One of my first memories is of darkness, of feeling my way around our textured couch, and not being able to see. Of patches over my eyes and how the tape that held them there itched, but I couldn’t figure out how to get them off.
I was basically a baby and had an eye surgery. According to my mom, when I was born the doctors thought I was blind. They were wrong. And eventually I had an operation and glasses and now my right eye works pretty well. My left? That’s another story.
It seems impossible for me to remember that, being just a bit over one year old, firmly rooted in darkness and itchiness and yearning for light, and the mind is a funny thing, but I remember feeling powerless.
Another memory that came soon after that is of heroes and fire, of a boom outside, Mom screaming into the red phone on our wall and Dad rushing down our driveway’s long hill to see a truck in flames, one of his firefighter friends. He died there in the truck.
Mom and I waited, looking out the picture window at the orange and black flames leaping behind the trees that made a boundary between the road and our property. The firetrucks came. The volunteers came. And then Dad came back up the hill, much later, crying. He couldn’t save him.
I was maybe between three and five because my parents were still married. But my older sister was gone to be married whatever that meant. Then my older brother was gone to college and the house was quiet and dark even when my parents blazed at each other. And then my dad was gone too.
The nest of my family at my little brown house that my dad built decades before I came around had been stripped clean of everyone except Mom and me and I felt powerless to stop it.
The memories of people laughing and fighting of teenagers coming over were gone, just memory flickerings and ghost whispers.
And I grew up and along the way I realized that so often we are powerless to rumors, haters, trolls, systems meant to keep us in check and by the own negative scripts we hear in our brains about how we aren’t enough. We aren’t good enough, strong enough, woke enough yet. We aren’t awake. We aren’t talented. We aren’t… We aren’t.. We aren’t powerful.
But that’s not all we are.
The sparks of insecurity, hate, anger, jealously, rage, anxiety? We don’t have to let them turn into flames and burn ourselves down. But if we do? Then we need to rise up, rise up too, like a phoenix or whatever damn mythological creature you want to be. Sometimes it feels like just to be human is to be myth. Who are we? Do we float up after the fires, curl and moving skywards? Do we sweep our ashes up off the floor?
To be powerful is to understand that we are not all-powerful, all-knowing. To be powerful is to seek truths beyond our own. To be powerful is to watch and wonder and learn and to sometimes be quiet and to sometimes speak up. It’s to know that our place isn’t always with the burning truck. It’s to know that people leave but you can find new people. It’s to wander into your home, your dark home, and find your way around the couch safely.
We are all the myths that are humans, the reality of our own makings and it’s time to make those realities, those myths, those stories — all of it — into good ones.
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