"To know & to act: one and the same."~Samurai maxim
You have to. If you live your life laying on your back, perhaps you're suggesting to the Powers that Be that you'd rather not be alive after all.
--I'd hope they know better. Also, no.
I promise you, you're late to somewhere. Wake. Up. Audrey.
--Hush. You want to sleep just as much as I do. Five more minutes.
It's been twenty minutes. Get up; stop apologizing for being late.
Nothing in motion and I'm satisfied.
Making an oath has always seemed like a test I'm destined to fail. I will never forget all those years ago when I screamed, tore against the tether of the suggestion that I join others in making New Years' Resolutions. My thoughts, unformed, raw, came out crude and withering, magma straight from the core.
"I never do it. I've done it in years past, and it basically seems like a way for me to guarantee that I'll fail."
Tini's puzzled, hurt look. "Well...it's just kind of a tradition. Maybe just say something to keep in mind?"
Me, burning, ashamed, angry. "I'm not doing it. If I do, I promise I will gain 15 pounds instead of losing them. I can't."
You can change. It's just uncomfortable.
--NO. I change, mercurial, on a minute-by-minute basis. I don't even know who I am; how I can I commit to changing that?
Stop. You know you have some fundamental things to change.
--OBVIOUSLY. But if I give them voice, then they are lost. They are swept away on my fear of being held goddamn accountable. I will fail everyone, not just myself.
Then stop failing yourself.
That Day. Two summers ago. Beautiful, clear June day. I am unemployed. I am losing my mind. I am sinking with nothing solid to dig my nails into. I surrender briefly, I read old manga on the back porch.
The sky is flawless, a bowl of unbroken aoi. Everything is Technicolor bright, in sharp and exaggerated focus. I hear children playing, I see bees circling the berry bush in my yard. I hear the beating of each imperceptible set of wings, I notice the subtle shadows on the periwinkle berries.
I want to die.
I lay back on the porch, the stone warm on my back. I wonder when I last felt like I was meaningful.
Who says ANYONE is meaningful? Although you have a good argument; you're pretty useless in a human-animal sense.
I stop listening. I detach completely. There is nothing, no friends, no husband, no comics, no dreams, no dog, no job interviews, no fun, no faith. In that moment, it was just me, the stone under my back, the sky, and the solemn knowledge--dropped into the center of my mind like a stone sunk into a pool--that I could, without hesitation, kill myself right then. It was not to spare others the burden of my useless self, it was not to cry for help. it was not to make a point with my demise. It was simply to cease existing. That is all.
The bees buzzed on. The children shrieked and laughed. Inside, I heard the dryer indicate it was finished, I heard my dog wuff softly at the dining room window. Above me, the sky was that zealous, implacable blue, and I stared at it, let the floating miniature lives drifting across my pupils come into focus, considered that their lives could potentially end soon as well. I was arrested by that blue nothing, that haughty firmament, just as far removed from me as I was from anything that once tethered me to earth. I stopped feeling my body. I wondered if I could just die by running out of fuel for my soul.
The sky turned a blistering rose. I remembered Crayola crayons; I could smell them. I remembered my body, stiff and unhappy with the stone porch. I remembered my dog, who needed to go out. I remembered my husband, my friends. I remembered that if I killed myself, there would be no respite, no sloughing the fact that I felt like a terrible burden, because what is a worse burden than being the ones left behind to try and make sense of it all? I needed to make sense of it all.
Welcome back. Your laundry is mouldering in the washer. The dishes are half done. You left a garment in the sewing machine with the foot pressed down so you wouldn't forget. Your dog has probably already peed inside. You didn't finish sending that job application email; the cursor is blinking somewhere in the middle of the sentence mentioning your level-headedness. If you're not selfish, get the fuck up and prove it. Call that doctor Blake is seeing. Get help.
I lit a cigarette, shakily. I sucked death into my lungs, and exhaled life. Eventually, I went back inside.
"You have ADD," Dr. A-K says kindly. Everything about her is kind, sympathetic, gentle. I feel like even if she dropped a glass it wouldn't break.
"Ahhh---hhh," I breathed out--not quite a fanfare.. I thought so, yes, but at that point, it could've been crippling depression or I could've been about to turn into a werewolf, so hearing it was something that was treatable and common was a pretty big thing.
Of course you do. Take the medicine. You still have to work, but there it is, that missing piece between Knowing, Capability, Desire and Action.
The medicine works! I preach of its values far and wide. I feel that grey ooze that separated me from achieving slowly begin to melt away. I assist the Adderall, I learn to pay attention to what it is directing me to do. I am profoundly grateful. That Day on the porch is remembered, carefully wrapped up, and stored away. I am amazed that it is one of the few instances in my life where I saw the bleak blue nothing, acknowledged it, and actually CHANGED. I begin to believe I can continue to grow.
Stop. You know how this ends. You get all hyped up about things and then never see them through. We both read that Cracked article about dysfunctional families and the adults they produce; please stop setting yourself up for disappointment.
--I'll listen for now. I can't handle upsetting something so new and delicate as relative mental stability. But I AM going to find a way to change.
Okay. Sure. Go nuts.
I make an oath to Bragi. With my hands folded and my heart intent, I focus as much as I am able and swear to learn to love myself and inform others of the fact that I do.
You can't. You know you can't.
I do. Well, more or less. In the months following this oath I made, I experience the catastrophe of my parents getting a long overdue divorce in the messiest way possible; my mother accusing my father of false domestic abuse charges, when we all know who was the abusive one in that house. She presses charges to save face. I lose myself. I cannot move. I cannot rise. I don't remember this time well because there was nothing left for me to love. Any illusions of stability and being raised by a decent, strong woman were shattered to splinters. I go to Katsucon. My friends pick up my slack.
Hahaha. Of course they do. They always do. They are better than you, Audrey. Someday they will tire of you playing catch-up and leave you alone where you belong.
I protest feebly; Mean Inner Voice is right. I hate myself for being such a wreck that I can't do anything right. I go to Katsucon. I ruthlessly force myself to have fun, and I actually do. On Sunday, the illusion shatters; my mother wants me to leave the con to pick up my dad's stuff as they still can't legally see each other and I am local, convenient. I am angry. It shatters the splinters further. I get to her house early, I feel nothing for her, I load the car. I feel that blue, empty sky again with nothing but the barest hints of life in front of it; I feel that void weighing on me.
I still, obviously can't express it correctly.
I don't know how to change. Not at all. I was right; my inner Me was right; of course it is. Look at me, who if they really knew me would love me at all? I can start anything, I can be funny and charming and enthusiastic, but right when I'm met with a real challenge, I will fail every time. I will avoid it, I will run away, I will hate myself for it because I don't know why I do it. I spend so much time thinking about why other people do the things they do, and I have no idea why I do it. Audrey, so wise, so compassionate, so funny and genuine.
--No!!! Not really! It's not. I just don't treat myself the same way I treat my friends. They deserve better.
Please. You're afraid they're going to find out how uncertain, stupid, self-conscious you are. You have a gaping void where your self-confidence should be, lightly covered like a forest trap with a mat of humour and earnestness.
--That's not anyone else's fault! I love them all so much, I would be nothing without them.
Duh. That's what I'm saying. You are nothing. You are, at best, an initial adhesive between disparate friends. You bring people of actual substance together and then stand back and preach values. Shut up.
--Obviously. I...I'm going to run my Self by my friends. They will tell me how to change.
Hmm. Maybe that'll work; you sure as shit can't do this on your own.
I hang up the phone. It's three in the morning, and I've kept someone up long past their bedtime. I am a little drunk, but I don't drink the way I used to. I still enjoy it, though, that brew that relaxes and stimulates all at once, that allows me to shut out the Voice In Italics and just experience myself as I believe others might see me.
All that said, I am still doing this wrong. I am tired, my mouth is dry, I have work in six hours and I can't shake this awful feeling that I'm holding my loved ones hostage with my inner workings laid out in minute detail.
You're causing more problems than you're fixing.
--Ah! You're back. I know. I can't stop myself, though. I have to get to know myself through those I love most. I have a Self to assemble, here.
No one cares. You're not more important than Kristin's sleep.
I cry. I don't sleep. I lie in grey wakefulness until it's time to do what I must.
Eventually, I snap. I have been overburdening people with my Self, and then I realise I have nothing left. When I look inward, I see a few scraps of life floating idly by, and a whole lot of bravado and nothingness. All of my useless words are spent; I cannot find the ones that mean "hey I know I've been up your ass with my problems lately, but I need to spontaneously disengage and recharge myself before I burn out". So I say nothing. I fall inward, and I get the first spark of hope:
Here. Here is a calm place. Now, start building yourself from the inside out, not the outside in.
--Hey. You sound almost...helpful!
I heed The Voice. We make a truce of sorts. I begin building myself. My friends are worried, think I am becoming an alcoholic, am retreating from them. I am not becoming an alcoholic (a fact i assessed extremely carefully), but I am retreating.
The next time I truly give them words, I think to myself, I will give them meaning and not just desperate pleas for advice.
I wake up one day and admire myself in the mirror.
I literally cannot remember the last time I'd done that.
"Okay, think of it like music, maybe. Like dancing. You and your partner move as one, you trust the other, you concentrate on that until you're not thinking about it, but just doing it."
Blake is teaching me about the basics of kendo, and I am enthralled. It is hot, SO hot, and I am self conscious outside their condo complex, seeing the occasional curious eyes. His comparison to playing music ensares my soul, and all at once, I understand.
Well, what do you know. You're actually improving.
I strike. It is correct.
I am not improving evenly. I focus so much on that building of my inner Self that it is an actual room I can visualise now: a cobalt blue hexagonal room, with banners representing issues in my life I am focused on at six points. I have this and then I left those that helped me get here hanging. I forget my friends. I assume they are tired of me. I assume they are busy, they are clearly bettering themselves as well and thus they do not need me.
I am wrong, of course. They are hurt by my absence. I learn (and am still learning) that give and take, that I need not defend taking time for myself, but that I need to alert those that care about me that I remember them.
After all, if I didn't, would I ever have left that porch, staring at the too-blue sky?
I nick my hand. I fling it into the fire for Tyr. I wince because I hate blood, but I do not hate pain any more. I acknowledge it, accept it, and move with it. It is my partner; I know its stance. My Voice has changed from cruel to cautiously supportive. I don't know enough to say if this tale has a good ending, an ending of real change, but here it is: I have declared that I will change, that I will dedicate myself openly and follow through on challenges. If I fail, I will fail with no shame. I will change the smart little girl Audrey from the one who would not raise her hand in class for fear of being wrong---oh, my deep, deep shame at feeling stupid! oh, that shame---into something resembling a warrior.
Those nights of screaming, of hating, of bleakly staring, of forgetting why I was where I was: I was lost, still, just a bit of afterthought floating across the blazingly clear sky. But now, I reclaim myself. I draw myself to the earth, I feel my own presence in my too-heavy-but-still-my-body, I defiantly press my bare foot into the cold earth.
I AM HERE, I howl into the wind. I AM.
The world can take me or leave me, but I am here. I matter to myself, and that is the truest victory.
I will succeed. I know how to, now. Watch me. I am awake.