And one day, I woke up. I opened my eyes as if it were the first time ever and at last, I could see clearly. I took a deep breath and swore the lake in my mental mirror was no longer murky but at last, un-muddied, and finally reflecting the truth of a bright blue sky.
I was awake (at last) and the distractions of fear and shame were no longer a cloud in my vision. It was as though I could breathe and breathe freely without the weight of “All be damned” on my chest.
I felt cleansed somehow. I was cleansed by the truth and empowered by the directing dream that is best defined in a two-word sentence. These two words were the perfectly summed up the sentiment of my determination.
In times like this, the words “No more,” come in like the wings of a Guardian Angel. I felt a sense of my former self changing, shedding skin, and evolving from one form to another to become whole instead of me as half-measured or as someone lost or given to a life less-desired.
Not because of where I came from, not because of where I was or who I was with; not because I wanted to fit in, co-exist and interact, or be seen in the standards of “Normal” so I can be like the rest of the world; and not because of fear or the doubt that someone like me could have a reachable dream (or an achievable dream) but more so because for the first time, I opened my eyes and saw that I could not live that way anymore. I felt a strong sense of determination to be, live, and grow into the person I’ve always dreamed to be.
Suddenly, I came to a brilliant realization and moment of clarity. The life I lived was the life I had; however, the life I lived was not the life I wanted. So again, I thought to myself about two unmistakable words that when put together and used properly can encourage and empower even the weakest of hands.
I can tell you this; when I opened my eyes, I realized the rooms I lived in were wrong for me. I listed my needs for change. I saw myself and considered each change that needed to be and then I asked myself, “What would my life be like if I decided to live it this way?”
I had to ask myself, “Where do I want to be in life?”
I asked myself, “What do I want my life to look like?” And then I considered, “What will happen to my dreams if I stay exactly as I am?”
Thought long and hard.
What happens to the wings of our dreams after we deny them their ability to fly? Do they shrivel? Do they lose their strength? I wonder if my dreams go unattended or become the silenced will of a young child; I wonder what will happen to me when I wake up one day and realize, “I chose to live this way.”
There is something we call “Stockholm Syndrome,” which is when the imprisoned becomes trusting of their prison and the kidnapped finds trust in the kidnapper. This is wen the abused not only accepts but also turns to love the abuser and the hostage becomes comfortable to live without their freedom. As I see it, this happens in the depressed mind. As I see it, this happens with fearful life. You’re too afraid to reach out, too afraid to try, and too afraid to break free because once you leave your own prison, where do you hide now that your only source of understandable and comfortable pain is gone?
Sometimes (I swear) we stay where we are because it is all we understand, —and it’s not that we don’t want the change and it’s not that we don’t want the better life; it’s more that the world outside of our own mental cage is so damned big, so frightening, and so desperately unknown that we remain as we are because so land as we do, “At least we know what to expect.”
Pain is an understandable thing. In its absence, we fear its return, which is why we are scared to let go. This is why we stay in our cage, —it’s because we think we could never make it on the outside; hence the word recidivism, which means the habitual repetition and relapse of crime. Although the word crime indicates law; in this sense, I use the word crime as a description of our dreams delayed and the lives we live as if we were less than or unworthy.
One morning I woke up and the sky in my mind was clear. I saw myself and the world around me and came to the conclusion that it was time to say those two perfect words. “No more!”
No more life without love.
No more life without my dreams.
No more living in the wrong rooms with the wrong people and pretending, “This is where I belong,” when of course, I know it’s not. And above all, no more settling for the life I have in exchange for the life I’ve always wanted.
I needed to see this. I needed to understand my involvement in my own captivity in order to be free. One morning, I woke up. I opened my eyes and saw the life I had was not the life I wanted. I came to the realization that since I am always the square root to my own equation, —it all begins and ends with me. And if it begins with me then it’s on me to make the difference; otherwise, the equations and the math in my life will never change.
Nothing changes if nothing changes. I woke one morning, unsatisfied, and finally willing to take the necessary steps towards living the way I’ve always wanted to. In all all honesty, all it took was a simple decision.
I had one goal in mind, which is to be happy with the reflection I see in the mirror. However, it took different goals in several different parts for me to begin to achieve this. I needed to find a strategy. I needed to commit myself to this strategy, stick to it, and see this plan come to completion.
One day, I woke up to the first morning in a new apartment. The rooms were empty and so was my bank account. My car was about to go and the used one I purchased was not what I planned. My apartment we the kind of empty that made the rooms echo. I didn’t even have a dining room table, nor a dining room to put this in. No, I had a couch and T.V tray tables. I had an old television set with a built in VCR, no cable television, and the only movies I had was the only obsolete VHS tapes I had left, which was Pulp Fiction and a few straggler adult videos that were worn out from old previous use and dated back to the late 70’s.
I didn’t have much. I didn’t know what was about to happen next and I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get back up on my feet. I felt like a failure as a man and also as a father. I entered a divorce, which I accepted as victory because that life with that person was certainly the wrong one for me. I had my share of hardships and seemingly endless list of concerns but at least I wasn’t held back anymore. At least I wasn’t in the wrong rooms with the wrong people, the wrong family, and the wrong friends. Most importantly, at least I was free to achieve my dreams.
I swear that first morning when the sun came in through the curtains in the bedroom of my little upstairs apartment on Forrest Avenue, I thought to myself, “I may not have much but at least I’m free.”
In hindsight, I had everything I needed . . .