Forged in Fire

Some notes:

The U.S. presidential election has me feeling trapped and is bringing up a lot of bad memories. I’ve been on the lookout for good things, lights to focus on to prevent my world view being cast in darkness.

I have a lot of slow brain days. Those are days when I can’t see my way out of the fog. I struggle to get simple tasks done. I lose my keys in the fridge and I forget where the cold food is kept. These tend to fall in quick succession. There is a cascade effect when I am highly anxious as I have been. I woke up this morning with a million tasks in my head. I was having a panic attack because I was afraid I had misplaced some tickets. So I employed the age-old coping skill of jotting down a list, emptying my head into Notes on my phone.


I spent the next two hours avoiding the list.

The thing is, despite waking up highly anxious, my head felt clear. I knew I needed to buckle down. I employed another age old coping mechanism–coffee. I went in my office and got to work because tomorrow may not be a great brain day. I have to take advantage of the days when I have the spoons.

I got a full list done. It wasn’t the list I typed out. I went back to that one not long ago and did complete half of it, but there was a lot of negative self-talk in my head about what I hadn’t taken care of. So then I typed up all the bonus tasks I’d completed so I didn’t feel guilty and unproductive.

It worked!

I tried to sit with that feeling of accomplishment. Success! I said to myself. And I really meant it, but the sadness–that sense of overwhelm–didn’t fade for long.

I decided it was okay. It is okay. It is okay to be with sadness.

I am hurting. I am learning. I am growing.

My sadness reminded me of synchronicity and the power of multiple pains building into a fire. I am being forged. Again. And though I may not enjoy the pieces or the process, I will come out stronger.

There are many, many changes happening for me right now. Some preplanned for months, others the last two years. Some sudden and unexpected. Most joyfully anticipated. I got caught up.

I lost sight of something. My goal has always been to reach just one person through my writing. Despite the excitement of moving into new spaces, I have been in a dark period where I stopped reaching myself. The world may not have seen it, but I actually quit writing. Why? My work is based on relentless honesty. To achieve that, I have to be honest with myself first. Honest to my bones. And I didn’t want to do that. I would have to turn a seeing eye on an area of my life I was desperate to remain blind to. Transitions are never easy.

I relied on pre-drafted posts to keep my site alive. I told myself I didn’t need to write anything. Now I realize I went silent because I was trying to hold onto something I needed to let go, a deep pain around something I wanted to heal, transform and maintain. I had my teeth gritted with the effort. I grew too tired to put down my thoughts. But here I am, typing again. Coming back to who I always was. Trying to make sense the way I always have. Remembering that I am never alone unless I choose to be.

Words are my friends. If I turn my back on them, I turn my back on everything.

“Alone” was a story I was telling myself. Just as I had created a story saying I was a bad person if I couldn’t heal what and when I expected myself to. I could go on forever telling myself I haven’t done enough. I could bury myself in guilt over how my reality and the story of what I told myself would be don’t match. I could keep punishing myself for something completely out of my control. Or I could recognize what my body has been screaming with every panic attack, the hours of tremors, the nightmares, the slow brain days and the silence: This isn’t what you should be holding onto. 

The release burns. It feels isolating. But I have never actually been on my own in this metaphysical shift. The words waited. They whispered, It is okay to both love and let go.

I love myself. I let go.

No more cage. I opened the door. And while it isn’t the launch I ever saw for myself, I’m free. That’s a very good thing.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

2 Discussion to this post

  1. Drew Sheldon says:

    I hope you keep letting go. It is such an inspiration to me.

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