There were times, without knowing how she got there, she would find herself back in the damp and dangerous darkness, alone. It was a familiar place, filled with dread and despair and the moment she took a whiff of the stench she used to know well, it hit her. No wonder nothing brought her joy, she thought. No wonder her smile felt heavy and fake. No wonder she felt like each step she took was like slogging through miles of thigh-high mud. She realized that her heart was cloaked by the very same things that once made the tumors in her body grow malignant. How long has it been? There was no more time to waste. She knew she had to run back to where there was light.
She used to handle it differently, of course. Before, when she understood less and was confronted with the inevitable and unbearable, she would deny, resist, fight what made her sad, scared and insecure, what made her hate herself, thinking it was the way to smother her demons. In the end, the dreaded beasts would multiply and torch what was left of her with their fiery breath. It took years to painstakingly pick out from the embers, the little that was left of her flesh and bones; part of the slow process of putting back the pieces to arrive at a recognizable self.
This time though, the moment she was aware she was spiraling down the darker chambers of her heart, she knew better. She understood that avoidance and escape would only bring searing pain. And projection and denial would bring her sure death. So, she put her trust in what she now believed in and just embraced it. All. She embraced the things that made her wrong. The things that made her angry, scared, envious, selfish and greedy. The things that made her what she used to be. She also embraced forgiveness. All the forgiveness in the world. And just like that, the demons retreated into their creepy caves, deep caverns and damp dungeons, whimpering with their jagged tails tucked between their legs. Some monsters melted into the earth. Others shrank, slithered into the fissures they emerged from and the weakest of them, disappeared into thin air. Soon, the light peaked past every crack and crevice, then broke through with wild rays, which allowed her pale face to bask with relief in its recognition. She knew she was back home where she belonged. The scales on her heart were no longer there.
It made her feel good to know that even if she may never understand why she sometimes ends up in the dark, she was confident in the fact that she would always find her way back to the light.
No matter what.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
— Mary Oliver
grateful slice: trusting and knowing better