My home is clean, as clean as century-old floorboards and stained ceilings can be. I had been employing the catharsis of pretending your space is your soul and the purge will wipe the damage away. On my hands and knees, I scrubbed the grime from the cabinets, the tiles, the bookcases, the doors. I threw clothes into a bag and more clothes into that bag and other things into the trash and all the things into the places they did and didn’t belong anymore, trying to find a semblance of order. Trying to remember I loved this place and happiness is a decision.
We had been silent in the car that morning. I bit the inside of my bottom lip, holding it together by shreds of skin. In the cycle of emotions, I had reached a turning point. I had reached a fury. The water was boiling, and I trembled.
What was I doing.
It was only a matter of time before he was gone, and in the slew of things that matter, aren’t time and love the most important? My most precious commodities being warped and degraded from my open, giving hands.
“What’s your plan?” he asked. Trying to offer me some solace by reminding me of my dreams.
“I don’t know.”
“I thought you had these big plans laid out, had something in the works.”
“I don’t make plans. I just get angry and then everything changes.”
I was angry then. I had been crying. I had cried ‘til my eyes burned and I was shaking with hate and self-loathing. I had felt my knees buckle with heartache until I was on the floor in the middle of the room dismissing the comfort around me for the hard wood against my bare skin. When I got angry, I grinded the spin of my universe to a powerful, steel-crushing halt before whirling it the other direction. I was a tailspin and gravity and momentum. I was a force of nature when I was angry.
“We can’t do this anymore. I deserve more than this. I deserve so much more.”
He didn’t disagree.
I didn’t want to remove myself from him. I didn’t want to forget him. I wanted our story to be different. And it’s not that I didn’t want to be friends, it’s that I wanted to be more. And aside from the ache and the withdrawal, I did two things I am very proud of: I told someone how I felt, and then I told that someone what I was worth. I told myself what I was worth.
Self-respect is a lonely emotion. It is the quietest dignity, that of valour and pride and competence. It will offer you nothing but the solemn nod that you did what was right, what was good. You will look in the mirror with fear and sadness and know that you were something remarkable. And you will feel the weakest form of better. You will feel empty and hopeless and scared, but you will feel better because self-respect isn’t just an emotion, it’s an aura. Self-respect doesn’t wrap you gently in warmth - it is a steel rod in your spine. It is height and pride and honor. It is better than being wrapped in warmth because it is warmth from the inside. It is the fire of dignity.
I sat on the iron staircase leading to my apartment. It was a warm night and my apartment was clean and my heart was tired. I looked up to the night sky trying to feel connected to something else. My friends had offered wine and movies and comforting words, but I wanted to be alone. I wanted to look at the stars and feel steady on my course. The mountains loomed in the distance and I counted the scars on my legs, trying to remember every stumble. I had no course. I never did. But wherever it was I was going, I would get there. I would get there by playlists, by long rides, by plane tickets, by passion, by saying I love you, by standing up for myself, by doing what was wrong and then doing what was right, by doing what was selfish and then doing what was noble, I would get there.
I would get there and I would be fine. And then I would be good. And pretty soon after that, I would be lightning.
A lot of you are new to this blog. A lot of you came way of a post encouraging a woman to better herself. The answer was for all of us, but on that day, it was really for me. I am not worried about finding joy. It has crept up on me unexpectedly so many times in so many places in so many ways. Today, last year, I was on an airplane from New York to Colorado with Larry in my lap, looking out over the city wondering and desperately hoping this was the right thing. It was.
What I am saying is you will cry. You will cry ‘til your eyes burn and you are shaking with hate and crippling self-doubt. You will cry ‘til you find yourself rocking on your knees on the ground. But as long as you fight the war with integrity and self-respect, you will win. You will go to bed alone, and you will hear the haunting of the dark as the depth of your sadness sinks to your stomach. When the tears stop, your lip will curl. Your nose will scrunch and your brow will furrow and you will find yourself indignant, broiling with the anger of suppression. You will find yourself not just wanting more, but believing you deserve it. And your mortification and fear and sadness will steep into your blood until you are consumed with rage for ever settling for less than your dreams.
So when you see my ponytail swish and my smile flash, rest assured, my heart is broken, but it will heal. Rest assured I have cried, but I will smile. Rest assured, I have been beaten and sliced open, each of those literally and figuratively. But rest assured, I’ll be fine. And rest assured, if you ever see me settle, it is only for the night while I rest my weary head.
I am making my dreams come true. You are helping me.
I’m ready. I know what I want. And nothing is going to stop me.