Homecoming.

There’s no more light in the forest. I’ve been looking skyward for days, but the rainwater keeps getting in my eyes, blurring what used to be so crystal clear. I know, I know it should cleanse my soul, awaken me, but it’s drowning me out, carrying me away in a stream of debris. The deluge is reaching up to my neck, and I’m not so sure I can swim. The water is so cold it’s left me numb. I can’t tell if my feet are touching the bottom anymore, and even if I could, I would just feel the shards of broken bottles and empty memories. Each cut reminds me of what I had to give up to get here.

But what did the sacrifice mean? I am alone in a forest that never ends, where the light never reaches the floor of plants so starved for light that they stretch themselves thin and frail just reaching out for it, their cells shrinking until they are but whispers of their former selves.

I’ve been looking for a tree to rest against, just to catch my breath from all the traveling, but each one I lean on crumbles into dust the moment I let go. I know there’s a tree strong enough to hold me–to allow me to live my life out in its limbs, safe from the unending storm–but it takes destroying so many others that I’ve given up. Instead I seek my refuge in hollowed out logs, sharing my hideaway with the occasional rabbit or squirrel. I haven’t felt another human in weeks. One learns to look for warmth in other places after a while, but a water-logged forest does not lend itself to being temperate.

There are no paths anymore–no trails to follow. If anyone else has been here before, they certainly haven’t blazed anything, so I stumble blindly from place to place, everything blending into one unbroken canvas. It’s all the same anymore. I’m trying to find home, but no one ever taught me where that was. It has to be more than siding and walls, chimneys and roofs, but anywhere I’ve tried to hang my hat has gone up in flames so fast I didn’t even have time to cry.

I miss the sun on my skin. I miss anything warm, like a shoulder to rest on or a mug of tea or a good book. I miss the sound of my name being wrapped in the softness of compassion, miss the feeling of having flat ground under my tired feet, miss the smile of someone who has seen my heart but holds it anyway, even though it’s rough and bumpy sometimes… even though there are pieces missing. I miss feeling like being enough, even though I am one person who is very small and very tired. I miss the magic of 7:00 PM on a country road, weaving through green pastures and showing birds how to fly away.

No, I’m doomed to walk the forest, knowing that if I ever resurface, I will break through the tree line to see all those who promised to be there, smiling and saying, “We were worried, but we knew you could cross it.” And I will look at them, with their genuine eyes and their noble intentions, and I will walk away because when you tell someone you will walk with them, it means day or night, rain or sun, warm or cold. It means you will help them to their feet when another tree crumbles. It means you will reach out a hand when the current is holding them captive.

I stopped crying long ago; the sky sheds my tears now, providing life for others who are lost. Mother Nature… look how she mourns for me. She’s the only mother I’ve ever known to listen to the songs I sing while I gather sustenance for another night alone. The minor keys play on her heartstrings as she erases the clouds long enough to let me count the stars before I fall asleep. She is everywhere, but I cannot touch her–cannot feel her embrace because her life is separate from mine. Maybe she is home for me, but what a lonely home it is.

Monsters.

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
-Stephen King

How very true it is that each of us deals with monsters on a daily basis.  Often the monsters lurk outside of our skin, and they show themselves in events like spilled morning coffee or being late to work because of random road construction.  We have our own set of experiences when we come together in a place like college, for example, and we work with each other without knowing the monsters the others had to battle before even showing up to a nine o’clock class.  We don’t even know what monsters might be lurking in the classroom itself.

The external monsters are the easiest to deal with.  While yes, they make us feel extremely uncomfortable, we can put a legitimate, tangible cause to our discomfort, making it seem justified and “normal.”  It’s not unreasonable to be frustrated after getting a bad grade on a quiz for which you studied intently.  It’s so much simpler to be able to point to something and say, “That.  That is why I’m feeling this way.”  More often than not, you can deal with the “That Monsters” and work at them until they limp away.

It’s when the monster is inside of you–that’s when things become difficult.

It’s very hard to comprehend feeling a certain way without being able to point to a concrete cause.  Some of us, and maybe not all of us (I can’t speak for the entire population), have monsters that dwell in our very souls.  A day could be going extremely smoothly, and then all of a sudden you’re hit with a feeling, and unfortunately, it’s usually sadness.  (Sometimes anxiety, anger, etc.)  There’s not a single thing you can point to and say, “See that?  That made me sad.”  There’s no event to cite.  Suddenly your thoughts turn direction, and it leaves you wondering what the hell just happened in your own head.

So, if you’re anything like me, you still try to find an external solution.  When I encounter an actual event that provokes an undesired emotion, I physically do something in order to “fix” the situation.  I try to implement the same strategy when the problem is internal, and it hardly ever works.  So you (or I, the pronouns really don’t matter because my hope is that this is somewhat universal) wander through your life trying to find the one thing that will make you go back to the happiness you felt even an hour before.  Some people use alcohol or the like, which doesn’t really do anything to fix the problem, but it’s a self-medication thing, I suppose.  Some people, like me, use people.  (I want it to be clear that I don’t mean “use” people as in take advantage of them; rather, I mean that I find a place where there are people I like and try to take comfort in their presence.)  People have the power to make us feel more human again, for a lack of a better way to explain it, and so we surround ourselves with the laughter and conversation of others.  A lot of the time it works, but there are definitely times when it doesn’t feel like enough just to BE around people.  Sometimes you want to TALK, but when you don’t know what the hell is wrong with you in the first place, you don’t know what to talk ABOUT, and then you just feel like you’re wasting the other person’s time.

Also, you feel like the person you’re talking to has the magical ability to make you feel better if they’d just say or do a certain thing, but you can’t even identify what it is because you don’t know why you’re upset, so you sit there waiting for something that might not even exist in the first place.  It is a sort of desperate, frustrating thing for all persons involved, and then you end up feeling worse than you did before you tried to talk about it.  Then what?  Well, you try to listen to music, or watch TV, or do anything else to distract you from the annoyingly persistent emotion you’re irrationally feeling.  Sometimes that works, and when you’re on the other, monster-less side, you can’t understand why you allowed yourself to be captive of that emotion for so long.

Other times, the fog doesn’t lift for quite some time, and eventually whatever monster it was just nods off into hibernation, leaving you to wonder when he’ll decide to surface again.  It makes you feel crazy and/or abnormal, and you wonder whether or not everyone goes through this or if it’s only you.  When it happens again (it always happens again), you have an internal fight.  Your first instinct is to talk to a friend again, but A. you know that it will frustrate them, B. you’re afraid they’ll think that there’s something wrong with you, and C. you still can’t articulate what is happening.

And what THEN?  It either gets more difficult to deal with or you learn to ignore the monster by locking it in some dark room in your mind, feeling its presence but not letting it run amok.  I vacillate between the two, and I can say that I’m exhausted by the effort it takes to keep a monster tied up.  There comes a time when you collapse into your own effort and wait for someone to drag you back up to your feet again.

Or maybe it’s just me, in which case, shit.