For my birthday my mother gave me an annual pass to the local botanical gardens. This wan’t a random gift nor a good guess, I had begged for it for a while prior to that day. I had first visited the gardens on one of the free days organizations such as these give to attract money and new members. The first time I stepped into the lobby to buy my tickets the most amazing thing came over me; I just knew that this place was going to be crucial to who I am trying desperately to be.
Despite the noise that first day, I could hear the silence. Despite the children, I could only hear laughter. Despite the heat, I could feel people’s joy in the simple pleasures of a garden tended by the unseen people who work so tirelessly to bring that beauty to everyone. I could see the beauty of the flowers and plants, some I had never seen, and understand instinctively that this simple beauty could give me a break from the continued morass that is my disease.
The first time I went by myself, I found a bench in the shade and sat down. I put on my ear phones and the music I had compiled just for this occasion and I sat back and allowed myself permission to simply be. It was a permission that no one could give me but myself; but it was a permission crucial none the same.
Sitting on that bench, an uncomfortable wooden object that should not be labeled a chair, I watched adults take pictures of every flower. I wondered if they actually saw any of the flowers (and why weren’t they at work?) I saw the moms and dads, the elders and the young, and I began looking at them and allowing my brain to take their smiles and their joys and make it my own. And in that joy, I felt the silence from the first day finally push away all the daily wars that I am forced to fight.
It is strange to find a place that simply makes sense to you. Even after I got the annual pass for my birthday, it took me months to get the nerve to actually go. Not because I was concerned about how it would look – a girl sitting in the gardens, nor because I didn’t know how to get there. The fear came from the possible let down. The possibility that what I needed most wasn’t going to be offered in the way I had seen that first day.
If you have ever had a feeling, a good and strong feeling, you may be able to understand what I am talking about. However, if you have a mental disease I can predict with great accuracy that you know exactly what my fear felt like. When you are given a mental illness, you battle on a daily basis not only the internal working of your own self, but the outlining orbitals that take from you as gravity takes from the sun. You have to fight each day. You aren’t allowed many days of peace; whether that is because your life and work won’t allow it, or if it is simply past of the disease you suffer. But the suffering is so pervasive that the simple idea that there might be something out there to give you relief is as scary as it is hopeful. Because what you hope isn’t what necessarily is there; and what you want is worth about the same as the jealousy you feel in the noticeable freedom of everyone around you.
It is hard to explain a fear that doesn’t contain something easily pointed to. I am scared of snakes and everyone and their mother can see it, have it pointed out to them. But when I say I am scared of something that might be great, many of us can’t comprehend this. Maybe we should look at it as risk. There is a definite risk in seeing the best this world can give us and acknowledging that it might not be there the moment you close your eyes. I don’t have the time to sit here and tell you about the thousands of times that the happiness that I was supposed to feel, didn’t happen. The friends that I thought were true, never existed. The hope that is so easily felt is so hard to actually have. Imagine if you can, standing at the lip of the greatest mountain you have ever climbed. You can take that step and the net you were told is there might in fact be there; or more likely, like the thousands of times prior that net will disappear the moment you take that first step. Yes, the saying says you may fly, but was that ever the thing that would have given you the peace you seek? Or another quaint saying given to you by those who can’t understand the loss that first step brought.
My therapist is jumping up and down by the idea that I am going to these gardens. She wants me to feel the peace and solace; and as I have described those feelings exactly she has a vested interest in me taking that step. She wants these gardens to be peaceful because she is a great doctor who wants what my heart desires so strongly.
Writing this post about recharging my batteries I do have to touch on one other subject; the fact that I need to recharge my batteries. Most people who say they need to recharge have come off an incredibly important win in life, or a challenge that piece by piece took away so much from them. Most people who want to recharge need it once every decade; they can’t understand the need of a daily moment to recharge. Don’t get me wrong, they can understand daily affirmations, or daily poems, or jokes, or pictures of cute animals; but it is harder to understand that there are some who need this recharging every day. Just like that cell phone sitting near you, some bodies spend so much time fighting, wasting, and slowly disappearing that they need constant recharging. And not at that fancy spa or that family vacation. But a very different recharge. I leave it to you to figure out what drains your self each day on your own.
But for me their is an importance in recharging. Not only do I get more done, but I oftentimes am subjected to the real knowledge that the rest of my life has darkness and holes that I need to face. For me recharging requires the full knowledge that just because I get an hour or two of happiness doesn’t mean the disease isn’t waiting for me when I get home. The quiet, the beauty, the time of reflection may lead to new paths, but they can’t get me out of the very vessel that carries that which is draining me so spectacularly.
It is important for all of us to recharge our batteries. It is vital not only for our physical health – I could bring out the medical journals, but also for the mental health that we struggle with. To get to the point that you feel a sense of finally recharging requires of you an amazing amount of guts, hope, acknowledgment that it might not happen, and the understanding of what you give up every time you finally feel that peace.
I haven’t been going to my gardens all that long. I haven’t gotten into my routine, and I haven’t figured out what to bring with me and what to leave behind. But for now, the music, the chair, and the incredible roses will have to do the job.