My oldest guide tells me he's going to devour me, because it's that time again.
"Fine, but which parts, and why? I demand to know before I consent. Haven't I earned that right by now?"
Yes, you have. I'm going to eat the parts of you that cling to that which no longer serves you. Do you consent?
"Yes. But wait, where are we? I can't see anything, it's too foggy."
I'm sorry, but you don't get to know that.
"Well can I at least have a perch to stand on?"
No, I'm sorry, not this time. You don't get to see where you are and you don't get to have a safety net. I'm going to hold you and devour you and you don't get to know what happens. But know that I'm with you.
After every dismemberment journey (a journey where you get eaten, dismembered, or destroyed somehow) you always get reborn afterwards. Your "body" regenerates. When mine grew back this last time, I looked down and I was on fire, wielding a hatchet above my head. Whoa. I think I can figure out what that means.
This is the part where I cut the ropes and fly.
This time last year, I thought, I'll break away, find a new love, start a new life, and it'll be easy. It doesn't have to be difficult. Everyone will agree that this is for the best and all the good parts can stay exactly the same, but the bad parts will be gone.
[She chuckles ruefully. She takes long drag from imaginary cigarette because she doesn't actually smoke, but has not yet found a better gesture to let a moment land.]
What a sweet little fool. But that's all right. We're all fools, aren't we?
When you take those first steps out on your own, you go alone. People who have gone before you try to warn you, but you don't listen. If you did, you'd be too afraid to do what you need to do.
But you've got to do it anyway.
People will abandon you. People you thought were your friends. They won't have the guts to actually "unfriend" you, but they'll stop talking to you. They'll stop talking around you. When you walk into the room, their silence will be deafening. So you cut them off yourself. And, unfortunately, that might start them talking.
Let them talk.
Let your mother-in-law talk, too. Let her talk to your mother about you. Let her talk other people about you, and to you about other people. Let her talk to your face about what a ridiculous idiot you are. Let her make sure you don't get invited to family events, the same way she's been barred from family events, even though it hurt her so much. She just wants to hurt someone else as much as she's been hurt. And you're the only one she has the guts to do it to, so let her go ahead and try. It's how she gets through her day. And that's genuinely a sad thing.
So let her talk, too.
People who could come to your defense will fall silent. They hear people hissing behind your back, they know you don't deserve it. They could say something simple, like, "There are two sides to every story," or, "She was always nice to me," or, "Hey, shut the fuck up, you guys are assholes." But they won't. They'll just watch the faces people make as soon as your back is turned. They'll listen when people who don't even know you call you a crazy bitch or worse, and all they would have to do is open their mouths and whisper, "No, she's not." But they don't.
Let them be silent.
People who could open their mouths and talk to you, won't. That one will surprise you. That one will hurt. When you're having a good day, suddenly people will be like, "Hey, it's nice to see you cheery, you had us worried there," and you'll think, "Really? You were worried? Wow, because here I was feeling more alone than I ever had in my life, wondering if anyone on God's green earth would even notice if I were to drop off of it. But I guess now that I'm cheerful, knowing that you were 'worried' for a second really eases the pain." No, it doesn't ease the pain. In fact, it makes it worse. When all you want is the people you love the most to speak to you, and they don't, that's the kind of thing that can almost kill you, if you let it. (Don't let it.) That's the kind of thing you remember the next time you bump into them. That all they had to do was open their mouths, pick up the phone, type a little message. "Hey, you might not want to hear from me, and if so that's okay. But I noticed you seem a little down. How are you? I'm right here if you feel like talking." But they don't, and you forgive them, but you have to admit that you'll never forget it.
Let even them fall silent.
Because out of the darkness come hands that do reach out. They're not the hands you expect. But they're precious to you. The ones who stop what they're doing when they hear you've just been through something, and they turn and look at you and say, "Oh, I'm sorry. That must be hard. How are you doing?" Even if you brush them off with a hurried, "Oh, don't worry, it's fine, I'm fine, things are good," you feel it in your heart like a warm embrace that they looked you in the eye and cared when they didn't have to.
The unexpected ones who reach out... They don't always say like, "Hey you are obviously a hot mess, do you need me to come over with a casserole?" but they might just go, "Remember the time we ate Pixy Stix before every show when we did that play together? That was so fun!" Or they might say, "Thanks for the kind words about the thing I've been going through. I see you're going through something, too. Life is insane, let's lean on each other and just breathe for a second."
And then there are the people who really do come over with food, and they're incredible! And the ones who just needed you to ask the right question, and then they tell you all about their journey and the tools they used to overcome things like mental illness or divorce or the death of a loved one or abuse or addiction and they tell you that you're worth it. That you're worth fighting for. That you're worth healing for. That they know you're a good person.
Then there are the people who hang out with you. Who call you up and want to go to lunch. Who want to go for coffee. Who want to go to the shamanic drum circle and then get food afterwards. Who want to go camping. Who want to go to the movies. Who want to go see live music. Who want to read tarot cards. Who want the name of your therapist because they could really use a good one.
These people are the gift. They're the ones who, when you cried out into the darkness for help and an angel overheard you and started tapping people on the shoulder to see who would listen... They're the ones who were like, "What was that? Hm. Okay, that's it, I'm calling her ass up."
It's not like they occupy your every moment of the day. We all have work, we have school, we have varying degrees of family and responsibility. But each little gesture adds up. Each one is a hand reaching out to you from the darkness, so you take hold of it for the next step or two. Then you let go and grope around blindly a bit, and then the next one appears, so you grab it, too. And sometimes you push them away, but they just stay there. You try to go it alone, but it's too scary, so you remember where they were and you fumble your way back and grab hold again. And they're right there the whole time for you. Whenever you need them.
They get you to the point where you're lying in a room lit only by candles, listening to a woman drumming, then you find yourself saying to a giant eagle, "Sure, rip my head off and eat my brain, it's honestly fine."
You don't get a perch or a nice soft nest.
You don't get to see where you are.
You don't get to see where you're going.
But you do get to leave behind that which harmed you, and that which didn't help you when it could have.
You get a little flickering flame.
You get to wear it in front of your heart.
It only lights your next step, one at a time.
But it's enough.
And you're not alone.