I can see them in my mind’s eye – the glint of silver, light flashing off their smooth lines, deadly barbs curving innocently back on themselves. They’ve been in me so long, I barely notice their presence. But I know that something is not right. There is a dull ache in a certain spot, a sharp pain when I twist the wrong way. A fleeting thought sends me hurtling into despair.
They have found homes in different places in my body. Thoughts make themselves comfy in my stomach. I am not good enough. I do not deserve to be happy, loved, successful, healthy. Shameful memories in my low back, my spleen, or that spot under my shoulder blade. The time I was 5 and flashed my underwear to the school as I gave my friend a piggyback ride; 13 and bled through my pad and my pants at school; 22 and realized my roommates hated me because I got a puppy/had a friend stay/got a boyfriend. Years of feeling slapped by a relationship lie just under my breastbone. Invisible, unimportant, and disposable are hanging out drinking whisky under my left arm.
I am learning these thoughts and feelings are not true. They are habits. I am hooked. Like a lifelong smoker and her cigarettes, they are so much a part of me that I believe them to be me. I am beginning to take them out, look at them in the light, and allow them to transform.
I still have to contend with the fish hooks.
Ben’s death ripped a few out like a chainsaw ripping a band aid from a hairy arm. Removing the rest is turning out to be a slower process. I grab hold, spinning the hook, watching the barbs catch my flesh. I wonder if I have the strength to keep pulling. I wiggle gently. I yank, screaming like a Ninja warrior, ready to staunch the bleeding. I give up and let it slide back in. Not today.
Last night anger pulled a hook – or ten – into the light for me to look at. They’re still attached, oozing remnants of heartbreak, broken coffee mugs and smudged mascara. Today in yoga, as the cells of my body vibrated blissfully to the sound of the gong, my mind whispered sweet nasties in my ear.
I want them out.
I wonder if it’s possible to ignore them and continue growing, like the majestic oak we were married under, a long section of pipe running through its trunk 12 feet above ground. I wonder if they’ll dissolve like my surgical stitches if I smother them in compassion and love. I imagine how good it will feel when I shrug my shoulders and laugh at another slight instead of reeling backward, clutching my chest. I imagine the lightness when the flashing neon FAIL sign in my head no longer comes to life at the slightest provocation.
I wonder, as I hold the mirror up to last night’s damage, what life will feel like when I don’t have to remind myself to trust – it’s who I am, it’s what I do.