From the fifth dimension, the sound of the swing set creates visible, discordant ripples across the quantum field. She goes back and forth, back and forth. Trying to disturb the isolated torment of silence with her movements. The sunlight comforts the strands of her hair. It shines gold wherever the sunlight touches. Her cheeks are dry. There are no tear stains where there should be. She has grown accustomed to the reliable consistency of pain.
I am out of body again. I have gone back in time. From the fifth dimension, I have access to all potential timelines branching off of an individual’s life. I am viewing a moment in the life of one of my best friends. She is 11 years old. She has no awareness of me. But she feels like she is being watched. I know that any movement I make will alter the course that her life has taken. And so, I keep still.
I can see that so far in her life, chasing light in the future has been nothing but a recipe for disappointment. Pleasure brings uncertainty. The only certain thing is pain. Pain has become the only thing that is real. The only thing that is permanent, the only thing that can be relied upon. If she doesn’t expect anything good to happen, she is safe. And so, she keeps her mind and heart immersed inside of it; like an amphibian hiding under the surface of the water. The pain has become her safety. It protects her from having and losing. It protects her from experiencing the loss of her dreams, the loss of her hope, the loss of her wants and needs, the loss of happiness. She does not see that expecting pain keeps her safe. But it also keeps her unsafe. She is surviving the ineffable torment of uncertainty by making pain certain. I identify with this girl. The identification is a strong enough vibration that it acts as a vehicle. I am transported somewhere else.
I am hovering over the top of a large hole in the ground. It is loosely covered with a circular array of wood planks. They are nailed together in a lattice pattern with rusted nails. The wood is weathered into a silver grey. There is a girl in the hole underneath the planks. She rocks back and forth, back and forth. Trying to disturb the isolated torment of silence with her movements. The sunlight coming through the slits in the wood, comforts the strands of her hair. It shines copper wherever the sunlight touches. Her cheeks are dry. There are no tear stains where there should be. She has grown accustomed to the reliable consistency of pain.
I am still out of body. I am watching myself on the exact same day at the exact same time. I am 13 years old. The younger me is aware that I am standing over her. But does not know who I am. When she sees the image of me at 32 years old, she comes to the conclusion that I am simply another spirit guide. This happened to me so often as a child. I would see my adult self coming back to ‘guide’ me. And I would have no idea that it was in fact my future self.
Looking at my younger self I can see that so far, chasing light in the future has been nothing but a recipe for disappointment. Pleasure brings uncertainty. The only certain thing is pain. Pain has become the only thing that is real. The only thing that is permanent. The only thing that can be relied upon. If she doesn’t expect anything good to happen, she is safe. And so, she keeps her mind and heart immersed inside of it; like an amphibian hiding under the surface of the water. The pain has become her safety. It protects her from having and losing. It protects her from experiencing the loss of her dreams, the loss of her hope, the loss of her wants and needs, the loss of happiness. She does not see that expecting pain keeps her safe. But it also keeps her unsafe. She is surviving the ineffable torment of uncertainty by making pain certain.
Two girls, living out the same life. Perfect mirrors of each other. Miles apart in the same country. Unaware of each other. Unaware that in the future, their paths will converge. They wont be alone anymore.
We expect bad things to happen because bad things did happen to us. To one degree or another, tragedy did strike for us. And when it struck, we felt so blindsided, so powerless and so unable to explain why it happened, that we decided we had no control over our lives. We decided we were at the mercy of a cruel world that could harm us at any moment. We decided that the only control we did have and the only way to ensure that we would not get blindsided again, was to immerse ourselves in the pain so we never had to feel the torment of having sunlight and losing it. We started to expect and prepare for the worst. Preparing for the worst is a coping mechanism. It is a survival strategy. It is a survival mechanism for people who have been hurt and especially for those of us who have been hurt again and again. The most painful part about expecting the worst is the feeling of grieving for things before they have even happened. We miss people before they are even gone. We feel disappointment before we have been let down. We feel the crushing weight of the loss of people we love, even when they are alive and well.
I come back to my body at 32 years old. Lying in bed. I can feel all the sensations we don’t normally notice day to day. The blood flowing in my finger tips. The alveoli expanding and contracting in my lungs. The smooth muscle contractions in my intestines. My pupils dilating and constricting to find balance with the moonlight.
I cannot sleep anymore. I am thinking that it is possible to identify with and love a friend so much that it hurts. She walked into my life and it felt like she had been there all along. To see her in pain, fills me with pain. Some call this healthy. They call it love. Others call this unhealthy. They call it identification. Either way, it is. I see her. I see her reflected in the moments of my life.
There is a kind of inauthenticity that is unintentional. It just happens because most of us are inspired to share beautiful things. When you look through a photo album belonging to a family where incest or alcoholism is going on, you don’t see pictures of a father fingering his daughter when she’s in diapers. You don’t see images of her arms cut up when she is a teen. You don’t see pictures of alcohol bottles and beaten faces. You don't see pictures of the kids hiding in the closet. It’s not that they are hiding it intentionally. It’s that no one feels inspired to take those pictures. No one feels inspired to make a scrapbook out of them. No one wants to keep those moments, regardless of how the mind is haunted by them.
I look through my own Instagram feed. My life is epic. My life looks like a dream. I hang out with the best people. I go to places around the world that most people will never see. I get everything a girl could ever want. I seem lucky. In every picture, I look happy. And I think about how inaccurate people’s impressions of me really are based on these photographs. I can feel people looking at them, wondering why their lives are so mediocre in comparison. I can feel them wondering where they have gone wrong. I realize that I am guilty of the same line of questioning. Sometimes when I see pictures of people having new babies or getting married or belonging with the people in their lives etc. I feel like something is wrong with me. I feel the same way about them that they feel about me when I look at their photo albums or Instagram or Facebook feeds. We have no way of knowing if the picture we are looking at is a picture taken of one smile amidst an entire day of tears. We don’t tell people to take pictures of us when we are in a fetal position on the floor wondering if we can continue with life. We don’t snap a selfie in the middle of an anxiety attack. The wedding photographer is not there to capture you in the middle of a couple fight. And honestly, even if it wasn’t about not wanting people to see those moments of our life, who would want to take a picture of those moments? Who would even think to get a camera? It just doesn’t seem like the time. And yet it’s REAL.
I wish that Instagram would dedicate a day to realness. A day where people were encouraged to post whatever is real that day, regardless of whether or not it is ‘good’. Perhaps I can encourage the ‘tribe’ to create a hash tag for it like #realifemoment. Everyone loves a beautiful photograph of a wonderful moment in life. But they also paint a picture of life that is only part of the picture. They paint a picture that isn’t real. They lead us to believe that life should be a fairy tale for us, because they lead us to believe that it is for everyone else here. It isolates us in our pain. It makes us wonder what we are doing wrong. It makes us assume things about each other’s lives that don’t benefit anyone to assume.
Thinking about my friend swinging on the swing set at 11 years old, I am thinking about how different the inner world can be from the outer world. I am thinking about the pain that can be going on beneath the surface of a life that seems to be kissed by sunlight from the outside. And for her sake, I wish for this to be a world where we can see both the sunlight and the pain beneath the surface of each other’s lives. I wish for us to really see each other.
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