A vertical climb upon an exposed rock, with nothing to protect me from the the rain that came pouring down, and the harsh, relentless blasts of cold air slapping against my cheeks. It left my hands red raw and freezing, rubbed and scrapaed at the delicate skin there till it took on the texture of harshly abraded sandpaper. In its wake the icy wind dotted my face with beads of icy precipitation, beads which would remain, suspended there, like frozen tear drops halted in mid stream. They complemented the ones which had already escaped the ducts in my eyes.
I used to cry alot, those days.
Sometimes, the battle was so hard, so exhausting, so bitter. And so, so long.
So wonderful, being back here; to walk upon the endless golden sands of West Cork's breathtaking beaches; to let the sea wind stream out my hair and pull insistently at my clothes and skin. A silent message is conveyed, through words that noone else could hear except for me. Let go of them, em. Cast those worries, those fears to the wind. Let them blow away, to be dispersed upon the sea. Let them fall upon the waves like lightly strewn petals from a wilting plant.
And to look out to sea and whisper the recognition that at so many points upon this journey I thought I'd never, ever be able to say.
I'm glad I kept going, back then.
All the tears, all the wounds that tore and bled, all the times I felt like throwing up my hands and crying out, No, no, please stop. This time I cannot go on.
I'm so glad I did. Because it really has been worth it.
And now in many a sense I am like Daisy on her quest upon the beach yesterday. Watching her when we embark into the wilds has always been a source of enormous pleasure to me, though in the past I don't think I was able to identify with her feelings as much as I do now. She's never still, loping from place to place, brown eyes filled with curiosity. She's like the intrepid explorer, setting sail into unchartered waters; embarking into the spectacular rainforest in which no human has ever trod. Every sight and every smell, every sound, ripe for discovery. It's as if the location of our walks represent for her a marvelous kingdom in which weird and wonderful things grow, and it is her task to discover them for herself.
But I remember the time, back then, not so long ago, when I first met my beloved Daisy. And in many respects she was a shadow of the dog I see now.
But I and Daisy have made a journey together, one of discovery and growth, in which we have both struggled and suffered and fought demons that noone else could see. I remember so well the day when I first saw her, a thin, scraggly little thing with a drooping tail and eyes which spoke of untellable loss and suffering.
It was in November, well over a year ago, now; back in 2016 when I had returned to trinity for what was to be my final year of university. And with that return came the usual flood of doubt, the fear, the constant feelings of inferiority. The relentless labelling of my own self as the misfit and the odd one out, who doesn't deserve to be here. And, alongside all of that. Ed was waxing, waxing and spreading himself out, like a malignant fungi snaking up the tender new roots of a developing sapling, choking out all life.
And I knew that I was relapsing. It was as predictable, really, as the falling of the withered leaves still clinging desperately to the cherry blossom's shivering branches; to the wilting of the last remaining summer flowers, now drooping their mottled heads to the ground as if bowing down in surrender to the triumphant, advancing winter. This had happened every autumn of every month everytime I started back at trinity. And try as I might to resist Ed's pull, I was as defenceless as the faded flowers; the brittle leaves. And just like them I began to fade and wilt away.
But then came the day in November when I first met Daisy. And I recall looking into her brown eyes and feeling a sense of heartfelt empathy, an identification. Hey, it's ok, I whispered silently. It's ok. I'm going to take care of you. Whatever your past, whatever you've been through, I'm going to be here for you. I'm going to help you get through this.
I soon discovered just what the nature of "this" really was. As a result of her abuse, most likely, Daisy had (yes, this is bizarre, but true; dont they always say a dog is just like its owner?) serious, serious issues with eating. Amongst other things. She was painfully shy, startling at her own shadow, and would run a mile at the slightest noise or provocation.
It was a hard and often exasperating road.
But every time I felt like giving up, every time she yet again turned her nose up at the carefully prepared meals I would do for her; everytime I felt like screaming in frustration when she would simply refuse to come when called by her name. I reminded myself of that one core truth. Remember what's shes been through Em. Don't give up. Don't give up. We can do this. She...she can do this.
And then a tiny voice, no louder than a breath, whispering softly from the very back of my consciousness.
And you can do this, too.
So together Daisy and I embarked upon this journey. For Daisy, it was the first time she had set foot upon that road, I am sure; her previous life of abuse had not permitted her that.
And for me, it was the next of many. For so many times had I stepped upon the road only to fall off once again, months along that beaten, grueling track. Many times I had tried and failed. But having Daisy by my side gave me a renewed sense of motivation. We were going to travel this long and bumpy road, together. And we had eachother's backs. If one of us slipped and fell, then the other would help her to gently get back up.
And looking back now, I can clearly see just how much both of us have changed, and grown. How far we have come.
She no longer lingers close to my side when we go for our walks together, as if there are monsters waiting to pounce on her at every turn. She no longer regards her full dog bowl with disinterest, before turning away as if it contained something vile instead of food. No. Now instead she sprints across the rugged terrain of the bog at the speed of a bolting hare, her paws beating against the soft soil of the ground for the fleetest fraction of a second before lifting upwards once again to alternate with another. Now, where once was only skin and bone and dull hair, there is now powerful, strong muscles and flesh, and a soft, jet black coat which seems to shine like a blackbird's plumage captured in a shaft of sunlight. And oh how far has this beloved friend of mine come. Yet I know she is not quite there, yet. But she is getting close. So close. We went away for the weekend and instead of refusing to eat in this strange, new environment of the apartment (a situation which always presented problems for her in the past), only once did she not finish her dinner during our stay.
I can't say that we are there, just yet. For both of us the road leads on. And at times it may be an uphill battle. But. At times it is also like an adventure, a quest. A quest in which ultimately, if we both persevere, we will, some day, succeed.
And Daisy and I can lope together through that sweet green meadow, of the soft brown soils and dewy, glistening grasses. Trees grow there, their branches laden with blossom and fruit, and dainty flowers of dazzling colours cluster on the ground in glorious thick masses. There are streams of crystal clear water, in which silver minnows dart and spin in endless, exuberant circles, mirroring the freedom which beats in my heart like the wings of a captured bird which has finally escaped from his cage.
And that is the object of my quest, I know. To break free from Ed's cage. And once that quest is over, another adventure begins.
The adventure that is life without Ed.💓