(*photo credit to Libby Arnold*)
I feel I've learnt something pretty important over these past few years. It's something we all learn as we're growing up: something that comes in the aftermath of struggle, I think: in the aftermath of desperately trying to feel better somehow, but without anything to pin that to. Trying to escape from the inevitable pain that makes its bed beside us all every now again: trying to escape from ourselves. Sometimes, living feels like being on a tiny, rickety, wooden boat in a wild, choppy sea. No anchor. No horizon. It's impossible to keep your head above water all the time, that's just how it is. It's the price we pay for the magic.
You cannot put the weight of your worst mood, your struggle, on another person: you simply can't. Sure, they can wrap their warm, fuzzy limbs around you when you cry, or set up a den on the sofa with you and feed you vegetable pizza, but they can't voyage that universe inside your head. They can't take responsibility for your happiness: you're alone in that. And it's hard sometimes, to accept it. To know how to move on when you're in the midst of the shitty stuff. How to put one foot in front of the other.
But I've learnt that there are things you can do: simple, tangible things that you can do to stop yourself from drowning: to take a small level of control over your life when the dark cloud creeps in: to distance yourself from that inherent, daily hum of fear, or the desire to run away screaming, nude and wreckless, because 'OMG, LIFE.' To do something, anything, with the day, because sometimes, that's all it takes.
For me, it's a number of things. It's writing: pouring my bones into lines and squiggles that may or may not make sense to me afterwards. It's reading: curled up on my bed or with stones tickling my thighs at a sunny spot by the sea, losing myself to the lines and squiggles of somebody else: losing myself to be somebody else. It's taking a long, hot shower, or the weirdly therapeutic task of unloading my washing from the machine and laying it, with serene determination, over my broken clothes horse. I like that silly sense of victory when the clothes horse doesn't fall apart. I like the smell of clean damp, on hair and bodies and clothes. How it clings to the air. Renewal.
Painting my nails, albeit badly, and chipping them within two minutes because I'm the most impatient person I know. Doing yoga poses that make my legs shake. Driving from A to G to X to D, because it isn't about the destination. Trying on all of the pretty dresses in my wardrobe. Googling photos of alpacas.
One of my best friends tends to her plants, moving meticulously around her exquisite jungle of a living room, pastel watering can in hand, until every last one has guzzled its drink for the day. My boyfriend cycles, for miles and miles and miles. My Grandma listens to her old cassettes, the ones she listened to with the man she spent over half a century of her life with: the man who isn't there anymore.
Simple, tangible things. A little list of lifesavers. A little list to work through, when we need something, anything, to sweep the leaves of struggle from the path of self sufficiency. To get us through the day. Crumbling bricks and brittle slabs, but one foot in front of the other, always.
There is little else to do but try. That's just how it is.