Close your eyes.
Begin to take short, uneven breaths in and out. If you can, hyperventilate.
Feel a crippling anxiety beginning at the bottom of your feet. An inability to sit still, or think straight. Allow this to travel up your shaking legs and through your pudgy torso. Feel your heart rate quicken to the point that it may jump out of your chest. Should you have done that stress test your doctor suggested? Probably, but it’s too late now, stupid. You’ll never learn to live right. You’re too entrenched in unhealthy habits. Of course you ate that third donut, you have no willpower.
Wallow in self-reproach. Allow it to completely overtake you until you are hopelessly paralyzed.
You forgot to call your mother on her birthday.
Now it is time for a visualization.
You are walking on a road. Not literally, you are not literally walking on a road as I say this, you’re actually sitting uncomfortably in your seat or on some overpriced yoga mat being berated by a stranger. This road is a metaphor.
Picture your road. Perhaps it is a lovely country road, surrounded by pastures covered in wildflowers, perhaps a shining highway with a magnificent view of the sun setting over an expanse of deep blue sea.
But it is most likely broken asphalt winding through a dark, fetid bog, the air choked with mosquitos and swamp-gas. And yet, somehow, there is always a clear spot just overheard so that the blazing sun beats down upon you, causing sweat to pour into your eyes, painfully. Yes. This is your road. You deserve this road.
Notice as you trudge down this road that there is a weight on your shoulders. A horrible weight that seems to grow heavier with each plodding step you take forward. This is your burden. Crane your neck until your can see it in your periphery. It’s huge! … and it will be with you until the bitter end of your pathetic existence. Take a moment to accept the enormity of your burden.
Who gave you this burden? You gave it to yourself. You picked it up willingly, piece by piece, over the course of your life-journey. It is made up of guilt and shame and regret. Each piece formed by a poor choice you made in your past.
Now KEEP MOVING.
You can’t unburden yourself. The only things that will drop away are the things that are no trouble at all to carry, the things that are a joy to hold but slippery and elusive. The distant memory of a grandmother’s embrace, the first stirrings of young love and the pleasant fumbling that leads to that first climax, a mystery uncovered– these things will leave you, no matter how you try to hold them. Your child’s tiny hand will one day slip from yours as she finds her own path forward. There is nothing you can do but feel them go.
The boulders of regret, though, the boulders will remain with you, no matter how you try to leave them behind in the road.
You may meet fellow travelers. They will also carry a heavy burden– but you probably won’t notice. You’ll talk and talk about your own burden and never ask them any questions about theirs and your eyes will glaze over if they talk too long about anything that doesn’t concern you. Eventually they will tire of you and wander off, leaving you alone to realize that you alienate everyone you love. That realization will become a burden of its own, and you will bear it forward. And you should! You’re a monster.
You will come to the realization that the road is a burden in itself, will imagine reality inverting so that your feet move uselessly through empty sky beneath you as the road and the world around it sit heavy on your shoulders, threatening to squeeze everything out of you, and it can’t get any heavier than this, it can’t possibly, your frail form couldn’t handle another gram of sorrow but another gram of sorrow is added to the weight of the entire world, and where could it have come from, it’s impossible, and yet there it is and Jesus, you’re still stepping forward, you’re walking on sky carrying the weight of everything.
You’re so dramatic. KEEP MOVING.
Keep your eyes ahead. Behind is nothing but promises already broken. Yes, it is dark up ahead. Yes, it is murky and you cannot see if the road bends or forks or just ends in a precarious drop into an empty void.
I promise you, somewhere up ahead is an actual empty void, and you will fall into it, and the road that you once traveled will grow over with brambles and one day cease to be a road at all. And one day, even your name will be forgotten, a blight wiped clean off the face of the earth by time and neglect. You will die as you lived, scared and alone.
But don’t think of that now. Keep moving. Because also in the murk ahead are promises that may yet be kept. Future love. Triumph. Dreams realized. Family and happiness and mystery, signs and wonders.
Who knows, I’m not fucking clairvoyant. All I know is that you don’t stand still in the road. And you don’t go back, because you can’t. Forward is the only way, no matter how shitty forward looks. Buck up, cupcake.
We are going to leave the road and return to your space.
Feel your body and mind becoming more aware of your surroundings. Remember the room around you. It’s filthy. Clothes on the floor, empty pizza boxes on the bedside table. Were you eating pizza in bed? You’re disgusting. Now smell the air. That’s the air of resignation, and your apartment stinks of it. Oh well.
On the count of three, you are going to open your eyes.