Yesterday, someone whom I love and respect deeply told me this: dying is probably the strongest catalyst for anyone to truly start living.
(The context of our conversation was a little different, but it made me think about how much truth there was in that little snippet).
I can tell you the exact point it happened to me, though there had been various instances before that that I’d conveniently disregarded; because I was stupidly stubborn about making the wrong choices repeatedly; because I was complacent that that “really bad things could never happen to me”; because I was masochistically comfortable in whatever sordid situation I was trapped in – I couldn’t tell you.
But, let’s go back to the story.
Nov 2012; I had just landed in Leicester on a winter evening. I entered my new flat; everything smelt of disinfectant, clean, clinical, stripped bare, empty. There was a lumpy white mattress, bare shelves, a slate grey carpet, a large window, showing the grey, grey sky.
I started shaking. Shaking, as if it finally dawned on me that I was back, and this was the reality of my coming-back. Shaking, as I realised that I was coming back to this all this grey, cold aloneness. Finis.
I picked up my phone and texted a number; a dear friend had passed this to me before I had left, this dear friend who had always thought of my needs, who had known what I had needed before I had realised it myself.
Half an hour later, I was shivering outside a large wooden door, on the other side of the city. This was a door I would soon become very familiar with. I had not known then, but I would also become very familiar with the person it woas associated to; someone, who would grow to become my teacher, mentor, guide, friend, sister, mother.
The same someone whom I had only exchanged a few emails with before I had landed outside her flat.
She opened the door to the main entrance of her place; the corridor was dark, warm, with the stale smell of damp carpet and old wood. She shook my hand, put her arm around my waist, held me a little closer as she realised how badly I was shaking.
We walked into her apartment. In the gold candlelight, she sat me next to her fire place, wrapped her throw around my then-bony shoulders, pressed a warm cup of tea into my hands. All the while, I mumbled several things, probably apologising for barging in on her, and for not introducing myself properly – you know, the usual things people say when they have absolutely nothing worthwhile to speak about. Then she placed herself beside me, calmly took my hand, and looked into my eyes.
At that precise moment, seeing that display of pure, quiet, unquestioning love in her eyes, everything, everything inside and outside, came completely undone. For five hours that evening, in that stranger’s home, I cried for all that had happened in the past decade and then some, as she held me.
That evening was the point in my life where I took a step to begin living again. Not just for the sake of getting through each day and crawling into bed each night, but to truly live, to do something with my existence, to reach out to someone, anyone out there who needed it. Even if it meant that I had to start from scratch, from the bottom, from the place where there was really nothing else left to lose.
I remember penning in a journal at that time that the best place to start rebuilding your life/self/spirit, was from the ground, when you wereon your knees, tears streaming down your face, because from that space, at that point, there was nowhere else to go, nothing else to do, but to build and move upwards.
The few months before that, however morbid it sounds, had been the process of my “dying”. I understand it better now in retrospect, but it doesn’t change the fact that I would not wish that part of my life to anyone I know, ever.
But, I digress. I’m not writing this to tell you about how bad it was and how it got to that point; I’m writing this to tell you that breath by breath, one sunrise at a time, one hug by one hug, one prayer after another, it got better. It did mean that I left repeatedly, it did mean that I cried more than I thought was humanly possible, it did mean that there were many people who left my life (as there were many who came into it, let me not dramatize this unnecessarily), it did mean that there were bad days and good days and sometimes all there were, were days, but…. It happened, it passed, and it got better. Life, slowly, slowly, became about living again.
……. I just read through everything I’ve written and wondered what exactly I was trying to say.
I suppose it is this: it will get better.
(And I think I needed my reminder more than anyone else).