The Stars that Disappear

Everything must die—even the earth. Even the stars. Even the sun, which will fuse hydrogen for 10 billion years, and grow into a red giant so massive it will consume Mercury and Venus. Before it gives up the last ember of its light, though, its radiation will shine brighter than its own galaxy.

This morning I turned on a phone I’ve been too scared to look at for over two years. It’s the last remnant of an old life I’ve not wanted to confront until today. It tells the story of my mother’s slow death and the end of the most harmful love story of my life. I’ve kept it off because I haven’t wanted to read the raging messages I’d shut it down to avoid.

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Each moment of our lives is etched quite literally in the stars. Every day, the galaxies move. The sun fades. The stars disappear. This is how the universe looked when I was born. This is how it was when I took my first steps. This is the sky of my first kiss, and this, the sun of my rape.

In 2015, I lost every personal resource I owned: My faith in myself, my capacity for intimacy, my self-esteem. Someone I loved disappeared, and someone I had grown to hate grew distances away. Then the galaxies froze. Nothing moved. Nothing brightened except the pain, which shone brighter than its own galaxy. I tried and failed to begin again with new love stories and new beginnings. Every man I met seemed too terrifying to keep. Every new life seemed too different to the one I had when my mother was still alive. If I began again, I would change all there’d been when she was here, and then I’d have to say goodbye.

Going through my old messages, I noticed an odd kind of absence. Many of the people who now make up my life were not in that inbox. Even the lifestyle that now brings me so much happiness did not exist. When I turned off that phone on a Monday morning in June 2015, I thought I already had all the resources I’d ever have to put my life back together.

Maybe that’s why we become hopeless: we think we already have all the sources of strength we’ll ever have. When they don’t seem powerful enough for our healing, we assume we’ll never find more, so our brokenness seems permanent. This was not true for me. I live in a new town that has revived all the joy I take out of living. I live this life with old friends, but also new ones who’ve breathed new life into this dead self-esteem. They’ve sent me on adventures that have changed the way I see the world, and I love this tiny existence more than I ever imagined I might. The sky changed. A red giant called “hope” grew so massive it consumed all my anger.

When the universe develops a gas cloud large enough, new star formation is inevitable. There is no getting around it. The dearth of the past evaporates. Life expands. Love grows. New happiness is inevitable.

This is how the universe will look when you are reborn.

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