“For a long time I gathered cobwebs and time moved itself around me. For seven years I barely opened my eyes. I barely moved and I barely spoke. Many of you know this. I would say that I barely existed, too, except that isn’t so. I existed with all the fierceness I had, and with all the light I could scavenge for myself.
I was growing up, in extraordinary pain, from sweet sixteen to twenty two and I was doing it in isolation. It looked and felt like an apocalypse, without the delightfulness of horses. Some of the people I loved most died in that time, and the friends I wanted to be able to see again were growing up to be more beautiful than ever, without me there to witness it. So many memories of us together were stolen away, never to happen, although they were somehow still tangible as well. Like shadow memories. The little wisps of things that should have been.
I made myself a life of sorts, like assembling a crooked pot to place my dreams in, from the shards of broken things, and all of that life was secret. None of it could have been seen by the birds soaring past my window, on their way home, or by the worried parents who brought me food and wondered how to help me. I had adventures that took me across the world and out of it. Many of you know this too.
Along with my dreams, that crooked pot was the only place I had to pour my love and my purpose. So, I did.
I carried with me a handful of poems, which I kept safe in a battered suitcase, somewhere in my brain, and I decorated it with travel stickers from the voyages I planned would one day be mine.
They were not great poems. I was too ill to write great poetry, and perhaps too young, but sometimes the only point of a poem is for it to exist. It gave me something to achieve as well. Every time I wrote one I liked, I would have to memorise it and guard it so I didn’t forget it. I guarded about thirty poems for most of those years, although a few more were lost to the bottom of whatever ocean words go to, whenever they get shipwrecked.
Six years ago, when I was able to, I made a blog full of them. Cataloging them like well read library books, even with their missing pages and unattractive tea stains, for myself and for anyone else who wanted to see them. I no longer had to have them memorised; that mission was accomplished. They had made it out of my head alive.
In time, the blog was forgotten. It didn’t really matter. Life was beginning to happen to me differently. It was beginning to open up, like I was a small seed beginning to sprout green shoots, with the renewed possibility that the sun might be there to meet me. It was the Spring again, even though the frosts returned when they felt like it, and there were still creatures who might demolish me with one bite.
Today, a chance conversation made me go and find that blog. I didn’t even recall its name at first and then, coughing politely to attract my attention, there that knowledge was.
I sat and read the words I had written, and it remains true that they are not great poems. Yet, they are so very useful to me. They are maps of a land I used to have to navigate. I read them and I know the girl who wrote them, but she isn’t really me any longer. I remember how much more painful her life was than mine is now, and even though we share the same determination to go forwards, I do not feel like she felt. I do not feel like I am ending.
So much has changed. There have been a thousand revolutions since then; of earth and moon and clock hands. In the whole of my being.
Healing is hard, and it is uncertain. Getting better is not the gentle drive in an old motorcar, on a soft summer’s day, you might hope for. Nor the luxurious stretching of old muscles in the morning sun, with art supplies and naps and a well deserved excess of cake. It isn’t kind.
There are sadnesses that can’t be anticipated when you are trapped at the bottom of the well, craning your neck for a glimpse of the sky. Progress continues to be erratic and hard won, and as you are less busy dealing with whatever vicious interloper is wreaking havoc, your heart tells you so much more about your own sorrow. About the losses and the fears and the ways in which none of this is ok. You get to deal with how you have been hurt by it, and how you still are.
We need little things, like reading old poems, to be the reminders of how far we have come and how possible it is to go further. We need reassuring moments to bring us comfort in order to help us carry our own hearts, when they are far too heavy.
I am so many kinds of happy and sad these days. It’s beautiful really because it means I am still alive and it means that being human for me has become a spectrum of rich colours instead of greys and darknesses, like it used to be.
I have kept a promise I once made.
I promised myself that if I would only hold on, I would make the future worth surviving for. I begged myself to believe that what would come would be worth all of that pain.
Even before my life can open wide enough for me to embrace everything that matters to me.
Even before my legs are strong enough to carry me to anywhere I wish.
So this is how it is and that was how it was, and all of it makes me who I am.
I keep thinking of some other girl who is there, right now, almost a statue, while time moves around her. She holds her own crooked pot, and she doesn’t know what is going to happen next.
I hope for her, and I hope for us, that we get to be alive and that we can say, more often than not, that it is worth it.
I hope too that we get to share those gifts together because in our combined strength and joy, there is true magic.”
– sarah-louise jordan
“A person who is beginning to sense the suffering of life is, at the same time, beginning to awaken to deeper realities, truer realities. For suffering smashes to pieces the complacency of our normal fictions about reality, and forces us to come alive in a special sense—to see carefully, to feel deeply, to touch ourselves and our worlds in ways we have heretofore avoided.” ~ ken wilber