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A letter to myself

I didn’t know what sadness was when I was 4 years old. I used to scrape my knees and burst into tears and now I burst into tears because I don’t scrape my knees. I found a vice more torturous than wanting a physical pain. I found you.

My shoulders are softer, my cheeks rounder. My hips don’t go up to the size 2 jeans you pushed me into buying, I think you called it visualizing. My skin and I got tired of shredding ourselves for your sake, so much of myself died trying to carve myself into your ideal. I put my thumb on my wrist one day, couldn’t find a pulse, looked down to find a hole in my chest. I think you put it there that night you punched a hole through the wall, ripped out my heart and took all I was with it.

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I didn’t know who I was, all I knew was I loved you and so I turned a blind eye. Thought ‘what’s a little love without a little pain, without a little sacrifice?’

I was a fish you just couldn’t help but gut. Tell me, did you ever stop to think about what a soul was, how maybe you were wrecking mine. I’m off the hook now, I’ve been swimming in the water for some time. All that love I felt for you gone the moment you ran out of places to slice. I’m all healed I say, but I still can’t believe it when a man with kind eyes calls me beautiful. All healed, but I stand in front of the mirror, still trying to love what is there.

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Tonight, I am picking grief out of my teeth with a flower stem and apologizing for the mess I left in the bathroom sink. I don’t know how to be seen like this, with my chest wide open and no answer to give. Lately it feels like I’m only about a swallow away from drowning. It’s always raining even when it isn’t and even when I’m not alone, I’m lonely. And even when I’m alone there’s always this heavy thing keeping me company, some nights it feels like I’m attending my own funeral.

I dream of hearing someone say they love me and my first thought not being ‘why?’.

I weep for letting every lie you ever told me cloud my vision. I weep for my future daughter. I weep imagining she, too, will grow to feel like this. I want to break a lifetimes habit of making myself smaller, reaching out with hands cupped, hoping for love.

I listen to the nightingale outside my window sing her song and want to ask her if I can borrow some melody. I make a list of things I’ll do in the morning as a reminder to wake up. I don’t brush my hair for a week. I cut my hair in front of a mirror even though I know it will turn out wrong. I stay in bed all day reading books about Greek mythology.

I play this game where I pretend, I’m Athena, an owl perched on my shoulder, I’m a warrior without fear, a goddess with all that wisdom. She is her father’s favorite and I’ve got a Zeus of my own. My mother makes a bed of my pillows for me and my tenderness for when I howl out in pain for no reason any of us can understand.

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I became a knife, the sting inside the bee, the icy burn that does not melt. And although, I’ve been unseen, I’ve yet to leave unfelt.

Some days I forget what it is like to be gentle with myself, how to look at myself with kind eyes and speak to myself with soft words. I often forget that it is okay to take time for myself, to look deep into the roots of my soul, to examine the vines stretching under my skin, to pick out the weeds sprouting in my mind.

The only way to live is to live. Every other rule book makes it seem difficult but look. Just bite into the peach and let the juices run. Fall asleep to the sound of breathing and creaky floors. Roll the windows down. Listen. Use your manners. Be as outrageous as you like. Tell your people that you do, in fact, love them.

Understand. Understand that this is a world of shut doors; that sometimes you need to slam them. But also understand this, as much as you would like to, you cannot wait outside every single one.

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