I write the words slow, the way that I used to in pages, pink pen pressed hard against the fake parchment paper of the Harry Potter journal. I am trying to learn that sometimes just because the words can come quickly doesn’t mean they’re the right ones, so I type slower than normal into the blank screen.
I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed while I do this. I’m sitting with journals scattered around me, the old stories of my young self, the evidence of a thousand nights of anguish softened now by time and the half-finished tea by my bed. I’m rereading, because when you move away from home, when you get married, there is this exquisite sadness of leaving your room. There is this old self who you think will slink away, a shadow you couldn’t sew on tightly enough, and she’ll keep pace through the house, while you sleep and wake in a strange, new home.
It hits me this way, when I am looking for my self among the things I am choosing to leave behind, that I have been preaching a story with my life that I do not believe enough. Isn’t that funny? This young self – stirrup pants and crooked front teeth in sixth grade in the hallway when the boy didn’t like her back, or the self in the ill-fitting American Eagle jeans at the mailbox with three crisp rejection letters, or the self in college who lay on her back one winter night after falling on the ice and spilling hot chocolate down her coat not once, but twice –
this is the self who has been preaching the truth to me, and I have not been listening.
And this is the truth she is speaking: even what breaks does not shatter.
I can revive at a moment’s notice the stories, the humid June air or the night that I pressed my address written in sharpie on an index card and said “write to me”, thinking it was the beginning of something. I can sit on that bed and I can relive the bar and the dress and the anger I wore so badly, draped over me like the sheets I pretended were wedding gowns years before. I can tell you the song that was playing in my head the days after I didn’t get in or the day I realized the friendship had changed, I can have the conversation over and over again in the safe aftermath of my car, crumple my fist against the steering wheel and make my heart swell again with everything that went wrong, everything that hurt, everything I remember about being broken.
But this is the living proof – for the me that can remember the breaking is not, herself, broken.
No, she is alive, and gloriously alive, and she is sitting typing deliberately on her bed, pressing these words into her heart. Not everything that breaks shatters. And even just the breathing, in, and out, of those words, those pressed deliberate words, starts to build up this wearied heart. And the worry, that I can’t do this, can’t leave this home this room these old journals, that I can’t go off and be brave –
the worry quiets.
It is all too easy for me to hold on to the memories of being broken, the familiar pieces of hurt, the way that he said or she looked. It’s too easy for me to see myself as not complete, or still recovering, to imagine myself frail or small or unable, incapable. It’s easy to say that to myself when I am weary-hearted and the mountains keep rising up before me, and I think, I’m still broken, that still hurts me.
But my younger self has been the living reply.
I am widened by the months and years of work running my fingers along the frayed edges of her couch cushions, trying to put words to the counseling questions, to make a space where I hear my own self.
I am widened by the quietest moment in the morning when he only kisses me hello, no words, catches me up in his arms and in that gesture promises forever, promises us, in this, promises that he is the kind of man who will keep his promises.
I am widened and changed and made bolder and braver by writing out into the spaces where you see me, pink penning these words over us both: we are not shattered. we are alive.
Maybe it’s the beginning of brave – a belief that you have, all along, been braver than you know.