A Sunday Story that is a hybrid of the stories of friends, my own story, and something I overheard at Panera!
”I mean, I’m good for a while, but then it just seems like something happens, almost like a switch going off somewhere in my brain or my body or maybe it’s even someplace else.” Meghan pauses. She sips her coffee, then says quietly, “And then I just get dark, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes a day, sometimes longer.”
“But Meghan,” Shelly interrupts. “You’ve got everything sweetie. What have you got to be sad about?”
Oh fuck, Meghan thinks. Not this again. Not this.
But she knows that her friend is just trying to help. Her friend of almost twenty years is just trying to give her perspective and gratitude, like everyone else, with their worried looks and false smiles and silent begging for her to be alright so that they don’t have to be so uncomfortable.
But she has perspective and gratitude. She really does. She’d be long gone if she didn’t have those companions.
It’s just that right now she needs more. She needs more or she’s not going to be okay.
“It’s not just that I’m sad,” Meghan tries. “Sad would be easy. This isn’t just sad.”
“What is it then?”
“It’s pain, Shelly.” Meghan says beseechingly. “It’s hopelessness, alright? It’s so hard to explain this. It’s a worry that makes me shake and cry and not know what to do. It’s something running deep, deeper than right now and deeper than me. It grabs hold of my heart and my mind, my whole self. It says I’m not safe.”
“Not safe? Like physically not safe?” her friend asks quickly.
Fuck! Why can’t anyone understand? Are they so fucking normal or evolved or checked the fuck out that they don’t know anything about this? Am I so fucking broken that people have never seen this many pieces before?
Meghan takes a deep breath. She tries to still her beating heart, her shaky hands, her rapid thoughts. She tries to still her every single cell.
“Sometimes,” she replies, trying to soften and steady her voice, make it easier for her friend. “I mean, you know how I’m afraid of elevators and flying and roller coasters and stuff? I mean so yeah, physically I feel unsafe, but that’s because I don't trust. I don’t trust that I’m okay, generally, and so everything seems like a threat. Roller coasters and airplanes and elevators, but also unanswered questions and changed plans and sudden loud noises and out of the blue expenses and men who don’t call and a horrible president and anything I can’t quite get my arms around.”
Shelly waits this time, doesn’t reply. She sips her coffee slowly and looks out at Meghan over the rim of her mug.
More quietly Meghan continues, “I think it’s also that I just don’t feel like I’m enough either. I always feel like less than everyone else and like I’m not very significant and that causes a deep pain which makes me feel even more like I won’t be okay and it makes everything just seem even scarier.”
“Well yeah,” Shelly says. “The world is a mess right now.”
“Yeah,” Meghan begins. “But I don’t just know that in my head and simply feel bad about it. I feel it in my core and it never really turns off. Sometimes I can just turn it down, but never off, and it feels too like everything that’s happening is happening to me. It’s just not happening in the world. It’s happening to me.”
“Oh but Meghan it’s not. You’re okay. And sweetie you are significant too. You are so significant,” Shelly says warmly.
“Thank you Shells. And I know that to some degree. In my head I know. I just don’t know here.” Meghan rests her hand over her heart then, a place that is really a symbol for something she can’t touch. It is a place to represent her entire essence, her self, her whole being that is consumed with doubt and fear, and it is consumed with a knowing too. She is consumed with a knowing that she does not want to have.
Shelly waits again, sips her coffee, looks out once more over the rim of her mug. Is it sinking in Meghan wonders. Does she finally understand me, maybe even know this kind of pain too, this longing and uncertainty and desperation, this feeling everything so deeply that you can barely move with the weight of it.
Please, Meghan asks quietly. Please say something that will help me.
“Maybe you need another retreat!” Shelly then says suddenly. “And I’ll go with you this time. Rob owes me a weekend anyway and he can deal with the kids and we’ll just go. How about that? Yes! Let’s do it! Massages and Yoga and so much wine. So much wine will help Meggy."
And then there is so much silence. There is so much silence and Meghan cannot believe the words her friend has just said.
She cannot believe it.
But then again she can.
She can believe it and she closes her eyes and asks her despair to please wait. Please wait until I’m alone she begs, and then tries to swallow it down so that it won’t turn into tears that ruin her, that reveal just how much the world brushes up against her and leaves bruises that never seem to heal.
But this sorrow is persistent. It demands to be heard and won’t be withheld and it begins to stream out. Quiet and slow and warm her pain falls.
Down her face.
Off her chin.
Into her lap.
“Don’t cry Meg,” her friend says simply. “Oh Meg honey, please don’t cry. I’m gonna go get you some napkins and then we’re gonna get pedicures and you’re gonna feel better. You are. Hang on. I’ll be right back.”
And then Shelly gets up and she walks away and Meghan watches her and Meghan knows that her friend loves her and that if Meghan was another person pedicures and retreats would help her, but she isn’t another person. She is this person, and so she gets up too. She gets up and she walks to the door, her pace matching her tears, ones that come hot and fast now.
Her tears come hot and fast because her friend does not understand.
Her friend does not know to reach across the table and take her hand and simply hold a space in time for her, how to say that she really doesn’t get it, but that it must be so hard, this pain and hopelessness, this worry must be so hard.
Her friend does not know to say that she’s here and that she won’t leave and to ask Meghan to tell her more, to get these demons out of the dark because light diminishes them, dampens their power.
Her friend does not see that if you can’t trust being okay in the world then you don’t need pedicures or retreats, that those things simply don’t dig deep enough.
And this thing is deep. Deeper than right now and deeper than one person.
What you need is someone to trust for you, even if only for a little while. You need someone whose oxygen mask is working properly to help you adjust your own, to maybe hold it in place while you flounder for a while, until you settle and adjust and are able to hold it yourself.
You need someone to just believe that even if this is not real for them it is real for you. It must be. It must be more than real or your hands wouldn’t shake and hot tears wouldn’t fall and you’d sleep at night.
You need someone to remind you that it hurts because maybe you are just made differently and maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s okay to be made with a lot of exposed wires that seem to catch on everything and shock you. They shock you and so you have to cap them off at the ends, but you can’t always reach the ends and so you need someone to reach for you.
At times, you just need someone else to secure all of your loose and sparky ends.
As Megan reaches the door and steps out onto the sidewalk, leaving her friend to get napkins and plan pedicures, she thinks that she just needs someone to say something simple and profound, something that can act as a salve on a wound that’s been cut open so many times, something that recognizes her limits but keeps her moving forward anyway.
Maybe she just needs someone to say:
“Let’s take the stairs if the elevator seems like too much.”