John Lennon once said “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Well, I’ve made plans—lots and lots of plans—and a whole lot of life happened instead. I never intended to become an editor until I did; I was never sure that I should go freelance until I was; and I didn’t think I would ever be happy enough with my writing to publish it, but I am. I also never thought I’d become so fascinated with the Vikings and their mythology, but what I’m getting out of that relatively new-found love is far better than what I’d had planned before. I love researching and writing, and now I do plenty of both.
But it hasn’t all been good, either. In the last year and a half, I’ve had to machete-hack my way through a seemingly unending jungle of personal devastation. My life today barely resembles the life I had on April 4, 2015.
* * *
As my high school philosophy teacher liked to say, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Until the last year or so, I hadn’t found anything bad enough—or good enough—to die for, although I’d come damned close a few times, mostly because of bad stuff. And where was the good stuff? It was mixed in with my blood, sweat, and tears, but I could barely taste its sweetness in this noxious concoction.
Meanwhile, I had long-since forgotten what it felt like to be the little girl who played in the rain. That little girl looked at the stars with pure wonder and did not worry about air pollution or light pollution, she dreamed without asking whether she would ever have the money or the courage to do what she wanted, and she gave love and affection without being paralyzed by fear. But when the bad things happened, she stopped living and fell into a spiritual stasis. Her soul collapsed until it fit into the tiny, airless space it had been allotted.
Then, on April 5, 2015, she was forced to decide between life and death. She chose to live.
* * *
What an awful and strangely appropriate fluke it was that, on Easter Sunday 2015, the person I was died, and a new person began to fill the hole left behind. I finally realized how deep and dark my rut was, and that the people I had trusted my whole life were the very people keeping me trapped in it. I began to understand that this pattern would never change and might even get worse, so I staged my own private Ragnarök. Piece by piece, I set fire to the old world so a new one could take its place.
Since then, I’ve been dealing with intense personal suffering, the culmination of many years of abuse that led to a deep depression and sometimes crippling anxiety. I think I have a grip on it now, slippery as it is, and with the help of my friends, my art, and my antidepressants I’m in a better place. I am much happier than I used to be, but I still often feel a bit listless. The things I love to do are often difficult and require a lot of work, and I tend to hold unreasonably high expectations of myself. I have a need to fill and a challenge to meet; there is a person I want to be and I’m not her, at least not yet. The person I want to be remembers what it felt like to be five. Sometimes, though, I remember too.
* * *
This summer has been a fairly dry one, and by the end of June my sister was complaining that the grass was already brown and dead (and it has pretty much stayed that way ever since). A few good rains have come, though, mostly in August when the muggy weather was stifling. After about a week of soaring temperatures and brutally humid air, a heavy storm hit Toronto and I ran out to my balcony to watch it roll in. Half of the city disappeared behind billowing sheets of driving rain as massive droplets soaked into the dry earth. The street at the bottom of the hill became a temporary reservoir through which drivers cautiously manoeuvered their cars. The cool winds brought relief from a weeks’ worth of misery but it wasn’t enough. I stepped to the edge of my balcony, thrust my arms into the storm, and lifted my face to the rain … and there she was, the five-year-old country girl who practically jumped into her rubber boots at the first sign of rain and dashed outside, fully dressed, daring the thunder to come and get her.
People like to say that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but they’re wrong. I’ve been struck repeatedly, but I know now that I can withstand the sheer voltage. I am ready to walk into the storm.