Empty Frames

Before I enter the room for any event, big or small, there is usually that pause when my hand is on the doorknob and I have to ask myself whether or not I want to actually be there. Is it worth it? Can I skip? What would the consequences be? Even if it’s a really important event, there is always that moment of anxiety wrapped in anticipation. I walk down the hallway that has doubled in length since I last walked down it to this particular door. I take my sweet time, running my hands along the bumpy surface of the wall, try to make out patterns in the shadowed ceiling, and listen to the click-clack of my shoes against the hard surface. My pace slows as the door suddenly rushes towards me and I find my hand touching the cold silver of the doorknob. I hold it and hope desperately that I didn’t nudge enough to make a sound that alerted the people I was there. Holding my breath, I squeeze my eyes and pretend to disappear. It takes me a while to collect my confidence, digging deep into the reserves that suddenly ran low, and put on my best smile.

Last month, I moved to a new home. I am entering this new year a new age and into a new home with a new school. This is the event of all events. I’m VIP and I can’t skip it. Commitments have been made and expectations placed upon me I feel obligated to fulfill. Naturally, this is the event I stand the longest outside the door, nervous, and waiting. I turn around and lean against the door of my future. The hallway becomes appealing and I smile as the memories pop up in picture frames. Kicking myself off of the door, I want to look at each moment captured in frames before I cross the threshold. I know I’m not leaving forever but a temporary goodbye is still a goodbye no matter how I say it. See you later is temporary, but it still means I don’t get to see you now. I’m a creature of habit and I want to keep reality exactly the way it is. It’s easier that way. Being a coward suddenly isn’t a bad thing. I’ll just glance at a couple, I lie to myself, just one more glance before I move. My conscience probably rolled her eyes at me and returned to her puzzle book and tea. My journey down the hallway of memories begins with the newest moments. I run my finger along the bumpy frame, the glass holds my reflection within the moment, and the film in my mind begins to run.

The first frame contains my support group family. I see each of them standing, arms around each other, smiling brightly. There are dozens of people squeezed into a small frame. There must be an infinite amount of space in that frame to contain the love that is bursting from their smiles. I see father figures in their colorful sweaters that match the season, comfortable jeans and running shoes that only dads wear casually. One or two have a baseball cap and glasses resting on the bridge of their nose. Their graying hair is cut short and some have facial hair peeking next to their smiles. The smiles are bright enough to light up a room and the kindness that radiates from them is magnetic. I see mother figures in cozy cardigans and dresses, an assortment of style, but smiles that radiate the same amount of love. Their dyed or graying hair is tied up or frame their faces. The smile wrinkles around their eyes tell the viewer that they’ve had a grand life and the joy is contagious. I see brothers making silly faces wearing sweatshirts with a team they love splattered across the front, hats turned every direction, sagging pants, tight pants, and sneakers. Some hang out in their workout clothes. Each one, with his unique style, makes a pose that matches his personality and you can see the fun they each contain inside of them, eager to share and make you smile. I see sisters standing tall, smiling brightly at the camera in their rainbow assortment of lipsticks, a glare from the shining jewelry they wear around their necks, and a strand of hair that escaped the tie falling onto their cheek. Some wear dresses, others shorts, some heels, some flip flops. Each one had magnetic confidence that I want to rub off on me. I see other family members in the mix: embarrassing uncles, smiling aunts, quiet grandparents, goofy cousins, and others still. It’s my family and the love I have for each one is indescribable. They have held me through the storm of all storms, carried me through the tallest of mountains, and been there when the gates of hell burst. These are the people I owe my life to. This frame alone is enough to make me turn from the door and never cross through.

The second frame held a photo of a red cross found on the side of ambulances. I can see the names of each medical professional I have worked closely with over the course of the last year etched into the cross. I can picture each of their faces as I scan the list. There are nurses who dealt with me on the day I entered the hospital blackout drunk, the doctor who suggested a problem, the counselor that helped me process the problem, and the therapists that taught me how to cope. The members of the therapy group are etched beneath the therapists and I smile at each of their memories. The sassy one, the funny one, the British one, and the sweet one are just a couple of the ladies that taught me more about this silly life. There are also the chiropractors that helped me feel better, physical therapists that taught me to walk after surgery, the aides that I got to share conversations with, and a psychiatrist that managed medication and encouraged me along the way. Appointments with each of them filled up a majority of my schedule and I never found it boring; I found myself looking forward to seeing each one as I developed close relationships that turned into friendships with time. My pockets are holding the cards I received and cookies made specifically for me to take to my new home. I touch my lips against the cold glass and simply whisper, “Thank you”. What more can I say? The glass fogs up with my breath as I pull away and I can feel the life given to me through these people poured out as love to others. Love is hidden everywhere in this world and I was fortunate enough to find it in each of them. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel towards them.

The third frame holds my family members. This one is hard for me to get close to. I’m okay, almost eager, leaving them behind. The thought of never seeing them again doesn’t pain me as much as society says it should. I almost walk right by it, rolling my eyes, but I pause anyway out of respect. This time I looked closer and I see things I hadn’t been able to see before, wrapped up in my selfishness. I look at my dad. The love in his eyes is screaming to be released but his body and mouth fumbles with the words I love you. The frustration boils and fear begins to glaze his stare. His smile is forced as he bares his teeth and the little hair on his head go every which way. I see a man terrified, terrified to lose his daughter, terrified that she had even tried to take her own life, and terrified that there is nothing he can do to protect his little girl. I want to hug him tight and tell him it’s not his fault, there was nothing he could’ve done, and it’s okay. Words can’t express the fear he feels and his mind has no capability when it comes to processing emotion. Dads are supposed to be tough, be the head of the house, be whatever society says. But this man, this sensitive man, cannot step into that role. He is too kind, too loving, too gentle to be the tough, scary man he feels like he should be. I want to tell him it’s okay. I hate those tough guys anyway, I love you, dad, just the way you are. I look at my mom. I don’t know what I see there. Indifference? A woman who is so caught up in herself that her daughter’s suicide attempt is nothing more than an inconvenience and financial burden. She can’t put the calculator down and see more than the price tag on my head. I’m worth less than our deductible. Resentment bubbles just beneath the surface and I know that I need to breathe. Closing my eyes, I turn to look at my brother. He is the male version of my mom and I sigh, knowing I can’t get through his wall. There’s nothing I can do to make him talk to me, open up to me, or even acknowledge me. It’s like I don’t have a brother, just a shell that used to walk around me. Leaning back away from the picture frame, I see my grandmother in the background of the picture waving. I smile a little, then more, then a lot. I see a woman bursting with joy and love that you can’t ignore or hate. It’s contagious and you’re a better person just by being near her. Gratitude fills me as I remember the fact that she is now my neighbor. I have access to love whenever I want. I laugh a little and leave a handprint on the glass of the photo.

I went face to face with the last frame. It’s the most simple photo. It’s the only one that’s necessary and it’s the only one that captures all of me and my journey. In the frame, there’s a pure white background. It’s a white that almost blinds when you look at it directly. There’s a single, wooden cross in the middle of the white. The white lifts up the cross for you to touch and admire. It’s the only picture without glass so I can run my fingers over the wood. I can feel each bump on my finger tip and I can feel the love of my higher power running through. My eyes close and the tears well up. Damn it, every time, I think and pound the wall with my fist. Wiping my eyes, I stare at the cross again. It captures life, death, and everything in between. It’s the reason I’m alive. It’s the reason I have a life. It’s the reason for my serenity. It’s the reason I’m happy. Words can’t describe the journey my heart has been dragged through but the spirituality I gained was life changing. I went to hell and back and landed in the arms of a higher power that wasn’t done with me yet. I used to wonder why me: why, out of everybody that attempted suicide, did I survive? Especially after three attempts? My higher power is as stubborn as I am. When I quit asking why and started asking how: how can I make my life mean something? I came to life. And I plan on staying alive because, for the first time, I have something to lose.

As I glance down the rest of the hall, all I see are empty frames, waiting to hold a story. I knew that I couldn’t fill them if I didn’t begin to move and live. Adventures won’t fall in my lap so I have to make my own. I glance back at the door, a thousand feet away, and begin to walk towards it. I run my hand along the frames of each memory and smile at each. My family, my help, my friends, everybody I love and will miss smile back at me. And I know it’s going to be okay because for once I’m not alone. I can feel my higher power next to me and laugh at how cheesy that thought is but grateful that it’s true. Suddenly the door doesn’t look so bad. As the knob once again touches my hand, the cold doesn’t sting and I feel brave enough to grip it. I turn once more and smile at each beautiful memory. I catch a glimpse of a garbage can with all the pain and hurt I had caused and been done to me. There was no point going back to visit it. I’ve faced most of my demons and I’m ready to face more, on the other side of the door. The pain of leaving almost convinces me to stay, telling me to keep my heart safe. If I leave, my heart gets ripped out as I love everybody on the other side. One day I may leave them and have to go through the pain again. I shake my head hard. No. I won’t be afraid to love. I’m not afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not afraid to love you with everything I have even if it means risking a heartbreak. You are worth breaking for.

This is it. I push the door open and gasp in amazement. The other side is beautiful and I’m not afraid to step in it. I turn around one last time and actually mean it this time. My heart shatters from missing everybody I love back home but the pieces begin to come together quickly, like a child’s jigsaw puzzle, as I’m embraced by people to love on the other side. Yes, you are worth breaking for, because you are worth loving. This isn’t goodbye to everybody back home, no, this is I’ll see you later, and I can’t wait.

 

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