I am writing in one of my favorite spots. It is a large, bright room, lined in books and tall windows. The ceiling is a high, white arch, the furniture is covered and re-covered antique. There is a piano, a fireplace, couches facing each other, and a single table pushed up right next to one of the soaring windows.
The table is big enough for two, but courtesy seems to dictate that the space should only be used by one. It is my privilege to sit here today, and I am looking past the peeling paint around the windows at the rain sliding down.
It is spring, and it seems today that the earth is shivering in anticipation.
There are weeks coming that will warm, but this week has been one of days that chill despite the temperature, days that have cracked open wounds I would have sworn had healed over. No eiderdown can fight this cold, the one that comes from right inside me and passes like a whisper over my skin.
To open my mouth and confess it feels something like adopting the fear, giving it a name, a bed, a dish to call its own.
I don’t want to give it a dish. I don’t want to feed it, afraid it might come back.
It was a nightmare that woke me up months ago, vivid, gruesome, repeating. It had me wandering my own mind for clues to its end. Surely something had switched this movie on while I was sleeping, couldn’t something switch it off?
It came back twice more then vanished from the scene, though my memory had been scarred deep from its scratching.
I have picked up, I have moved on, I have prayed the fire of truth into the ice storm that would have me live afraid.
I close my eyes and that image that shook me awake so many nights ago slaps me hard across the face.
Fear slides out of my pores to lap at the broken skin of wounds cracked open.
It’s spring now, or so the calendar says, and until yesterday I didn’t buy it.
Just Sunday I walked across a parking lot and the cold whipped out at me, stinging, then numbing, my ears, my nose, my fingers through their gloves.
Yesterday I left my coat in the car as I got out, and what a beautiful thing it was to leave that bulk behind.
Still, I looked over my shoulder.
Still, I felt haunted, hunted.
The lake, the streams, the snow is thawing and I am frozen, eyes wide, hand at my chest and scared to move.
Everything speaks to the thaw– the sun, the warm, my skin can feel it.
But my soul has built a fortress, and, tucked inside, I shiver.
I drew my curtains closed one by one, against the cold, against the fear.
I wandered the house and forced myself through my to-do list, to keep moving, keep beating, keep breathing. Maybe not so much to win, but to keep from losing.
In a house where curtains are drawn shut against the nightmare, I pass the one window I always forget to close. A quick glance out that window, where my imagination sees horror before my eyes register truth, and truth today has given me a small bird, perched on my feeder outside.
Small, squat, black against white and crowned in red, it was digging at the empty bottle for a morsel, a seed. The first bird back after the winter.
That hand at my chest flies to the curtain of a window still shut and flings the curtain back.
My hand lingers at the lock, my security, and I turn it, a full breath in and then out before it gives.
I slide the door slow, a whisper of a movement.
For the first time in months of cold, fresh air crosses the threshold of our home and I stand, my eyes closed, breath it in. When I open my eyes the bird is gone and my soul takes a step back.
The feeder seems far in the backyard, but the bird is hope, and it is all I really want to feed on a day when fear is having food flung at it like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The bird has come to where it knows it can find food, and it has left, empty.
I step out and walk the distance, filling one feeder, then another, then another, until they are full and the invitation for Hope to come flying back has been set out, open.
I have to ask, where have I been getting my food?
Back and back to empty dishes, and why am I surprised to be coming away dissatisfied?
Prayer is always my first answer, and I start on my knees. I have no words. I know He sees and He doesn’t need me to say anything, but I don’t feel done yet.
When I have no words, it is music that does the talking for me. But some music feels scrubbed clean, sanitized, and this is not a day for pretending I’m okay. This is not a day for blowing bubbles because, let’s face it, I can hardly breathe. I don’t want dark, but I do want honest, so I find music that speaks to that. Still, I’m restless.
I’m needing an anthem to play over and over until these cracked wounds start to heal fresh.
I’m needing the words I can’t find to say, to prop me up, to keep the air moving in and out of me because right now I feel like I must hang on to it, like it could be snatched away from me at any moment.
Listening to those guys that bring the honest, I am reminded of a Tom Petty cover they did at their concert a couple of weeks back. I didn’t know then that I would need that song so badly now.
It turns out that even if the air is stolen away from me, there are a couple of things I know.
One: I am not done, so I will not be undone.
I won’t back down.
You could stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down.