"No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a
church-door; but 'tis enough,'twill serve"
-Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1, line 1601-1602)
Last night I took a long walk. An unexpected March snowstorm had come through earlier in the day and at the time I found myself in the elements, most folks had wrapped themselves tight indoors. I wore a single scarf and shoved my hands deep in my pockets to ward the chill, walking along the deserted road to a park that had closed at sunset hours before. The point wasn't where I was going or the weather, really. I wish it had been warmer, but there's a kind of silence that follows with the cold that's almost solemn. I take this walk at least once a week, if not more. About two kilometers in distance it's just enough time to really reflect on things. Last night I thought about my past, as I am often, and trying to rationalize the person I was with the person I am today.
I'm not proud of who I used to be some five ish years ago. People had a lot of opinions about me but I think it all came down to the fact that I wasn't confident enough to be brave. Not brave enough to speak honestly, not brave enough to take chances with my education, not brave enough to throw myself into travel, and not brave enough to break from an emotionally abusive relationship. We all have stories like that, I think, traps and snares that caught us up in the past. In some ways, a few of us are still trapped in those snares...if not literally, than in the figurative reflection of our minds. Years we paid piece-meal to relationships, friendships, wasted programs, and enough 'playing it safe' to encapsulate a cautionary children's show. One of my defining weaknesses is my inability to let things go. All the way back, I've had this obsessive desire to 'balance the scales', properly repay any damages I might have carelessly inflicted while in the throes of 'growing up', an excuse of uncontrolled emotions that sounds tired these days. Even the people who have wronged me are not exempt from my focus. In some twisted way, I always surmise that anything paid to me by others was motivated by some poorly executed action of mine.
I think people get trapped, walled in by justification. We're too good at arguing with ourselves not to construct chains, link by link, to bind our ankles to the past. We stroll around with bleeding sores no one can perceive, pressured by the simplest things. Innocuous comments can become thumbs dug into slashes, the pressure on a broken bone. Some of these scars are understandable, horrific things that were done to us at the behest of others, others are self-inflicted and delicately maintained with morbid intimacy.
I found myself thinking of all the people I've upset through the years, what I would say to them, how I would try to acquit myself as different. The trouble is that I'm not sure it would change anything. Most of my own brands of punishment as maintained regardless of relevant presence in my life. I keep the lights on in the torture chamber on behalf of someone I haven't spoken with in 3, 4, 5, 8 years as if it meant anything at all that I was still beating myself up over what had happened. Most of these, mind you, were not abominable things. Broken trust, shattered relationships, stupid impulsive decisions regretted by both parties...but certainly not the stuff of nightmares you would expect someone to agonize over (Or hope they would). The truth is that we are our own wardens, crowd-funding the prisons of guilt we live in with our own multitude of thoughts. Deep down, you know whether you deserve scorn or persecution. I don't think most of us do, maybe not anymore.
No one grows when they focus on the punishment. It's part of why I think the United States prison system is so remarkably ineffective. Without a drive towards rehabilitation, acceptance, and growth...all that remains is the monotony of pain, a perpetual surrender without reconstruction.
I walked down a neighborhood I'd never tried before last night. All the houses lined like quiet sentries in the void of unexpected winter. I thought about all the friends I've ever made online, the ones I've had for years without ever shaking their hands.
Sometimes life can feel like a prison, and the escape is through the eyes of another character. We build lives fraught with danger, knowing that we have the power to correct their sorrows and give them what they want. The control we lack in our own lives we give to those born from our minds into worlds like these. A story, especially one like this, isn't a recounting of random events. Coincidence and fate are married into the concept of tales, a certain intelligent design that assures us any terrible situation is only a temporary setback. We can foresee how they will rise or fall, meter it out, measure it. I doubt that's why everyone writes, but I think it influences some folks.
When I had finished my walk, I realized that I felt better. Maybe not cured of my persecution complex but at least I had loosened the chains, lost some walls.
Take a walk when you can, let yourself explore what holds you back. Forgive yourself, if possible, because sometimes you can't count on someone else to do it for you. Be able to recognize when you have learned a lesson, when you have truly grown and especially when you haven't. I'm not saying this works for everyone, but it brought me some relief on an otherwise miserable snowy March night.
Take solace in the silence. Listen to your own voice and the wind whistling through your wounds. Find them and close them up, stitch them shut with fishing line, or acceptance, or whatever you'd like to imagine.
And remember that behind every character there is another more complex and remarkable than fantasy ever could be. We are all here to explore creativity together, to posit our stories and intermingle our thoughts. Might be nice to get to know some of your writing partners a little (if they're open to it). You never know what kind of friendships you'll build, or what sort of paths it will open.
Thanks again for listening,