We saw everyone around us smiling and repeating “I’m fine! I’m fine!” and we found ourselves unable to join them in all the pretending. We had to tell the truth, which was: “Actually, I’m not fine.”
It pulls in all the bad stuff: guilt, despair, shame, anger, disappointment, confusion, worry, exhaustion, and pain of all varieties. The ShopVac of Suffering. It sucks into its belly the cobwebs from the corners and the black mold from the basement and the decades-old crud buried deep in the carpet.
Engine growling, it whips this mix into misery soup.
But that’s not the end, no. This is only an intermediate step. The beast is just getting ready. Once it’s got all the gunk good and frothed up, it spits it back out the other end. It coats whatever is within reach, and then some. Everyday stresses. Pending decisions. Task lists. Interactions past and present. Social obligations. Onto every surface and into every pore seeps this toxic melange until even the simplest act is a thicket of thorns. Until the smallest errand is a slog through Mordor.
Its form of torture is brilliant. It makes you think the shirt that needs folding is the trial. Or that the kid refusing to do homework is your adversary. It globs up your vision so all you can see is more of the same foul tar covering everything and everyone. It leaks into your ears so all you hear is the pressing demand of this task and the echoes of your inability to get such a straightforward thing done.
It lies. It makes you tell lies to yourself. It souses all decisions with a stink of danger. It obscures the doors and exits. It chokes you when you try to call out for directions, for a little help.
It’s easy to forget how mighty a force it is when it has you in its grip. It becomes invisible in its pervasiveness. It fools you into believing you’re in charge and that this power failure is a result of defective wiring in a condemned house.
Consider giving this thing a little respect. While you should take care not to serve it your love, maybe spare a helping of admiration? The monster, in all its dreadfulness, has a rather elegant design. It knows how to draw upon the worst fears and doubts. It uses that accumulated force to turn around and animate them. To give shape to nightmares. To make their voices that sound like your own.
Consider giving this thing a little respect. Then send it back where it came from.
Not inside you, no, but before you. And beyond you. Send it back to its origins in the teeming soil of the dense, steaming forest. To the inkiest bowels of the sea. Offer it to the forces of erosion and decomposition, corrosion and oxidation. Give it to the ravenous work of regeneration.
Let the hungry microbes separate the bones from the beast. Let the good earth return darkness to its beginnings.
Image: Under Earth on Seplawan Cave, Purworejo, Jawa Tengah Indonesia. Photo by Bangkit Prayogi on Unsplash