real elvish rope

a mountain range with some snow-capped peaks. there are sun-suffused clouds behind them, and the sun glows on the lower right.

cw: generational trauma

I am standing at the edge of a cliff-side.

Behind me are all the memories and experiences of my life until now; my childhood, my young motherhood, my important relationships, raising my children, the deep sadness of un-perfection.

I can wait here and feel the cold warmth of all those things behind me, pressing onto my back. If I put this burden down, I will not be holding it any more. I will not have the dark comfort of armfuls of pain held close to the chest.

But if I leave it behind — taking only what I can hold — then I am saying to myself that the past is the past. I am aware now that putting it all down does not mean I will forget all the memories I have brought with me and the feelings I have about them, but I am used to carrying it all. I am used to being the person who keeps the love and the hope and the regret on behalf of people who aren’t me.

I am afraid.

It feels like this is the opening chapter of the second book of my life (at least, if the first book was as big and unwieldy as a Tad Williams paperback), and the time ahead of me will be new even if there are bittersweet moments.

I have chosen small tokens of the years before now: notes written by a ten-year-old about what they want for Christmas; artwork made with crayons and glue and misshapen clay over the years, the uglier the more cherished; photos of people and times that come into temporary clarity when I look at them. I have thrown away more than I am going to keep.

And I am afraid, but I am hopeful.

I am crying but they are not tears of despair.

This is how much I have cared and loved and lost.

These memories are mine to do with what I will, and some of them will fade with time and I will not remember them any more — but such is life, such is a lifetime, however long or short.

We cannot take every memory with us. We do not have to take every memory with us.

I did not think that turning forty-five years old would bring me to this terrifying and delicious precipice of change. I did not expect the cool winds of lands I have not yet traveled. I did not consider the possibilities that wait for me as I ponder how and what to choose.

I have worked hard at breaking the chains that have wound around me since childhood, made of links that my parents gave me, then of links that I picked up and welded into these chains myself. I have co-created my own pain and fear alongside the lessons and wisdom that wounds have given me.

If I take the rope already tied to the rocks and trust it to hold me as I descend through the fog below, I will be, as Samwise Gamgee said, “the furthest from home I’ve ever been.” Like Sam, I have misunderstood what I mean when I think of home. Like Sam, I feel every cut so deeply and when I cry, it is because it hurts so much that I cannot take the burdens of those I love.

The time of my life has now brought me to this place, and I can either sit and refuse to move because I will have to choose to do it, rather than letting life push me here and there, or I can believe that I am strong enough to hold the rope and lucky enough to have new chances and new choices and new lands before me. I can remind myself that I bring with me everything that I have learned and everything that I have not.

I can desire to have both a long memory and a beginner’s mind. I can take what wisdom I have and use it as the foundation that grounds me, so that I can build whatever is coming now.

I am afraid, but I won’t stay here on the edge. I am taking the downward path into a future full of hope.

what if the steps I take
turn out to be mistakes
how can somebody like me
learn to say

come what may

my daddy always said
nothing worth doing comes easy

time is not your friend
time is not your enemy

no amount of waiting will make you ready
no amount of fear will keep you,
no amount of fear will keep you safe

Keep You Safe, The Crane Wives

I want to say thank you for being with me as I write and weep and change and grow. I am realizing that what I do here is from my soul, but it is not just for me. I am grateful for you.


featured image is a photo by Haytam Elb on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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