The following is a brief excerpt from my unedited memoirs.
Evolution of Choices
I asked myself, what did it mean to be born on October –, 1979?
For most people all it meant was being born under a particular astrological sign of the Zodiac: the Libra. For me, it felt ironic that my symbol was the scales, and not just any scales but balanced scales, a symbol of harmony and justice. These were things that rarely, if ever, could I clearly identify as having been part of my life. There was so much irony mixed in that I felt the air thicken with it, or maybe it was just the rising humidity from the scalding shower plugging the air with warm moist vapor. Either way a hazy mist shrouded the mirror so only a blurred image of myself was cast back. “How long have you been off balance?” The blurred silhouette gave no response, she only stood inanimately, an image so out-of-focus that there were no visible attributes. “How sad,” I whispered to the cloudy profile. “How sad.”
From somewhere inside my physical self I felt a very subtle shifting, an urgency to respond. I forced myself to give over to it, pushing with all my might. It had been so long since I felt any emotion beyond numbness or anger. The blurred silhouette disappeared behind my eyelids and the heaviness that pulled my top lids down slowly snaked through me, but nothing more happened. Instead I envisioned myself standing at an intersection:
The gravel beneath my feet was well worn allowing small puffs of dust to rise and walk with me. To many times I had taken for granted the familiar territory around me, and noted only the changing sign post as it marked an evolution of choices.
This day, however, I approached the crossroads seeking a choice. There was no option to turn back, the chain of ghosts behind me inhibited any healthy movement in that direction. To turn back meant embracing disorientation and becoming adrift amid an ever failing light. For me, this last option was not perceived as a deficiency because the choice to approach this crossroads was deliberate.
I came to a standstill in the middle of the Y-intersection, at this junction where three roads converged. It was quiet there, as if all of time was standing still. The fork of road that laid to the east of me was flanked by brown grass that was flattened and clinging to the dry cracked earth beneath it. There were dead trees marring the landscape, their branches short and sparse. The trunks of these trees all leaned toward the ground as if their own dead weight was too much to uphold. The light was dim with a condensed haze that hovered over everything. The path appeared straight, and for as far as I could see there was no variance. There was no signs of life, and yet something about this path beckoned invitingly. If I listened close enough I heard a whisper traveling that path, a whisper that promised to make me at one with it.
It was a challenge to force my gaze to the west, but with effort I succeed in this small motion. The fork of road here at first glance manifested the same. A harder look revealed patches of vivid green grass struggling for life among the dry spots, and these patches grew larger and lusher further down the path. The trees held to the same pattern, and although the light was dim at the mouth of the path there was the promise of light further on.
The signpost that stood directly in front of me was beautiful in its weathered form. It dominated the space around it by silently demanding a decision. On the ground near the base of the post was a signboard with the word BACK burnt into it, and its position on the ground pointed in the opposite direction from what I was facing. It didn’t appear as if it was broken roughly from the sign post, but cleanly severed and discarded. The signpost had two remaining signboards that marked the direction of travel. The path to the east was identified as AFFLICT, and the path to the west was HEAL.
My body angled to the west and I began a slow willful walk forward. With each step I envisioned change and growth. I was ready to release the ghosts that lived in my shadow even if it meant visiting the scary places in my soul. As my first foot fell across the invisible boundary I made a silent plea to the goddess of the crossroads for strength, direction, and light on my journey to bring stability into my grasp. As my second foot landed softly on the uneven ground there was an almost imperceptible shift in the breeze, and my body responded with a heavy sigh releasing a small amount of pent-up energy. With renewed determination I stumbled forward over the rough terrain.
The vision was broken as a sharp deprivation of all sensation snapped into place leaving only a brief recollection of salty drops that marked warm paths on my checks. It was a fading memory of warm ghost tears that pooled first in the corner of one eye and then the other. The phantom heat from each tear was comforting as they marked individual tracks over my cheeks. The damp patches cooled quickly in the tears absence only to be travelled over again as more tears fell dripping into an abyss as they dropped from my chin. There was traces of salt on my lips, and my nose leaked a substance of its own. The whole experience left me craving the relief such emotion could provide. I yearned for it now that I had hidden myself so completely from it.
I moved toward the shower, dragging my emotional casket behind me. The tingling burn of the spray pelted my skin giving brief sanctuary from my inability to emote. I had recently learned that in order for a Libra to achieve and maintain balance that a sense of self, self-reliance, and independence were needed. I had lost mine. My scale sat unbalanced.
For me balance was defined as “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” However, where did that leave me? It left me fighting to regain my equilibrium. So many aspects of myself that I thought had been laid to rest had only been hiding in the mist and shrouded by falling dew from my life. These shades from my past had progressed to states that responded magnetically to stimuli around me. “Triggers” my psychologist called them. I said it out loud to the shower surround, “trigger.” I tested the word as if the word itself could provide all the insight I needed to banish these monsters back into the shadows.
My thoughts felt frantic suddenly jumping from person to person, situation to situation, age to age, and trauma to trauma. My breath was coming in short gasps, the air was constricted by the pressure compressing my chest. In spite of the water and moisture all around me my mouth had gone dry and I had a feeling like a thousand snakes were making small rapid movements in my stomach with occasional jabs that illicited pain. The white shower surround felt claustrophobic, and even the rain finish on the shower door provided no relief from the building sense of confinement. My legs felt heavy and unstable. I looked down toward them, down past the rest of my naked body, a body that still carried small memories of two pregnancies. I breathed deep, the moist air rushed into my anxiety ridden lungs, and I sighed it all out intensely.
It was there that I was able to catch my thoughts that moved like a run-a-way train bound for the spiral. Another deep inhale and exhale provided a gradual lessening of tension. There was a beauty there; I clutched at the thought of pregnancies because they had given me two delightful children. The small shift in thought with a focus on something from my safe place was just what I needed. “I have a generalized anxiety disorder, and this is me recognizing a negative thought pattern, and working to change that pattern,” I whispered while mentally giving myself a high-five for a job well done.
The humidity in the bathroom had reached a point of ridiculous. There was no relief from it at all, and no matter how much I tried to dry my skin I still felt hot and sticky. Tiny beads of water glistened on every surface. What was I thinking? I rushed to the door and threw it open allowing some dry air to pelt my skin. I could almost see the water droplets escaping out the door like fairy dust tossed from Peter Pan’s hand.
I returned to the mirror and wiped a small patch of mist away. The spot was just big enough to cast back the reflection of my face. An oval shape framed by flat mahogany hair was immobilized in the reflection. The skin I saw reflected back was grey tinged and lifeless, not even an echo of me was visible at first glance but I knew I must be in there. I looked into my own eyes noting the dark green circumference that bleed into an array of aqua and greens. These flex of colours merged together around the pupil to create a vivid accent…
The mist in the bathroom had mostly vanished as I leaned back from the mirror finally dry enough to clothe myself. The walls were still shedding small drops of water, but that would clear soon too. I stood and watched as two beads of water descended, crossing over each other. At that intersecting point the two beads could have surrendered and become one, but they chose independence and a path to themselves. In that second, in that realization, I could see all the roads behind me and the paths laid out before me. I was ready for this journey knowing it was not a journey backwards, but a journey through!
By Shari Marshall – 2019