when my mom saw the vlog helayna-ocean and i did together, she said "but you never really told us how you changed each other's lives." okay, okay. let me explain you a thing.
there are a lot of messages i keep in my tumblr inbox. the first one was from alison sudol (of a fine frenzy), and it was received last year, after i'd been on swimming hiatus for a few months. she wrote about gardens. and stones. and if every human being is a gardener and their life is a landscape, then last year, my landscape was full of stones. and stumps. and they kept multiplying. when i wrote her a note, it was before i saw her in concert that november. when she replied, my world was still on its axis; not quite ready to turn upside down.
ali, i'm sorry. i have not been kind to myself. not always. but as my foundation crumbled and i was left with ashes, i still remember what you said.
that december, four days before i turned sixteen, i lost audrey. and i remember thinking i had a pretty decent life so far, so i wouldn't be sad about this for too long. and i remember smiling like everything was fine. and i remember going home in the dark, berating myself for what i believed was entirely my fault. you don't have to cut yourself for it to count as self-harm. part of my self-harm was beating myself down, mentally. and physically, i think it started to show. i was walking around like a lost piece of baggage with no one to call home. i'm not a dog; i didn't need an owner, but i needed someone. and i didn't have anyone.
everything i had left was a worthless remnant. a spoiled cloth with no one kind enough to help me wash. not really. to be perfectly honest, as i look back, i don't remember everything. a lot of who i was last year is blocked out of my mind. maybe that's a good thing, considering that now, i have been made new.
i don't remember when i wrote the next message in my tumblr inbox. it had two parts - the last of which i still have around. i wrote a girl who published something that got me thinking. i don't remember what, and maybe that is okay. when she replied, i don't remember feeling temporarily better. but i remember being in confidence that maybe, someone would come along and i would help them. for the better.
i remember thinking brian was my saviour.
now that i look at it in perspective, i think my body wanted someone near, someone who made me feel like i was making a breakthrough. in my healing process and self-love process. not to say that he didn't help, no. but after i reevaluated my priorities, i realized that everything i thought i had going for me fell like the veil that was my 'romantic' interest. i wouldn't replace the tuesdays we spent in the cafeteria. but i wish i knew that there was something bigger coming. i wish i knew nothing had quite begun.
incidentally, the rest of my tumblr inbox are messages that helayna and i have sent, and messages other friends have sent to me. but now, it's time to talk about her.
i remember buying perks of being a wallflower for audrey around Christmastime. i remember wrapping it in brown paper and covering it in tape, and i remember struggling to put her address in front. i remember writing her a note. and i remember knowing better than to apologize again. i remember her texting me a little later, saying "i don't want your stupid book." and i remember unwrapping it about a month and a half later and giving it to helayna on a february(?) wednesday. i remember the shirt she was wearing and her hair and how she spent the entire church service reading it in the back.
i remember her saying thank you.
there are only fragments of our learning and growing around each other (all involving church) until everything start falling into place at the beginning of june. i remember the friday night she left her notebook at my house. i remember the hoodie she was wearing. i remember calling her on the phone and telling her it was okay. i remember giving it back to her on sunday. i remember how her hair was long and wavy and i remember the blue plaid flannel it rested on. i remember when i was (deniably) sick on a wednesday and i remember her and jackie coming to sit with me in the break room over raspberry tea. i remember my blue button-down. i remember trying not to cry. i remember the outfit she was wearing when we all went to camp on friday, june seventh. i remember her, alexis, and jackie all falling asleep in the back of the van. i remember being the only one in confident consciousness.
oh. i should probably tell you about camp.
i remember feeling so heavy from everything i went through with audrey that i planned on getting it out. i planned on screaming. i remember trying when my family was away on errands, i remember mustering a squeak. by the time camp came around, i knew a lot about helayna and she knew a lot about me. and we both knew what we wanted in going to camp. i remember being afraid, because the year before, i brought audrey. and that only made things worse.
but let me tell you a secret - history isn't meant to repeat itself. not always.
when we were interning, a pentecostal camp came and rented out the grounds for five days. the interns had their own small services in the prayer garden and in the offices. and i remember trying so hard to feel something. and i remember feeling so dry.
and then, on a thursday (june thirteenth) we had service in the prayer garden. and i started crying. i remember sitting on the concrete next to a chameleon-like bug and i remember wearing my hair in a high ballerina bun and i remember my Bible and a blanket sitting on the stone (for fear of rain) and i remember putting my head in my hands and sobbing. finally, sobbing. mario, kat, jollie and a few others led service that evening. and by then, they'd dismissed everyone. but those who wanted to stay could stay. i was in no position to leave. i remember jackie leaving.
i remember helayna coming over to me, hands coming out of their [hoodie] shell, bending down, and whispering "are you okay?" shake my head no. "do you want me to stay?" nod my head yes. and she sat down, crossed her legs, and held me. and i remember seeing tears fall down her neck and i remember various hands on my back and i remember calming down.
we have this amazing camp counselor named mallory. she has shoulder-length red hair and a louisiana twang in her accent. i remember her looking at me with confidence in the answer to the question that neither of us knew yet. i remember looking at her and becky, and i remember saying "i need to scream." i remember them suggesting going to the nearby flock of trees, and i remember not making it there.
i remember mallory praying loudly, i remember bending my head down, i remember grasping becky's hands to the point of breaking and i remember letting go. three times i screamed. helayna says the last one was the loudest, and the hoarsest. i fell back onto the concrete. i looked up and i saw a sort of film that looked like someone, but it wasn't definite. i remember hearing mallory praying. i remember someone pulling me back and holding me close. i remember seeing nothing. i remember realizing it was Jesus. i remember being totally gone.
allow me to tell you the truth: i've fought not to kill myself. december put me in a place no one should have to experience. i remember specific things that told me, on the inside, "stay. don't go. at least, not yet." i remember my mother telling me i was a good daughter on the day i almost had it all planned. i remember snapping rubberbands on my right arm in a syncopated rhythm. i remember helayna looking at me, saying "no." the hardest no i've ever heard. i remember the welts afterward. i remember the next morning when they were nowhere to be found. i remember knowing i had something to live for, but i remember being too tired to live. once upon a time, i wanted to commit suicide. joyfully ever after, i'm still here.
i had a heart transplant that day. everything in me was restored. everything broken, everything singed. it's like i shed old skin and what was new glowed. i remember sitting up and checking to see if my hair was still in tact. i remember helayna laughing. i remember standing on the hill's slope and hugging her. i remember feeling physically lighter. i remember flying.
i never felt that again. but i know what happened to me. and i know Who healed me.
reaching the end of the past part of my timeline, i tell you this now because yesterday, i celebrated twelve years of living in Jesus Christ. when i was four, i gave myself to Him. and i live (i live) knowing that i cannot deny what He's done in me and for me. and i have so many people to share that with. thank God, helayna is one of them. so really, He changed my life. and everything happened in such a way that she was able to see it. to be there. and she's been here since. (yeah i totally dressed up as her yesterday. am i edgy yet?)
happy november, thanksgiving, Christmas, new year, everything.
the sun is shining, the tank is clean, i am hella new.