I'm trying to decide what I'm feeling, and I think my body is fiercely defending itself against feeling anything at all, because I'm coming up empty. Not empty, but...mysteriously full.
Like, I was sitting on this couch in this house that became a home, and that's an absolute miracle. I don't think I've been able to properly express what a miracle this entire place has been, because there aren't words to do such a thing. A home. This is the closest to home that I think I've ever felt in my entire life.
...I feel like I should leave a pause, here. This is the closest to home that I think I've ever felt in my entire life.
It isn't for lack of trying, or really, for lack of anything. Before, I mean. I wasn't missing anything, I've just never been...home.
A little over six months ago, I was laying in my old bed at my parents' house in Michigan, asleep. I had wanted to go up north to the cabin for a couple of wintry, frozen days to visit my aunt and uncle and regroup in the woods, but I knew I had something like a hundred dollars left in my bank account; one hundred dollars that I'd need to get to Florida, where I had jobs lined up. I knew I couldn't go anywhere. Even when I took a double dose of Xanax, I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't get away. Nothing was taking me from where I was.
My mom snuck into my room and quietly slipped sixty dollars into my fingers. She didn't simply set the money on my bedside; she rolled it up and attached a note and wrapped the whole thing in a bow, an early Christmas gift. A trip, a full tank, the best gift anyone could give a person like me. My mom didn't have sixty dollars to give, but she gave it to me anyway.
She tried her best. She did everything she could. She told me that she knew that I wasn't feeling well, but that she hoped I'd still have a nice time at home; there was nothing that I in my overwhelming, stifling grief could ever give back. That fact broke me.
Things did not change as soon as I crossed the Mason Dixon. They did not change even as I was snuggled up close to my best friend on my way down. They did not change when I finally made it to Clearwater and my Jesse dog cried the happiest greetings, so joyful to see me again. They did not change when I landed a second job at a museum that I had desperately wanted, and loved. They almost changed when I started spending time with Maxwell again, but even then, they didn't.
New Year's Eve panicked me. I was scared, disinterested in seeing another sunrise, lamenting the fact that if I survived, I'd turn 25 this year and I'd have been nothing but a burned out shell of the woman I thought I'd be. But I did not try to hide it. Instead, I tried to get help, help that required taking time off from work and waiting for entirely too long; help that was, essentially, inaccessible to me. Help that never came.
I felt myself becoming the one who would slip through the cracks of the system. I accepted it. I didn't think that I had another choice. And like every other time, I took advantage of how easy it was to blame myself.
But then, something happened.
I began to become more financially stable. I worked every hour that I possibly could, and on my days off, I took some time for self-care. I strengthened the friendships that I had before, weaved new ones, and sank into my genome without needing or ever wanting to come up for air. I made travel itineraries. Instead of the dreaded suicide plans that my former therapist and I would discuss and try to productively counteract, I made a plan to stay alive.
It took time. It took an insane amount of grace, from everybody that surrounded me and from myself, learning to accept that grace as a gift that was for me. It took the crazy, previously unattainable idea that I belonged somewhere; a home where love permeated from wall to wall and everybody was accepted for exactly who they were. Because in houses that are homes, we are allowed to make mistakes and fall and cry and fail. There is space and grace for those things; we always wake up with a thousand new mercies in the morning and a brand new sunrise. And today, although I miss my Sunshine State and all of the memories it holds, it's time to move on to new spaces and graces.
I am not a finished product, but I'm still alive. I'm calling it a victory.