There were moments when she lay in the dark. Seconds that flashed another lifetime scratched into the edge of her brain. Sometimes she tried to keep it there, behind closed eyes. Looking for the warmth. Wondering if it was any better. Probably not. Thats when she had to open up, and look directly into the night. And wake up.
Every day was a new challenge. To step over the insufficiency of yesterday. To learn a new thing and move forward. There were only so many days that she would be able to open her eyes to do this again. Because every day was another again. And nothing remained the same.
She repeated this, during the pieces of daylight, looking into that mirror. Again. It was an old mirror, the reflection was not as clear as she remembered. Maybe it was just the fading face that looked back at her. Circles and lines, scar over her eyebrow, shadow of the healed bruise on her cheek. Pressing on her skin, she couldn’t push deep enough to feel that pain anymore. Battle wounds. Pieces of flesh that sang of her victories. To see another day. To walk on.
Surviving was not enough. It shouldn’t be enough for anyone, she had always thought. Every morning, facing the unknown advances that the unexpected brought, she looked forward to the fight. Summoning the ghosts of the past. Reciting the advice of her mentors. Engaging a new enemy. Counting the cost, each and every time. Exciting. To live. To win. To lose.
Her friends gave her the worst advice. Coming from positions of fear and instability themselves, they thought they knew what was best for her. No harm, no troubles, no more losses. Don’t engage, they would say. Give up and protect yourself. This is not a war you need to fight, close your eyes, and just dream. But they were all bound in the same nightmare. Some in denial, some already beaten, some constantly dodging the pain that consumes.
Her therapist suggested the ways to recreate herself. Opening her childhood memories to reinterpretation. Which was all fine and good, until she remembered the things she could never be repaired. The words, the broken heart, the broken wrist. How could the past inflicted upon her take on a new shape, a new face. What’s done was done. She lost a little and hurt a lot along the way.
But pain was not the worst thing. In fact, losing was one of the most valuable things she knew. Losing her dreams to reality. Losing her trust in a friend. Losing her dignity to vulnerability. It peeled away the eggshell comforts. The blows still hurt, of course. For a moment they sent her back to the abyss. The dark place that wanted her to forget that it would always be painful, to forget there was more at stake. To forget that she had a choice no matter how much she bled. But she did not forget. She had more to hope in than a trivial avoidance of another scar. She was not afraid of inconveniences, because a greater conflict had been revealed. And only one thing ultimately remains.
Love. It is a choice, she discovered somewhere along the way. It is not a feeling. It is not a luxury. It is not an exhilarating emotion that finds you in the middle of the night. It is not equal, it is not expected, it does not have to be returned. It can be the most humiliating way to spend your days. But love is a choice. It endures, even when it is spat upon. It lasts, through pain and suffering. It forgives, everything. And it is the hardest path to choose.
Ironically, they all saw this as her weakness. That she was not afraid of pain. Of scars. Of disappointment. They said she was wrong to go back to these places that could hurt, that it would be smarter to go somewhere else. They said she was bent beyond repair, craving abuse like an addiction. But they did not understand. She, herself, did not deserve to be loved. Every moment she, herself, desperately clung to the underbelly of a true love freely given. This made her recklessly brave, so much more than they ever would know.
They were wrong that she was weak. That she was damaged, because she continued to get hurt. They were wrong. That she was afraid, because she chose to go back. This struggle, this confidence, had made her strong enough to choose anything.
And she chose to love.