the train

“If you’re anything like me I’m sorry/ But, Darling, it’s going to be okay.” -Taylor Swift

“Maybe I wasn’t finished being Addie,” I tell my friend over coffee, a Monday in November after it had all happened. Somehow she knows when I need to meet and have a cup of coffee and I always gladly take her up on it. I tell her that I’d finally found the ending to my book, the one I hadn’t known I’d needed. I’d handed over my control to my story that weekend, but it had taken all of me to do it. When you hand over the key to a narrative you’ve held dear for a long time and give someone else the ability to veto it, sometimes it takes all of you. Friday night, I told my friend, was for feeling disbelief that I’d said what I’d needed to, driving until 3 am. Saturday was for for feeling mild hope, mildly empowered. And Sunday was my undoing, the friend who kindly advised my answer was probably a no.

I’d written my therapist that Sunday, the day I’d fallen apart because I knew that most likely my dream had died and it was just like before: a mixture of sadness and numbness. “It’s like there’s a train that everyone sees coming, but me,” I’d confided, not really thinking much of the metaphor. “Play the train,” she’d written back, “What is the train saying? And why does it have to be a negative thing?” I’d taken it in stride, going to bed just wishing it were morning already.

I woke up on Monday and it hit me as I ran the shower and stepped into my morning: the train is my life. It’s coming for me, not at me.

Suddenly I see it all (because let’s be real I speak in metaphors and have epiphanies in metaphors too):

I’m in a grassy area, right near the tracks. I’m waiting. I hear a sound in the distance, see the light before anything else, stand up as I hear the whistle, wait for it to reach me. I know this rhythm like the back of my hand—when I stand up it has to stop. Let me repeat: when I stand up it has to stop. It’s a jet black color, like night, and it’s carrying exactly 26 cars but I’m not interested in those. I head for the cabin, race up the three steps, and look the conductor in the eye. To my surprise, it’s just a younger, unhealthier version of myself. I know that face. I know those eyes. I know that look. She’s no villain, white-knuckled fingers grasping the controls. She looks up at me like she’s got little left to offer, expressions can be bruised can they not? She’s pale, she’s tired, she’s run the train all night through God knows how many nightmarish fears. I’m not cruel to her. I’m not asking why she did or did not do this or that. I’m kind. I decide to be who she so desperately craved and searched for all that time, crawling through the dark. I decide to be kind to this unhealthy version of myself who ran my life for so long. I slowly take her hands off any controls and sit her in a corner. I place a quilt around her shoulders and hand her a cup of tea and look her in the eye, wordless, because there’s nothing else to say. We’re done here. We both know she took on far more than she needed to while I hid, scared to let the light in. No, she’s not the villain—just scared, just unhealthy, just misinformed. How can someone be the villain when she just wanted to be loved? After all…she did direct this train all night long. How can I hate her?

I give her a final look and then rise back to my feet, looking around at the mess. I slowly push back any spider webs, toss out any trash, polish the window so I can see clearly. The sun is low, just barely erasing any signs that night was here and I glance back at the version of myself I will not recognize as being my representation from here on out, she’s staring out of lifeless eyes. She has no interest in narrative any longer, having tunneled hers far below the ground long ago, and I now have no interest in hearing any narrative of hers. I look ahead, the stars in the sky slowly fading away. They helped guide for so long and suddenly it’s just me and this one train I have, this one life. I get to direct it into the morning, get to be the one to taste the dawn.

I’ll take it from here.

Hey you. You reading this. Yeah, I’m looking at you. You have a voice, so use it. You have a purpose, so find it. You’re here for a reason, so believe it. God’s calling you to do something no one else could do like you can, so go do it. You’re allowed to be new.

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