‘Life is hard’ – a basic premise, proven over and over again, yet somehow my heart holds on for an easier year, an easier day; a life that will miraculously contain less pain. It nevertheless begins to seem to me that pain does not fade with time: it accumulates.
I broke down this morning in the worst possible place – at work. I sat in the toilet and sobbed. As memories hit me relentlessly, one after another, I couldn’t stop the howls of agony escaping my lips. For the second day in a row, it feels like a tunnel has opened up right back to my childhood, with every painful ordeal lived afresh. I know that this represents an ideal opportunity to go back to those early traumas and try to process them with the experience and self-knowledge of adulthood, but it feels so overwhelming that I don’t even know where to being. After the first roll of toilet paper was finished it began to feel like I would never again be able to stop crying.
Of course, I eventually did. I know I cannot live in the full awareness of loss forever; it will get pushed back into the parts of my brain that store these memories, and I will smile and laugh again. I cannot undo past damage, and I cannot prevent further pain and loss to come. We live, thus we must die. We will have our hearts broken; we will face choices it seems no one should ever have to make. We will never reach that fairytale ‘better future’ we strive for, because each new turn will bring its own pain.
Yet I won’t give up hope. I won’t stop telling myself that next year will be easier, because I need to have that to look forward to, and because I know that impossibly difficult past years have indeed been followed by some delightful ones. I can’t know what the next loss or challenge will be, but not knowing leaves me free not to worry about it too much.
So, I ask myself: what can I do to help tomorrow be better? Will crying these tears, letting my heart break just a little more now, mean that it will hurt just a fraction less next time something triggers these memories? If I can force myself to pick up a paintbrush again after all these years, can I leave some tiny bit of pain behind on a canvas? If I can find the words to write another poem, can it carry a little more for me?
I appreciate the image of each tear-drop carrying away one small, invisible bit of sorrow with it, but I know too that I have cried if not an ocean, then at least a lake full of tears, and yet my heart is still full to bursting with pain.
Two poems written in 1996, the year I turned 14:
I cried myself to sleep last night
– A childish thing to do.
Time, loss, pain, and even words
Lost their meaning in the darkness
Sobs echoing ‘round my head
Locked inside – by me.
No one to blame except myself
If even that is left;
Maybe I slipped quietly away
Into the pillow…
I cried myself to sleep again;
Lonely, childlike tears.
Encircled by the darkness
I cannot face my fears.
Within me, around me, filling up my head
I cannot chase the demons
Away from this cold bed.