by Lindsay Dunn

When I was 19 I went on a walk, not for the first time and not for the last time, but still different all together. Looking back now, it was the day I saved my life, it was the day I became a survivor. I wasnít walking to clear my thoughts but I was walking away, away from the person I had become. I walked and I talked, to no one in particular, just to myself. Without an audience, without a judgmental ear, I talked. I have spent 19 years walking and 19 years talking, but yet still in 19 years no one has listened and I have never reached a destination.

Tomorrow will be different. I say "will" to myself with an assurance that it has to be different. When I look back on life I donít laugh and I donít cry, I think. What in the hell have I done to myself? In 19 years the biggest struggle I am yet to overcome is surviving me. Surviving Me. It sounds so clichť and yet so real at the same time. I am my own biggest adversary, because I have been responsible for my own destruction and my own savior all at the same time.

As I walk on this night, people stare and look at a girl destroyed, reduced to a walk leaving insanity and searching for sanity. I start to talk again, holding not a conversation but a monologue with myself.

The most prominent memory I have of life is sadness. So far I have accomplished nothing and sabotaged everything I ever wanted. I didnít want failure, but yet I am here. I didnít want to be lonely, but yet walking alone on his dark night embodies it all the same. I didnít want to be lost and yet I look in the mirror and I donít recognize the person I have become and the question arises again: What have I done to myself? This time I say the question out loud but with a sadness that makes me cry. The single tear slides down my face and drops to the ground in silence. You used to wipe my tears away with your hand. You used to kiss my tear stained face and make me smile. You gave me a security I may never find again. Now I wipe my own tears and attempt to smile.

A month ago I left the only security I have ever possessed. I guess to get the full effect of this journey you have to understand this cycle of destruction, the person that rescued me and then let me free to rescue myself. Its almost like you are here, shaking your head in agreement as I proceed with my story. I smile, recognizing the acceptance I see in the in the emptiness of this night and continue.

I was raised to lose. The game was set up so that I couldnít win. I played for keeps and yet lost it all. Reflecting back on the dark shadow that towered over me in disapproval, I see my own imminent failure. The shadows were never satisfied. As a child I tried so hard to be all that they wanted and yet failed every time. In some kind of effort to reach impossible standards I took control of the only thing I had any control of, myself. I tortured to be something everyone could love. I never strived to be something I could love. Eventually as I learned to hate myself because they always did, I started to pave a path for destruction. Misery loves company, and the misery I felt radiated off me towards the whole world. How could anyone love me if I didnít love myself? How did I deserve their love? Your presence looks at me and you shake your head. I continue to walk.

The dark shadows now are everywhere. I walk for a while in silence, trying to return to the story with an ease that would satisfy my audience amongst the trees. Another tear streams to the ground.

In the slow decay that had now taken over my whole body, I found you. You became the only security I had ever known. I didnít believe I saw you, I thought you were only my imagination. How could you care for me? How could you miss me? How could you ever think of me as yours? I never answered these questions until tonight. I never thought they had answers. Now in your in absence I realized you were real. You were the only real thing I ever wanted and for a brief time had. You found a happiness in me I didnít know existed. You saw a smile on my face that I didnít know I was capable of. I never deserved you and yet you felt the same about me. Its hard now to tell this story in past tense, talking about what used to be. Sometimes at night, when I am alone I see you. You brush my hair away from my face and kiss me, so soft, and so gentle. In this instance, right before sleep and yet right after wake you are mine again. If I could slow down one second, it would be this. I miss the way you held me so tight. I miss the way I never felt alone in a world that had abandoned me. You knew exactly how to handle my shadows and bury my fears of the night. I love you, but until tonight I can honestly say I never knew what it really felt like. It is ironic now to walk without you. So many times we walked and talked about nothing. I never thought I could feel so complete and incomplete all at the same time.

I stop and sit down on a bench to feel the cool air breeze past my neck. I listen to the sounds of the night. It is weird how I havenít cried yet, for anything. I havenít let myself feel your absence. In my own state of mind I can pretend you are thinking about me, crying for what you gave up even though deep down I know it isnít true. I can go on everyday and pretend you are still mine.

I feel numb. I am not sad, I know I should be, but I am not. When you left I stopped feeling. I am not happy nor sad just indifferent, as if this is all happening in a movie I am watching on t.v. I know the story is sad but it doesnít jerk me to tears. I am so sorry and so thankful at the same time. You wanted to be everything for me. You wanted to be the father that never hit or threatened me. You wanted to be the mother that never belittled me. You wanted to be the happiness I could never see in myself, and you were. You were the best friend I never had. Looking back I think I relied on you too much. The job was too much and you put in everything you had until it was completed and when it was, you had nothing left. I am so thankful for the sacrifices you made for me and so sorry for the unhappiness it finally gave you. Somewhere along the way we switched roles. I became happy for the first time in my life and you began to be sad. You went away to college and depended on me to support you. I tried. I failed.

Some things you have to do alone, you said and I agreed. I now know love. I let you leave. That was the only gift I could ever give you that would begin to repay you for what you gave me. For you I let go. I let it all go. If you go out in this world and find happiness without me then maybe I can begin to be happy again too. I try to cry and I canít. I think of what I have given up and no tears come. I am mute and indifferent to the pain.

I get up to walk again, this time slower. For so long I carried around the shadows. I tortured myself with the sadness I have felt inside. Now for you I let it go.

You have finally lost it, I accuse myself. You are walking alone and talking to yourself. In the same accusation, I break down. I fall to the ground and shake profoundly from this flood of emotions. Under this tree, alone in the grass I cry. I let it all go. Somewhere after what seems to be hours passes my crying stops. I look up and notice that during my walk night has turned to day. I must have been walking longer then I thought. I sit and watch the day begin, quiet and content now with my own silence. Something is different. Somewhere along the way I lost something. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my entire body. A new feeling that I donít even recognize at first has swept over me. Forgiveness. I begin to forgive. I forgive the shadows that tortured me my whole life and I forgive myself for letting them. I forgive you for leaving me and I thank you, this time out loud. Thank you, I say. Your presence that has seemed to follow me this long night smiles and walks away. I smile back, as if saying I will be alright. You donít need to be my security anymore. I watch you walk away, and realize you have some of your own walking to do. I will be there for you too on your walk, if you need me, I say to no one. Anytime and for no reason at all I will always be there. I love you, I call to you as you leave my constant thoughts. I smile. After a few minutes I get up to walk home. Today will be different. This time I say "will" to myself knowing it will always be different, and for that I thank you.

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Surviving Me, 28 October 2001