Another disjointed morning to follow a night spent trying to claw my way out of dreams stuck in places I’d rather forget. No one should wake panting like a hiker with a grizzly close behind. Should they? I ease off the bed, my feet sliding into slippers the same moment I set a hand against the bed to steady me, for I’ve stood before fully waking.
Another morning, another repeat performance.
There’s no rubbing eyes for me, for closing eyes risks returning to the dreams. Instead, I settle for moving my fingertips around the eye sockets. A heavy sigh. Cleansing breaths. Rolling my shoulders to loosen them. Am I calming myself or is this an aging ritual? No idea. To hustle my thoughts into the present I hurry out of the room faster than I should, having to set my hands out wide to brace myself.
I turn the corner and there she is. Ragged. Disheveled. Looking like I too often feel. I stop short and suck in a sharp breath. Damn. These encounters, always awkward, are worse in the morning before I’m prepared. There’s brief eye contact before I divert my gaze and shuffle my feet, my lingering slumber slow to alert me to the self-conscious act, which I attempt to cover-up with stiff, meaningless gestures.
Seconds later I surrender to the moment. “Was it a rough night last night?” I ask, my concern an old one, but still relevant.
“I’m okay,” she responds.
“It’s all right if you…”
Hanging my head, I breath deep and nod, my hope that I don’t appear to want to be anywhere else nearly as strong as my desire to be elsewhere. “We can talk if you need…”
I wet my lips, which is an effort after a night spent breathing too hard through my mouth. “You can’t keep on like this and we both know it.”
There’s a tightness in my chest, an old pain. “I know it is.” Chancing a glance her way I can see the glassy eyes and know it’s going to be a difficult morning. Maybe a difficult day. “Maybe I…”
“I just want to help.” She looks away and my shoulders sag. “Why is it you can forgive everyone else, but not me?” I shut my eyes. “Why not me?”
“I needed you.”
“I needed you to be strong when I needed it most, when there was hurting…”
Her lower lip trembled and I wiped beneath an eye. “I needed you to be strong, but you couldn’t protect me. It was so hard and I still can’t get it out of my head!”
I don’t want to watch her cry, not again. “I’m sorry. I was there, too, you know.”
Her tears come, her voice dropping to a whisper. “No one else was there, no one else knows, not like you do…they don’t know what it was like. Not really.”
“And the pain, it doesn’t go away. Damn it, it won’t go away and no one understands. I just want it to go away and I’m falling apart, I know I’m falling apart, but it’s too much…”
“I know,” I added for what seemed like the millionth time, each one sounding more feeble than the one before it.”
“I tried to be strong, but I wasn’t strong enough. I should have been stronger.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“There should’ve been someone…”
“No. You have to own it…we can own it.”
“I just want it to go away.”
“I know you do. If we work together…”
Tears running, she presses the heels of her hands hard against her eyes. “I’d give anything for a hug, anything at all.”
“I know, I know, but you know it doesn’t work like that. I’m so sorry. We’re alone in this, you and I, as it’s always been. But we can work together…do something.”
“I don’t want to…”
“Sure, we can go for a walk today.”
She lowers her hands and makes eye contact. Her eyes…the pain is so raw, even after all this time. It shouldn’t hurt this long. “Promise?”
My tone is as light as I can manage. “Yeah.” I force a weak, meager smile, but at least it’s a start.
Our words aren’t hanging in the air, were never uttered, but were instead shared inside my head. I turn away from the bathroom mirror, thus completing my morning routine and hoping I won’t be back before another morning comes.
In the meantime, I open curtains and remember I survived what so many don’t survive. Such a thought is a victory even on the days when it doesn’t feel like one, even on the days that feel like one too many.
Maybe, just maybe, one morning I’ll awake to fading sweet dreams and know a smile is waiting for me in that mirror. Until then there’s a walk to take.
Self talk is vital and I know mine is poor, especially the last several months. I’m working on it and that working is what’s enabled this short, internal dialog dramatization. Now though, since I’m through, it’s time for you to wonder about your self talk. Really. How’s your self talk?
It’s easy for the victim to blame the victim.
Be kind. Be compassionate to yourself. Forgive.