I'm writing this letter in my head as I press through a summer rainstorm. I have to hold my colorful umbrella with two hands and push it against the wind and unrelenting rain. My sandals were soaked by the time I made it one block. By block two I removed them and walked barefoot across the rocky asphalt and streaming murky water rushing down the streets. The sharpness of the rocks is welcome.
I didn't start with a destination. I just had to leave. It is fitting that it is storming. The sky grumbles like a ravenous stomach, lightening cracks across the greyness. I'm not concerned about my umbrella catching a bolt, I'm not even concerned that I can't hear or see cars approach over the rushing water and my umbrella's flapping. Although it crossed my mind, I don't care.
I don't care that walking in the rain on purpose is taboo here. Hell, walking anywhere regardless of the weather is taboo here. Walking is reserved for the car-less and poor. I'm sure I look crazy, walking at a determined, angry pace with my rainbow colored umbrella and bare feet. I don't care. Every step I take is in defiance to this place. This place so far from you.
The rain is warm and pleasant. My legs are now soaked. I pressed on, over the highway and toward the cemetery. On a better day I might have danced in this rain with my daughters. The lost opportunity irritates me, I keep walking.
The cemetery is the perfect place to think of you. I see it ahead, empty and full of lost souls all at the same time. They are the lucky ones. People loved. What was left of them tenderly buried and prayed over, careful stones marking their spot. Special places where loved ones can go to remember. I weave my way through the first section. I don't have any family buried here. I won't be able to sit by my grandfather's grave and talk on the wind, imagining his counsel and advice... Instead, I silently greet the strangers I pass.
I move toward the oldest part of the cemetery, where the pioneers are buried. They know most of loss. I tenderly pass by tiny white headstones, five in a row, their little names carved carefully below doves.
The bench beneath the weeping willow is broken so I shift my direction toward the next largest tree, hoping it will help shield me from the rain. Under it's leaves the chatter on my umbrella quiets to slight tapping. A large black upright headstone sits at its roots, tilted slightly from their growth. I sit at it's base, my back against the trunk.
You're not here. Or at any other cemetery for that matter. Yet your loss still lingers and stings. I see many headstones simply labeled "Mother" "Father" or "Beloved Daughter." The stone beneath the tree simply says "Erick." No birth date. No death date. I imagine what I would chisel onto a stone for you: "Beloved" No name. No birth date. No death date. Eternal. Unbreakable. Unspeakable.
I watch the greyness of the sky drizzle down to the earth. I mourn you loss.
I will walk back through the slowing storm with my bare feet and bright umbrella to my home with my husband and my daughters. My life. I will leave you here. I'll bury what is left of you tenderly. I pray over you. In this special place where loved ones come to remember. And someday, I'll know how to dance in this rain.
So, yesterday I shared this whole blog thing on Facebook. I was actually trying to be as non-nonchalant as possible, hoping no one would actually take the time to click the link, let alone read my posts.
Well, people did.
And some even liked it. Told me I am brave and talented and amazing... WHAT???!
That they have felt the same fear and anxiety and discouragement... WHAT????!
That they are here for me if I need anything, that they LOVE me.... WHAT???!
So today I am struggling through all the feels: Vulnerability. Gratitude. Awe. Love. Humility. Embarrassment. Shock. And a huge dose of WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING??!
You see, depression or discouragement, anxiety, some may say the devil himself want you to feel ALONE. They want you to HIDE. They don't want you to share your story. Shame thrives on loneliness and fear.
IT IS SO MUCH EASIER FOR SHAME TO CONVINCE YOU THAT YOU DON"T MATTER WHEN THAT IS THE ONLY VOICE YOU CAN HEAR. THE ONLY VOICE YOU ALLOW IN YOUR LIFE.
I was super content with keeping this whole blog to myself, a safe space where I could create finished pieces of writing that help me process and understand and heal...move toward that Peace.
I made the mistake of telling my sister I finished an essay that I was very proud of and I wanted to do something with it. She begged to read it.
Shouldn't have said anything. I only wanted strangers to read this stuff.
Not people I knew. Not people I loved. Not people that would worry about me. Not my family. Not my friends. Not people in my community. Definitely not people that would pity me or judge me, misunderstand me.
I shared it with her anyway. All she had was love, all she ever has is love, she IS love.
So as I sit on my bed furiously typing this to keep from going crazy from my vulnerability hangover, (with a minor hour long interruption: finding my 2 year old covered in sunscreen from head to toe, not to mention the carpet, oh the carpet! It took about one whole fetching bottle of baby soap to get the greasy sunscreen off #momlife), my first response is to call my sister and tell her she was wrong. This was a bad idea. This is NOT helpful. This is NOT good. This is so FREAKING BAD.
Every response I receive from you amazing people is positive. It is all love. Why do I want to puke every time someone comments something kind and loving and empathetic??
Why is it so SCARY to be seen??
I'm terrified of judgement that isn't even REAL. Of pity I haven't seen or experienced. Why am I making it all up? BECAUSE SHAME WANTS TO BE THE ONLY VOICE IN MY HEAD. IT WANTS ME TO BE ALONE.
So now I am seen. And I'll continue to be open to being seen until shame has no place in my life, until I believe that I am brave and talented and amazing and worthy of love.
Thank you all for being beautiful voices in my life!
I can easily see the ending to this story. I’ll be standing on the beach. Everything around me is sage green and tan and blue. Blue. The crystal-clear blue that recedes from the sand into sapphire. My feet will sink deeper into the beach as each rush of water pushes past me to reach as far as it can onto land. Its grasp is weak. The thirsty sand drinks it in and the water recoils. A gentle smile spreads across my face as I watch the water desperately pull at my feet. I didn’t bring anything with me. No message in a bottle. No crystal or rock or necklace. The sea has taken enough. I came to say goodbye. The deep sapphire water lurks beyond the beach. I turn and walk away.
We have bats living in the trim of our windows. If you stay up late enough you can hear them screeching and clawing. I hate bats. They are disgusting and terrifying. Half rat, half bird, erratic, dark, invasive. My daughter reminds me that bats eat bugs, especially mosquitos. She’s allergic to mosquitos. I think I’m allergic to bats. I’m so uncomfortable in my own home now. Like something dark moved in with us without permission and life is suddenly unbearable.
I read a story when I was a child. It was about a lonely boy living on an island with his papa. He saw a mermaid on the beach combing through her long dark wavy hair. She was beautiful and kind and happy. But she swam away.
“Do any of your family members suffer from depression or anxiety?”
It was a difficult question. My family doesn’t get diagnosed. How do you know if you have depression or anxiety unless someone tells you that you do? I remember my mom crying on the closet floor. Running away occasionally. My dad punching a hole in the wall once after he lost his job. A birthday spent with just my mom because Dad couldn’t or wouldn’t come.
“I don’t think so…” I answer.
My therapist waits.
“Maybe… but in my family, you just don’t have that. You keep going. We’re cowboys and farmers, ranchers… we don’t have depression and anxiety.”
She gave me a knowing look. Her eyebrows raising ever so slightly.
She never officially diagnosed me. But she didn’t have to. The scars hiding under my new watch were diagnoses enough.
I have depression.
It felt gross admitting it. Like there was something nasty crawling up my back and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get it off of me.
The boy in the story obsessed over the mermaid. She left him a magic key that led him to injured sea birds after a terrible hurricane drown many others and littered the island with feathered bodies. He learned to heal the birds. He looked for her often and wondered where she was out in the sapphire water. But he never saw her again.
I have a memory from my childhood. We must have gone on a business trip with my dad. I remember being at a motel, but dad was gone working. The motel room was dark with a wide window in the front near the door. An old couch sat under that window edged with accordion like drapes. The couch reminded me of crusty oatmeal. I was little, maybe 7 years old. And I squeezed my little body behind the oatmeal couch to peer out the window. There was a man that worked at the motel and I didn’t like him. He seemed distrustful. Too friendly. I watched him out the window and noted his every move in my “Spy Girl” notebook. The man came to the door. My mom opened it. He smiled from under his mustache at my mom. Too big, too much, too nice. He held a long pole with a weathered blue net on the end. He said he scooped a bat from the pool and thought her kids might like to see it. He called her ma’am. I had never seen a bat. I pushed my “Spy Girl” notebook under the couch and quietly crawled out from behind the curtains. I suspiciously followed my eager older siblings out the door. The cement was uncomfortably hot on my bare feet. I peeked into the blue net at a black lump lifelessly clinging to the mesh. It was oily and wet with tiny claws and leathery wings. My stomach lurched.
“Must have been sick, flying around during the day like that… drown itself in the water.” The man said.
I stared at the white bottle with little white pills inside. I opened it and peeked at them. My stomach lurched. I set the bottle back on the dresser.
The boy grew up. His papa died. He reverently began going through his papa’s dresser. A worn bible sat in the top drawer with faded letters and envelopes. He thumbed through the bible. A photograph of a girl on the beach fell from the fragile pages. She looked familiar. Her long dark wavy hair.
I wanted to be the mysterious mermaid, with the sea star comb and the key necklace. I wanted to know the water.
Tuesday March 6th 2019,
I feel like I’m drowning. The dishes. The responsibilities. The kids. The bills. The mess. The laundry… I try and try and try and it all just seems to swallow me and pull me deeper and deeper. I can’t breathe.
Saturday May 11th 2019,
I need to lean on others. I just don’t want to burden anyone else. Everyone is just trying to keep their heads above water and I would feel like I am the drowning person desperately grabbing at them for help… I don’t want to be that person. I’d rather drown alone.
Monday July 8th 2019
I try so desperately to keep my head above water. To keep from drowning. I fight and fight and thrash against the waves. Even when the water is quiet and I’m exhaustedly, stoically, treading water the wind slaps my face with a salty spray and everything goes dark.
I try not to look, or even think as I place the pill in my palm and quickly, before I stop myself, pop it into my mouth. I drown it down with several mini cupful’s of water. The tiny paper cups have inspirational messages printed on them. “Optimism is the key to Happiness” this one says. My stomach lurches.
There are so many different stories about mermaids. Some believe they are bad omens. Drowning those bobbing on the sea, pulling them into the depths until the only evidence of their life are the tiny bubbles that race back to the surface and pop in wet breathless screams. Others believe mermaids are beautiful women that fall in love with handsome men and leave the sea to have a family. Some don’t believe at all. I do. I used to be one.
The boy in the story, now a man, stared at the girl in the photo. His grandfather’s little sister. The little sister that drown in a storm as a child. Her dark wavy hair, her kind eyes, her happy smile…
We researched how to get rid of bats. Water. If you spray them enough they will stay away, for a time. Killing them isn’t really an option, it’s illegal, even in Ireland.
My daughter tells me that bats will die if they are grounded. They can’t fly off the ground. If they stay on the ground long enough they will die from exposure or a predator.
I was 5 years old when I drown. I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing air until 23 years later. Suddenly I was desperate for oxygen and that’s when I found my lungs were full of water. Breathing again was much harder than drowning. I choked on the water over and over as I tried to surface. Salt leaked from my eyes and dripped off the tip of my nose. I furiously pulled against the lapping waves to propel my body toward the air. I fought until I was delirious and exhausted.
I thought I was dying.
Once the choking stopped, I found myself alone in a vast sapphire sea. Lost. I couldn’t swim any longer. I needed to get my feet on land.
Depression moves into your life like an uninvited guest, invasive. You don’t really notice at first because of the silence, then starts the screeching and clawing. Eventually life becomes uncomfortable, then unbearable. And everything goes dark without your permission.
Some people think I am crazy for believing that mermaids exist.
Sometimes I worry I am crazy.
I read a book when I was a child about a mermaid. Some say mermaids are the souls of drown children. The salty water buffering them from the pain of the world. They take their time to grow up among the sea stars and shipwrecks and when they do, they return to land.
Hi! I'm Amy
I am a Christian wife and mother, a writer, and a recovering perfectionist who is tired of chasing happiness in all the wrong ways. I am now on a journey to find a deeper state of being. Join me on My Peace Project and we'll learn how to survive the chaos together!