Words and images by Willa Grey
I was standing in a self-storage, surrounded by overflowing boxes of books and dishes and odd-shaped things that didn’t fit anywhere anymore. His possessions were restacked in the back half of the unit. Even Steven, I thought automatically, and sat on a Rubbermaid, rubbing my thumbnail absently against the base of my ring finger. The narrow corridors branched out around me in twisting mazes of orange doors with black numbers, each path curving into shadow before I saw its end. My thumbnail continued looking for the band that wasn’t there.
The light clicked off. I got up wearily and fumbled through the dark corridor to the switch, knocking my shins against the corner of a postal box before finding the dial and turning it as far as it would go, buying twenty more minutes of light. I lost track of how many times I lost the light before everything was loaded into the U-Haul, but when I finished, I was almost too tired to drive and much too tired to feel.
It was the second time I’d left a marriage—I was twenty-nine.
I drove to Little Rock but couldn’t make plans beyond that. I was numb, unable to do more than tread water. Two months passed, and I went to San Francisco. The days blurred one into the next, and I realized suddenly that I hadn’t cried since the storage unit, and had the distinct feeling that if I did, I’d never stop. But still, the pain found me. Every night, I’d wake up at 2 AM in a panic, dragged down in sharp spirals by questions about my art, my music, my body, my very purpose, that all culminated in a chorus of You are not enough, will never be enough, and everything you love will crumble. I’d lay awake for hours, unable to breathe. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I’d walk to the bathroom mirror and lean over the sink to stare at my reflection, feeling so old it frightened me. I wondered what was happening to me, and why. It felt like I’d been cursed.
After weeks of this, I pinned up a picture of Wonder Woman next to a note that read, “You are strong, you are worthy, you are equal.” I repeated those words over and over when the panic would seize me, and fell asleep with them on my lips, though I didn’t know if those words were true. I believed that it was possible that they were, but these things were harder to sort through after the second divorce. It felt similar to believing in Santa, and as a grown-ass woman I needed real proof—so I decided to date and see.
A month later, I traveled to South America, and had an epic rebound with an attractive Peruvian. The first eleven days were unbelievable, but when the newness wore off, we were a hot mess. He had his own self-worth issues that made him alarmingly possessive and manipulative, with a passionate temper that would flare up when threatened. I broke up with him after a few weeks, and when I left Peru, it was with more questions than I’d come, and I was no closer to knowing if I were enough.
I returned to San Francisco, and there was another relationship waiting (like there always was). He was a good person but couldn’t silence my doubts either. When he and I parted ways, my friend, Kristy, spoke up. She told me that the questions I had could only be answered in independence, not from bouncing guy-to-guy. "You have to stop running from your grief," she said, "so that you can move on and recover how strong and capable you are. You’re the only one who can give yourself the approval and self-worth you need."
This time, I listened. When I stopped running, I realized I’d been depressed and decided to get psilocybin treatments in Jamaica (which I will have had by the time you read this). I finally cried and let go of the dream of “maybe someday” with him. And the weight began to lessen. It began to seem possible that the depression could be a season—not forever. I had a glimmer of hope, sometimes in the periphery, sometimes close enough to touch. I made plans to move to Portland to play music and sing again, and trust tentatively that I’d be OK, that someday all this would meld into the landscape behind me.
That answer to my deepest question comes now, like a whisper, in unexpected places. Last night, I was running my usual route down a country road and rounded the bend to see the auburn sun slip behind the trees—a halo, glowing through the boughs, edged in green. Sun rays extended across the hills and lit the blades of grass like a thousand candle flames. The world was quiet and full. My heart surged with joy, and I ran into the golden light, carried by the song of the cicadas that rose and fell, on past the fields of wheat and sunflowers that rustled and bowed in the breeze. And I was a part of it, a part of that ethereal beauty.
And I knew then, that it was enough—they and I, and all that were touched by the light...
Perfectly, and unshakably, enough.
You Might Also Like: The Lessons I Learned From My Divorce
Willa Grey is a freelance writer, classical pianist, indie author, and world-wanderer based out of Little Rock. Her debut coming-of-age novel, Problems with the Moon, is in the final stages of prep for publishing, and will be available soon!