Monday, May 22, 2017

Holly Street, Revisited

I have to admire the tenacity of those of you (not a very large group at all) who still bother to visit me here lately. I've had lots to do, but not so much to say. I have been making my steady progress towards finishing my current university term and then I don't know what I will be doing, exactly, when I finish. What will my summer hold? I wonder... good things, I hope.

It is still spring time here in the great Eastern province of New Brunswick, but in my city in particular (Saint John if you've been hiding under a rock) there has been quite a few days where the sun has beamed brightly all day long and it feels just like summer. Temperatures are up and it's nice if you like that sort of thing. So, with all the nice weather, I've been out walking around the city almost every day for the past week. It feels like I have already soaked up more rays of sun than I usually do so I don't really care, at this point, if we are bathed in sunlight all the season long. I feel fulfilled in that way already, but my expectations are not all that high. I don't mind if we don't have sunshine every single day. Sacrilege, I know.

On one walk in particular, I revisited the old haunts we used to traverse when we lived here the first time. It seems like a dream now, but I walked past our old apartment and I could hear and see my children playing in the rooms within. I could hear their giggles and see their bright flashes of skin pass through the sunlight coming in the windows. I taught myself how to paint there. I worried about my ability to be a good mother there. I learned about the loneliness a woman feels when she spends hours and hours at home tending children while her husband works. We were old-school like that at first and it turns out that I was not then, nor am I now, very good at being content with living such a small existence. I've learned to forgive myself for that, too.

I learned to be myself there. I realized how much I loved to write there. I did a lot of things there.

I remember one day in particular at that apartment when I had crashed and burned pretty hard from the rigours of PTSD (undiagnosed at the time). Though it felt like I was hauling a sack of lead around, I managed to get myself and my kids outside for a while so they could play in the park across the street, but I remember feeling like I could barely lift my head off the ground. I remember feeling so very very tired. My eyes were heavy. The air was heavy. I sat on a bench and watched my children play but I couldn't relax and I couldn't seem to focus and I spiralled down so very very low. I looked up and noticed that my neighbour was sitting on the fire-escape. He was just staring at me. He didn't talk. He didn't move. He just watched me and it scared me. It was just enough to send me over the edge. I started to become very upset. I felt like my skin was about to crawl right off of my bones. I gathered my children and went inside. I pulled the blinds and closed the curtains and locked the doors. I sat in a chair in my children's playroom and I cried. My two year old daughter stood next to me and tried to comfort me for a few minutes as tears streamed down my face. I told her I was okay, but I was definitely not okay. I think she knew it was a lie but she let me be. A sideways glance of concern and she was off. But really, I had just come apart at the seams and I realized I couldn't handle the world anymore, not like I used to. What a terrible feeling. What a scary, sinking, sickening feeling. There would have been a time when a situation like that would have garnered a few choice words and perhaps nothing more. It would not have bothered me and I would not have been scared. Now, the whole world felt like a threat. This is the insidious effect of sexual assault. If I have ever hit a rock-bottom, this was the day. And, by the way, I still talk about it because it was significant to me then and it is significant to me now.

I made a promise to myself that I would come back someday. I would come back and sit on that bench and tell my old self it was all okay and I would tell her what the hell went wrong, and why it went wrong, and how it went wrong. I would tell her she would move beyond it all one day and it would become a distant and forgettable memory and things would become bright again. And light again. And free again. I would tell her how strong she really is.

And they did. They will. They are. I am.

So I went back. I went back to that bench and back to myself and I completed that particular circle, which is what this move has been about overall. I had things to prove to myself and to the world, I guess. I had no idea how we would make roots here. We barely knew anyone (and I can't say I've made the best attempts at making friends). We had no jobs. We didn't know what we were doing. But, it had to be done. I had to go back and I had to make that connection with the ghost of my past and so I finally finally finally did.

The past is over. The future lies before me. The road just rolls out behind me, as they say.

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