Gone for so long now…
Looking back on my childhood, I can view it as idyllic. There were rough moments. That time hidden in my room, crunched against my sister, as our Mom and oldest sister screamed at each other. The time we came home to our dog covered in blood on our porch. But mostly I remember being happy. Does that make it so? Are my memories of events stronger than the actual truth of the event? Or is my interpretation of the past an acceptable one? My main remembrance of being a teen is of being the happy one who annoyed everyone else by how even keeled and un-teenager like as she was. Does that mean it’s how I really was?
We were all standing in a circle, talking of mood swings. Those precious cycles that were the purview of teenage girls and defined how everything was going. My sister and friends were speaking of the roller coaster of emotions that dictated their lives. I was lost. An outsider to the conversation. When it came my turn, my sister interjected, “oh Kendra doesn’t get mood swings, she’s not on a roller coaster, she’s on a train running around the top edge, happy all the time.
Gotta get back to her somehow…
Life majorly got in the way of that. My aunt died, then my grandmother, then one of my closest mentors. My early years at college were defined by loss. And with that loss I grew up and away from the carefree child that I once was. I struggle more and I learned that life has a darker side. But is that necessarily a bad thing? I am who I am today because of everything, good and bad, that has happened to me.
It came out of nowhere. I was reading on a friend’s website, the news and updates of people that I knew and loved and hadn’t seen in quite some time. The words written there were stark, Joel had passed away in his sleep, he was in his late 80s, he would be missed and remembered. I couldn’t breathe. I was maybe ten the first time I met Joel. He wanted to buy me ice cream in exchange for me playing fiddle tunes with him. The arrangement lasted year after year. We would play hymns, fiddle tunes, talk and laugh. And now he was gone. I called my Mother and collapsed against my dorm room door, sobbing so hard my sister had to take the phone and tell Mom what had happened.
There’s a wild, wild whisper blowing in the wind.
Fast forward a few years and suddenly I was on birth control for the first time in my life, married, and living in a foreign country on the far side of the world from everyone. Adjusting to the culture shock, the loneliness, and the ups and downs of marriage took a toll on me. Artificial hormones didn’t help. For the first time in my life, I could time my cycle based on my mood and what night I cried the most.
There is a couch in our living room. I’ve come to hate it. There is a recliner on the end, nearer the window with a view to the dreary world outside. Day after day it seems that I would sit there and just stare out the window. Waiting, haunted, hoping for a return of something I didn’t even miss. He asked me what was wrong, and all I could do was shrug, my eyes filled with tears. The desperate feeling of a swimmer struggling to the surface for air followed my every move.
Calling out my name like a long lost friend.
Life is now full of it’s ups and downs. Maybe this is how it was supposed to be from the beginning. Was I broken for all that time and only now am I human in my brokeness? Or was I, as a happy child and teen, whole, innocent, and that’s how life is supposed to be? Is it an either/or or a both/and situation? Was I whole but still broken then? Am I broken but still whole now?
He is gone. At work, in another country, out with the boys, it doesn’t matter. I am alone. Alone is always where it haunts me. Alone is always where it ensnares me. I try to stay busy so that it cannot find me, but somehow, it always does. It starts with an innocent thought, then the path twists darker and deeper. Before long I cannot find my way back to the surface and light. He comes home and I fight to regain mobility. But sometimes I am paralyzed there and only his arms around me bring me safely home.
I miss those days as the years go by,
I can look back on it now with only the lingering winces of pain. The times when I called my Mom in tears because no boy wanted to date me. The times my friends “forgot” to include me in anything other than study sessions. The times I let myself just sit on the couch and cry. Depression is a very real thing in my life. My family members suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, and more. We fight for the right to be happy. I have had it easier than most, but that does not mean that my battle was easy. The wounds that depression has torn in my soul are fading to scars that will be part of me for all time. I will never be the girl who didn’t cry again. But I truly think that I am better for it.
Another moment on the couch. We are cuddled together, my head in his lap. Onscreen we battle strange monsters with guns that set people on fire. I began playing this game for him and now we play it for me. We laugh, we accuse each other of stealing kills, we escape the mundanity of our lives. Later, after, we are cuddled in bed. I say to him, “it was a good day today.” He replies, “it’s always a good day when I am with you and I can make you laugh and not cry.”
Nothing’s sweeter than summer time, and American honey.*
The warmth of the sun upon my skin always makes me smile. I turn my head up to it and breathe in the rays, like a flower seeking photosynthesis. He even calls me his flower. I have found my dawn, my sunlight, my escape from the darkness. Please, if you are still searching for yours, let me know so I can be a light upon your path. Broken, whole, healing, hurting, we are all exactly who we are supposed to be at the moment in order to be the person we are supposed to come later. You do not have to walk the darkness alone.
*lyrics from American Honey by Lady Antebellum