“You can live for a long time inside the shell you were born in. But one day it’ll become too small.”
“Then what?” I ask.
“Well, then you’ll have to find a larger shell to live in.”
I consider this for a moment. “What if it’s too small but you still want to live there?”
She sighs. “Gracious, child, what a question. I suppose you’ll either have to be brave and find a new home or you’ll have to live inside a broken shell.”
“It comes and goes. People think if you’re sick you become fearless and brave, but you don’t. Most of the time it’s like being stalked by a psycho, like I might get shot any second. But sometimes I forget for hours.”
“What makes you forget?”
“People. Doing stuff. When I was with you in the wood, I forgot for a whole afternoon.”
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
But still. Still bless me anyway. I want more life. I can’t help myself. I do. I’ve lived through such terrible times and there are people who live through much worse. But you see them living anyway. When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children – they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don’t know if that’s just the animal. I don’t know if it’s not braver to die, but I recognize the habit; the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough. It’s so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life.
She did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms—and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too—end up in their shadow.
― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There