I often find myself stopping right in the middle of doing something, an idea blossoming in my head, and I know that if I don’t write it down immediately it will be gone. A long time ago when I was in my late teens, shy, anxious, hundreds of thoughts and opinions flying through my brain, but unable to formulate them, scared of what others would say, a good friend told me something that has stuck with me ever since. He said that after a while people will start to wonder if I had an opinion at all. It sounds harsh laid out like that, but in the context we were talking about crippling anxiety and shyness, which he also suffered from, and it was his way of telling me that I should never fear what others may think, because when we need to fight for our rights it doesn’t matter whether we have a popular opinion or not, it matters that we fight for it. Over time I have become unapologetic in my opinions, while I am able to listen to others, understand many differing thoughts, and even change opinions if I am wrong, I have learnt to never back down. Who is going to speak for me if I don’t do it myself?
From a distance my life has been a sequence of stepping stones, a skip, hop, or long jump to the next one, occasional moments where I fall into an abyss between stones, just to claw my way out again. There have also been many stones that have turned into tropical beaches, the peace of the waves washing over my toes while I bask in the warmth of the sun. Seasons sometimes clashed, sometimes rolled into each other seamlessly, yellow, brown, red on bright, bright blues and greens. Most of the time I am in fighter mode, standing strong but ready to kick back while protecting everything that is mine. “Mine” has never been something concrete, but rather intangible: my life, everything that I have built with my own two hands and feet, my love, my family… Nowadays I am not alone, having found another fighter like me, both more tranquil together than we ever were alone. We have created this beautiful little family, 5 of us now, little fighters just like their parents. Most days I stand strong, protective, mother bear to what is mine. But some days I feel weary, feet heavy, plodding rather than skipping. My legs aren’t so graceful anymore, dancing over the spaces in time, more sturdy, more mare less foal. This week my eyes feel heavy, every gesture is calculated, foggy, a chore. I dream of a hot bubble bath, toes splayed in the water, singing Tracy Chapman and dreaming of beaches. Can I make this happen faster this beach dream? What more can we do to get there? These are the days when I listen to myself speak and it doesn’t sound right, I am on a business call and I know I sound genuine, but in reality it’s all forced. There are days that I wonder about the damage I did to myself working in a place that was the opposite of my essence, shoving a cone into a hexagon and crossing my fingers it wouldn’t look fake. By night it was boots on the bar downing Stoli rocks and feeling at home, by day it was frantic typing and responding and troubleshooting, pretending, pretending, pretending. Even now, 6 years later I feel that anxiety, the need to respond right away. I tell myself it’s all right, and then I forget to respond altogether. Apparently the middle ground isn’t my strong point at times.
My friend was right, you can’t stand still, too scared to do or say anything. Life isn’t a simple fight, it can be battle after battle separated by times of peace, or just a simple ceasefire to take stock of what is behind us and what lies ahead. A few moments to sleep, have that bubble bath, and breathe. I have to remember that coming last is not always the safest place to be, that standing up strong right up front also has its benefits. I spent a whole 4 days worrying about something that didn’t matter, nerves stretched to their limits, mind working triple time to stop the dark thoughts taking over, and then, just like that something happens that sets it all straight again. There they are, my skip, hop, and jumps between stones. Each stone takes a life of its own, and between each one lies clear waters, an abyss, and sometimes a warm, gentle sun, guiding the way. Some days we have a win, others a loss, some days one of each. In the end it’s all about the greater picture, isn’t it? That golden haze on our horizon, that pink hue in the sky. It really is OK to dream, and it really is OK to stand strong, now more than ever.
Tomorrow I will lace up the boots again, and fight through the haze and the pillars to make sure they have it easier than we had it. Maybe they will have one less battle to fight than we did, and even that makes it all worthwhile.