In Favor of the Storm

This goes along in spirit with another piece of mine, "Only Human", although it is a separate train of thought. It is still a very personal piece, so please be respectful of that should you comment!

Otherwise, I hope you can enjoy it for what it's worth.

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1. Cliche

 

Life is like an ocean.

Yes, I know, how cliché, but I believe it's true. I'm not seafaring, I'm not a marine biologist, in fact I find the very idea of the ocean incredibly mortifying. Always have, since my first memories of seeing the vast expanse across the horizon, seeing its unique blue touching with my familiar blue sky at the very edge. I was told to imagine a very deep pool, completely safe to swim in, and that made it a hundred times worse. Why would I swim into water so deep that the ground didn't dare go there, dropping off into an abyss so much like the night I was equally terrified of?

No, thanks, I'll keep my feet on the ground, thank you very much.

But that's the thing. Only a special few people get to relax on the beach and watch the serenity from a distance, detached from the turmoils of the everyday. To be quite frank, that kind of detachment is completely unnerving and I don't think I'd want to be that kind of person anyway, despite all of the storms I've weathered.

Life is more like living on the ocean. You get a boat, a shoddy map and you figure out where you want to sail. Or, as was my case, you're taken from whatever learning you were trying to do about this world, and thrust out to sea. No life jacket. No map. No idea what just brushed by your foot, but the only choice you have is to keep swimming.

And that's how you learn.

What progress you can see yourself making you learn by watching others in the boats, some who took no care and are beginning to flounder, others who have started adding and now, well, their small boat is a good-sized ship. But it's okay, because you've gotten this whole thing down well enough, made a makeshift raft of sorts, and that's all you can do.

But even once that raft becomes a beautiful boat, shared courtesy of your new life co-captain, it's hard to stop making those comparisons. That's how you learned to survive on the waters. So you remember the helping hands that got you to where you are, but those are never the ones to stick out in your memory. Instead, your memory hold on to those gorgeous ships, captained by people who would call out and offer of aid, only to shove you under the water when you got close enough. “Friends” who turned on you, tormented you for being thrown out without the luxury of anything they were given, openly abandoned in any setting, only included begrudgingly.

These are the things that sting in the memory, their words cutting at you just enough to feel the burn of salt water in the wounds. Despite the beautiful place you are now, despite the amazingly fun and impossibly secure place you are now, every time you see their ship you're back in the water, even as your own feats outshine all of the polishing they've ever done to their hull. It's hard to stop yourself from going off-course trying to follow them, but you have a map now. You don't need to watch anyone else ever again.

That's the reminder I received as I pondered my “then and now” of the last year this fourth of July. I didn't do anything special. I watched other people set off fireworks, heard other people's parties, watched as person after person shared on social media the wonderful things they were partaking in. But, visiting family aside, overall this year was far better than last. I'm in a better place, in a solid place, with a partner I can say for certain will do everything they can to take care of me as I need, just as I will do everything I can to help take care of them. Like a team, we watch out for storms together now, and despite all of the hardships we're still better for it.

So every time I see those ships that society has told me is a sign of true familial success, the end all of everything you can ever accomplish in life, I stop myself from repeating the things these ships told me in the past, that I'm not good enough in whatever ways to be considered successful. But I did succeed. What challenges we've had as a team, we are succeeding, and even if that's kept us from continuing on our charted course, we'll know better how to navigate further on where those other ships will need to stop, remap, even abandon their precious home altogether.

Because I may not have kids until society tells me it's too late, and it's greedy to wait so long, and I may not have the wedding or picturesque dating life that I'm told is the epitome of a perfect relationship, but I have better than that. I have what I deserve, and experience that in twenty years, those ships that mocked me for my trials, will quickly realize that this knowledge is invaluable.

Yes, I have spent the better part of our partnership taking care of an incredibly sick man, but when I set my mind to find an answer to a disease that medicine has declared incurable and nothing short of suffering the rest of your life, I refused to give in and allow it to rule our lives and relationship. I dug my heels in so furiously that even he found the will to start taking charge of himself, so that now he's even taking the right courses of action without my requesting or reminders. I was so adamant against his continued sufferance that even when standing alone in the face of worsening conditions and medications I fought against it all to find a safer way, some way to give him his life back and not just shoot it in the face and see what I could save.

Yes, I have my own difficulties, as well, and despite the lower points we both have kept fighting the sometimes daily bouts of anxiety and depression and, though much less frequently now, even fits of memories so intense I forget where I am, or who's touching my hand. I can't remember if it's safe or if I should be running for my life, but together we get through it, every time. And, despite my own issues, I made a promise to myself that I would keep myself together until we found an answer for his own health, an imposing ticking clock that really was counting down how much longer we had before the fight was over for him, and surrender became inevitable.

No, I'm not everything I always hoped I could be at this point. But feeling ashamed is me letting their words continue to cut me, and I'm stronger than that, I'm stronger than their level. At the first test of loyalty, they tried to drown me. Myself? I met a stranger, fell in love with them as they were, and even more when I saw the amazing person they could grow into, and immediately took on the challenge. Not just a new relationship, or a chronic illness that even under good circumstances could ravage anyone's work and life, not just trying to go into the world as a strong young woman or moving out on my own, though accidental. No, all of that and so much more, that is the storm that stopped me short and, rather than abandon my partner's boat to sink and flee for safety to go around it, I gabbed the wheel and charged it head on. Having the bravery to do that, and the stubbornness to know that you will succeed no matter the circumstance, that is nothing to be ashamed of.

That is something to be proud of every day.

I did that. No, those taunting ships can keep their children, and in due time they'll learn just what “in sickness and health” truly means, because no, it's not an overnight flu that's to be assumed from that, but pulling through to work, read, cook, clean, research further, balance your own health, and suffer right along through every brutal moment of illness with them.

I did that. And I keep reminding myself that I haven't failed, and I don't need people like that nor should I let people like that look down to me. I did that. In the last year, I have overcome so much more than they may care to realize, but the point is that I realize it, and I stop feeling bad because I wasn't sent off in a pretty little boat with a neatly folded map in my pocket.

With the help of the people who really care enough that my course is irrelevant to them anyway, I built my boat while at sea, without a map, found my co-captain, went through the worst storm we had seen together, and we're still here. No, the storm isn't clear, and it may not be clear for a long time yet, but we found a course that can get us out of it all the same. And you know what? I think I see my sky's blue on that horizon.

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