“Forward, Back, Up and Out” Fiction. Based on a True Anxiety.

“Yet when you look back at its embers
Back at the smoldering remains of the loved and lost
You realize, almost every time, that there was something there to hold on to
Precious moments lost in the fray… That you wish you’d at least noticed when you had the chance.
And here you are again
Wandering a valley between precipices of change
Rushing, frantically, to the edges of existence
Knowing all the while, deep in the recesses of your mind, that you’ll look back on the solitude fondly in your later days.”  – Bry LeBerthon

Forward, Back, Up and Out

Fiction. Based on a True Anxiety

By Leanna Glenn Markham

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.

We look back because seldom can we see ahead.
It takes a practiced focus,
an ability to pierce the fog of presumption,
and our own emotive bents of optimism, pessimism,
and who-cares-ism.

Sometimes, we look back
through lenses of sentiment,
or goggles of relief,
both of which sometimes
rob us
of gratitude for the present.

I share this because
in this very moment
an anxiety sits in my gut.
Not a huge one,
though it has larger cousins.
So I know whereof I speak.
I had no such concern 24 hours ago,
nor even an hour ago.
But now I must choose
to embrace my now
and reach for my tomorrow,
or wish for yesterday.

Deep breath.
Yesterday, the literal and the metaphorical,
held many treasures.
They taste sweet on memory’s tongue.
But I cannot go back.
Even if I in a childish tantrum
tried to hold my breath
and will myself into the past,
the body, more sensible than
the mind, would kick in and
restore the rhythm of
lungs and blood flow.
Life is meant to move forward.

The fear that blooms as anxiety,
that thorny rose,
doesn’t stop growing
unless I pick it, bloodying
my hands in the process.

So to look forward,
I have to reach back
and reach inward.
This moment
I have my hands
on the lie that if
I stumble or fail
in what I attempt tomorrow
that I will be less loved,
Less lovable. Diminished.

“Not so.”
The Master Gardener speaks.
“This flower leeches life
from your garden.
It sucks the water of joy
from you.
It shadows the tender young
aspirations growing for the first time,
keeping sunlight off them.”

So I grab the stem
and yank that nasty thing.
My best strength yields
a bent stalk and bleeding palms.
I can’t get at the root.

“Let me,”
The Gardener leans in
And puts His strong hands around the trunk,
Not just them stem.
He’s got the whole
poisoned bush in his grasp.
I cannot speak,
for I see the blood that should
be mine
running down His arms.

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