You have lost the feeling of reality. Can this pale, faded, insipid something even be called your life now? That was your talent – to look on the bright side. It rescued you from a plethora of heartbreaking situations. But now the only thing you can do is to curl up on the couch of the eternal pain and mourn. Nothing can be changed. Nothing can be done. All these “what ifs” hurt you. You are a cog in the wheel of history. That’s what you are. And then there are other people.
They wave the “it’s not your fault” phrase like a white flag. “Just leave us alone with your guilt, and pain, and loss,” that’s what they think. In chorus. Like in Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass. They all want to get back to their routine, to talk about shopping and vacation. To laugh and yawn. They want everything to be normal. Normal.
You taste this word as if you were a sommelier. Even though you have an untrained palate, you do feel its key element: inaccessibility. Normal is unreachable for you. It could have become your green light burning all night at the end of the dock, but it didn’t. You lost normal. Your life is not normal. You are not normal.
Is it even worth the effort, to wake up every morning, to raise your weightless body that doesn’t take up any space – because you don’t exist anymore, there is no you, only your amorphous guilt –, to go to the bathroom, to take a shower? Your steps are silent, your voice is faint, and your reflection in the mirror is erased by fog. You put on red lipstick and wonder for how long your body is going to operate automatically, executing things that had been a part of your life before the-events-we-don’t-openly-talk-about began.
Red lips. One day, you notice a lipstick mark on your coffee mug. You wipe it with your cold, long fingers that are more like icicles. Your favorite earthen coffee mug, the one that was up with you during your sleepless nights, filled with weeping and screaming – the music of pain. You stroke its rough surface, look at its flamboyant floral pattern. All of a sudden, the coffee mug winks at you. “Look at this joyfully steaming coffee! You do know that the clay I’m made of enhances the coffee flavor, right? Just try it. Take a sip and feel how the warmth spreads through your body. You feel it, don’t you?”
And yes, you feel the warmth. You hold this cheerful floral mug in your both hands and inhale an earthy aroma of coffee. If all your attention goes to the funny mug, to the nutty taste of coffee, everything else stops existing. A blissful silence takes all worries and self-blame talks by the hand and walks them out of your exhausted mind. “Stay focused on the winking mug,” you repeat it to yourself like a protection spell.
And then the flickering flame of the elegant dark green candle you bought the other day – by habit rather than because you really wanted it – cheerfully nods at you. “Hang in there,” it whispers and starts dancing gracefully. Its movements mesmerize you, and your pain is like a snake that gets hypnotized by them. “Stay focused on the flame,” you repeat another protection spell to yourself.
A towering stack of unopened books at the foot of your cherry-red overstuffed chair starts to purr and rub against your legs. “Open me,” says a book on the top of it. Its navy leather cover is trying to seduce you. You touch its title, written in gold lettering. Its gilt-edged pages are like a mirror, reflecting your sunken cheeks that speak louder than any words of your despair. You open the book, and solemn silence is interrupted by myriads of passionate melodies. The words are singing their songs about faraway countries, unknown languages, and forgotten traditions. “Stay focused on the words,” you are humming a new protection spell.
For the first time since no one knows when, you feel how a springy filling of your chair joyfully takes the shape of your body. It screams with joy, “Do you see it? Your body exists!”. And you do see it. And then there is this pale pink shag rug that is tickling your bare feet, reminding you of the days when you meditated on it. “Focus on the texture of objects,” you whisper your spell.
The room itself doesn’t want to stay out of fun. “Look,” it says, yawning, for snowless winter mornings are the darkest, “how everything here seems mysterious at dawn. No sharp angles and garish colors. Everything is bathed in the soft and soothing dimness that caresses your hair and kisses you on the forehead.” The dimness is warm like your tartan wool blanket. It lullabies all your fears. “Stay focused on the dimness,” yet another protection spell comes out of your mouth.
Your daily routine with its servants, all sorts of bric-a-brac you collected for some happy and worriless years, calls to you. It wants you back. It flirts with you. It wants to enjoy your company. To hear your full of drama stories. “Like remember this one, when you got yourself a present – because you obediently followed Special Agent Dale Cooper’s advice – so you got yourself a pair of super cozy, and warm, and toasty socks. For the first five minutes or so, you were full of the joys of spring (winter, but well, never mind), but then your temples throbbed. Turned out you had bought aloe vera-infused socks. And you are, my dear, allergic to succulent plants.”
You smile. You forgot this story, and now it reminds you of your sans souci days, the days when you could have been happier but you weren’t. Those days when the war, and the guilt, and the pain, and the fear for the future didn’t exist. And yet you could always find a reason or two to feel unhappy.
And now you have the reason, and a very legitimate one, to be miserable and inconsolable. But what would it change? Whose life will it save?
“No one’s,” mutters the room.
“It won’t change anything,” whispers the candle.
“Not a thing,” nods affirmatively the stack of books.
“The only thing you do,” finishes the mug, “is to make your life worse.”
You know they are right. You know that even if it is easier to drown yourself in the river of Oblivion, you need to fight. But you can’t do it all on your own. Your routine, you need it desperately back. To stick to it. To savor it. To nibble it. To sip it…
Waking up at dawn. Mediation. Plank. Journal. Steaming coffee. Earthen mug. Light your candle. Look at the flickering flame. The dimness of your silent room. Stay focused on them. No external thoughts. No news. Be here. Present. Open the window. Listen to the chirping birds. What a beautiful snowless winter. And this moonstone-like sky. They are here for you. You are here. For yourself.
So you wake up every morning and cover the fragile nakedness of your sorrowful heart with layers of routine that is like impenetrable armor: it protects you from desperate stabs of the hostile outside world. You are the uncrowned queen, and your books and mugs and dreams and songs are your faithful soldiers. And together you can beat them. Forever and ever.
– Aleksandra Aubay