Another Block. Thoughts on turning thirty.
I am wandering without course; no destination, no purpose. My head pounds with dreams unlived and all of the effort used up on those dying and dead. Hope is so far away from me here. I can barely remember it. I know its presence only by its painful absence, and the nothingness that now consumes.
I am depressed, I tell myself dryly. Naming the unnameable void gives me no comfort any more. I keep walking; my eyes two saucers, a mixture of vacancy and deep pain that leads straight to my soul. I stare ahead, not really seeing. Only walking.
A man reaches out an empty Starbucks cup, and, shaking it, asks me if I can spare some change. I keep walking diverting my eyes. My heart rages. I could have helped him. I have change in my purse. My pain is drawn to his and for a second I pause and think about turning around. But a well of self-pity drowns out my heart and numbness sets in again. I walk on.
Where is my compassion? I ask myself. Where is my empathy?
I shrug and keep walking. The feeling will return, I tell myself. The pain is just too great for me to feel right now. I should be grateful for this cold despair.
One foot, and then the other, and then the other.
At the next intersection a man in a wheelchair approaches and I pause as he passes up the slope where the side walk meets the street. My dead eyes meet his gaze and anger flashes across his face. He probably thinks I hate him.
I keep walking straight into a coffee shop, and stare at the baked goods behind the counter. As the cashier approaches I turn around and walk out.
Another block. Another block. Another block.
Where am I going?
The question hits me and then falls to the ground, dazed like a bird flying into a window thinking it’s a tree. I can no longer hear myself.
Another block. Another block.
I turn into a little vestibule, brightly lit, with doors leading to shops and cafes. At the far end a sign with an arrow points right, toward a little Italian restaurant. I follow it and find myself in a stairwell.
The cement swallows the hollow sound of my heel landing on each step. Up. I am going up.
At the first floor I pause and stare at the door leading inwards. There is no handle. A world accessible only from the other side.
I keep walking and find that every floor is the same. Empty stairs leading to a door with no handle. At the fifth floor I stop and for the first time feel the pressure of my handbag straps cutting into the soft flesh above my shoulder. I shift uncomfortably.
The moment falls away and again I feel nothing. Up. I am going up.
I arrive at what is maybe floor nine. The end of the stairs. A large box filled with insulation and cardboard sits to my left. Again there is a door with no handle. I lean forward and push hard. The door moves a half centimetre and slams against a steel bolt jutting into the wall. Somewhere deep inside me I feel something break.
This is the end. I have arrived at this locked door with a box full of garbage. In two days I will be thirty.
My life flashes before my eyes. Slip ‘N Slides, apple picking, buckets of grain and coveralls; the squealing of the pigs. Fresh picked corn and harvest meals with my family under the old oak tree. Breaking curfew and falling in love on back country roads. Getting drunk for the first time. The tremble of my hands as I read my valedictorian speech. The buzz of traffic and sirens outside my window. The strange feeling of trying to fall asleep with ear plugs for the first time. The undergrad days of studying, drinking and partying. The metallic taste of sleeping pills in my mouth in the morning. The working out and the counting of calories. The hiding and the bingeing. The raw acid in my throat as I threw up my lunch. The scholarships and the awards and the leaving my high-school love as I dove into law school full time. The fancy wine and cheeses. The swank law firms in sky scrapers and bright twinkling city lights. New friends and more partying. My highlighter on case law. Studying late into the night. The drive across the country with my mom as I embarked on the next chapter. A clerkship at the Court. A bigger city. New friends and more partying. The days of smiles and hiding my eating disorder. The nights of crying and making promises to myself that I never could keep. The trying harder in articling than I’ve ever tried before. Breaking down crying in my office surrounded by boxes of documents. Finding the perfect friends and the perfect man and the perfect little law firm and letting them become my family. The exciting jam-packed life. The sneaking away. The bingeing and the purging. The hiding and the shame. The cold sleepless nights. The frustration of realizing my demons were still with me. The moment I decided to change. “Mom, I’m bulimic.” I hear myself say. The coming out. The writing. The blogging, the sharing my secrets with the world. The haunting of the question why and the quest I went on that transformed my life. Out of law and into worlds I did not know existed. The energy, the aliveness, the connection to all things. The bliss of the first moment I realized I was living it, I was writing, I was a writer, I was doing the thing that was my thing. The visioning and the moments with the divine. The painful healing, the letting go, the deep trust that began growing inside. The first conversation I had with my own soul. The days of blissful falling in love and forgetting everything. The entrepreneurial adventures and striving to save the world. The pain of losing it all again and the excitement of starting over. Losing it all again, and starting over. Living on couches and spare beds and futons. Falling in love harder and deeper than ever before. Holding my first published book in my hands like it was my very own child. Crying for hours when I let it go into the world. Coming back to my old life with my new perspective, my new peace with my body and my mind, and finding everything really was different because I was. The moment I realized I now knew too much about life and what I truly believed to ever truly fit in. The heartbreak and the exhaustion of fighting the knowing that I could not stay.
And now finding myself here. The end of the stairs. A box of recycled items beside me. Facing a handleless door. The climb has ended. There’s no where to go. Something inside me has died. My body knows this is true. I am exhausted and empty. I have lost interest in climbing. All I want is to be me. Nothing more.
I sit down on the concrete to cry, but I can't. I know its not the time. I don’t know how. But I know I must go on.
With one last look at the box of remains beside me, I gather myself up and walk back down the stairs. My steps muffled by the same concrete well, glancing at each landing towards the same handle-less doors.
As emerge I again see the sign with the arrow. Down one floor, it says.
Oh, I sigh. This time I take the elevator. I arrive at the cute little Italian restaurant as advertised.
I pull out my notebook. The words begin flowing. A glass of wine and a few pieces of cheesy pizza later the words are now flying. I order a second glass of wine with dessert and capture a picture of my half eaten lemon tart.
Many things are gone. Everything is stripped down. I am empty and bare like the autumn trees. But in this emptiness the fire in my heart has returned. My words spill out onto the page like paint onto a canvass. Three decades of life well lived.
I still do not know how.
But this is my life. I am alive. And I am writing it. I am making my art.
And I cannot think of a better way for my thirties to start.