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It's always been difficult for me to let people in and to trust them. This is because for the longest time I carried unresolved baggage that I knew no one would want to see and be a part of. This made it difficult for me to enjoy genuine warmth, care, and love. It always felt as though with people I was always walking on shaky ground. It was easy for people to leave, and I anticipated this part as soon as people walked into my life. Though I was dying to find affection and safety, I often found myself looking for it in places where I couldn’t find it. This led to limited belief in myself due to the type of people I surrounded myself with and their dynamics. I often felt like I didn’t have the right to complain because unlike those who left, the ones who chose to stay saw me and it felt good to somehow be wanted. I learned early that life with its twists and turns can be very unforgiving and at times we go through phases that break something in us and leave permanent scars and demons that we continually fight as they lurk within the shadows of what's left waiting to unpredictably haunt us. The saddest thing about this is that we don't get to choose the things that haunt us, the memories that linger or the unwanted feelings that follow us around and no matter how hard we try not to see them, they always find a way of making us look. The stories we write and the memories we create, the good that allow us to look back and smile and the ugly that make us cringe and take a rather burdensome emotional toll both shape how we relate with those around us and our ability to trust or even let people in. We end up struggling and fighting to protect whatever signs of sanity and peace we may have and at times choosing to lock people out.

From a young age and even as a middle-aged woman I have often struggled with fitting in. For the longest time I was held back by fear, and I always felt awkward in most places. I can't say I have overcome it. Finding a place that felt like home always seemed like a far-fetched desire that couldn't be achieved. I often felt like an alien lurking within the shadows afraid to be seen or heard. The fear of what letting people in would bring with it and the fact that my demons always had a way of coming up when I least expected them to often left me afraid of showing people the scars that I bore and I couldn't risk the rejection, judgement or prying that came with being in such spaces. It often meant, however, that even in crowds I was often alone. That did not mean that all was rosy, because even solitude can be unbearable especially for overthinkers like me. The unending quest to be “normal” and just find a place where you will feel like you belong without fear of when the shoe will drop was all I yearned for. The night became my friend and my journals my source of escape. In the quiet of the night, I’d shut the world out and listen to pop music with dreams of the future I envisioned no longer afraid, surrounded by love and laughter.

Don't get me wrong though, despite the lows, life still had its highs and, on such days, nothing mattered, I allowed myself to savour the moments and the freedom that came with no longer being a prisoner to my thoughts. I quickly learned how fleeting and far apart these moments can be and that most came at a cost. I lost faith and I at times did not like where my yeses took me but in it all for some reason, I was always allowed the grace to face another day. I survived even when my will was broken and unwilling to continue keeping on. I have been broken apart so many times and it had begun to feel as though God was using me for lectures, but this was before I found my saving grace. One cold night from a corner at home, my heart being the messy bedroom that it is and one that I am always destructed from cleaning was a mess. I was in a bad space and my demons were actively at work. I wrote about it online. I needed to vent, to let out this pent-up anger before it consumed me and that's exactly, I did. This moment of fragility guided me to a community that helped me build a home from the pieces of my brokenness.

For the first time in a long while I am not alone and though at times, I still struggle to find my footing, I found my home. The thing about going through a lot of tragedies is that you are always prepared for the worst-case scenario and scared about what the best scenarios look like. Having experienced the best scenarios only to see them crumble when you start getting comfortable, whenever something good happens to you, you never get the chance to really enjoy it. You are always weary and alert waiting for something bad to happen. It can be an alien and draining position to be in because all you know and are used to is pain and uncertainty. I may fear a lot of things, but I am not afraid of going through it alone because I don't have to. J.P Cooper coined it perfectly in his song Bits and Pieces where he sings about going through life experiences and their motions but also having the right people there to hold your hand through and help you pick the bits and pieces. Looking at the people who surround me and how intentional they are is a profound blessing. I may still have my moments, but I have support and for the first time in a long while I am not scared to breathe. I am not afraid of what tomorrow has in store or bearing my scars and it's freeing. Looking back all I wanted and yearned for was a little love, care, genuine compassion and maybe to be seen and heard. I always wondered how it would feel to have support. All I wanted was a taste, but I am lucky to get a bottomless glass and I hope more people can be this lucky and get to experience this care that is not just trauma-informed but also intentional. Pain and trauma often isolate us from people, and this coupled with everyone thinking they know what's best for you, you are often left feeling choked and trapped. Ain’t it great when someone consults whenever they decide pertaining to your life? I think it's a kind and courteous thing to do and now I know that even when I free fall, and my demons come back to haunt me I no longer must face it alone for I have a community that'll catch me and hold my hand through it.

As Kelly Clarkson says in the song Piece by Piece my faith has been restored, I experienced care and love that I wouldn't have experienced if it wasn't for the experiences that life threw my way. They often say you can never outrun pain because life will find a way to create more and that life is a period of enjoyment punctuated with sorrow and death is the full stop but what they don't tell you is that at times amid the pain and the sorrow you may find your saving grace and no matter how much pain life throws your way, it is easier to pull through when you are surrounded by people who are genuinely vouching for you than when you have to face it all alone. They become your safety net, I have found my saving grace and today I am hopeful for piece by piece they collected me and helped me fill up the holes that life had burned in me. They helped me build a home from the pieces of what was left. They don't walk away no matter how messy it gets. They restored my faith in humanity and reminded me that people can be kind and that family isn't always just about blood but genuine love and care. We can't choose our genetic families, we only take what fate hands you, but you can choose your chosen family. And I am glad I found my tribe.

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