When we open the book that will become the story of our life, the pages lay naked, wanting, beckoning us, coaxing us, until the words begin to appear, slowly, one by one, where we can clearly make out each letter as its ink blots the page. And then suddenly, in quick succession, sentences and paragraphs and chapters begin to form. Beginnings and endings. Endings and beginnings.
Life holds no promises. There are no five year guarantees. When life knocks us down we can choose to fall down the tunnel, spinning and spiralling out of control until finally we think we have hit rock bottom, only to have another cavern open up and swallow us in deeper. Or we can dust ourselves off, pick ourselves up, straighten our collars, and put that shoe that flew across the room back on. And we can give ourselves a hearty pat on the back and say, “Well done you! You made it! You might be tattered and your edges might be frayed, and like the Velveteen Rabbit your insides may be falling out and the threads holding your eyes in might be somewhat loose, but hey, you’re still here.”
And do you know what that means? It’s means that you’ve still got work to do. The world needs you. Because each day you wake up and go into the world, you have the opportunity to change someone’s life.
We are living in the Age of Enlightenment, which means that we are waking up. Sometimes it is in the act of awakening that we experience the most pain. But it’s all good, because that pain is moulding us into the greatest version of ourselves, and often that pain – as raw as it is – can be channelled as a healing tool towards someone else who is drowning in that abyss.
Blame, guilt and retribution are tools of the coward. We cannot change the past. We cannot feed ourselves a daily breakfast of what-ifs and if-onlys. We can only thank the past for its lessons and somehow find peace as we learn to live with the consequences of our choices, knowing that others are living with them too.
Had the map of my life been offered to me on a silver platter when I entered this world, and had the lessons been hidden from me, I would have brushed the platter aside and sent it crashing to the floor. Had I seen the lessons, the gifts that were going to be revealed to me (admittedly through many hours of alternating screaming and sobbing and desperation), I would have graciously accepted the journey that lay ahead of me.
In hindsight however, it was probably better that I didn’t know.
Disbelief, anger, hurt, betrayal; there was not one of these words that I did not experience in its full magnitude during this decade of my life. I was crushed with the weight of eight years of expectation. My fault, I know that now, but the trajectory of that particular course of my life had already determined itself and I found myself backed up against a wall, just waiting to die. Which I wanted to. Many times. A bridge over a highway. A dark street where nobody would know. A truck driving the other way. That packet of pills. But somewhere deep in my soul I knew that giving up was not an option. Life could – and would – still go on, except that this time, I would be writing the terms and conditions. For me.
And so I picked up the shattered pieces. I said my goodbyes. I packed up my belongings. And I left.
My beautiful, precious children hugged me and cried with me and told me, with unwavering hope in their eyes, that everything would be okay, as long as we were together. That everything would be okay in the end. Because if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
But when nobody was looking, or asking, in truth I felt as if I was dying. I sobbed my heart out driving to the office. I sobbed it out driving back home again. I would lie awake at night wondering when that big hole was going to open up. I wondered how long I could keep things up. I wondered whether I could keep my sanity in check. How I wished sometimes that my mind would just wander off and never return.
But it stayed.
Because I still had work to do.
As I close the chapter on this part of my life I will admit that my eyes are not dry and that my heart still aches for all that was lost; but there is one thing that I know for sure, and that is that my soul is on fire. It’s alive for the first time in years. I feel as if I have taken a flaming sword and cut through everything that was holding me back from being the authentic me.
I’ve learned that sometimes you need to lose everything to find yourself again. It’s been the scariest rollercoaster ride ever, but hey, that’s life. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s just downright terrible. But what counts the most, no matter what part of the rollercoaster you’re on (and remember that life is just one long rollercoaster), it’s the people who are sitting beside you and in front of you and behind you, all screaming, or crying, or laughing with you. And some of them are holding your hand. Or wiping the tears from your eyes. Or kissing your forehead. Or grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you to wake up.
It is with excitement, or, perhaps, even a certain amount of trepidation, that I look down at the blank book that will be opened tomorrow and whose pages I am yet to fill. What will this new chapter in my life bring? Love? Luck? Adventure? Peace perhaps? I vote for all of these, and then some.
It is time to celebrate this beautiful gift called life.
It’s time to make another dent in the Universe.
P.S. Alex and Claudia found their way back to each other eighteen months later. They understood their soulmate contract but knew that they were not meant to be together forever. Claudia forgave him for his meanderings when it became apparent that all was not as it had appeared. It was a necessary ending.
Kyle and Ross have grown into fine young men. Although their journey has been difficult, it has given them a greater sense of empathy and connectedness towards other human beings.
Claudia learned to love herself again. When she was ready, she found and experienced love on a completely different level, and her heart began to mend.
She still speaks to Gareth when nobody is watching.