The Arena

Yesterday I spent the majority of the day picking the metaphorical gravel out of my teeth. The morning had been another disappointment. The rest of the day felt pretty bleak. I am exhausted by the process and there always seems to be just another squall line rolling up on the horizon. It’s hard to be optimistic about any of it.

Some days you just have to dig deep to find the will to fight on. Some days you find yourself utterly defeated. To not just roll over and play dead, but to actually just give up entirely. You’re done. Your tank has completely run dry. Yesterday was such a day for me.

Which sucks, because it came so close on the heels of a day that felt like a total victory. A day when I felt comfortable in my own skin and happy with the direction life was taking me. I mean damn, I’m a nationally published travel writer! I live in one of the most beautiful places in Colorado! My car is paid for. I have an adorable puppy. And I live in a cool old house, far from traffic jams and continuous police sirens, and bums sleeping in the park.

People who have survived abuse, neglect, and trauma know this feeling well. It’s the “This is why we can’t have nice things” feeling. Every amazing day, every tender heart that touches your life, every twenty dollar bill you find on the street just means that eventually the other shoe is going to drop and you are going to wish you didn’t let your guard down for that moment to enjoy life. Because here comes the hobnail boot, stamping your teeth into the curb from the back of your head.

I used to think of the good days as an emotional investment. The better the weekend or the victory I had, I knew some fuckery was brewing. You see, I left a burning house seven years ago, and I went back in to get my kids. And one by one, they went right back into it. My ex wife does not approve of my parenting methods (which do not include hysterics and screaming), my choice of where to live, my family, or likely the oxygen I take into my body on a regular basis. For the last seven years, I have had to fight for everything I have. I fought for everything I had for fifteen years before that too, but she kept most of it. I got out with my life and something even better: the potential to begin a new one.

But that trauma holds onto your soul like a bad smell. It’s easy to become bitter, gunshy, and know that eventually, you are going to have to deal with some shit, and risk getting sucked right back into it. That control someone else had over you, that panic that takes hold when you thought you could be done with it, but you have to walk back into that blaze.

Yesterday I looked down the long plain of the next seven years of storms, one rolling up on me after the next. I thought about how I’ll have to face them alone. Just like I always have. Damn, but that sand at my feet felt awfully cool and inviting to just lay in it. To watch it soak up my blood. To have just a moment of rest. Nobody would blame me if I gave up.

I’m so tired of fighting.

This morning I woke up, and got out of bed. I let the dog outside and looked at the snow that had fallen on the mountains all around me. I live in such a beautiful place. It is inspiring. In years past, it used to rejuvinate me to come visit the mountains where I grew up, even for just a few hours. The cold wind. The blue skies. The icy teeth of jagged peaks that bite up into those clouds. I think now this place sustains my spirit. Like the mountains, those storms will wash over me. But they will not subdue me. The rains and snows might chisel away the mountains, they might cover them, they might grind them into that fine arena sand over eons. But, the clouds just roll over them. A storm washes them clean of all the bullshit that has come before.

Today, I decided to fight another day. And another day. And another. And so on.

Today I’m going to smile back at the storm with a mouth full of broken teeth and spit out the sand. I can do this all day.

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