When I was a little girl, the setting of the sun seemed like death to me. I used to look out the window with my legs pulled close to me, watching the earth absorb what was left of the light, wishing I could stop the clock and fight off nighttime with my own young hands. When it was time for bed I would imagine what would happen if the sun never came back. The emptiness I felt just from knowing that behind my closed curtains was navy blue stillness was sometimes too much to bear. I thought for sure that hell was eternal nighttime. And every night felt eternal to me, and every second proved further that it could very well last forever—and it was out of my reach.
Certain things I have experienced in my adolescence and adulthood have had the same effect on me. When I was 16, my father died of gallbladder cancer. It was my 16th birthday, and shortly after midnight he let go. I truly believe he waited those extra minutes so that each year my birthday would not be an echo of his death. As years passed, though, I realized that those minutes were not enough to erase that undeniable association. Every year on that day the seconds slowed. The smiles were distorted. The traditional celebratory song played in my ears sour and off-pitch. Nothing seemed right on that day. I thought for sure that the sun had set on my birthday.
The years continued to pass. Eventually, my birthday took on a new identity. It became the day my nieces called me to say “happy birthday” in voices like baby’s breath. It became a day for cards containing scribbles and bubble letters and exclamation marks and jokes. It became a day to indulge and take a break. It became a day that brought me closer to being the adult I had strived to be; a day saturated with a year’s worth of accomplishments, mistakes, and lessons. It became a day that reminded me of how proud my father would be of who I have grown to be and continue to become. And slowly, the sun came up.
Things happen every now and then that elicit hopelessness and doubt. Not just death, but any kind of loss. A failed relationship, a geographical move, a rejection. They mimic those indelible memories and create that same emptiness all over again. But now I know that it isn’t forever. I believe that now. I believe that healing from emotional pain is just as likely as the inevitable return of the sun.
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