|A picture of me. 100% Katie Berger. 2008.|
You attempt to draw road maps back to the inciting action of your self-destruction, your therapist handing you the necessary sketching tools. Surely there must be one great moment of trauma. One villain forcing your hand and starving your mind.
You meticulously unpack suitcase after suitcase of emotional baggage. Sorting through memories instead of sleeping. Searching desperately for a cause. Because if there’s a cause, there’s an enemy to fight against. If there’s a cause, this will make sense. If there’s a cause, you are once again in control…the very addiction you are trying to break.
After months of trading one obsession for the other, you start to realize the ugly, horrifying, truth. There is no one moment. There is no one plot twist, one gaping hole in the wall. There are millions…millions of miniscule moments, looks, words, questions, feelings…each one contributing to tiny, microscopic cracks in your confident finish. They span years. The sight of the foreign language scrawled across your father’s neck from his radiation treatment, which you are unable to decipher but constantly reminds you that there are things unknown. The buzz in your brain the first time you throw away your uneaten home-made sandwich after working through your lunch period, opting instead to perfect your music theory assignments. The look of shame and panic on your friend’s face as she shoves spoonful after spoonful of peanut butter into her mouth, the words “gym tomorrow, gym tomorrow, gym tomorrow” practically vibrating off of her skin. The feeling of directors undressing you with their eyes, anxiously wondering how old you really look, even though you can’t order a glass of Merlot without being questioned (not that you would anyway). The dozens of times you walked down the halls, hearing “frail” as the highest of compliments and “sickly” as the ultimate goal. You steel yourself against it, having been raised to love yourself, exuding with worth, never falling prey to peer pressure. But like any successful brainwashing, repetition is key, and before you know it you are the unspoken example of emaciation. A demi-god of deprivation. You hear whispers and shoot back dirty looks, high on the strange power you’ve cultivated, forming an addiction to the fact that you are the only one capable of the self-control they all so desperately yearn for. Forming an addiction to loneliness.
These cracks are countless and overwhelming. The task of piecing the broken shards back together seems absolutely impossible. There’s no way you can find them all, let alone glue them into some semblance of normality. You obsess (because that’s the only thing you know how to do anymore) over how to perfectly plaster over all of these pesky cracks, and just like when you discovered the seemingly neverending moments of destruction, you begin to uncover moments of creation as well. Shockingly, the process is similar because they are so infinitesimal. The feeling of your voice soaring above the same notes you were once too weak to sing. The look a stranger gives you when you smile while passing, their focus on the hope in your eyes, their gaze never wandering down to your collarbone. The sound of your coworker casually telling you how pretty you look, after spending and hour agonizing over the fact that surely your face has swollen to three times its normal size. The mornings you wake up free of guilt, your brain buzzing – not from hunger fog, but with ideas. These moments are the dabs of glue making the process of putting this puzzle back together possible. Piece by piece the shell that was weak enough to break in the first place is cobbled together to form something that is so magnificent, so imperfect, so strong. The bits of broken glass are slowly soldered back together, and when you step back, you don’t see a wall, a shell, a battlement. You see a glorious stained glass window, and the light is unabashedly streaming through.
|Getting there. Piece by piece.|
"Through the cracks our voices rise..."