A million years ago tonight, I sat and gazed from a window very much like this one. Outside was a place I swore l would never come back to. A place that seemed so vast it was all I could do to prevent myself from running and hiding under the bed at the sheer thought of everything that this place represented. Everything that was in front of me.
Except I couldn’t run back then. Or stand. Or walk properly. And that was a bit of a bugger, quite frankly.
I had lived in a state of constant, relentless, suffocating fear for so long that I barely acknowledged it anymore. It was more like the fear had me. It had taken ownership and filled the empty shell I now knew as my broken mind and body. I had learned long ago that terror was not fight or flight. It was just part of being awake.
A hundred lifetimes ago tonight I sat in front of a window and gazed out at my little corner of West London. The place I had come to face it all. To put myself back together.
How do I start? And what happens if-as I suspect- the attempt of putting myself back together only results in my finding there’s too many parts of me missing now, corroded by the fear, to even attempt the crudest of patch-up jobs?-
I didn’t know where to start with fixing myself, so I did what I’ve done my whole life when chronic uncertainty comes to play. I made a list.
Deep breath. Pick up pen. Stop shaking. Start writing.
What do normal people do? One’s who haven’t spent years with a body that doesn’t work and exclusively in the company or their mum and their dog?
•walk down a street
•get on a bus
•go into a shop
•talk to a stranger
•try and look at that strangers face at least once during the conversation
•try and stand up for 2 minutes
•don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry
I made a list and it was pages long. I wrote and I wrote until I couldn’t see the words anymore. Until my hand went numb.
Until I started to remember what it felt like to mimic the actions of a whole, unafraid. Shatter-proof person again.
The list was vast, stretching miles from the half-person I was now, to the person I hoped to be on the other side. Someone who could definitely, probably, maybe handle the basics of a day. Who had friends and left the house and laughed possibly, occasionally, sometimes.
It became my I-Don’t-Want-To-Do List. It felt totally unmanageable. The components of it were far beyond my grasp.
•Put on a dress
•go for a screen test (whatever the hell that is)
•get a job on tv
•show the doctors they were wrong
•stay out the wheelchair. Stay out the wheelchair. Stay out the wheelchair.
It feels like so many nights have passed since that evening all those moons ago when I sat at my window and made my list. In reality it hasn’t even been all that many sunsets. Not as many as it feels, anyway. And I did do everything on that stupid f*cking list. And it was terrifying. Each part of it. Each endless moment. Until it wasn’t anymore. Then it just became my life. Second nature.
The fear went away because I trampled on it until it was smaller than I was. And I grew bigger and stronger and braver with every task that I drew a line through and mastered.
I’m glad I couldn’t see the future on that night. The night I sat staring out of my window at this town that seemed too big for one who felt so very small and insignificant. Because a lot of things got added to that list. Turns out there were a lot of different windows. My views would vary considerably. The miles between my here and now and the list’s finish line would stretch out incomprehensibly.
I got there though. The people around me changed, I changed. Most importantly the world I saw as unsafe, unstable, dangerous. That world changed into a place I trusted again. I placed I enjoyed.
Broken no more.
Sometimes I forget why I started these little electronic scribbles in the first place. On nights like tonight I remember: it’s for anyone who is also sat overwhelmed by their own I-Don’t-Want-To-Do List. Whatever stage you are at. However broken you feel. I want you to know that you can do it. Even if you aren’t physically able to put one foot in front of the other yet? Don’t let that stop you. Get that list out and start on it right now. And tomorrow. And all the days after to come. You can get to the other side of it. I know you can. I’ve been there. The fear will dissipate.
And you will emerge. Triumphant. All pieces intact. I promise