You wake up. You go to the sink & get yourself a glass of water, & you take a shower that is no longer than 15 minutes. You wash your hair & your face. If your head hurts, you take two Tylenols, no more & no less.
You make a list of everything you have to do today. This list is no longer than five bullet points, & it begins with one part of one work assignment, or with one sentence for one essay, or with one text message to one friend, or with one concept for one exam, or with one line of one poem. It has nothing along the lines of “save my grades”, “cure my depression”, “run a marathon”, “find a group of close friends”, or “write a book”.
Perhaps you only finish one thing on your list, but that’s okay. You reward yourself anyway.
You get eight hours of sleep tonight. Not eleven, not four. You set your alarm tomorrow for a time before ten A.M. & this too is a poem.
When you wake up, you eat one fruit, one vegetable, one piece of protein like chicken or tofu, & one thing which is disgustingly full of fat & sugar like chocolate or soda. These foods are prepared any way you want. You will eat whatever you like for the rest of the day, as long as you finish these four things.
On this day, if drinking one glass of water feels insurmountable, you make yourself do so anyway. If all you want to do is drink & drink & drink until your skin becomes a flask & your organs a bathtub, you limit yourself to eight glasses. You do this because you love your body, & this is a truth no matter whether you know it now or not.
You do not complete these actions because you want to. You complete them in spite of not wanting to. In spite of yourself & your mind & the snarling world around you. You complete them as a testimony to the ever-present knowing: what you are looking for, is looking for you too.
The next day perhaps you will eat two fruits, or perhaps you will do a push up, or perhaps you will stay after class & ask your teacher a question about the lecture, or perhaps you will ask a long-forgotten friend out for coffee, or perhaps you will write half of a poem. But you certainly will not do all of these things on the same day.
& then here is what you do:
the whole thing over again, & again the next day, & you keep your eyes on the horizonline instead of the mud, & every inessential thing falls away, & sometimes you forget your vegetable, & sometimes you do not shower for three days, & sometimes you fail an exam, & sometimes you drink no water at all, & sometimes you pull an all nighter & are completely sure that any semblance of progress you’ve made is gone. & still you continue on.
You start to understand that survival shows up to every costume party dressed as death. You start to understand how to have it over for tea, instead, & let it undress, let down its guard around you. You start to let down your guard around it.
& when—or perhaps a little bit before—you think you have the hang of this whole “one part of one work assignment per day” business, you progress to two parts of one assignment per day. Then three.
Maybe you cut all your hair off, or move across the country, or break up with the significant other who you’re learning with the sweetest rasp of ache loves you only when you’re hurting. & maybe no one in your life understands it. & maybe you don't understand it yourself. But you do this anyway, because you love yourself, & this is a truth no matter whether you know it now or not.
& at some point, a point perhaps very far away but more likely nearer than you could possibly imagine, you reach a space where your hands stop shaking so much & your brain’s static sounds a little more like song & that horizonline doesn’t look so far away anymore.
You start to remember what it feels like not to be a funeral. & this does not mean you are cured, it just means you are healing.
& this moment, when it comes, is glorious. & still you do not let yourself become complacent. Still you count your hours of sleep. Still you don't stop doing the work, in tiny manageable steps, in the smallest bites you can muster, when it feels like the darkest imaginable horror, when it is the easiest light in the world to swallow.
How do you survive?
You forgive yourself. You forgive your hands. You forgive the ones who have hurt you. You forgive the ones who have loved you. & then you wash your face. You take a deep breath. & you survive.