This is a largely autobiographical story about me and a real person, with real dates, though some events have been slightly altered or interpreted from the album itself for creative license, and names omitted out of great respect for the person involved.
This is the story of my life before, with, and after the person that I met as a result of this very album, that predicted every one of those things would happen, and yet ultimately predicted that pain would end and this new journey I am about to embark upon would come from it. It is written as a message of thanks to everyone who has supported me during the worst times of my life, to bring me to the greatest moment of my life, and a message of hope that no matter how far you’ve fallen and how much you’ve lost, there is always a new tomorrow.
THE SHIRE, PT. 1
Prologue – April 7, 2017
It just happened for the third time, not too long ago. It became clear that the third time wasn’t going to be the charm. She didn’t even have to say it after her relationship status changed. The verdant and bright spring that followed that day was anything but happy, inside your head.
“In a Relationship with _____”
When that blank was filled with another name, your mind filled with hopes and dreams went blank in turn. You’re like a mathematician who spent his life holed up in a room scribbling pages and pages of equations until one day his theory was proven wrong. No matter how you tried to make it true, this paradox was unsolvable. And in one stroke of the eraser, your world was shrouded in chalk dust thicker than the London fog, and the first sight you saw once the haze faded away was what once was your dreams, collapsing to the ground like a sand castle washed away by the tide.
Empty is the white-dusted chalkboard.
Empty is the deepest recess of your heart.
Empty is the barren vastness outside in the field.
You have everything in the world, except what you really want.
You have every knowledge in the world, except how to fill the hole within you.
You have every answer in the world, except “why.”
But as you gaze within at the overgrown mess inside you, you resolve to overcome it by planting a new spring’s seed and grow a crop of wheat big enough to kill these weeds that just keep coming back to haunt you, until one day you might just reap what you sow.
And so, you write in the biggest letters you can write, on the chalkboard that you walk by every single day:
“This day I swear by earth, moon, sun, and sky
One day I’ll fly above these barren lines
Even if it takes ‘till end of time
Someone somewhere somehow will be mine”
You kneel before the shrine erected inside your barn, waiting for hours for an answer until the cry within your heart becomes a scream that drowns out every other feeble thought in your head. You start feeling your heart beat louder than every other feeble sensation around you. You know that soon, this ravenously burning desire for life and love within you will not be able to stay contained any longer.
Then suddenly, disembodied words come whispering into your starving heart as if from another world, that while they don’t give you what you asked for, reassure you that someday you will separate your wheat from chaff and your victory will be won.
“You are never alone.
You will never be alone.
I will make sure you are not alone.”
SMALL DARK LINES
August 17, 2017
Suddenly, hope appeared in a way you never even dreamed it could. It was such a tremendous accident that you couldn’t even have found someone like this if you’d deliberately searched the whole world. It’s almost as if she was designed specifically to fit you. You’ve never been quite satisfied with anyone else up until now, and your past chases now seem like silly charades. You couldn’t see how someone like this could exist and show such a keen interest in getting to know you, and not be the lux terminus of your insistent and until-now fruitless search for love.
You become close friends quicker than you can even realize and you think there’s absolutely nothing that could ever come upon you that could ever split you apart, except the scars and darkness of your own past branded upon you like the small dark lines etched on an inmate’s chest. But you don’t even pay any mind to them, for the darkest things we all carry around inside our hearts are all revealed in the light that she brings to your life and start to shrink away.
Your life changes from the inside out and you embrace it whole-heartedly, as you become more and more accustomed to having her around and start forgetting what life was like before. You power through all of life’s struggles because you know who you’re always going to come back home to. You feel like God has blessed you beyond measure and this golden opportunity emboldens you to take a big risk, because after all, what kind of life is without risk? It’s like this is a test of how boldly you’re willing to live out that lesson you’ve been learning for the past two years, to not be afraid to look like a fool in the pursuit of your heart’s deepest desire, and so you’re not going to let any fear of failure or any discouragement or setback restrain you from achieving your goal.
As the small dark lines within your heart continue to shrink away, you think you’re on a point-blank crash course with the success for which you’ve been hungry for years, and you have one person to thank for it all.
“You are my shining sun and my sheltering sky
You are the rain that wipes clean my small dark lines
If I was the man who saw through time
I’d see you in my heart and always keep it with mine”
THE MAN WHO SAW THROUGH TIME
Prelude: November 6, 2017
The days have flown by since, every single day around her since then being the next highlight of your lifetime so far. However, just as quickly as you heard her voice for the first time, you learned that you’re going to be apart for the next three months.
How do you go from not knowing someone at all, to having them at your side all the time, to having them be almost there? Even if they left for good, you’d at least not have to wait. It’s almost as if the next few months are going to put the rest of the world around you on pause, waiting in stillness for her to come back.
You can’t bring her back.
You can’t speed the days by, by just yearning.
You can only hope that you don’t fall apart waiting.
Someone once told you all about “signs from God.” That if you saw one, something was meant to be. You’ve never seen so many incredible signs in one place. So your mind has been overrun by the impenetrable overgrowth of a perfectly detailed vision of the future. You know you can’t get to the future any faster by thinking about it, and too many mythical figures have seen premonitions and tried to keep them from taking place, and ended up bringing them about. But with all of the positive change your life has undergone with that goal in mind, what harm could it really be to continue doing so? And what if we create our future by believing we can bring it about?
This obsessive need to know the future, to control it, is like a door to Narnia, a place that once you enter, you can’t ever truly escape even if you wanted to. But you are enraptured by the allure of your visions of love and a lifetime of happiness, and you bet your everything on them coming true.
And without fear, you step out of the dusty cupboard and walk through the door, into a world that now will never be the same again.
Vision 1: January 1, 2018
As the weeks ticked by until her parting, you heard the gears of time clattering inexorably along in the same song you’ve been hearing in your head. She seemed genuinely touched by how much you care about her and offers you the same in return, because you don’t deserve anything less. Your life unfolded just as you thought, like a master clockmaker admiring his best handiwork, ready for his life to strike high noon as the sun lifts itself triumphantly overhead. You’ve been fighting through every day, prepared to wait an eternity for her to come back and bring light to this winter. But days turned into weeks and your loneliness remained just bearable enough for you to survive another day.
Then you told her that she was the greatest thing to happen to you all year. And never have you made someone melt more, than by saying that. And the frost nipping at your front door vanished in an instant as you see your dream unfolding like a movie you’ve already seen. The field that you’re struggling to maintain, growing boundlessly fertile to the point where you no longer have to remain confined to this country farm in this remote shire. You celebrate every success along the way, every time you make her smile and every word she sends back to you from an ocean away, and cling to the anticipation of the next peak through every valley of lulls and awkward silences. You’re now used to this ebb and flow and think that another few weeks of it, won’t be so bad after all.
Vision 2: January 28, 2018
Unfortunately, a second vision now appears in your head, like a devil to its angel. Its voice sucks the life out of your every peaceful moment like a famished leech. A vision where every day starts growing darker, she starts fading away from you, and your life crumbles gradually to pieces as your field withers away and is engulfed in flames. It feels like accidentally boarding the wrong train, but you can’t get off it. You sprint back towards the door you once left abandoned far behind you as fast as your feet can carry you, but the knob holds fast.
You can’t tell whether the sweat coursing down your arms is from exhaustion or panic. And as it grows thicker, you can’t tell whether it’s a symptom of the oncoming panic attack, or the flames that followed you all this way and are now creeping up on you. And as everything you have done, become, dreamt and loved these past five months comes crumbling down before your eyes like a fragile ancient cathedral scorched into ash, you can’t tell whether you’re crying because of that, or because the smoke stings too much.
Your body paralyzed by fear and panic, you have no weapon left but to call upon your greatest ally to fulfill his promise, and pray to repel this vision.
Then before you can blink, it all disappears like faint smoke in the wind, as quickly as it came.
Even though the fertile field is now miles away from you again, you can see at the very edge of the horizon that it remains untouched and verdant. And now you have even more ironclad confidence that you’ll arrive there in just a few more weeks. For you believe all the more fervently that this second vision was merely a phantom illusion emerging from the bowels of the underworld, one of those insecurities about you that you’ve sworn to silence as nonchalantly as a crank call on your receiver.
So you make the decision to ignore the dark vision completely, to keep pressing on through the long tunnel ahead to win her heart, no matter what demon from below masquerading as reason from above might possibly try to dissuade you.
And you wrap yourself ever deeper into your vision of paradise, “further up and further in.”
TRUST THE PROCESS
February 14, 2018
Violent storms and squalls have battered your journey every single day since then. It’s like a spell of turbulence that you can’t predict, that throws off the balance of everything else in your life while you bail out your ship, and afterward, stalks of wheat in your garden start to wither away and rot. You’re so focused on surviving each storm by bailing yourself out, that you can only look on helplessly as wind and weather wear away at your nautical voyage across the Atlantic, until one day your ship might capsize completely just like the Titanic. You’ve been longing to reach out to her every single day to warn her of this crisis and bid her come back before it’s too late, but your communications from her are growing thinner for no apparent reason, and your reception fading daily.
Every hour saps your energy so much that when you do get those rare glimpses of her, you’ve run out of things to say, unable to find words to express your inner torment and unable to spark the same magic you used to draw out in your every word. You have nothing but the best of intentions, but you never seem to get what you bargained for. And so, as she keeps drifting further away, you only reach out to her more desperately, in hope that something will eventually pay off.
You didn’t expect you’d make no mistakes on this journey, but your mistakes are growing correspondingly huger and discouraging you from your goal, each awkward conversation, bombed joke, and dropped message a weed that you can’t seem to stamp out, sown by a snake that you can’t even hope to catch as it slithers through the grass. And as the pain of failure begins to mount, it starts feeling less and less like this whole journey had been worth it at all.
The more you learn about yourself, the less seems to be certain at all. You’re beginning to be unable to trust yourself anymore, because you’re so wrapped up in your fantasy that it’s taken on a life of its own, and nothing you tell yourself to explain away your doubts seems rational, as it all seems like a lie you’ve invented to assuage the cognitive dissonance of great doubt that you’ve grown to hate. One day you repeat to yourself, “The more you hear lies whispered into your head, the more you begin to believe them even if you know they’re lies.” And the next, “But are they even lies?”
But you continue trudging onwards, even if you look as foolish as Noah building an ark when everyone else is living their best life now, because how can you fail when you received a promise from the one who knows your every strength and weakness, that you’d succeed?
You have no idea where you’re going, but somehow, you’re still following after that light you think you still see over the horizon. You’d trust the process against any odds, because you have unshakable faith that everything will be over someday.
STARS AND SATELLITES
March 14, 2018
At last, spring has arrived, and the end of your long, cold winter of waiting is nigh. You should be happy, now that she’s within reach again and you no longer have to suffer through nearly 9,000 kilometers of separation. But the scars of the past seven weeks still weigh heavy on your soul, and somehow this wouldn’t seem like a happily ever after at all when so many memories of you together fill you with such anxiety and fear.
Yet even though your life has been filled with so much darkness lately, you still keep hope by wishing upon a star in the chilly night, looking feverishly for a shooting star that would promise you the fulfillment of your one wish in the world. How hard would it be to fulfill one wish after having created a universe? Or perhaps the sky has fallen asleep?
So, you scrawl a short message on a greeting card and tape it to a balloon with her name marked on it, and with childlike innocence, let it fly into the sky, hoping maybe it might bump into the kindness of angels somewhere far up there.
It feels like only an instant later when you feel a sense of space and time shifting irreversibly. The world doesn’t look any different, but you know it won’t ever be the same. The vastness of the universe awes you as a sky full of stars appears from behind the evening clouds, and his voice echoes gently through the starry sky:
“You think you know the wisdom of the sky
But you don’t know yourself ‘neath darkened lines
You will fly to the moon, but in my time
Lean not upon your plans, but only mine”
The gathering of stars twinkles, as if they’d heard every word and raised a knowing smile at you. You had wished upon just one star in a vast galaxy of a billion billion of them. The vista of possibilities beyond your grasp, that might be so far away that you can’t even see them yet, that might not look as attractive at first glance, but one day would shine into your life when their time had come, and then die away in a supernova when their time had gone.
You’ve been praying forever for the architect of all the stars to give you that one specific one. You cast yourself out into the blackness of space, chasing after her light, and now you’re lost in a galaxy unknown. You thought you had the “go” signal, but maybe now, you really didn’t.
Maybe you need a few more trips around the sun until you know who you are.
Maybe you need to accept “not yet.”
The creator of all of this could give you what you want. He could continue to guide your orbits to synchronize like the planets aligning once in a millennium.
But he says to you, don’t get in too much of a hurry. Don’t plan out your life in advance. Prepare your ship for takeoff, but let me launch you when it’s safe. When the weather is right and the course is clear to where I am sending you. No one knows you, because you don’t know yourself. But I know you. I know your past and your future. But you won’t know it until the moment you find me and let me show you.
ON THE EDGE
April 10, 2018
Life ever since then has been a series of rationalizations. You’ve been trying to explain that message away as a “not yet,” saying that signs can’t be mistaken. You think this is just a brief detour, and you’ll still get there eventually as long as you don’t give up and just make yourself better. But you aren’t getting anywhere, every day in the field like crawling through a giant mudflow. You’ve started losing touch with reality, and don’t come back until reality comes rapping at your chamber door.
You just got caught in a tremendous lie that nearly wiped away your career in an instant. You reel with shock at the person you’ve become with your mind set too firmly on the stars and away from Earth. You feel helpless to tell anyone about the monster you saw looking back from the mirror, not even her, fearing that she’ll run away from you in disgust now that she sees who you must truly be underneath the façade of perfection you’ve tried to erect. Just another one in a line of guys who chased after her endlessly until they were exposed for their true colors, and she had to cut them off for her own safety.
You start grieving for who you once were, as much as for what hope you once had. For losing that fairytale future with no clouds in the sky that you thought this would be. You never quite finished making it happen, and in retrospect, maybe it was never truly there at all. And you don’t know what would hurt more, the pain of failure at something that you were always doomed to fail at, or at something that you could have possibly succeeded, but yet you failed.
All you know, is how terribly it hurts.
You could walk away right now and never let her know a thing. Never again have to worry about what she really thinks about you deep within. But you think, that would be the easy solution. You haven’t come this far into the mud, to turn around. You haven’t taken on this much pain and suffering, to just end this story in pain and suffering, depriving yourself of any hope of redeeming it with something to show for it.
You’re willingly taking the long and hard road through perdition on your journey to paradise. Nobody ever fulfilled a dream without failure. Nobody ever stood up for something in their lives without making enemies in the shadows. And you’ll always spend each day paranoid that the shadows are still following you. But that’s just the price you’re willing to pay for constant vigilance and self-protection.
When you reach the light, perhaps the shadows will just shrivel away like vampires in the morning sun. And she will introduce you to the man you used to be.
THE SHIRE, PT. 2
August 20, 2018
This summer has been the hottest you’ve ever experienced in memory. Your yields have been so sporadic that you nearly starved until you eked out enough to get by, time and time again. But as the scorching heat grew more painful, not only did you start living day to day, but you spent each day, then eventually each hour, wondering if you’d have enough strength to survive this day.
And every one of those days, you still thought you might.
And you always did.
So you tried again, holding fast to believing this summer was just a temporary trial to overcome.
You let out the longest sigh you’ve ever let out in your life, expelling all the breaths you’ve not let yourself take for untold hours. You’ve expended so much toil in the garden today that you don’t know how you crawled back inside. Even months of calluses are starting to bleed out. And for what? You’ve thrown absolutely everything at this field, from pesticides to wipe away memories of the past, to fertilizers to help new seeds grow and drown out memories of the past, to artificial machines to help your field grow faster than the weeds and choke out the past. But they keep popping back up like Hydra’s heads. You never quite kill them, and every day, they take over more and more fertile ground, until they become so widely dispersed and embedded deep into the soil that there’s no way to track them all down anymore.
It takes an hour until you can get up once more, and the only place within reach is the shrine. You know there’s no water or food there, but though your stomach may be empty, it’s your heart that needs filling. As you collapse onto the kneeling pad, a twinge brings you the surprise there’s a type of pain you haven’t felt yet. Its protective finish has been so worn away from constant use all summer that you’ve scraped your kneecap and now must watch it begin to bleed red because your head can’t even turn away in disgust. You want to recoil in pain, but your muscles just can’t move. You want nothing more to escape the piercing thorns, but keep the rose. Your spirit is willing to take the poison to avoid the remedy. But your flesh is too weak to do either.
And so – you’re trapped. Starving in the desert of temptation with the devil on your shoulder holding out a loaf of bread.
Until you feel your prayer rippling across the baking prairie like an air raid siren, heralding an impending apocalypse nigh and beseeching to be raptured away from this forsaken earth before the horsemen come.
September 4, 2018
The first fall’s chill begins to rattle your bones as if waking you up from a year’s worth of slumber. Every wound that you’ve nursed for these past few months has been torn open, their cries of agony so deafening that they summon reckoning from the skies.
You’re caught between the past and future and they are about to collide viciously if you don’t make a decision. Your pain has already wounded you so deeply that it’s sidelined you from your calling, to step out into the world and help the helpless, on account of one person who seems further away than ever. There’s still a world of possibility just outside your doorstep, but you’d rather cast your net down towards someone fading away into the endless sea of “plenty more fish.” Because nobody in the world, could ever be worth more to you.
You thought that the great darkness before you was a harbinger of the last dawn, one that would never fade away. But instead, it’s been a warning of a black hole ahead, of which you’re rapidly approaching the event horizon. The only way to save yourself from flying into it is to turn around. Just one lever. But it feels as heavy as the world on Atlas’ shoulders.
You’ve got nowhere left to hide from the months of chilling wind to come your way, and not even her warmth can keep you alive like it did last winter. Sometimes you fight too long and too hard to keep going, and in those Kairos Moments, you face a decision that defines who you are and will fundamentally change the course of your very existence. Your worth is not just what you’re willing to sacrifice in pursuit of your dreams, but also what dreams you’re willing to sacrifice in pursuit of the greater good. And as you lay battered and bruised in the cracked and withered clay, one more blow from resting six feet further down, you can’t escape the wrenching conclusion:
You can’t hold on any longer.
It’s time to let go.
Your heart knows nothing is her fault. But your brain can’t help but start to feel angry. You were seemingly stuck in an endless swamp of rejection, depression and unfulfilled purpose, and then she taught you life was worth something. You followed her out of that swamp and what you learned from being her friend completely changed you to the core. But then when things stopped going as planned, it ruined you. The first cut was not at all the deepest, for in comparison, the first three times you got let down don’t even register on the scale of pain they caused you, not even combined. You’ve been bleeding non-stop ever since and you were left penniless and alone all summer, even more bereft of purpose than you were before this all happened.
The anger grows stronger, like a feral cat under attack. You would never feel this way about someone you love, and you are loath to punish her, but you know that there is no way the two of you can go back to the way things once were. The cycle of addiction keeps on flowing like a boomerang coming back to hit you in the face every time you throw it again, and this hit knocked you squarely into rock bottom.
Though you know this wasn’t her fault, this leaves you nowhere else to direct this blame and shame but onto yourself. Every single omen of doom and decay was a prophecy you heard and refused to believe. A prophecy that love would giveth and then taketh away, leaving behind small dark lines as deep as the canyons in the drought-riddled ground. And you ruined yourself, all for one dream that you just lost all faith in.
So now you have one chance to save yourself from the next, fatal blow.
If you can only keep yourself from striking it. And you don’t know how to stop it.
September 18, 2018
Though the rain has returned, you soon regret praying for it. A trickle became a river and a river became a flood pouring down so ferociously for two whole weeks, that everything you once knew has been drenched in tears and sorrow. You’ve been dreading this conversation hanging over you like a deadly thundercloud ready to bring the torrential rain that, though it failed to wash your homes away, now seems doomed to wash you away from each other forever. You’re living every single day in a dulled haze, just waiting for the day when you can let go.
Rightly or wrongly, you’re beset by relentless guilt and shame, like a devilish premeditation whispering venomously into your ear, “Do it,” as your eyes deviously watch your past sleeping unawares and plan their surprise attack. You start writing a note, its ink as red as if you were writing with your own blood.
“This isn’t working out.
We need to talk.”
You already feel like it’s happened. The urge to end it all flows through your veins faster than you can think, like subliminal freeways of neural traffic without brakes. As friction sizzles away the edges of your sanity, you know that it’ll soon unravel entirely if you don’t set these words free, but you also know that then they can do nothing but crash to a ruinous halt. It feels like suicide, like you’re not only taking away everything that means anything to you anymore, but you’re betraying all of the progress that you’ve made by taking the sharpest of knives and cutting it loose to fall into the abyss that threatens to swallow you.
You’ve told yourself for months that she doesn’t deserve what you’re about to do. And she still doesn’t. But for the sake of your own heart, you have to pretend there’s nothing in it and say that it’s time for her to pass out of it. You feel no joy in taking that step, no satisfaction, no thankfulness. You fear above all else, the stepping out of the light that you once felt at the edge of this Platonic cave, into a pitch-black darkness that you might never escape.
You were taught long ago to respect yourself and do what is right for you above everyone else. But when self-respect leads you to do something like this, you wonder who you really have become, in order for this to be needed.
You closed your eyes so that you didn’t have to see the truth before you and spent months dreaming in a virtual reality where your joyful past still existed. But you have to let go now. Like a time bomb ticking down its last days, you know it’ll blow up in your face if you don’t drop it soon. But you also know it’ll still explode no matter where you put it. And you just have to hope you can survive when it does.
STATE OF INDEPENDENCE
September 21, 2018
Here you are at the end of the road. You’ve taken a step that’s led you down a slippery slope that you just can’t stop. It’s almost as if this conversation is inexorably writing itself, and once you opened Pandora’s Box, there’s nothing you could ever do to close it. You know if you continued trying to go forward on this road, there’d be nothing ahead of you, just an empty highway left to burn like an obsessive chase after something you can’t even see anymore. But no matter how desperately hard you prayed for the road to keep going, it never budged.
There are no more excuses.
There are no more façades.
There are no more prayers.
This is the end.
Why wasn’t this meant to last forever? You know nothing in this world does. But you wanted to prolong it because you didn’t want to give up on something great because of a challenge. Time heals all wounds, doesn’t it? You remember back from childhood when your parents told you, “Back in my day, when things were broken, we fixed them instead of throwing them away.” And you both believed in that against all odds. So you don’t understand why it’s time to say goodbye. Even if she says she understands why, you never quite feel like she does.
You explain how you know she wanted someone more than a man who didn’t know who he was. “You don’t know yourself,” the cruelly ironic echo of the revelation you stubbornly refused to believe faintly sounding in your head like a ringing in your ear that nothing could ever stop. But you pretended everything was just fine, and it caused both of you pain as she watched you crumbling into someone she didn’t recognize anymore. If for no other reason, you just want to spare her that and show her a spark of the person she remembers and still cares for.
Even as she forgives all your mistakes and wishes you could stay, you know deep down inside you’re doing the right thing. But you don’t want to be doing the right thing when it feels so terribly wrong. None of this makes even the least bit of sense. There should have been something either of you could have done to avoid this tragic state of independence.
But now that you’re here, there’s no other way to hold on, but to let go.
Hanging up for the last time feels like severing a limb. You feel like you’ve always had it, you don’t know how you’re going to learn to live without it, and you don’t know how long it’s going to hurt. But when it has to be done, it has to be done.
Even if you might limp through the rest of your days, remembering what it was like to be whole.
September 22, 2018
You don’t remember falling asleep. You don’t know how you ever could have. You just remember opening your eyes after the sun went out and realizing it’s the next morning. But you don’t even think you actually woke up. It’s like you had an out of body experience and murdered yourself in your sleep, and now your soul is damned to roam this world forever.
What just happened roots you to the spot, paralyzes your body and soul. You start wondering how you could have ever started yourself down this road. Life seems cruel to make you believe something and not expect you to act in accordance with it, and then mug and shoot you down when your beliefs were nothing but lies. You spent so much money trying to make yourself feel better by covering up the bleeding you wouldn’t ever admit you had, and you spent so much love on something that’s now gone. You shut your eyes for just a fleeting instant, and opened them to find everything you had is now like dust in the wind.
The torment ripples raw from you like a severed stump left behind. You just wish you could close your eyes and leave this place so the pain would stop. Your heart doesn’t know what else to keep pumping for, breaking down and sputtering like a blown-out racing engine running on the fumes billowing away from a once-prosperous field set aflame. You’ve lost everything but that promise heaven gave you in this field seventeen months ago – yet how helpful has that been? You don’t need Einstein to tell you that you’d crash and burn again if you did the same thing. But you have absolutely nothing else to hope in.
But to give up would feel like an insult to her memory. She wouldn’t want you to lay down and die here, for you know from months of sharing your darkest secrets, that she faced the same struggle as you long ago. And she believed that nothing broken was unfixable, and clung to that hope until the very end.
Was it just a vain hope, or was there something to it after all?
Your heart is broken and bruised so terribly that you can’t understand how it still beats. But beat, it does. And you’ll protect that with every last breath in your body. As long as blood still pumps, there could still be something left to live for. And when there’s nothing left to be broken around you, every single day is a rebuilding of something. You won’t let this defeat destroy you any more than it has. You’ll only let it break you so heaven can remake you. To wait for the embers to die down into ashes and rebuild yourself from nothing, until you become something so great that you won’t need to answer the burning question of why this all happened.
But you know there will be months of toil ahead still.
October 25, 2018
It’s been the longest month of your life yet. You just try to go about your typical routine as if she’s still there. And then you try to break that routine for a while. But just when you think you’ve succeeded, you find yourself praying at the same shrine as eighteen months ago, when you prayed for this all to work out just like you planned. You’ve been leaning on your faith when nothing else made sense, and you thought for so long that your quest for love was blessed. But your faith is hanging on like the last autumn leaf on the sycamore outside, as the storm in which you can’t bring yourself to praise takes vigil over you.
They used to say that rainstorms are angels crying. So when the bitterly cold wind blows blankets of rain into your face to wash away your torrentially flowing tears into one mighty river, it gives you a sense of righteous comfort, like even the angels don’t understand why this happened to you. You’ve been wondering for a while, why you are here and where you’re going next. But now as you sit underneath the church steeple, you have to ask yourself, why are you here?
Are you coming back because you still pray that something can be changed?
Because you feel you’re to blame and are asking to not be punished anymore?
Or are you finally prepared to surrender to heaven’s unknown mysterious ways, make peace with your past and embrace your future?
The rain washes away the ashes of your past life before your eyes, burying them gradually in the cold, wet ground with countless others the ravages of time have long ago forgotten. Every memory, happy and sad, now looks just the same – like nothing at all. You try to clutch fast to even a speck of ashes, but the wind and rain wipe them away in the blink of an eye, as cleanly as if they had never existed at all.
You wish this had all been just an extended sleepwalk through a dream, and you just woke up the morning after that April day, when you first heard a voice from above speak truth and give you hope that this loneliness would end someday very soon. For this to be reality, just seems so unfair and cruel. When she came along just four months later, how could you not be convinced she was going to be the fulfillment of that promise? You ask, why wasn’t it a little clearer from the beginning? Then you wouldn’t be adrift like a vagrant in the English rain, spending all of your fortune on a mythical Atlantis that never came to be.
And you wouldn’t feel alone. You were promised it wouldn’t ever be like this again! Life makes so little sense that it’s like your own reason has begun to fail you. You wonder if this is what it’s like to have dementia and live to tell about it. You’re so hopelessly lost and confused, that when you hear a spectral voice echoing softly through the rain and wind once again, you think it’s nothing more than the dull flicker of a malfunctioning torch going gently into the endless night. That you’ve just been inventing its existence all this time, using it as a crutch to assuage your torturing grief.
But you still can’t forget what it says.
“Though you have fallen face down from the sky
There’s a way to erase these small dark lines
If you let go of a past lost to time
You will soon say at last, ‘my heart is mine’”
Is it from above?
Is it hers?
Your small dark lines have pierced so deeply into your soul that there’s only one who can erase their permanent stain. If you can just trust him again, to turn a mess into a message, and show you the way to escape this impenetrable labyrinth through which your Minotaur chases you.
As you cast your head upwards in a mixture of desperation and despair, the church bell starts tolling high noon, and you’re gripped with the unflinching sense within your soul that your promise was always true. That even though your soul is amidst its darkest night, the brightest sun is indeed ahead of you.
But in order to triumph, you have to act now, and begin to walk towards it while it’s still out there. Somewhere.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Part 1 – October 27, 2018
You cast out a distress signal, adrift at sea and waiting for rescue from whoever might hear. You fear that you’ll die alone out here, in your only fleeting moment of hope to come your way in weeks. And now it begins raining again, washing away your faith into the swallowing sea.
None of this was your design. You didn’t mean for any of this to happen. You hurl towards the skies with two clasped fists, “Was this all your design? Or did you make a mistake?
What do you want from me?”
Somehow, another new opportunity comes your way, like a rescue ship approaching your capsized boat, its navigation light gradually swallowing the horizon ahead. But amidst the thickening rain, you can’t tell which direction it’s coming from. You have three options – left, right, or straight. You can’t just stay put, or else you’ll stagnate here at the edge of prosperity, forever questioning “what if?” But you remember how the fear of being haunted by that question overcame your fear of failure and gave you impetus to step out onto the water, only to fall in. It’s taken you this long just to get back on your feet again, and life is now dependent on the kindness of strangers passing by, pulling you out of the depths whenever you fall in. But none of them have stayed for long.
You send your signal faintly dead ahead. No longer wishing to take a detour around life’s obstacles, but heading straight into them, learning to dance in the rain in order to avoid the train hurtling through every darkened tunnel and reach the light beyond it. At first, you can only coast on the momentum of the waves behind you to propel you forwards, but a life based on whims and chance will not help you reach your destination. You stop flailing and start methodically stroking forwards like a mountain climber on a dangerous summit, determined to rise above the coldness surrounding you and gaze down at an entire world at your feet once again.
Then you hear a horn blaring from the boat ahead of you, and it paralyzes you down to the core. The bow, once a dot on the horizon, grows so vast before your field of vision, that you soon can no longer see anything else. As you try to swim for dear life, you find that the tide has grown too fearsome for you to fight against. You suppose that you never learned your lesson about chasing hope even amidst the bleakest of odds, and steel your body against the crashing waves to prepare for a painless final impact as the boat continues hurtling towards you.
Then something hits you squarely on the head.
A rope ladder.
You blink once. Twice. Three times. To be sure that you’re still alive, more so than to figure out what hit you. Then without a millisecond of further thought, you grasp firmly on the ropes and pull so viciously hard as if to try capsizing the ship with your bare hands, clawing your way to freedom from a watery grave. Every callus on your hands and fingers tears under the pressure and friction, but you now have something worth bleeding for.
The whole climb passed by like a bullet train zipping through your field of vision. You plummet onto the deck and black out at last from sheer exhaustion, but just before your senses fade completely, you can sense the warmth of another human hand against yours. And now you welcome the great sleep, a goodbye to pain and sorrow, but sign off your story with a comma rather than a full stop, waiting for whoever this is, to write your next chapter.
Part 2 – November 29, 2018
You’ve drifted off into dreams for however long they last, hoping once again that time will wake you up when it’s meant to. And in this timeless world, you can perhaps learn to wait much more patiently in the hangar for your time to fly to come again.
You don’t know what you’re going to become next. Your life could totally switch paths into something different, since after all, you didn’t seem to succeed at this path. Trying to become something you weren’t, something bigger than you were too quickly, has made you so small you could cower away at even a molehill and never try to climb a mountain again. But it has also returned to you the boundless mind and ambition of an innocent child wondering what he’ll be when he grows up, a tabula rasa unencumbered by societal expectations, the tried-and-true, and fear. Your roots have been torn out roughly from where you had planted them, but yet you’re freer than ever, because you can now regrow yourself anywhere, yet with the hardened life experience only knowing failure and devastation can bring. And perhaps that is why this happened – to dig you out of the wrong place when you wouldn’t dig yourself out.
A light drizzle awakens you to some foggy afternoon, the amount of time having had passed as blurry as the way ahead. You’ve had your fill of rain for a lifetime, and soon you instinctively recoil in fear, wishing that you were back in a comfortable and safe dreamworld again. But your time has finally come to awaken from your former existence, in time to see the very last of the rain, the tiny vestiges of the past that awoke you from oceans of slumber and gave you the strength to dream once more, to see the fog parting from your eyes like the gates of paradise opening wide unto a city of gold. The boat has taken you across untold miles you could never have swam yourself, to a new farm on the other side of the country, where everything is beautiful again.
You have everything you need here to start over afresh and rebuild, but even better than before, and you wouldn’t have discovered it or seen a need for it if you’d kept going as you were before this all happened. But you must disembark from the boat and leave behind your past in order to embrace this new future. For a moment, you gaze back through the still swirling fog behind you. You know you’d get lost forever if you wandered even one step back into it, but yet even with your physical sight clear ahead, you feel like you’re walking blind into an unknown future. Yet now, the unknown is no longer something to be feared, compared to what you do know and thus fear. And the unknown ahead shines a ray of clarity onto everything unknown behind you, that you once thought made perfect sense, but then became as impenetrable as a broadcast in a foreign language, that through the wisdom of years and perspective you now suddenly understand.
That fateful message that moved your heart to take the first step, was lost in translation. You were meant to meet her, yes. But you understood so little about why, that you filled in the gaps with all the wrong things. She wasn’t meant to complete you. She was meant to unearth something within you that could help you truly complete you. And suddenly, the tremendous misdirection that you took seems no longer like a mistake, but a necessary detour. Something that taught you where to find the light you couldn’t find any other way. And so, no matter where you went, you found the point was not the destination, but the journey itself.
You lost one future on her account. But without her, you wouldn’t have made it this far to discover this new and greater future that now lies ahead. And your bitterness and anger at your dire circumstance melts like snow in the morning sun, your battered and bruised soul embracing love from on high again to become cleansed, renewed, and more whole than ever before.
You’re not sure how long it’ll take to reach your final destination. But as the wind that once eroded away your soil and tore your ship to pieces, now blows towards the sky-blue horizon, you know the journey begins today. As every particle of energy coursing through the mighty ageless earth flows into you, you finally summon the strength to take charge of your new life and take your most historic step onto dry land.
One small step for you.
One giant leap into your future.
Where you finally have a place to stand, from which you can move the world.
Epilogue – July 16, 2019
You never thought this day would come for you, unless it was in your nightmares. But instead, it’s the fulfillment of your wildest dreams. A while ago, you’d have been penniless if the government wanted to shut down this farm today. But the impatient idle of the lorry waiting outside to take you away from this place, doesn’t bring you the devastating news of a ruinous foreclosure, but closure on the biggest deal you’ve ever made, and a terminal closure upon the darkness of your past.
Because where last summer this plain was an endless minefield of weeds choking out whatever livelihood the blazing sun didn’t scorch, now the field is prosperous and bountiful beyond all imagination, and you earned enough of a fortune from the biggest bumper crop in the shire to move away from this remote and creaking farmhouse, into the voluminous plantation you always dreamed of owning one day. And the soil into which you sowed a thousand tears of grief, disappointment, and heartbreak, nurtured the seeds of your new life that fully begins today.
You gaze one last time over walls of crops that extend so far into the distance that you can’t even see them end as they swallow the horizon. You don’t know where you’re going now, but unlike before, you’re not afraid. You’re not impatient. You’re not questioning.
You just know, as you climb the stepladder into the lorry, that you’re once again stepping through a doorway that you can’t go back through.
And as you gaze back on the chalkboard as the words vanish before your eyes, your arms extend outwards in an embrace, just like you dreamed this would all end “happily ever after” – but up towards the skies in gratitude, embracing your next great adventure.
“I had my sights set too high in the sky
But you taught me to read between the lines
My heart may belong to someone in time
And I’ll thank yours for helping me find mine”