I don't know how many layers we have. How deep the soul goes and how many times we can fall apart and get back up and re-invent.
But I think I might keep trying to push it. To explore and shed skins and try again.
My first layer was this: an unloved kid who was always in the way. Bruises and tears and pain and fear. That layer -- the story I told myself and anyone who would listen -- lasted 27 years. It was a skin that was so thick it couldn't be shed all in one go. It had to be chipped away and broken and split in two and then four and then on and on.
It took fist fights and rape and angry, ugly words to split that layer right down the middle until I was a fully grown woman and I was tired of being scared and tired of being abused and not walking away when I was old enough to know that my legs worked just fine.
That layer fell to the floor like an old dead skin and I stepped out, was dragged out by some deep part of me that I didn't even know existed. I was taken to safety that night, literally and also in every other way. It was the beginning of the beginning.
The layer after that was walking around in that newness for awhile, trying it on and deciding I had to do more for myself. I couldn't stand up to the biggest fears and then sit idly. I had to move forward.
There was an airplane and a new country and lots of strangers with wonderful accents. I found love and friendship and discovered all the best parts of myself. That old skin fell away and I went deeper with who I am and saw something there worth investing in.
The next layer was filled with pure love.
I was still too new to love myself fully and still raw and pink, so I fell into safe arms and late nights and a gorgeous man who wanted to give me everything. I let him. It was perfect.
I found love on a warm Christmas eve, walking hand in hand with a boy who was ready to shed his own layers and become the type of man who would do kind things for a woman. It didn't last, is the short story. But that kind of love released the bird inside of me and I have never felt so shattered and free at the same time. I flew away, if you will, to villages and cities and beaches and I got lost in words and my thoughts and who I wanted to be. And I went deeper.
Every time a layer falls away, I like who I am more and more. Sometimes it feels like a quest to get to my best parts, to hurry through the pain, because wow, look who I get to be now! Look who was there underneath the heavy surface this whole time. Look who got carved out of that fleshy stone because of all that weight. It's all fragile and light and filled with love and the need to give and share and keep it all going.
I think we all have these before and after moments in our lives. Who we were before the rusty axe fell and changed everything, and who we get to become after. I don't want to stop becoming because it gets better each time. The pain is there and the pain feels exhausting and there are days made to stay inside with my soul and watch the outside world move around, it's true. Maybe that won't end.
But there are days when I can jump out of bed and head straight out to the sun. To the towers and to the skies and to the people who love and I'm able to take it all in.
Other days you cross paths with someone who knew the old you. And it's uncomfortable for them. Your change makes them feel their lack in every bone they have. So they try to send you back. They pick up that shed skin and try to wrap it around you like a blanket. Some days it almost fits. Those are hard days. When you think it's all a lie and maybe you're still scared and maybe you still hear those footsteps coming down the hall and those knots in your stomach twist like they still do sometimes.
I love myself enough now to admit that it takes courage to shed the layer again. To strike back against the false love that wants to keep you small.
So I shed and I wriggle and I throw back the layers and who I am, the parts of my spirit I love now, the gold thread that keeps me together, it's still there. The darkness is temporary now because I say it is. Because I set boundaries against the pain and the people who inflict and I say no with my words and I try to with my body and sometimes that still gets confusing. But I'm not going back.
No one can love this version of me more than I do.
Brittany writes in Canadian, loves in English, and dreams in French. She writes about travels and various other journeys over at Letters To Rayelle.