You are tired. Exhausted. Your bones are aching. Your muscles are sore. Your eyes are saltier than seawater. It is three o’clock in the morning and you are wide awake. Sweet sleep eludes you. You’ve done a yoga routine for sleep and relaxation. You’ve tried deep breathing. You’ve had two cups of chamomile tea. You’ve counted sheep backwards right up to 696. You’ve even started to make up names for them; Dora, Susan, Lola, Jason… Just as you are lulling yourself to sleep, your body jerks awake.
You start to visualize a soothing, comfy place, but your mind is like a bull-fighting arena. Your thoughts are running amok. Eventually, you nod off for an hour or two. A few more weeks of this and you’re depleted. You have to figure out why you’re not sleeping. Why are your mind on overdrive and your body so lethargic?
It seems obvious, doesn’t it? You’re not getting enough sleep. You’re wrong, though. This particular strain of weariness runs deeper than that. You have fallen out of alignment with your true self. Your soul is sounding the alarm albeit softly, for she is gentle. Looking back, you will remember the red flags you mowed down along the way. You will remember that gnawing whisper, “Stop. Stop now. This isn’t you.”
Of course, at that moment you don’t stop. You don’t heed a single nudge from your intuition. You get swept up in winds that draw you further away from yourself, subtly at first. At every turn, Soul says, “It’s not too late. You’re not too invested. You can still make a clean break.”
But do you listen? When she gets louder, you drown her out. The more she wails, the colder you become. Until, one day, you wake up with a kink in your back. Outside someone says, “Beautiful day, eh?”
You nod even though you can’t feel the breeze tickling your scalp anymore. You draw a deep breath in but end up coughing instead. You choke on that gaping silence inside.
You go out for a walk.
You go out for a swim.
You pick up a book and read one paragraph eighteen times.
The inevitable breakdown hits you one morning. You’ve been awake for 36 hours straight and the swollen, dark circles under your eyes are a testament. It comes in the form of an axe splitting your chest open, but nothing falls out. Everything you’ve been repressing – the words you refuse to speak, the tears you swallow back, the feelings you shove down – has all fossilized. Now your chest is filled with black coal, and it will not fall out.
Every attempt to fall back into alignment only shakes loose scattered tears and emotions that you can’t piece together – soot. It’s a start, though. Soon, you realize that the reason you’re so depleted is that once you said yes when you ought to have said no.
You said, “I’m fine,” when what you were screaming inside was, “You’re losing me! I’m slipping from your grasp and you don’t even know it!”
Twice you held your tongue when you should have squared your shoulders and said, “This is not what I believe in.”
Thrice, whilst nursing a drink you didn’t choose in a lousy club with terrible music, you wondered, “What in the world am I doing here? I don’t even like these people.”
But you stayed. “Get up now. Say you have to leave,” Soul said. But you didn’t.
You want off that slippery slope. You skid, grasp at the air, tug on roots jutting out of the mud and claw your way out of there. It is not without shame. You see the folly in thinking that what you wanted was worth abandoning yourself. Contorting yourself to fit other people’s shape-shifting needs. Diminishing yourself the harder you chased those moving goalposts. You laugh the kind of mirthless laughter that prickles your eyes with tears.
You are terrified because, in the realm of misalignment, you created a persona that’s grown stronger than its host. Lodged in that kink in your back is this persona that longs for drama and chaos. Finding yourself again should be as easy as completing the statement, “I am…” “I choose to be…” Yet you are paralyzed. Impotent. Lacking in willpower.
Still, you keep taking unremarkable walks and swimming in the afternoons. Gradually, you get past the first chapter of that book. Although, you will have to reread it in two years. That false start fogs up the whole book, but you are reading again.
One afternoon, you duck under the awning of a shop – if only to get out of the hot sun – and realize you can feel the warmth on your skin again. You can feel the draft of the air conditioner on your scalp. This time, when you draw your breath in, it fills up your lungs like helium in a balloon. You feel yourself inhabiting your body again. You feel the tentacles fused in your spine begin to unwind.
“I feel like me. I am me again. I’m alive!” Soul squeaks. She is warming up to speaking to you again. You promise to listen keenly from then on.
The universe rallies behind you and sends a flurry of smiles from strangers your way. That evening, you take out your feather duster and wipe down your contact list unsparingly. It is a spring cleaning that is long overdue – the final crux before you step into a long stretch of slept-through-the-alarm mornings.