The Pathless Land

Look, it used to be I’d wake up to a black ocean. I didn’t want to get out of bed because I was already soaked from the waves that night. It was sooty water, or not water at all, just oil, distilled black death. And I’d wake up and already be submerged, because it used to be I thought my soul was broke, or my brain, or just me. I thought, and it hurt when I thought, but I thought I’d deserved to be in this big dark place that took all the light and that the best and only thing to do was think my way out, because that’s how people get saved from drowning, right?

And it used to be really very ugly, like the kind of ugly you don’t bring up in polite conversation, and so when I brought up my unsleeved forearms around someone else I’d meet their eyes (furtively of course) to try and guess by their dilation whether I should tell them the story of the long red centipede scars crawling up my arms and how I was ashamed every time I saw those scars’ wiggling legs.

And it also used to be that I built up a pretty hearty defense against this floating psychic fuck storm and then, you see, I’d blame myself as the sole cause of everything wrong with me because that way I at least had some control over something, even if it really was just my own self hatred masquerading as power, a power that did in fact continue to fuel that same psychic fuck storm I was defending against.

And it used to be that even in moments the Romantics wrote about (Coleridge in an Ode to Dejection) I’d feel the like I was floating, a gentle swaying on a rickety, but rhythmic boat in that same black ocean and I could hold on and hope maybe it would be okay for a while. And it used to be that it never was. Okay, that is.

And it used to be I could only veil fear and shame and mental disorder… or suffering if we wanna cut to the chase, in thick fancy words like a king’s bathing attire. As if that was enough to change the color of the sea itself.

It’s not like that anymore. It’s just… not. And I don’t know fully how it happened. I really don’t. There’s some willing to tolerate horrendous emotional shit, and some sense of community, and a gratitude I had to practice before I felt it, and the right cocktail of meds, oh, and sobriety, and faith in something I don’t understand, and certainly financial privilege, and maybe a whole massive structure I have yet to see or realize or understand yet.

St. John of the Cross calls that ineffable suffering “the pathless land.” Because it’s really hard to leave a trail out of a big soot filled ocean. But, for now at least, I’ve left it.

The other day I sat on a rickety wooden bench and watched the dogs in the dog park running laps. And it’s silly, but I understood them. As I watched I could fully see the joy of their musculature, the hefty panting, the bumping of bodies, the warmth of the exercise and the act and the pack, there was a whole new flow of their own I’d never been able to sit and see. And I did not feel that black ocean drawing me back. I could be submerged in something new.

That’s a lie. I do feel drawn back, but for something else.

Just because I don’t wake up to the same dread doesn’t keep others from it. And while it isn’t my place to try and drain an ocean (I’m not God, goddamnit) and while I might like to berate myself for not leaving clearer “This way to the exit” signs, or a string, or (so we can fit this metaphor) a few buoys, I just sure as shit am gonna yell from the shore. They might not hear me. Sometimes you can’t in the tear and torture of the waves. But sometimes you can. Sometimes I did.

It used to be that way for me, black ocean and all. Just because it’s not doesn’t mean it’s time to turn my back on it all.

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