Do you ever open your eyes in the early morning, lying in bed against the dark window and silent streetlight, only to realize–clearly, as if for the first time–all the things that you are not? The blank slate of dawn is unforgiving, for you cannot blame these thoughts on a long day or noisy night. Your family will sleep peacefully for a few more hours while you lie awake, looking at the wall and quietly taking these soft, shameful punches to the stomach. The disinterested stillness has chased your normally confident self out of bed, leaving its lumpy, unimpressive counterpart behind. You recognize these forces and try to combat them with your old tricks: I am many things, you tell yourself, as you’ve told yourself before. Mother, wife, daughter, friend. Those are good things (you know this) and you are good at them. But there are many good things that you are not and never will be. Things that you just can’t be; things that you weren’t born to be. Most days, what you are not barely enters your mind. But on this dark and dreamless morning, with a clarity cold enough to ache, it’s all you can see.
What is it that, every now and again, casts this grim net over our unsuspecting hearts? Is it last night’s bad dream, forgotten in detail but lingering in mood? Is it a belated response to thoughtless words, tossed dismissively at us the day before? Or is it simply a psychological law of motion–for every action, an equal and opposite reaction–that is keeping our egos in check lest we get haughty in our successes? I would accept any of these explanations, so long as I don’t have to accept the most frightening one: