Then asked, "Do you truly remember? Can you empathize any more? Do you recall how all-encompassing the pain felt?"
How could Now forget?
She reluctantly walked down the hall. Her head painfully pounded in fear as she felt completely ignored by the crowd in her invisibility. Yet she simultaneously felt mocked by each set of eyes that happened to look her way. Shoulders slumped, she shyly kept her eyes gazed on the bare floor, avoiding any contact. But longing so much for some positive connection.
She looked disdainfully at her clothes. Embarrassed at their lack of contributing to any acceptable status and hoping that nothing would bring her any attention. Attention that brought hot blood flowing to her face and made her dizzy and confused.
Why couldn't she appreciate any acknowledgement? Why couldn't a smile or question pierce the loneliness and bring her out into the moment in her crowded surroundings? Instead she was left behind this huge wall that blinded her from seeing any relational opportunity. It suffocated her. Her every muscle ached.
She bit her lip to keep away the tears. Her stomach continued to cramp as always. She could think of many excuses to leave. She had run away so many times. But where would she go? The solace from one pain would only bring her face to face with another. Then, she would ultimately be expected to return again.
She realized at that moment she wasn't breathing. She felt faint. Every sound shamefully accused her. Every laugh felt directed at her miserable presence. She couldn't take it any more.
What if she didn't come back? Would anyone notice? Would the daily routine followed by any other human being have to be adjusted for her absence?
No. Their lives would only continue. Oblivious to those who's eyes desperately cried out in pain for fellowship. Who's hands mortified her as they again trembled in self doubt. Who's feet plodded forward despite the distraction of anguish that never left.
Then knew it would never go away. The tormenting shadow followed her every moment, clouding her eyes and pushing weight onto her shoulders with every thought of mistakes made and assumptions proven and heartache cemented and embarrassments endured.
She piled on the shame with every effort to cope. Every attempt to drink away the timidity. Every effort to puff out the inner turmoil. Every trampish grasp for affection.
Why was it like this? How could she stop caring? Stop thinking? Stop failing? Stop worrying? Stop snowballing?
There appeared only one solution. It lingered in the back of her mind always. A permanent solution. The accusations would be gone. The misunderstandings would become unnecessary. The pain would disappear.
Or would it? What if the anguish remained for eternity? If it followed her to the other side?
"No!" Screamed Now. "It will change! The pain will lessen. The heartache will fade. The doubt will decrease. The confusion will subside.
"And in their place hope will grow. Love will bloom. Appreciation will creep in. Faith will strengthen. Joy will present itself. Healing will begin."
But Then could not hear. Would not hear. Instead, she had to discover the new life slowly. She had to actually attempt her escape. She had to cry her tears. She had to call out in desperation. She had to learn to forgive bit by bit by bit. One impossible step forward and two difficult steps back.
Your Later sees your Today. Trying to dry your tears. Attempting to give you a glimpse of what will be. Cheering you on in your battle.
You don't hear Later. Just like my Then didn't hear my Now.
Just believe it exists. That will be enough to help you keep going. You are heading toward something.
There is a future.