Site icon Lilith Saintcrow

Been Here Before

It’s still dark outside, yet I have resurrected.

Well, that’s a strong way to put it. “Too nervy to stay in bed since I went to sleep early yesterday, yet still exhausted because my entire self, body to soul, is recovering from years of constant retraumatization,” would be more precise. So maybe I’m just clawing my way up out of a very deep hole.

At least I’m not being dragged back down, drowned, and repeatedly punched by the news cycle. Small mercy, but I’ll take it.

In any case, it’s Imbolc, the return of light, and I’m still shaky. Normally I love winter; normally it’s my most productive time. Nothing about last year (not to mention the three-four before) was normal, however, and I’m reaching the end of my resilience.

I’m trying very hard to focus on the good things–the solidarity, the lessons in carefully harboring my energy, the reinforcing of my deep belief that cutting toxic people out of your life is absolutely okay and healing. Otherwise a survey of the damage might just cause me to sink below the surface with only a faint, grateful ripple to mark where once I floundered.

At the same time, this feeling is familiar. Been here before, my bones whisper. After I left my childhood home, during the divorce (both times), after buying the house, after any number of massively stressful life-changing events (or disasters), oh yeah, I’ve been here. There’s crisis, where mere survival is the victory. Then there’s the relief just after whatever abusive bastard is punching you has worn himself out and you find yourself bruised, battered, still trapped in hell, but alive nonetheless; it’s comparable to (although not nearly as deep as) the relief of standing on the other side of a burning bridge, breathing deeply and having no way to go but forward into a wilderness that has to be better than what you’ve left behind.

Then there’s the process of gluing yourself back together, which takes five to seven times longer than one ever imagines and can be interrupted by any number of things. Not to mention the risk of re-injury once you start feeling a little better and the tiny voice of self-harm inside your head begins whispering, “you’re fine, you should get back to work, you should push yourself, you’re lazy not to, you’ll starve if you don’t.”

It doesn’t help that our society is set up to keep the vast mass of us starved and in constant fatigue. A quasi-serf class is easier to control if they’re tired, overwhelmed, and focused on sheer survival.

Been here before, my blood whispers. It makes me wonder if we age merely because the business of living is such a burden. Especially when some of humanity thinks it’s best to greedily tread upon the backs of everyone else.

Still, it’s Imbolc. And I’m fortunate, as such things go. The kids are healthy, the dogs are content, there are seeds to plant and stories to tell. Rebuilding and recovery feels familiar because I’ve been doing it all my life. I build, I make, I create, something comes along and wipes everything out, I pick myself back up and build, make, create. Rinse lather repeat, so on, so forth, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

I tell myself each time I’m lucky to have ruins to build upon, a foundation to use. Even if the ruins are completely gone something in me still remembers the towers, and that can’t be erased. Not until I stop breathing, anyway, and at my lowest it’s sheer stubborn spite that keeps the bellows of my lungs operational.

What, you thought it was hope? Nah. It’s sheer fuck you that keeps me going through the deepest night. I could wish it wasn’t, but I’m old enough to know working with what I am is easier than tormenting myself with what I’m told I should be. Pointing myself in my best guess of the right direction and using spite as fuel to get me there is far more effective.

Been here before, my soul whispers.

You’d think it would get easier. But, like writing books, each one only teaches me how to deal with a particular, not really a general. What’s strengthened instead, each time, is that sheer stubborn spite rising when even mute endurance fails me.

I don’t write this to open old wounds or to congratulate myself. I write this to tell you–yes, you reading this–that you’re not alone. If you’re exhausted, if you think, “I should be doing better, more, something else”, believe me, it’s okay, you’re in good company. All our coping has been focused on sheer survival, the biggest purveyor of constant news-cycle trauma has been muzzled (however temporarily, though that’s a post for another day), and now we’re left in the ruins, staring at smoking wreckage and exhausted by the mere idea of attempting to rebuild anything at all.

It might be faint comfort that we’re not alone. Still, I’ll take it. I mean, there’s nothing else on offer, so one might as well.

Been here before, after all.

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