I’ve been attempting to start this essay since last weekend, searching for the words that can describe what it feels like when the earthquake has finally settled, and the ground beneath my feet no longer feels torn asunder. There is damage, and much of it lies invisible, tiny cracks in the foundation that I am scrambling to find and repair, because the notion of falling apart at the seams is unbearable. It is in the hesitation of a given hug, the blink of apprehension in eyes that used to stare at me with adoration, the nervousness as if we haven’t known each other since the beginning of time here on earth.
It is a self-censorship I never knew existed. Speaking everything in my mind before it rolls off my tongue, worrying if something I say could be misinterpreted or misunderstood. I have lost my freedom to just be, as it feels too dangerous to have authenticity. There are moments when my throat closes, and I brace for the possibility that something awful could happen at any given time. There is no longer ease and comfort.
I worry if I can’t be physically present every minute. If I want to do something for the house, like cleaning, or for myself, like writing or exercise, because I don’t want to appear as though I am not sacrificing or paying attention enough. I have been judged for less.
There is a dread I can’t shake, a looking over the shoulder just to make sure nothing is following. It often feels like I am standing on the ocean shore, after the earth-shattering threat has subsided, unable to stop scanning the horizon just in case a tsunami is headed my way.
It’s a new feeling that I am not good enough, despite nearly a decade that says otherwise. The loss of self-confidence, and the bubbles of shame that meander to the surface, trigger insecurity. I haven’t asked what was told regarding my absence, because that question deserves to be answered by the person who said it. And because I am afraid to hear the response, and how it may have tainted any view of me, or put my love and dedication into question.
I long for peace, for the jitters in my heart to be smoothed and reassured that I belong as a fixture in this role. It feels like an unquenchable desire, this wanting to feel as though nothing has changed, and to return to where things were before the disaster struck. Except it happened, and there is nothing I can do to reverse the havoc. I can only pray it is not enough to create permanent ruin, that rebuilding is possible, and one day I will suddenly realize I have returned to exactly who I once was without even feeling the shift. That time really can, and will, mend the injuries we can’t see.
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...