Shattered. Hollow. Fractured. Battered. Bruised.
This is me. My soul. My brain. My heart. Who is this young woman? I barely know her anymore, she’s so far removed from the young woman and little girl I used to be.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon wandering through some of my childhood haunts, enjoying the peace, solitude, and beauty of a sunshiny autumn afternoon. The house I spent most of my childhood in now sits empty, victim of an unfavorable economy, and so I sauntered unhindered up the drive, my eyes scanning the place I once called home. A flood of memories washed over me….mostly good ones….ones of innocence and imagination and days spent in carefree abandon. I sat on the well in the back yard, reminiscing, remembering days gone by, in which I used to play in that back yard with my siblings. Tears slipped down my cheeks before I could help it.
Why is it we never really appreciate something till its gone? I’d give almost anything in the world to have my childhood back, to have my innocence back, to have my imagination back, to be that little girl I once was. Even with all her pain and heartache. Because my childhood was indeed painful. Often excruciatingly so. But the world was still less dark then than it is now, even with all the pain I experienced. I was naive then, not totally crushed and cynical like I am now. I coped because I could imagine my way out of my pain. I coped because I lived in an idyllic setting, out in the country, surrounded by acres and acres of woods, who always beckoned me with their comforting presence whenever I needed to get away for a good cry.
Though many of those trees I once called friends have now been cut down, I greeted the ones that remained yesterday, wondering if they remembered me. Of course, that may seem silly, but to a nearly friendless child, stately trees that never mocked or abused, but simply stood still and silent and listened to my outpoured heart, were often far better friends to me than humans were. I’ve always thought how much of a kindred spirit J. R. R. Tolkien would be to me, were he alive, for he seemed to have the same view of trees. I could so easily imagine, as he did in his Lord of the Rings books, trees being alive and having personalities. In my frequent wanderings in the woods growing up, I’d always imagine I was entering a magical realm, where the trees were more than mere trees, and perhaps lurking in their shadows were elves and dwarves, trying to evade my curious eyes.
Such was my childhood. One that, despite the painful parts, contained enough beauty and innocence and imagination that I can look back now and wish I could somehow return. There’s such a big part of me that wishes I’d never lived past my childhood. That I might’ve been spared the extra trauma and pain and descent into darkness that has characterized the last 10 to 15 years of my life. That I could’ve stayed the innocent little girl I was, instead of morphing into this hollow, fractured, cynical woman I’ve become. Quite simply, I’ve lost myself. Especially within the last 5 years. Pain too deep to even describe has shattered my mind and heart, morphing me into someone I barely recognize anymore. How much better, I muse, to have died young, than to end up where I am now. I keep hoping I’ll wake up one morning and find out most of my life has merely been a bad dream.
But I keep waking up to darkness. To pain. To an overwhelming sense of loss. Where nothing makes sense anymore. Where I can no longer look at my life and believe there’s necessarily going to be a redemptive, fairy-tale ending. I used to believe that. Writing stories, believing good can eventually come from bad, helped me hang on. I could look at my life and say, things are bad, but they’ll get better. And I’ve been trying to tell myself that for over 20 years. Now, I struggle to believe that anymore.
And it’s not just my own pain and darkness that have fueled this cynicism. The increasing darkness all around me has also shattered the innocent, safe world I once knew. I now live in a world where I read a story about a little girl who was abused by her parents, then raped and killed by a predator. She had no fairy-tale ending. She never had a chance. Yesterday a young man opened fire in a school, taking the lives of twenty precious, innocent children. Those children never had a chance. No fairy-tale endings. Only darkness and tragedy.
I am not the only one shattered, fractured, battered, and bruised. It seems the world at large is careening toward the same abyss I am. I am not the same person I once was. Nor is the world the same world I once knew. Innocence has been lost. Light has been replaced by darkness. I think I understand a bit better now how Adam and Eve must’ve felt when kicked out of Eden. No matter how much they wanted to go back, to relive their innocence in that idyllic place, they were forever banished. And it feels like I too have been forever banished from the simple, innocent joys of days gone by, when life seemed a little more beautiful, and it made far more sense.
I have lost my Eden. I have lost myself. And though I can revisit my old haunts, and those haunts can conjure up sweet memories from the past, all I’m left with is a tantalizing taste, and not the real thing. I can never go back. No matter how hard I try.