Have you ever wanted to die? I’ve heard that it’s common among people—that at some point in our lives, it seems like the logical choice to not want to live anymore. That feeling is indescribable, mainly because I don’t actually want you to know how it feels. I don’t want you to know what it feels like to be all alone, to be so incredibly certain that you are somehow to blame for your inability to walk up to strangers and befriend them. Or to look people in the eyes. Or to be accused of being ungrateful and selfish. I don’t ever want anyone to know how it feels to be so misunderstood—and to feel like the only choice you have is to run away.
Run away from everything that hurts because it will never, ever leave you alone. Because coping isn’t a skill. It’s a death sentence. You have to run away, or you’ll die.
Sadness, grief, despair, loss, worry, agitation, fear, panic, paranoia, the list goes on. These were my reality, my daily menu of living. There wasn’t ever a day when I was free of them, at least one of them. And I ached, I was so tortured and I longed to be free.
I longed to live outside my body. I longed to be in another hemisphere, every day. I didn’t know how to be alive in my body, to be a person. None of it made sense. I had no frame of reference because all I Knew was darkness. All I knew was that at the end of the day everything reverted back to these things – to this impending doom of another tomorrow.
And so what do you do? You keep running. You keep turning left and right. You keep opening and shutting doors behind you. And you keep asking questions and searching and hoping that someone along the way will give you a road map or a lollipop or a sandwich. Anything to make tomorrow a little more bearable.
And soon, you collapse on the side of the road, and you have no idea what you’ll do to make it home. In that moment, you realize you have no choice but to lie on your back and look up at the stars. Here you can either shake your fist at the sky or you can ask them for the way home, inside yourself.
What do you do when your default is worry and panic and fear?
You look for the light.
Even if it’s the faintest glimmer of the furthest star in the galaxy.
It’s not dark there, you say.
That star, far away, it’s shining for you tonight, you say, even though you don’t even have the tiniest bit of faith in what you’re saying.
But you do know what you see. You see light, even if you can’t feel it. And so you tell your body to come back from the hemisphere it escaped to. You tell yourself it’s time to come home. You tell yourself maybe there’s more light than you know. You tell yourself to open your eyes and see what’s in front of you, not what’s behind you or in your mind or in your imagination or your fears.
What’s in your hands right now?
You start with what you do know. When you don’t know up from down, and left from right. You tell yourself you do know that people are mostly good. That they have tried to reach you when you drifted away. That they sat with you when you were angry. And they didn’t shrink back when your brokenness was so full of swings and punches that you left them just as beat up as you were on the inside.
You start keeping a record of the people who have actually saved you because “believing” in “God” isn’t a thing anymore. You can’t believe because belief thumped you on the back of the head every night. But the hand of a friend, the laughter of a child, these things somehow touch your human skin and remind you that you’re not in another hemisphere. You’re here on earth and someone is trying to reach you.
The light, it turns out, is in places you never knew it could be. It’s impossible to describe what it feels like to see the light and realize that hope isn’t just for the well-behaved, or the unscathed, or the fortunate. It might even be for you, too.
You can’t just accept this, not the first time. It’s not possible. It doesn’t line up with everything that comes day in and day out, in the swirling of a mind that can’t seem to find a moment’s peace. And so you say, I will give hope a chance another day. Right now, I’m staying here with the friend beside me.
Eventually, though, the light starts trickling in from places you never imagined. In a way, it feels like the light has been fighting for you. But how can that be when you’ve been hiding in the dark all along? It can’t be true.
It can’t be.
And so you fall back into the old patterns. The old fighting, the old struggling because seeing the light hurts too much. It hurts too much to let it in—only for it to go away forever. What if it goes away forever? And then in the darkness, you have one more thing that pushes your face into the ground? You see, the darkness has a way of becoming familiar and safe, that is, until it starts beating you up again.
This happens over and over and over again. You reach for the light, and you ask yourself if it can be trusted.
The answer is no.
This isn’t about trust, you say.
This is about being alive.
And realizing that the same particles that created the stars in the heavens are on the top of your head, crowning you with light. Put aside everything except this. Put aside God and salvation and war and peace and good dreams and failed projects. Put all these things aside because nothing today can conquer this truth: that the galaxies live in you.
There’s nothing to believe or struggle or fight. You’re not dead yet.
And so you start there again.
Somewhere along the way, you learn to be glad the sun showed up.
And you tell yourself, “The sun rose in the sky today. This is what I know.”
One by one, day by day, you tell yourself the things you do know. And somewhere in the mix, the mysteries of life, death, happiness and sorrow, light and dark, fight to comingle with your human life.
There is nothing to conquer nor is there light to grasp with a raging fist to keep to yourself. You find solace in the way that the water always ripples when you toss a stone into it.
Somehow, this creates a spot for God, for love, for romance, for cherished friendships, for laughter, for happy tears, for good wine, for hearty conversation, for relaxing, for falling in love. Soon you’re doing the impossible and letting people in, asking forgiveness, saying you were wrong, saying you were right. Until you finally look up into the night sky and tell the stars:
I surrender. Why have we been fighting for so, so long?