*THIS IS LONG, AND I’M NOT SORRY. BUT IT’S WORTH THE READ, I PROMISE*
So, I’ve been pretty quiet this week..I’ve done a lot of internal reflection I guess is the right word. Hell, I don’t really know what it is EXACTLY I’ve been doing. The only way I can describe it as is I’ve been spring cleaning my mind and heart. Here’s the scene:
I’m sitting in the floor in the living room of my emotional house and there’s a lot of stuff strewn all over the floor. There’s no chairs or a couch, but there is LOTS of beautiful and warm and bright sunshine coming in through the floor to ceiling windows, and I can see the dust motes swirling through the air. The air smells like old books and honeysuckle, and I’m filled with a peaceful determination to declutter that shit that’s been bearing down on me for years. There are books stacked helter-skelter around me, piles of paper scattered here and there, with the occasional knickknack that has a very deep, personal and emotional meaning to me that just hasn’t made it into the curio cabinet. The things out of place…the nice, neat and tidy row upon row of my emotional boxes. They are all the size of a shoe box-black lids with a creamy colored box, and labeled with a gold number covered in dust. They look like something out of a high-end clothing store, and that’s really the freaky and scary part. I hate shopping, like I DESPISE it with every fiber of my being. Maybe because I spent so many years struggling to find anything that fit my non-conformist body. High end stores looked down at me like I was below the gum stuck to the bottom of their Jimmy Choos. Mainstream stores didn’t help me because I was fat-plain and simple. Going to resale shops was just as bad because they never carried anything in my size. So to see these boxes in my emotional house arranged too perfectly, too carefully, scares the holy living fuck out of me. What in the hell have I hidden, or neglected, or blocked out that resides in these perfectly eloquent and beautiful boxes?!
I’m too scared to open them so I just scoot over towards them and I just stare at them, running my hands lightly over the lids, swirling the dust under my fingertips, trying to see if I can feel or hear what’s inside of them. It’s like they’re lined with lead. So I pick one up, and I’ll be damned it’s lighter than a feather. I place the box in my lap, grab the lid on either side, take a deep breath, and yank off the lid, waiting for the onslaught of emotional hell inside the box. There’s nothing. No rush of air, no hair-raising screams or cries of heartbreak. There’s only emptiness. Odd. So I set the box aside and grab another. Same thing. So then I start tearing through the boxes, throwing them aside into piles. The more frantic I become the more intense my search to find SOME kind of reason for these beautiful and empty boxes to be here. I start to become panicked, anxious, scared even. I stop, breathing heavy and hard, sweat running down my back and between my boobs. There were A LOT of boxes to go through.
At the very back of the boxes in the shadows are the most worn boxes, ragged tops with frayed edges, covered in stickers and my unpredictable handwriting; drawings of my googly-eyed faces and my second grade cat doodles. These boxes have seen MANY days of wear and tear, but these have seen the most love and heartbreak. I know, because I am five feet away from them, and I feel their power from where I sit; trying desperately to catch my breath, not from the exertion of going through the empty boxes, but because of the REAL memories I stored in them. There are 2 HUGE boxes with the most love. The first box has memories of my grandparents-all four of them-in this box. You can’t even call it a box, it’s like the size of a steamer trunk. So much love emanates from it that the color changes from black to beautiful shades of yellow that shimmer in the sunlight. I can FEEL the warmth coming from this trunk, and I don’t even need to open it to SEE what’s inside, because I can see with my heart. The time I got to drive my Grampa’s tractor, the time he “helped” with my science project for third grade-managed and A for that-and ALL the time spent at the pond just sitting or walking and feeding the ducks. All the times I talked to Gramma about EVERYTHING important, and crying to her about stupid things, and hearing “This too shall pass, Shannibear”. Hearing Pa say “Aw horse shit”, watching him pull out his wad of money and licking his thumb saying, “Let me see if I have enough”, to which ALL of us kids would giggle and run away and tell our parents “Pa’s got his wad out!” Watching Ma sit on the porch sewing up a tear in my pillow and asking why she had a metal thumb? “It’s called a thimble, and it protects your finger when you sew, so you don’t poke yourself and get blood on what you’re workin on.” And EVERY time we made it to their house, no matter how early or late it was, she always asked, “Are you hungry? Let me make y’all a sammich or heat y’all up some left overs,” and the first thing I asked for was, “You got some tater salad? I’ll take that.” That trunk, makes my heart so full.
The next trunk is black, and when I look at it, it changes from black to beautiful shades of red and pink, and they, too, shimmer and change in the light. This trunk reminds me of the wings of a dragonfly. I see the lightly colored veins through the trunk-these are the trials-I know that right off. The colors though, oh, these are the colors of love. This is the kind of love people search for long and hard, and some are never lucky enough to find it. I smile as I step towards the trunk, the heat coming from it in waves. It’s not an overwhelming heat, bit it’s hot enough to warm me to my core. I reach out and I see the hardware on the trunk change from rusted iron to solid gold and it’s warm to the touch. I sigh and I slowly open the lid, and I am hit with the most intense feelings of happiness and love that I never knew existed. The birth of my son-who just turned 13 on the 5th of this month. The moment I saw my little man and I was filled to beyond overflowing with emotions I couldn’t understand or grasp at that moment. The birth of my daughter and remembering falling off the emotional cliff, but God my heart swelled at the sight of her. Watching them grow into the amazing people they are. Both get their feelings hurt easily and they take it so personally, but they want to help everyone no matter what. I sit back on my heels and just bask in those feelings of love. I stir the contents of the trunk, and I hear a thunk, and feel something hot against my fingers. I know it’s gold, and I know this box. I pick it up in my hands and I pull it out, slowly, letting the metal burn my hands. It’s covered with carvings of ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses, The Titans and Demi-Gods. It’s not Pandora’s Box. It’s Shannon’s Box, and inside of it is more than chaos. It’s something that can destroy men and women, ruin what we think we know of a person, and it can set one free. It is truth. It is honesty.
It is Love. The Love in my box is unconditional. It’s Agape Love (pronounced ah-gah-pay)
It is the unending love a parent has for a child. It is the unconditional love one has for another no matter what. It is an aching love when you know you have to let someone go when their journey on the walking world over. It is the fighting love you give, never giving up on those most important to you.
I cling to this box for it is my lifeline. I feel the hot metal sear my skin, and all I can do while I cling to it is cry and smile to myself, and think of the few people special enough to be kept in this box. The tears that flow are not from my eyes, but from my heart, cooling the burns on my hands from my Box. The sun reaches the exposed skin on the back of my neck and arms, and I hear the voices of the ones whose memories live in my Box. Each one telling me how much I am loved by them, how proud they are of me of the tremendous amount of growth I have made in the last year. How special I am, and how beautiful I have become. I feel them around me, touching my face and my hair, smiling and laughing. One voice is the most quiet, but most powerful of them all. And that voice is the voice of the man who shattered me to show the woman underneath, the one that burnt me to show the Phoenix I have become. I stand in front of him, his hand on my cheek, looking up into his wolf eyes through the tears streaming down my face.
His name is Nathaniel.