For me this time of year has become the most emotionally powerful anniversary in my life. Two years ago I learned what it was like to lose everything. A week after moving into a new apartment with 2 of my (then) best friends a fire in the apartment above us caused the sprinkler system to malfunction and pipes to burst, flooding everything. As my 2 friends escaped with only minor casualties, the worst of the damage was to my room and the living room. Since all of the living room furniture was mine, I literally lost 90% of what I owned. The yellow tinged, smelly water was inescapable. When I close my eyes I can remember the soreness in my throat from the smell and how my feet were wet and clammy for days after wading in the water to try and help my roommates save their stuff while watching the construction workers haul mine to the dumpster.
The pipes burst just after midnight. I called my mom at 2 am hoping for a few minutes that I could show some weakness and cry. My roommates were surrounded by their families who had rushed over to help both physically and emotionally. My mom told me I was pathetic and hung up on me. Looking back, I realize why this night has had such an impact to my soul. I went through that disaster alone.
Have you ever closed your eyes and had to struggle to hold them closed because it took less effort to stare at the wall? For months every time I closed my eyes I could smell the water and see my bed covered in pots as a waterfall fell from my bedroom light fixture right into the middle of it. My eyes wouldn’t close. It hurt to remember. It hurt to feel.
Within months of the flood my life changed in just about every way possible. I was diagnosed with diabetes, insomnia, depression and an anxiety disorder. The meds my doctor put me on didn’t like each other, so he put me on 2 months short term disability to try and heal my body and mind so every day life was liveable.
I know you’re probably thinking I’m pathetic and weak for allowing material things to affect me like this. For the better part of the last 2 years I’ve beat myself up for it until I realized it wasn’t the ‘things’ I lost that caused me to become this beast, it was the loss of my family and friends.
Shortly after the flood I came out to my friends and family that I no longer considered myself Catholic and didn’t believe in organized religion. Having come from an extremely Catholic family and surrounding myself with friends who only had other Catholics as their friends, I quickly found myself losing people one by one. The hardest part was when an old friend lashed out against me on Facebook in a long note proclaiming to the online community that I was an idiot and going to hell.
After the fires died, I remember going through my phone and deleting all the people who no longer considered themselves my friend. I was left with 12 phone numbers, 4 of which belonged to my mom, dad and grandparents.
This post is getting much longer than I intended it to, so I’ll cut to my point. After the loss of my possessions, friends, body, mind and soul I have come out the other side and found a life willing to take a woman who was little more than dead and mold her into someone who now has a fighting chance at chasing her dreams once again. Friends who know I’m a writer have asked me why its so hard for me to finish stories and why I’ve shaped worlds I haven’t bothered to dedicate any time writing. Its because I didn’t see a future for myself and didn’t want the world to have the final pieces of my soul the last 2 years hadn’t taken yet. For that time, the flickering light of my dreams was the only thing that never failed me. Now, I’m ready to start shaping that flickering light into a bonfire so that I can share it with whoever wants to join.
Tonight, I have a bed. Tonight, I have a community of friends who love me for me. Tonight, I’m smiling because there’s a beautiful future worth fighting for.
Tomorrow, I start the journey I thought 2 years ago had destroyed.
To help me never forget what I’ve come through I had the words ‘Defy Gravity’ tattooed on my right wrist. Last year on this anniversary I had a soaring sparrow tattoed on my left wrist to help me remember I can fly. Tomorrow I will finish my sparrow with color and shading so that I can remember the beauty and pride of a fulfilling life. My sparrow will soar, a colorful rememberance that defying gravity isn’t impossible.