enough to do this. I fight wars within myself people can’t see, and some people refuse to believe exist. All I wanted was to have her back, and to be ok. Because she was ok. And I’m not. They told me to go to therapy, so I went to therapy. They told me to see a psychiatrist, so I saw a psychiatrist.  They told me to take medication, so I took medication. And still here I am, in such agony I cannot put it in words. I have hurt myself, I have hurt others, I have scorched everything trying to recreate who I was when I was her. I couldn’t do it. All I have left is clear when I look in the mirror: an unsettled mind and chaotic thought process, eyes overflowing with sorrow and frustration and helplessness, and a frail body falling apart. Nobody can see the broken heart buried within my chest, but I can. I’ll never get that girl back, and I loathe who I’ve become. I’m not going to blame anyone for what turned that wonderful girl into this broken beast, but this was not all my doing. What’s left of me is an empty shell of a woman who can’t keep herself together anymore. I can no longer justify waking up in the morning to the same demons that put me to sleep the night before. I cannot do this anymore. So this last cigarette is my hourglass; when the smoke ceases to drift off the lit end and dissipate into the night air, I will say goodbye. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry to anyone who cared. I’m sorry to anyone who tried to help me in my struggle. I’m sorry to my friends, my family, my doctors, my boyfriend; please know you did not fail. There was nothing more you could do, or could have done. I can thank you for the happy moments I remember. Without you, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. I just want to be that girl I was. Since she died a long time ago, I’m going to go be with her. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough. Death is the only guaranteed cure for everything. 


I need to be at peace. 


Evelyn

     I stared at the paper for several long moments, seemingly an eternity, as warm tears fell from my cheeks onto the paper in my shaking hand. Her tears were no longer the only tears shed for her; her heart no longer the only heart broken for her. And it was broken for me. I set the paper on top of the ivory envelope, dropped my head in my hands, and let myself go. Her story, what she had written, was my story. That piece of paper sitting on the red covers beside me held my struggle, my pain, my agony, my demons. She described what I had been attempting to for years. I could feel every word, and in a way it broke me because she was likely gone, and I was still here. Guilt hit me, a wrecking ball to my stomach. Why couldn’t she do it? Why couldn’t she handle it? Why did I make it further than she did? Why her, why not –

     A knock on the thick hotel door startled me. I quickly sucked in my sniffles, and yelled, “Just a minute, please!” as I scrambled to fold the paper and shove it back into the envelope, wrapping the blue ribbon around it and making an attempt at a decent bow. I jumped off the bed, swiftly wiping the tears from my swollen eyes and red cheeks as I walked to the door. I glanced through the peephole and saw a thin, frail, young woman with long black hair, and bright blue eyes. A crimson sweatshirt hugged her small frame, jeans gripped her legs, and I could see what appeared to be sandals on her feet. She was beautiful.

     “Who is it?” I asked, genuinely curious as to who would be knocking on my door, and contemplating on why she was here.

     “My name is Evelyn,” she replied, her voice quiet and gentle. “I left something in the hotel room I think.”

     It  took every bit of remaining strength I had to keep the emotional waterfall from starting again. I slowly opened the door. She smiled, and the hurt was apparent to me in her face, her mouth, her eyes. I smiled at her, hoping she wouldn’t recognize mine. I turned and pointed at the ivory envelope on the corner of the bed. I nearly choked on my words, but managed to ask her if that was what she was looking for.

     She nodded. “Yes, that’s mine. I left it by accident.”

     I  walked back to the bed, picked up the ivory envelope, and handed it to her. When she reached for it, the sleeve of her sweatshirt lifted just enough for me to notice a small, black tattoo of a semicolon on the side of her wrist.

     She smiled again. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”  She began to turn and walk out of the doorway.

     “Somebody cares,” I whispered, unsure as to whether or not my comment would upset her, or cause more harm than good.

     She stepped out of the room, turned to me, and with a genuine smile whispered, “Thank you.”

     I  saw her blue eyes light up, right before she turned from me and began to walk down the hotel hallway. I watched her cautiously from the doorway for a moment. She walked in a line close to the wall, and when she reached the trashcan sitting on the right several yards down, I watched her casually toss the ivory envelope into oblivion. 

                                    ;

Detonation

A trigger.

And without warning everything changes.

My mind shifts, rattling the very structures that bind me together, like tectonic plates sliding beneath the ocean, causing a detrimental effect to everything that surrounds it. A tsunami meets the back of my eyes, seeping through my eyelids, and flows off my cheeks, a brackish waterfall over the jagged edges of a cliff. The tears land among pebbles in the frigid river beneath me. My jaw clenches, teeth grinding on themselves as if to create a bleeding mountain from each molar. My tongue is tight, coiled like a rattlesnake, my words easily the venom should they escape, so I seal my lips. My shoulders hunch forward in an unintentional submission, the downward slope of a rolling hill, without the beauty of the vibrant shades of green and glisten of the sun. My arms become Autumn leaves that fall, bereft of all strength except of that to hold my anchored head. My legs become weak, the rotten trunk of a tree likely to snap at any moment, so they curl to my chest. I inhale, an altercation with my lungs, it seems, to accept air, a river attempting to flow upstream against itself. My stomach contracts, threatening to explode, a restless volcano laid dormant for a moment too long, and my chest, despite the erratic beating of a broken heart, is hollow and dark, a cave cold and damp.

I am a detonation, yet lifeless.

My feet, which once carried me to places of glory and peace, carry me to the shore of what may have been paradise once. Now the ocean is quiet and still, apparently too sad to be disturbed, its somber blue blanketing secrets. The sky, once a brilliant orange, red, purple sunset painting, turns to grey, daunting and wicked. And sand that once was soft and giving is dry and coarse, and with each weary step I sink further into the seashore. The sun is setting, a burning orb of hope and joy and laughter, falling behind the depression, the abysmal cobalt before me. The sky darkens, weighing its unsettled and anxious clouds on my quivering shoulders. And the sand, quicksand now. Seagulls spin around me like the thoughts in my head, screeching and screaming phrases of damnation.

And all I can do is pray I find a way off the island.

You

I wake up. The morning sun is bright and brilliant, its rays flooding my room with warmth as they gleam through my open window. The sky is a glorious blue, a gentle breeze sweeps through the window curtains. The birds sing what a beautiful day it is… And I try.

I try so hard to stare. Just keep staring out the window. Maybe I won’t see it. Maybe I won’t… Maybe I…

But I do see you. Like every morning I do see you. Standing by my bedside, arms open wide like a friend inviting in a friend. Every day I stumble out of bed and fall wearily into your arms, which begin to close around me. Your hug is not an embrace. You wrap around me until I am suffocating, sinking your claws deep into my fragile skin, a predator sinking its teeth into its prey. I feel you begin to rip and tear and shred until I cannot move, cannot stand, cannot cry for help. You have forced your way into my my thoughts, my words, my actions, my emotions, my fears… And you rip away the already shattered pieces of my heart.

You crept in from the darkest place and carried the darkness with you to follow me, haunt me, becoming my constant shadow. You have caged me in bed for days, weeks, months at a time, engulfing me in pain and hopelessness, flooding me in tears and sorrow until I am floating down a frigid river of agony. You have dragged me to times where I became so empty I was no more than a skeleton. Unable to cope. Unable to make plans and follow through with them. I couldn’t see my family without forcing a smile, hoping the dam behind my eyelids would remain steadfast. Unable to face what friends I had left for fear they’d notice I was no longer myself. For fear they’d see my shadow. How could I tell them I’d rather be dead than crawl through a life not worth living? That I’d rather let go than hold onto this existence that only breaks me? There is no alive here. Your heaviness has pushed me so low under your weight that I have met death eye to eye, tempted, as she whispered, “It is safer with me. There is no suffering here. Let go. You will have peace.” I was not afraid of the darkness. I was not afraid to die anymore. I was only afraid to live.

You push and pull me around against my will at my own expense, like an abused puppy on a chain. I am a lost child with no raft being swept under the unforgiving ocean of chaos by a current so strong I can’t pull myself out, despite how I gasp for air and relief. You push me to push those I love the most away until they go away. And when you drag me to pull them back, it’s too late. It’s always too late, they’re gone, and it hurts. You scream at me, “Trusting is dangerous! Don’t trust anyone! Even those you think deserve it will leave you because who would want you anyway? Leave. Leave them before they leave you.” The smallest glance from a stranger, the slightest uneven tone, the tiniest word out of place, the simplest change in an otherwise steady schedule sends me into a whirlwind of confusion, depression, and anxiousness. Your relentless persistence in unraveling my already unbalanced world has hurt me so badly the only relief I ever found was hurting myself. Your hate sank in so deep, and you turned it on me.

You’re always there, keeping my mind writhing in fear with your endless expression. “Everything is dangerous. Everything. Everything will hurt you. Everything that can go wrong will for you. You won’t make it.” You hold me in place, seemingly doused in concrete, in constant discomfort, restlessness, unease. I am afraid of others, afraid of myself, afraid of the very practices that once brought me the joy, my passions, my dreams. Now I am fighting to hold onto them, to keep them. You have left me shaking on my knees in the dew-soaked grass of a bitter morning in a front yard screaming. Why did you think I could handle this?! You put skipping beats in my heart, keep the air from my lungs, lay a quiver in every muscle, and thoughts in my head of unreal scenarios.

You call yourself mental illness. I call you by many names.

Depression. Mood disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder. Anxiety. PTSD.

Like a lover you hold me as I sleep. And by my beside you are when I wake. I feel you.

I wake up, a blessing, as tomorrow is never guaranteed with you. There you are by my beside, arms open wide like a friend inviting in a friend. But today. Today when I stumble out of bed I will fall to the floor before I land in your arms again. I have been pushed to the edge, dragged to the lowest of low, broken, beaten, starved. I have been told I am worthless, hopeless, have no future, that I will do nothing, be nothing, become nothing because I am nothing. I have been told that I have gotten nowhere, and will not get anywhere.

Today I lift myself out of bed because I am strong. Stand beside you because I am fearless. Look you in the eye because I am resilient. I will lower my lips to your ear because I am a fighter. I will smile because I know I haven’t given up yet, and I will not. And then I’ll whisper in your ear, as you have done to me for so many years, “I am not my mental illness. I am everything you are not. So don’t tell me I won’t make it through the storm…

I am the storm.”