The First Break

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It’s not unusual for me to wake up from a nap or in the middle of the night scrambling for a piece of paper and pen. I am a vivid dreamer, always have been, and more often than not I wake up from these dreams with thoughts, images, or phrases itching to be written down before they fade away into the grind of the day. On rare occasions, I wake up frustrated, grasping at rapidly dissolving edges that never  quite solidify. On these occasions I’m left with a terribly empty feeling… an almost desperate need to recall the story my subconscious was writing. I woke up this morning around 3 am in such a state, restless and frustrated as the watery edges of a dream taunted me. I couldn’t remember any details about the dream except for the image of one person and a hollow pain echoing in my chest.

After tossing and turning for over an hour, I finally decided to just get up. I found myself a few minutes later wrapped in my favorite quilt and curled up in the hammock in the backyard, staring up into a deep midnight blue sky. It felt like the most logical thing to do at the time I suppose. After a few minutes of peaceful early morning quiet, I decided to play some music on my phone. Scrolling through my playlists I selected a song, hoping that between the sway of the hammock and the haunting sounds of Daughter, I might be lulled back to my dream. I fell asleep with the opening lyrics of the song Youth whispering through my head…

“Shadows settle on the place, that you left….Our minds are troubled by the emptiness….”

A little after 5 am, with the song still playing softly on repeat, I scribbled away some pieces of the dream (see scribble below) into my phone notes, the words lifting a weight off my chest with every letter written down.

I am amazed at how clearly dreams can speak at times, how they can sort out and make sense of the hidden things. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the dream except to say it was a conversation…a conversation with the first boy to ever steal my heart… a conversation about the man who will receive it now. More than a decade has passed since that first boy left my heart in pieces for another girl. It crushed me then and unfortunately I allowed it to shut me down for a very long time, fearing love all together. He’s one of the reasons I fell into the habit of hiding.

I honestly don’t think of him very often anymore. But sometimes, when an old friend mentions his name or an old photograph resurfaces or some exquisite song lyric strikes at just the right memory, he will appear so suddenly, so unexpectedly, a raw twinge still shoots its way to the surface as if he only left yesterday.

I wanted him to be for always, but he was only meant for a season. Though a ghost now, sadly, he claimed so many of my firsts….  What about first loves is it exactly that seems to fuse with the very core of us for always? Why is it when they are lost to us, even though we know the loss is for the best, their ghosts continue to roam the halls of our memory as the comparison for those that follow?

It took great courage to love again after my first real heartbreak, but through the years other firsts have been given, other pieces offered to other people who have treated them with more care and less youthful fear. I’m different now, as I’m sure he is too. The anger has faded. And though something precious was lost all those years ago, other treasures have been found, and a different man will receive a much stronger version of my heart…

 

You took what should have always belonged to him…  My purest heart.

You squandered, out of fear, what should have been given to him whole…  My trust.

You collected, for your own ego, what should have been his to hear first…  My words.

 

How do I know?

 

Because even though I’m less,  his love makes me so much more.

Even though I’m stitched back together,  he embraces the beauty of my scars.

And even though I’m haunted,  he chooses to fight back against the darkness.

 

You ran, flinging empty words behind you….

He’s not afraid to stay.

 

Chelsey Whitlow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Scribbles – Fearfully

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So today is the official start of my two weeks vacation. It is a much needed break and I am grateful for the respite from the day job. I spent most of my first morning lounging in a hammock in the backyard, taking advantage of the uncommonly cool weather (July mornings in Texas that aren’t hotter than hell are hard to come by. One must wallow in them when the opportunity arises.) If I let myself, I’d probably camp out in that hammock for the next two weeks, living off dark chocolate and potato chips and never putting on real clothes or seeing any actual people. Sounds glorious, right?

On the contrary, it’s kind of a problem…In fact, it’s quite perilous to my very life! I’m being a little overdramatic, you say? Let me explain….

You see, last year’s vacation consisted of me, my couch, yoga pants and endless hours of Netflix. A couple of friends quite literally had to drag me out of my home and into the sunshine just to make sure I was still alive. I’m pretty sure I even hissed at them, like a vampire might after being drug into the daylight. As long as an internet connection and an endless supply of wine, dark chocolate and potato chips were available, I probably could have stayed in my apartment forever. It’s really quite sad, but it’s the honest truth.

I’ve been a hopeless introvert most of my life, existing frustratingly in shadows and living life from the sidelines as a supporting role. It’s easier to watch other’s adventures and misadventures play out rather than have to actually interact myself… Right? Not so much…

Though I think there is some element of shyness innate to my nature, I don’t think I’m really meant to be an introvert. Despite my hermit-like tendencies, I do need and love being around people and crave my own adventures. I’m just kind of afraid of them. My being an introvert is completely self-inflicted….out of a fear I keep letting win.

I vaguely remember being fearless as a small child. I can’t tell you how many times my parents had to take me to the emergency room due to the fact I thought I was invincible and needed to rescue this or that poor creature. My child self kind of thought she was a super-hero…a little too literally. I have the scars to prove it. Somewhere around the age of seven though, my world got very real and very uncertain….almost overnight. My mother was diagnosed with an especially cruel disease and a bloody war zone became our daily reality. Somewhere in the middle of learning how to survive, that fearless little red-haired super hero got lost in the shadows.

The battle of my childhood and early adulthood is now a ghost, but the habit of hiding in shadows is the thing that haunts me.

I started this blog as a chronicle of my journey towards being brave. One of the hardest things in the world for me to do, the thing that takes every ounce of my courage, is telling my own story. To tell my story means being seen and that terrifies me.  It’s much easier to stay on my couch in my stretchy pants, hidden away in a dark apartment, where no one expects much out of me, than to risk being seen or heard…to risk giving pieces of myself away. But that’s not the life I want. I’ve never really wanted that life.  You can’t exactly be a superhero from the safety of your couch…

Swinging away in the hammock this morning, today’s scribble came to me as I reached down and swatted away a mosquito trying to make my arm his breakfast. A trickle of sunlight hit my arm and lit up four words inked into my skin. I had these four words inked into my left arm a few months ago in memory of that fearless little red-haired superhero. Somewhere along my journey someone told that little girl she mattered and was made for something more…and she never forgot. In the spirit of that fearless little superhero I had the words placed in a spot I would see them everyday, so on days when I’d rather stay hidden, I’d remember instead how important it is to be brave. Sure, it’s easier to hide, but that just allows the Fear to keep winning. And no one, if they’re honest, really wants that.

We all have a part to play in this thing we call life. In the deepest parts of us, we all have something to say, something to give, something to do…things that are worth the risk, that could save a life, encourage thousands, or simply make those around us smile. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made…

Each of us has the potential to do something life-altering and awe-inspiring. Each of us has the potential to leave our mark on the world around us. And each of us has the potential to tell an important and beautiful story, whether its told to a few or to many….if only we have the courage to come out of hiding….

So here’s to the next two weeks…though stretchy pants and hammocks are awfully tempting, I’m hoping to have a better story to tell at the end. Here’s to being brave, staring fear in the face, and coming out of hiding!

 

The silence falls in folds around my chair, familiar layers shrouding my spirit from other’s curious eyes.

Words…thoughts…love given and received…die unused in shadows.

Such a terrible waste.

I have always feared the daylight…

But now, I fear the darkness more.

 

Chelsey Whitlow

Saturday Scribbles – Summertime

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Today’s scribble is brought to you by all things summer….inspired by a picture of two of my favorite boys, T & E. Seeing these two all covered in joy, reminds me of days long past, when my only worries were sunburns, mosquito bites, and running out of otter pops.

Cheers to you all on this fine summer Saturday!

 

A photograph can only whisper.

But memory, when jolted awake by such a whisper, grows into something almost living…

A thing alive with the perfume of sunscreen and bug spray, freshly mowed lawns and wet concrete in blazing July sun.

…With the trance like sound of sprinklers hitting parched earth, laughter and locusts humming their numbing lullaby.

…With the feel of red Popsicle melted sticky on sun-kissed hands and blistering sidewalks biting at tender bare feet.

A thing alive with a particular taste of freedom and endless possibility that comes only in summer.

Chelsey Whitlow

Saturday Scribbles – Alternate Endings

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Today’s scribble is a tiny snippet I found tucked away in one of my travel books… my daily struggle between the girl who watches the life she wants pass her by from some corner table in a coffee shop or some park bench and the girl who makes the choice to live despite her fear. It really is a toss up each morning which one I’ll choose…

 

Paralyzed by a thousand what-ifs,

I watch as dozens of alternate endings pass me by.

 

Chelsey Whitlow