I have cried every day this week. I’m wondering when tears will stop.
A few months ago, when I was feeling this way, I just became disconnected. People noticed. Asked me why I wasn’t posting on the blog. Why I wasn’t writing. Why I wasn’t answering texts or calls.
Today, I’ve decided that we should hurt together, and not alone. That may be presumptuous, because I’m assuming you want to bear my burdens as I bear yours. But I would hope that we would wish to carry one another.
I’m selfish, really. That’s the thing. I let the burdens of the world become my own, and then I neglect the ones who love me. I’m trying to do better. No promises, though. No promises except that I will try.
Over the weekend, I went fishing. It was my first overnight trip on a boat. It was also the first birthday I’ve acknowledged in five years.
My cousin took his life in October of 2012, two days after I turned 22. I’ve punished myself ever since. And I think that that’s a funny way to celebrate a life. To honor it. By condemning your own happiness to death.
My boyfriend said that he hopes this year could be the start of me enjoying my birthday again. Those were beautiful words. When I turned him down, he reminded me that it’s important to let your people love you.
But remember, I am selfish. I want to suffer alone. I want to bear the burdens by myself. It’s why, every now and again, I strap 30 pounds upon my back and disappear into the wilderness. I crave the blisters on my feet, like some nun paying penance with a whip upon the flesh.
On the boat, I lit up a cigarette and popped open a beer, in honor of my Joey. I do this every year. It was overcast. We were waiting to hit a school of something. All of us staring at one another. The man with the shaggy blonde hair who said maybe I had drank too much. I told him we’re on a boat, and there’s nothing much else to do. In turn, he told me stories of his boat that sunk, and all the fish he’s caught. The weird dude with the mustache in the camo vest who told me next time I should let the men be men and take the lead. This did not endear me to him, but it did give me a laugh. The deckhand who helped me thread my hook. The man with the sad eyes and the tattoos. The old, worn out fishing boots. The one who never smiled. The young dude who kept puking off the side of the boat, on the phone with his wife, sipping on the soda from the galley.
Chris the cook, who weaved stories like the greatest teller of all time and makes a mean burrito. A burrito so good I’m suddenly no longer vegan, not that I was a good one to begin with. Nick the deck hand, whose young face rested in perpetual grin. Tom, the second, with the unlit cigarette hung perpetually from his lips. He never smiled, and when he did, the smile was tired. Like wax dripping from the flame.
You’re living with them all, essentially. Falling asleep to their snores at night. Oddly intimate for strangers like ourselves. I think, perhaps, they see me as bad luck at first. The fish aren’t biting, and women are bad omens on a ship.
But then the hours wane by, and we grow weary. And in exhaustion, boundaries are neglected. And you become this weird family of chaos thrown together, somewhere off the coast of Mexico. You don’t quite know exactly where you are, and then you realize that this doesn’t matter in the least.
I realized something. For a moment, at the bow of the ship, alone. The wind was biting although the fish were not; the day was overcast. I was cold to my bones. Like farmers telling weather in the patterns of their joints I knew that storms were coming. It wasn’t the grand sunset, or the dolphins in the distance. It wasn’t grace or glory or the beauty of the landscape because the waves were cold and silvered in their fury.
It was the light of another ship I saw, out there in the distance. Nothing else. No land. No sight of anything existing except that one bright light. A reminder of the others. The ones I’ve pushed aside in favor of myself and my own grief.
Amidst strangers, I’ve realized that creating new memories does not mean replacing old ones. That smiling on a day of sadness does not mean the heart does not still mourn. That I’m lucky as hell to be alive, and penance is a thing for those who know not how to live.
Existence is short, my loves. Wander on. Wander greatly. Forgive yourselves. Life is too beautiful to be spent punishing ourselves for the past. You can build new upon the old without destroying it. It’s called remodeling the soul.
I may have just turned 27, but I’m still learning lessons. I hope to for many years to come.