Days like these….

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Some days are just plain painful, not for any reason in particular (at least not one I can attach any tangible sense to) but just for the sheer fact that remaining upright is an effort and maintaining a smile bearing any vague semblance to a genuine entity a chore.

My head throbs. My eyes prick. My neck and shoulders are locked: stubbornly resistant, oppressively tight. There is this malicious thing going at my chest with a fork. It is blunt and tarnished, void of serration and shine. It is old, too and overly admired. As for my heart, that most delicate of creatures: it feels fragile and weak, like it’s been recently broken by some element or identity it most desperately loves.

I’m not sure where to attribute the blame: the weather, the date, the season, bodily hormones, the phase of the moon, events, recent treatment of self by self and/or by others, or just life in general and the incomprehensible nature of it.

Not that blaming helps. Attaching a label is never a wise thing to do and rarely serves a greater purpose beyond shrinking and limiting. Call a glass of milk a glass of milk and it can never be anything but a glass of milk. Present it as a potent vessel, life-giving liquid, a substance matching a March moon in colour trapped within a container resembling in clarity a pair of NHS glasses or else tri-annually cleaned windows, and it is immediately that much more interesting. At least in my book it is. To you, it may now just be confusing.

As I said: I have a migraine and my thoughts are jumbled. I’m writing in an attempt to evict the pain and because, otherwise, my afternoon will be empty of employment. I can’t read. I can’t sleep. The thought of meditating, although tempting, also seems like a waste. I want to do something useful but my options are limited. This is the compromise.

Pining August, missing her already despite still sitting pretty within the arms of her last day embrace, I am trying to remain in the moment. If I look back, I see the ribbon of summer – colourful-worn and spent. Forwards, I see autumn leading towards winter, the approach of weather that hurts, sky that is mean, sun that doesn’t like very often to come out. A time of wrapped up, curled up, hunched in front of while the wind screams in earnest and the clouds weep. I see me disappearing. My voice fading. My confidence failing. Tears close by.

So I’m trying to stay where I am. Trying to make the most of every day I have. Trying to do enough so as to warrant justification and stave off regret. And I am managing, just about. Even with this pain, I am obedient to routine: traveling to new places, working out and about, visiting people, being as sociable as my limited diary will permit. I’m not slacking. I’m not shying. So why isn’t it easier? Why does this black thing, this shadow, follow me around and about? What did I do to deserve it? What can I do to make it go away?

I rest. I exercise. I meditate. I read enriching books. I express myself in words and in imagery. I make sure I get enough air and light. I eat raw ingredients and buy organic products. I avoid sugar and processed foods. I restrict, as much as possible, violence and crime, distressing information, destructive people, depressing news. I protect myself. I love my dog and I allow her to love me. I express myself openly and honestly – to my partner and to my friends, allowing them to do the same back. I try to be nice to everyone I meet, to give instead of take. I put in as well as extract, invest as well as lay claim. I believe in my purpose, my destiny: something I have looked deep to find, worked hard to own, and attend to daily. Surely life should be better having done and still doing all of this? That is, after all, supposed to be the answer.

But who is this omniscient being who professes to know what makes us tick; what repairs the cogs that are dented, the coils that are squeaking, the wheels that are turning the wrong way? He’s not God. He’s some intellectual who has studied a lot, some guru who claims to be enlightened. He’s not the real thing. He’s not even always a ‘he’. How can we, I, trust something so ordinary, so similar in genetic makeup? We can’t really and we oughtn’t to, but we do, because at the end of the day all any of us wants is answers, solutions to problems and questions; because the not-knowing how, why or when is just too big, vast, empty to live with. Like looking over the edge of a building or down into the depths of a well, there is this aching feeling, this hollow scream, a carved-out wound that feels like a child that ought to be there but isn’t, a lost baby, a dead pet. It makes one want to jump, to just hurry up and get it over with, to bail out. And it also makes one feel absolutely terrified. Far easier to simply buy into, accept, adopt, leap onto and cling. Whether it’s Deepak, Robbins, Hay, Hart, the Dali Lama, Buddism as a belief, Christianity as a crucible, Gestalt and Jung as theories and philosophies: anything, everything; one, two, ten… is a better thing to cling to than empty space.

I look. I find. I try. I attach. And for a time, I am full. Then the gnawing returns and my soul complains that it is hungry again and needs to feed. Like a child with worms, there is no sating it. And it’s the no sating, no solving, no sedating, that enslaves me.

So I lie here in limbo, an adult crying for a parent who no longer exists, yearning for a breast that has long-since been interred; essentially waiting for a miracle that may (or may not) eventually come. It’s a sorry state of affairs to be managing and yet somehow I am in charge of it.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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