"Look closer, it's beautiful" I said to me.
"At what?!" I replied, trying to hold down anger. "I have loved, and worked, and suffered, hard in all three measures. And all I have to show for it is my scars and my wrinkles and these bottles of medicine that assure me it won't get any easier."
"Look closer. It's beautiful!" I implored.
"Oh no. No, no, no. I'm not going to fetishize my own trauma. This pain isn't beautiful, it's damage. My suffering isn't my art. If that's the path to beauty, it's a path to hurting myself and the people around me in the process. I clearly don't give a shit about me, that's why we're here, but I'm not going to make that everyone else's problem by reveling in it."
"Please look closer. I promise, it's beautiful."
"I am LOOKING" I screeched, my fury unbound. "All I am doing is LOOKING. All day long, all I do is watch this happen. It hurts when I wake up. I hurts more to try to find some sleep. And it hurts, every miserable step between the two. What kind of demon must you be to dare ask me to look closer?!"
I reached out, gently, and laced my fingers through my hair, gripping my curls like the handle of a bag I need to haul out to a bin. And I pulled my head, full of anger and snot and tears, up to my face, so I could look myself in the eyes. "STOP looking at the PAIN!"
"... Oh. There's more to see than that?"
And for one terrifyingly visceral moment, I broke the years-long staring contest grudge-match against my pain. I dared to look away, knowing that it would be my instant and merciless destruction.
"What do you see?" I asked myself.
I saw a garden with a rusted and overgrown gate. Inside, an unkempt oasis with ferns and moss and flowers huddled around a sparse, tall scattering of trees. And in the very center, I saw a well. The one I came to often as I child to fill my cup with new stories to tell. The one I abandoned when the only stories I still told felt bitter in my mouth. The well I was so sure had dried out and died was still here, behind the rusted gate, nurturing whatever dared to grow while I was gone.
I pushed on the gate, on the twisted metal bars that for so many years cut my eyes to even look at. The rusted, jagged handles promised to bleed me dry, but I wasn't looking at them any more. They disintegrated like ash under my fingers and tore like spider webbing as I walked through.
I stepped carefully over roots and around fruits with names as unknown to me as their flavors. And I stood at the well, suddenly overwhelmed by my neglected thirst. I lowered the bucket, remembering the old rhythm of rope and pulley, until I felt it fill with story and dream. Hauling it hurriedly to the top, I grabbed the bucket and raised it to my face to drink deeply.
What came out was a flood. It drenched me, it soaked the ground, and it filled the garden. The impossibly deep bucket was unrelenting, the water pooled up and pushed on the walls of the garden until they burst, seeping out into the desert of my mind. As the tide settled into the terrain, I stood by the well, and understood the path ahead.