Friends, when I read this post on Ellie’s fabulous blog, it literally took my breath away. I asked if she’d share it here and she said Yes!
It’s kind of smelly.
You didn’t even land on something soft.
You’re not sure how long you’ve been sitting in the hole. The sunlight above is more for show than an indicator of time or provider of warmth, and the sheer earthen walls are only barely held together with stray roots.
Absentmindedly, you rub the bruise on your butt. The fall was sudden; you’d anticipated the covered pit trap as you walked along the forest path – you’d seen its like before and heard all about their dangers – but it eluded you, and you tumbled in. At least there aren’t any spikes or creepy-crawlies.
In fact, there’s nothing in the hole except you and a spoon (which, in classic comic fashion, is exactly where you landed, despite there being plenty of room for your butt otherwise).
The existence of the spoon is a mystery, but it’s been incredibly useful. Once you came to terms with not being able to climb out of the hole – a spoon is a poor piton – you reasoned the best way to escape a slow death would be to dig.
Which you did for several hours. You packed the loose soil into the walls to reinforce them and to make room for more hole. The further you dug, the more panicked and frenzied you became. Digging eclipsed your mind and you could think of nothing except going deeper.
But eventually you hit a layer of rock, bending your spoon in half and putting a stop to your efforts.
You howled in anguish. You threw the spoon as hard as you could, resulting in another bruise. You beat the stone with your fists. You collapsed on the dirt floor. Your energy expended, all you could think to do was wait for the end.
An age and a half later, a movement at the faraway mouth of the hole distracts you from your misery. You squint to see a silhouette, more of a smudge than a person, against the fading light.
“And how did you end up down there, then?” the shadow asks. The woman’s voice sounds miles away, muffled by depth and soft soil.
You wipe away the snot with the back of a grubby hand. “I don’t know. One minute I was walking along; the next, I was down here. And now I can’t get out. I tried digging…” You hold up your mangled repurposed utensil.
“Seems to me like you should have been watching where you were going.”
“I was! I’ve been walking in this forest my whole life!” you insist. “I know where the traps are, I just…didn’t see this one,” you finish weakly.
The shadow scoffs, and your apathy shapes itself into annoyance.
“Are you just going to stand there and interrogate me, or are you going to fish me out?”
To your surprise, your antagonist vanishes.
You leap to your feet, furiously brandishing the spoon as if to challenge the unscrupulous woman to a duel.
You yelp in surprise as two wooden poles whizz by your head a bit too close for comfort and land with a hard poomp in the dirt.
“Hey, what’s the big idea? I’m not a circus act down here – I can’t use these.”
“Oh no? Well, that’s a terrible shame, then, cos it’s all you’ve got,” snaps the woman. “Now take hold of ‘em and close your eyes.”
You can’t believe what you’re hearing. I’m at the bottom of a hole! And she wants me to close my eyes and hold some sticks? But you feel a little flutter inside and do as she says.
“There’s a good escapee,” she says. “We’re going to play a little game. I’ll say something, then you think as hard as you can about what it reminds you of. And don’t open your eyes until I tell you or else your face’ll fall off.”
You tighten your grip and scrunch up your eyes. You’re pretty sure she won’t do anything to you, but you can’t take that chance. It’s the only face you’ve got.
Slowly, a litany of soft words melts over the lip of the hole and drips down into your ears. You hardly have to focus at all – the images come so easily.
A hug from my mom. Corny movies. Cherry pie. Reading my favourite book. All day in my jammies. Mac ‘n’ cheese. Chatting with my BFF. A walk at the seaside. The smell of ozone. Toblerone. Firefly reruns. Homemade bread. Making artwork. Cleaning the house.
Each one floods you with its associatedsensations embedded deep within you – these are the things that soothe you best. They rise up one by one, taking a layer of your despair as they pass.
“Okay – open ‘em.”
Your eyelids snap open at the command. Between your hands is a ladder. You’re holding the same poles as before, but now they’re connected with rungs. When you lean in for a closer look, you see each step has one of your comforting images written on it.
Tentatively, you plant your foot on “hugs from my mom” and begin to climb. Each step brings you further from the bottom of the pit you’d resigned yourself to. Your excitement and relief grows so quickly, you don’t even notice you’ve dropped your spoon.
As you reach the end of the ladder, a strong hand helps you steady yourself. You do know her – it’s that crazy woman from the beach. You open your mouth to say something, but she interrupts you.
“You’re welcome,” she says, wiping your dirt off her hands. Ignoring your second attempt at speech, she follows up with: “Don’t fall into any more holes. They’ll suck you up if you don’t know how to get out.”
With that, she gives you a brief nod, turns on her heel and walks off.
“Thank you,” you whisper, mystified at what’s just happened, but not likely to forget in a hurry.
The Hole is that dark, horrible place we can fall into in the grip of depression, anxiety, fear, or panic. Sometimes it’s a surprise, sometimes we can see it coming, but it always goes the same. We tumble from a place of sure footing and plummet straight down, spiraling faster and faster until we plow into the bottom.
And it doesn’t always stop there. More often than not, we continue to dig into The Hole, using every dark utensil at our disposal to deepen into our pain. We’ll dig until the light is no longer visible, until we burn away all the emotion and just sit empty on the bottom.
The only way to get out is a ladder. If you can remember what deep comforts bring you back to yourself, they can bring you out of The Hole. You may not be able to use the ladder right away, but the more rungs you have, the easier and quicker it is to climb into the sunlight again when you’re ready to take the first step.
Ellie Di is a headologist, spiritual nomad, life investigator, and professional pompom shaker. She spends her ever-busy days helping people awesomeize their lives, writing inspiring personal stories, mind-melding with the internet, and straight-up hustlin’ in pursuit of The Big Dream. You can find her at her website.