Why I write

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”

~ Toni Morrison, Beloved

It’s good to have a friend of your mind. Someone to call when you’ve fallen apart, when your head and your heart are in pieces and they’re too many and too sharp for you to pick up. Someone who will come when you call, survey the damage that has been done by you or someone else or something bigger than you both, bend down, gather up the shards that you’re too afraid to touch and maybe even too afraid to see, put them back together, and press the thing that was broken – cracked and scarred now, but almost whole again – into your hands.

I have friends like that. They listen. They talk. They try, in their own fumbling and well-intentioned ways, to put me back together.

Sometimes, though, my friends fail. There are days they don’t answer when I call, because they’re not there or they don’t want to be. There are days they give up and walk away because they, too, need mending, and they can’t fix in me what they haven’t already fixed within themselves. Sometimes they don’t even know how to fix me, and they give my heart back to me all crooked and deformed like a maimed china doll.

Those are the times I have to be my own friend, and I have to get up and open my eyes and pick up the shards of myself that lie scattered across the cold white floor. Steel my nerves against the pain that pierces my hands with every piece of glass I touch. Watch as my fingers bleed and stain the emptiness before me.

I can stop, turn away. Return to the numbness that I knew. Live with the brokenness. It’s easier to feel nothing than to feel pain.

But once I’ve started – once I’ve picked up that first piece – I can’t stop. I can’t unsee the wreckage, can’t unfeel that breath of cold, sharp air. I can’t forget what it was like to wake up and realize that I could still feel something, that I was still alive.

So I swallow the pain, every last drop of it, and I gather up all my pieces and arrange them in the way that I, and only I, know to arrange them, into something that no one else could ever have made for me. And when I’m done I stand up and look down at what I’ve created, and I find that in my torn and bloodied hands I’m holding a story.

© J. Grace, 2015


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