April 21, 2009

Grin and Bear It

"Happiness is a mystery, like religion, and should never be rationalised."

He once told me he didn't think I ever stopped smiling. Oh, sweet boy. If he only knew.

It's taken me 24 years to hear someone say anything close to that. It's taken me that long. Things in my life have only been as difficult as anyone else's life-much less in many cases. There was something in me, however, that magnified every sadness and every setback. Some days were spent trying to do nothing but stay alive. Some nights were spent trying praying to go to sleep and forget for just a little while. It was all I could see. It was all of me.

And here I am now, looking at those feelings in a totally different light. I remember them all too vividly. A few times, I've even had old wounds surprise me. The flashbacks of how I would have felt and thought come back like a tap on the shoulder. They are snapshots and postcards from scary places I've visited, and I still have the scars and souvenirs. I'm not naive enough to think I will never go back there-life will not always be so kind. But it will be different the next time, because I've been here, too.

There is not a how-to guide or a series of steps that led me to this. I cannot give one move or one person credit, myself least of all. Maybe this happiness feels enlarged the way my other emotions did, but I hope I never find out. The contrast between a year ago and tonight could not be more staggering or more beautiful.

This happiness is oxygen, and I inhale quickly and gasp desperately. I crave more and more of it. Just as the pain was addictive, I cannot get enough of this. I've never felt so healthy, so peaceful, or so good. I scoop up the apartment, the classes, even the exercise and diet, and show them, like tiny diamonds reflecting light in my hands, to anyone who will look. It might not mean anything to them, especially those who haven't known me for years or who haven't had the darkest of days themselves. I know who I've been, though, and I know where I am. It's a show and tell I'm most proud of.

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