It was...scary. Or no...angering? Maybe even…sadness. It was overwhelming? Like a whirlwind. All of it happening so fast. Never time given to process. It just sort of…happened. Everything was fine, and then…not. Like precariously balancing on a tightrope until you tip off and slowly fall. Fall down and down. It was numbing. It was painful. It was terror like the night. It was painstaking. It felt like forever. Slow, confusing, and forever.
It was a burning in your chest and eyes when you try to hold back the tears but fail. It was the blank stare and furrow of your brow when there was too much to handle and you go numb. It was the nights of curling into a ball to comfort yourself. It was the constant tsunami of emotions, new and familiar. It was the why questions, the how questions, the why questions again. It hurt to think about it. It hurt to live through it.
They look into the mirror. What do they see? They see a shameful, broken, wreck. Is that what others see? They don’t know. They’ve never asked, they’ve never talked about it, they never took action upon it. No one did. No one cared, but wait? They don’t know. They’ve never asked, they’ve never talked about it, they never took action upon it. No one did. They didn’t think anyone cared or thought because no one acted upon it. They didn’t act upon it.
It was like looking up into a giant's big ugly face. It was their eyes traveling up the familiar mountain they're about to trek up, for what feels like the millionth time. It was the feeling of hopelessness, like they were never going to be rescued from their pool of despair that just kept growing larger.
Looking up the mountain they groan as they think of another long trek. Another long hike to beauty. I thought I was already there? I thought I had done this already? they ask anxiously. They know that once they get to the top there will be beautiful trees and beautiful lakes and birds soaring, but it feels impossible to convince themselves that it's all worth it.
Eventually, their foot finds its hold on the rough rock of the mountain edge and they start their climb. The rocks tear their clothes. They stretch their patience and comfort. It hurts, but they continue to climb repeating to themselves that it will end in beauty. They climb and the sharp edges cut into their hands like knives and blood spills, covering their hands. There is a long way up but something in them says to keep going. Keep going even though it hurts. Fight through it, to the end. The rocks finally end but a lake that feels like a giant, sits in front of their torn up, dirty selves. It's daunting.
The obstacles are never ending. There’s no boat. There’s no bridge. There’s no stepping stones. They are left to fend for themselves. So what do they do? They fall to the muddy bank and hold their knees as close to their chest as they can and let the tears fall. To be honest the cold tears feel good in the burning sun but they sting against their cuts and scrapes. There was no one there to wipe the tears off their bleeding cheeks, they just sat, alone. But sooner or later they have to stand up and face the giant. Sooner or later they have to suck it up and move on. So they pick themselves up with what they thought was new energy but was it? They don't know. It could be new energy. It could be confidence. It could be hope. But they really don’t know any more.
They stand in the muck of the lake bottom and whipped their hands across their faces to wash the tears away. The river is deep and fast. It pushes against them. The wind whips their hair across their eyes and nose and mouth. It overwhelms them. They lift their heavy, muddy feet and feel defeated. It’s not the first time and they don’t suppose it will be the last. The other side of the river is a long time from in sight but they trudge slowly forward anyway. One step at a time.
Their foot slips as they start to step forward and they go under. The speeding cool water rushes over their chest then over their face in a quick pattern. Unprepared, they intake water through their nose and mouth and it stings like needles. The current keeps them under, and it makes it difficult to lift their heads. Panicked they thrash their arms around and it gets them slightly higher towards the surface...towards air. Their chests burn as their lungs stress and beg for air. They were tired and exhausted before this, but their adrenaline runs through their veins like never before and gives them urgent energy. They pushed their hands down in an attempt to rise to the top and their face breaks the surface gasping and gulping in air. They made it. They were alive.
After what felt like hours and hours their hand finally grasps the dirty edge to the other side of the river and they fall to the grass, sopping and dripping with water. Their eyelids are heavy and they close quickly as they fall into a deep, exhausted, greatly needed, sleep. Without knowing, when they wake, they will get right back up again to dodge the next fury arrow shot at them.
Hanging, one handed, from a tree limb they grind their teeth as tears stream down their dirty face. Looking down below them, into the burning forest leaves, it feels hopeless. Even if they could get down safely out of the consuming fire, they were lost. Lost in the forest of doubts, lost in the forest of confusion, lost in the forest of fear. They don’t want to let go but they don’t want to hold on either. They’re alone. What did it matter? No one cared whether they let go or held on. They know that either decision would take only a split second, but they also know that both decisions would impact more than just a split second of their future.
They feel their hands get exhausted, in fact it has felt that way for a long time now. They look back up. The sky is smeared with thick messy black smoke, no relief in sight. No clear blue and no puffy clouds. A mountain forest is supposed to be a beautiful place. The end is supposed to be beautiful, not ugly. They think, as sobs escape and tears well up in their red rimmed eyes. They let out a shuddering breath. I don't have it in me. No one will hear even if I did cry for help. They let the deadly thoughts ring through their ears. Sobbing, they drop. They let go. They decide the split second decision. It was over. They had let go.
They never saw the others struggling beside them to hold onto branches of their own. They never saw the outstretched hand when they looked up. They never saw the arms held out for them when they needed them the most. They never let the finger wipe away their tear. They never knew. No one ever told them.
To everyone who is struggling up their own mountain. To everyone who is facing that giant. To everyone who is getting told to just suck it up. To everyone who doesn’t see the others around them holding onto their own branches. To everyone who doesn't see the arms held out for them. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL