Lilly asks Nina what’s wrong.
Nina talks about her boyfriend who has been going through a foul mood phase of late.
“And how are things between you both?”
She quickly says that it’s good but she worries about him. And also about her best friend who has been acting strange. She should meet her friend and speak to her, they decide.
“So how did the meeting go?” Lilly asks her the next day.
She brushes the topic aside saying it went fine, and that her friend has been low for reasons they both are not sure of. The real issue at present was that new task her boss gave her. How was she going to complete that?
They meet again after several days and Lilly asks how Nina’s situation at work has been progressing.
“I don’t know,” Nina replies. “I only know that I need more money. There’s rent and the cats and the money I owe Sid. Where do I save? I don’t have a penny left at the end of this.”
They speak about looking for another job. Lilly is looking to shift jobs too. Maybe they could do it together, help each other out. They begin to speak of career options and what they would rather do.
“I haven’t been giving my music enough time. I can’t remember the last time I performed,” Nina says.
She leaves that evening making a promise to Lilly and herself that within the next month she would take to the stage at least once. She doesn’t.
In every version of the ads on mental health, the person tells you what’s up after the fourth attempt. But Lilly has asked at least eight times and she still doesn’t feel like Nina is ready to speak about it.
Or maybe Nina already did.
But were you listening?
It wasn’t about the boyfriend, or the best friend, or the rent, or the job, or the big dream. It was about the emptiness she felt within that was mirrored in everything she looked at.
She didn’t speak about it because she didn’t know if others would understand. So she squirmed from one subject to the next never saying anything she needed or wanted to.
We live in a world where people don’t tell you what’s on their minds, even if you ask. They say that great minds discuss ideas and small minds discuss people. But most people discuss other people, not because their minds are small, but because their pain is so great.
This is me. And this is so many people whom I love.
I’ve heard that a writer writes to tell his or her readers that they are not alone. But I write for my readers to tell me that I am not alone. Locking yourself up in your own mind, with your thoughts gnawing away at each other like ravenous anacondas, is the most horrid cage you can trap yourself in. So say it out loud.
I know, most people won’t get it.
Don’t expect them to when you tell them how you feel. Say it anyway. Say it because the thoughts need an escape from the bars of your mind.
Let it out into the world. Maybe it will crawl onto your plate and latch itself onto the tomatoes you remove from your sandwich, and it’ll end up in a dumpster where it will wilt away. So say it because honesty is a key ingredient to your mental health.
You never know of the doors that you could open with your words. Very often I catch myself getting uneasy in-between a conversation, or writing a particular piece. I realize that I don’t sound anything like my favorite writers or closest friends. My thoughts are different, my voice is different, my style is different. I feel so foreign from within my own self.
My heart, mind, and soul are too crowded with other voices. I understand that I must empty them out alongside my fears, my anxieties, my pride, my inhibitions and my sorrow.
In doing so I open up space for my truth. It may sound different from other truths that I have heard but my role is to speak my own truth. I find that somehow, it works.
Even though my words may not be at their eloquent best, I begin somewhere. I often go in circles, as my jumbled up thoughts pause in between eating each other and hurl themselves half ingested and half raw onto my tongue. What feels to me like disgusting word vomit clears my mind.
And I find that a few people do understand, they do relate. My doors have opened itself to more voices entering in. Different voices with different truths. I create a new home that becomes an anchor for the different, the lost, the lonely, the confused, the afraid, and the broken hearted.
We all look different and have such distinct tales, but we know that we’ve found a home for ourselves.
And isn’t that the greatest gift that you can give anyone?
Become a home.
Become a place that exists for people to be their complete self. The self that they become when every last shred of concealer peels off and they climb into their ice cream stained PJs.
See the scars left behind by their mistakes and the shriveled up parts of their being that was once filled and whole with love. And let them be, just as they are.
Ask ‘How are you?’ and leave an enormous pause. A pause long enough for the Nina at the other end to dip her feet into areas of her life that she is contemplating about addressing.
Watch as she withdraws her feet from the feezing cold water. Listen as she begins to talk about the next thing. Remember. Ask her again, someday, about what she chose not to address at first.
Slowly, she will begin to realize that you’ve been pumping heat into the freezing water, and it’s warmer this time. Hold her hand, if only metaphorically, as she takes her first whole step in. And keep holding it so that she knows she will not drown.
Allow her to baptize herself in her own truth.
When she steps out, you can end your pause. She knows that she’s home.