twelve years ago tonight… by sarah-louise jordan

“Twelve years ago tonight, I woke up and my whole body was ablaze. It started tearing and crushing itself ceaselessly, and it started sharpening its previously unmentioned collection of hot knives deep inside my skin. I knew then that no one could survive such a thing but I have been proved wrong every single day that’s followed.
The fire remains constant, and every time it starts to die down, too much sound or discomfort or life makes the flames leap again until it feels as though that much concentrated and unrelenting pain is threatening to burn out whatever it is in me that has resisted being obliterated for so long. It is much less fierce though than it was, even when it is still utterly brutal. And, If it is less now, it can get less again. And less. Til it snuffs itself out and is gone.
A long time ago, my Grannie and I used to find pictures in the fire which burned merrily in her old Victorian fireplace. I’d watch it cavorting like Paganini with his devil’s violin and I saw that it contained its own fairytales. It contained castles and glimpses of strange lands and interesting creatures who flickered in and out of view. In this fire too, in my own fire as it rages, I have seen fairytales. The ones I have created with as much eccentricity as my English heart desires, and the ones I have found with other people. Even If I had known that whilst I went on burning, I would get well enough to speak and laugh again, and find the sort of friends you could save worlds with, I couldn’t have guessed just how much of an adventure life would become. How much genuine happiness I would get to hold in my arms like bouquets of summer flowers. How I would fall in love and have that love returned, more than once, and learn all the lessons of heartbreak that make us strong enough to try again. How I would meet strangers who became family, and go on knowing the dearest of old friends. How I would write for my living, and cook until my hair smelt slightly of fried red onions and the zing of garlic when I rested it against the pillow. How every day would bring me something interesting and thought provoking and often rather charming. And how lucky, in the scheme of things, that made me.
I couldn’t have imagined either, that on the anniversary of a terrible beginning the fire and I would walk in the cool air to meet my postbox, with sass in my hips and a spring in my step at the feel of such progress. Considering on the way back if a fringe for Christmas might ultimately be a bad decision.
So, I am going to allow myself to feel a little sorrow for all that hurts, and then I will plan the great American road trip I intend to take one day, with a good map and a great friend. I will picture myself piloting a small plane over the ocean and walking through markets that smell of spice and secrets in faraway places before I see the stars in a wide, open space without city lights to dim them. I will imagine fervently kissing someone with all the passion of the waiting and the understanding my life has asked me to do. (Oh how I plan on kissing). I will go meet a man I know, on the moon. I will think of the foxes. I will look forward to hearing the voices of people I love as we close the distance between their home and mine with the wonder of technology; either again, or for the first time. I will remember to dance at the end of every day, in a dress that changes to fit the music I can now actually listen to, in the arms of imagined and steadfastly dashing men. Who, it has to be said, never ever drop me or put their backs out.
I know there are other people who understand what the Phoenix feels like as it is reborn. There are many other firebirds. I am going to try to find them so I can hold their hand from far away. That feels like a quest worth going on.
I have realised too, and only this week, that I will never be made to feel small again. By anyone, least of all me. Not after everything that has happened and how I have chosen to face it.
You shouldn’t feel small either. Just look at who you are. You live on this wild and dazzling planet, dealing with what life throws at you as best as you can, and you are kind. You know pain too well, and yet you have not lost your laughter or your capacity to care. What more can be expected of anyone, in the end? You are enough. Enough. Much more than enough. And more. I know because I see you and I am so glad and happy that you see me too.”
~sarah-louise jordan


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