on the way to the grocery store

i'm on the way to the grocery store and i'm letting myself think in the unstructured way that can so easily become frantic. I cup my hands and drink from the river that could instantly pull me under if i wade out any farther. i am thinking about the person i see in the mirror, with their short hair and blue eyes and a face that looks different from every angle.

and i am thinking of the strangers on the train who pick me apart with their gaze as though by looking hard enough they can see the memories behind those eyes, because to them that face is a personification of their fear or hope or confusion, and they talk to me or avoid talking to me because they see a promise of something exotic or esoteric.

something i can't offer them. i feel like one of those parrots that pull out their own feathers and leave their paper skin exposed and fluttering with the rhythm of their lungs and heartbeat. my feathers are piled on the ground, a reminder of a creature that was beautiful and strong and intimidating, the reason these hungry eyes want to put me in a cage and hang me from the ceiling, unchanging as a painting.

i am thinking about how if you want anyone to see you as you really are, you have to teach yourself to not to think about that, not to think about how other people perceive you. to tear yourself free of the images painted overtop of you and become something new, the feathers and the heartbeat, the strength to live freely and actively honestly, to talk about yourself not because you owe the world an explanation but because you want to share your story.

i feel like these docudramas promised me a straight line to better, the protagonist smiling from the screen and assuring me what doesn't kill me will make me stronger. but now i see that actor never knew what it was like to think they were going to die, and each cut to commercial reminds me i'm not a minor character, my life isn't a metaphor and the bad experiences have no obligation to mean anything to me or anyone else.

maybe what doesn't kill you won't make you stronger, but it will make you wonder what you're living for. and sometimes you find answers. these miniature meanings of your life simple as a song or a sunrise, enough to keep you going until you find what you're looking for in yourself.

sometimes i'm tired for weeks at a time, but i no longer wake up wishing i hadn't. and i am going to let myself be proud of that.