This piece discusses the topic of self-harm. We ask that you use your discretion.
I looked into her eyes and I could see how she wanted to be better. I could see the sun shimmering, lighting up the hope she held in her heart. I could see the pain she carried somewhere deep inside, a place she didn’t want others to know. A place so many of us are familiar with. A place where the weight upon our shoulders nearly causes us to collapse. Where we let the hurt come bleeding out because it’s easier to bear than acknowledge whatever’s lurking inside.
In her, I could see me.
There has been a lot of stumbling upon my path, a lot of bruises and cuts have found their way onto my skin as I try to make my way toward the life that’s set before me. Even though there are daisies and peonies to be found and pixie dust is flying through the air, there’s still something heavy. Despite all the light that’s surrounding me, inside I feel dark.
The thing about the darkness is that no matter how heavy and veiled it is, most everyone will notice the light in the midst of it. The light is a kind of magic that distracts our focus from the night draped around us, encouraging us to look up and on, toward hope and love and the good things coming. But when you live in that cave; when all your time is spent fumbling in that darkness, the light seems bleak.
It’s like when you’re on a hike and you’re still trekking after the sun has set. You turn on the flashlight and at first, it beams like a miracle, beckoning you to come back home. But after a while, your eyes take notice of the protruding tree roots, the deepening shadows, the rocks blocking your path, and the darkness enveloping you on all sides.
Fortunately, even though you can see and feel the dark so clearly, everyone else will be focused on the light, using it to show you what’s beyond the blackness. And when they tell you the light is what you need, know that their intentions are good, because the light is what you need.
The light will take shape of different things for each of us. Sometimes it’s a friend who sees and knows how to love you well, even when you don’t want to be seen. Sometimes the light will be a song that reminds you of a day that felt like sunshine. Sometimes the light will be taking a walk along the beach and looking to the waves to remind you there are things out there bigger and more powerful than yourself. Sometimes it will be a good cry where you let out all you’ve been feeling, followed by immense relief and an unrecognizable calm. Sometimes, the light will be setting the weight aside and realizing it was never yours to carry.
I’ve been blessed with a lot of “lights” in my life. There are soul friends and hikes, dainty little flowers and books, music with acoustic guitars and laughter and a million other things. But sometimes those lights don’t seem strong enough to penetrate the dark. Sometimes the dark still feels as though it’s going to win and there have been times where I’ve prayed that it would. There have been times where I’ve almost let it. But deep down, there’s always a voice reminding me I may be small but I am still part of something bigger; the voice asks me to stay.
And choosing to stay is quite honestly the hardest thing I have ever done; quite honestly the hardest thing I still have to choose to do most days. But I’m so glad I’ve answered that call every time I wanted to ignore it. I’m glad I’ve chosen to stay because I would have missed out on so many good things. I would have missed concerts and watching the sunset and being able to love my friends through hard things. I would have missed hugs that make me feel whole again and singing at the top of my lungs and creating things I’m proud of. I would have missed out on the process of getting better and letting joy guide the beat of my heart.
So as I look at her, I see that she too wants to get better. I see the hope in her eyes and the desire to live this life abundantly. I see myself and I tell her, “You are seen and loved and held. You can do this even though you may not want to because one day you will want to. You will want to get up and keep existing and then you will get up and want to keep living.”