The fact that I can sleep now without being awoken by horrible nightmares, that I wasn't kept awake all night by unrelenting insomnia, progress.
These past years I have walked a road, one that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies.
It was a road I never thought I would have to walk, one I didn't walk by choice. There was no intention or volition on my part when it came to how I found myself on that long and winding road.
It is a road that I never anticipated walking, a road I never understood until I found it beneath my feet. I believed that I could predict what I would do if I ever had to walk it...and I was wrong.
You really don't know what you would do in any given situation until you have actually been there.
Anything that you postulate about how you would react, what you would do, how you would feel, a guess based entirely on hypotheticals. Usually entirely wrong, by the way.
That truth is just one of the many lessons I've learned on this path, this particular truth one that applies not just to this situation, but quite literally anything in life where people like to make judgments about that which they don't understand.
I've learned not to judge that which I don't understand.
I've learned just how little I understand.
I've learned that those things I cannot understand, I must accept.
I've learned that people make the choices they make for their own reasons, and that regardless of what we think about those choices, they belong solely to the people making them.
That doesn't, by the way, mean that every man is an island. The truth couldn't be further.
Reality tells us that although choices are something that rest in the hands of the person with the decision to make, and with them alone, the effects of that choice ripple out long and reaching. Our choices may just be about us, but they impact far more people that we can seem to appreciate at the time, and for far longer than we imagine possible.
It's why I have walked this road for as long as I have...not because of my choices, but because of the ripples.
Some of those ripples have been tidal waves that tried and almost succeeded in pulling me under the surface for good.
I'm here now though. Washed ashore. My eyes have finally adjusted to the brightness of the light. My clothes have dried off. I brought with me some scars, some that you can see. More that you can't.
Along the way, I picked up PTSD. My anxiety got worse. I flirted with depression more than once. My disordered eating reared its ugly head a few times. I ended up in the emergency room twice with panic attacks. I had to ask for help and then I had to seek it and then I had to keep with it when it became unbearable. I had to go back to the worst place again, by choice, to move forward.
And I did it.
My walk on this path hasn't been an easy one. Others had to walk paths as well, though their paths were necessarily different than mine was. Their choices, their ripples different.
I'm here now though. I made it.
I survived, and then I learned to live again.
This morning, as my eyes adjusted to the brightness of the light of this day, I was filled with so much gratitude. Not for the path I walked or why, but for the lessons learned along the way.
I'm even grateful for the scars.
I'm grateful to live in a world filled with hope, a world where I know that things can be better.
Because they are better.
As I slowly entered the conscious reality of today, the flutterings of the life inside me that tell me I'm going to be okay. I knew where I'd been, where I wanted to be, how I had to get there. To get here.
I had to walk that road.
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring