this past week, i had an experience that allowed the very limits of my soul to breathe in a manner they have never before, and gave way to a deep and breathtaking understanding of two simple words that i have yearned for with all of my being for oh so long.
this past week, i flew two thousand three hundred and three miles with my father to the city of nashville, tennessee, to see my favorite poet preform live as a gift for my twentieth birthday. i was first graced with this poet’s words two years ago, during a time when i endured each day with apathetic breaths in a residential treatment center far from home, where after five years of twenty-four hour care i was overwhelmingly hopeless beyond measure. i sat on the wooden swing out back, the world quiet. i had just come from a treatment team meeting that felt as though had crumbled my whole world; i felt like a child curled on the floor, head sheltered in my arms as threats to “make progress”, labels of “chronic”, besieged me from all sides. and yet it was then, in that quiet afternoon light, that a therapist (whom i still hold so deeply in my heart) handed me a paperback book of poems by a soul named andrea gibson. she told me to pick two. she told me she’d print them.
and she told me that i had so much more truth within me that needed to be lived.
that i had so much truth to be nourished, so i could then nourish the world.
i carried those two poems with me, taped into my flimsy journal, for more months than i could count. and every day since the morning i walked out of those doors and out of that treatment center with a newfound will to live, i have carried those poems so deep within my soul; so etched within my lingering pain, so etched within my undiscovered beauty, so etched within my immense emptiness, so etched within my wavering hope, and so etched within the entirety of my world.
so, two days ago, in a foreign city with my dad by my side, with my heart beating and persevering and true, i entered the brick venue which was soon to be brimming with the poetry that had saved my soul over and over and over again. there were no chairs, just humans and bodies and beauty and truth beyond what i could ever possibly describe. we all gathered close, and i swear to you i could hear the breaths of every being in that room. and i swear to you that by the end, we were all breathing as one.
andrea took to the microphone, and the first poem they filled that room with was the very first poem i had chosen to tape into my journal all those days and months and years ago. it was instantaneous; the tears were falling and my cheeks were wet with salt before i could even raise my hand to wipe them away. and they kept falling. falling, falling, falling, and i let them linger on my skin. i let my tears rest, and breathe a sigh of relief, of safety and love and wholeness, for they were tears of such utter awe and gratitude that i did not even want to think about losing them. i urge you all to listen to this poem, and you can find it here.
in that room, i felt as though each and every one of us souls was holding so so many hearts, all with so so much grace, and every one of our very own hearts was being held by every being that surrounded us. i felt like we were all one single turbulent mass of pain and beauty, dark and light, never sure if the tears we were crying were even our own, or if even our tears were shared. i understood this feeling was what i was continually searching for. i realized that in that moment, in that moment, my god i was wildly alive.
i have never felt so complete, so aligned with the chaos and beauty of everything outside of myself. i have never before understood what it meant to feel part of something larger, part of something more majestic and more wondrous than i could ever create on my own. and yet here, i cast aside my questions and lived into the utter beauty of the indescribable answers. and my god, it was one of the best nights of my life.
yet amidst my tears of gratitude more profoundly acute than i could ever express, i was overwhelmed by a question more marvelous and more terrifying than anything in the world.
for every hour i spent shrouded in my own starvation and destruction, is this what the world held that i could not see? has this feeling always existed, this raw and exquisite contentedness, this unearthly oneness, yet i was simply not able to feel? my god, how could i have missed this? my god, how could i ever survive losing this again?
and so ever since that night, i have promised my deepest corners filled with uncertain fears that i will never again lose that heart-wrenching harmony that exists in this life. never again will i give it up for the sake of self-devastation, invisiblization, or safety.
there is too much damn wonder in this world.
then, this morning, as i sat seated upon my yoga mat for the first time since returning home, centered into a fierce determination to live in this body with grace and acceptance, another girl enters the studio. though she was not quite a girl; she was a shell, a place where a girl once lived, once long long ago. she was so plainly sick, and her body and her soul and the lights in her eyes were all diminished in a way i knew oh so well. i felt my heart ache one thousand times over for her, as i remember all too vividly that vacant existence of panicked despair. i questioned if i could even continue my practice, my chest choking with nauseating sorrow. i almost rolled up my yoga mat, and left.
and yet, then i remembered. i felt again that rush of hope, the light of the world so true that it threatened to overflow from my eyes. i knew that nothing, nothing was worth the loss of what i had just learned a soul can be filled with. the human existence is oh so much more beautiful when we are not all imprisoned alone in barred cages of our own making. this world is one, just as we all are. i cannot lose this knowing again, as long as i live.
and so i did not leave. i stayed and i pushed and i lived and i cried, and in the end i chose to be.
my mind churned with the words of andrea, the light of this world that held my soul relentlessly until i learned that i was deserving of holding it myself. over and over again, i remembered:
“i know you think this world is too dark to even dream in color,
but i’ve seen flowers bloom at midnight.
i’ve seen kites fly in gray skies
and they were real close to looking like the sunrise,
and sometime it takes the most wounded wings
the most broken things
to notice how strong the breeze is,
how precious the flight.”
so, i chose to hope. i chose to become and to live into the very connection that holds this world together. i chose to hold this world dear, in all its heartache and possibility.
i chose to be wildly alive.
wildly, wildly alive.