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*Ange ou Démon: the story of an amber spirit with silver linings*

It's October again.

The amber carousel is turning.

Tears no longer flow.

My soul is still burning.

That's what I caught myself thinking, when the brisk breeze, on that bright yet cold autumn day, made me shiver, while holding a warm cup of coffee sprinkled with cinnamon. I flickered through a few pages from a book that's called “Every word you cannot say” and wondered about all the words I did not say to myself and to other people. Mountains could be gazed upon, through the wide window from the living room, as the light created a clear perspective, thus tracing a precise contour between the forest, from which I managed to leave, and the peaks, towards I was now reaching. The fog was lifted, revealing the peaks, and clearing my head. Diffuse light found its way through the clouds, like a dream, blending into reality and thus, opening a box with memories that were long forgotten, almost as if they were lived in another life. It's that time of year again, isn't it?

  • Yes it is, my dear, but don't worry. We're ready to face the music.

  • Wow, hold on, what are you doing here? I haven't seen you in a while, Noir. I thought you were long gone.

  • Yeah, about that. We need to talk. Things are not gonna work this way. I'm back and I'm here to stay.

  • No way, really?

  • Yes, really. You cannot live without having a demon in your life. Yin and Yang, you know what I'm saying?

  • Right, that conversation again. It looks like it's gonna take a while. Would you like a cup of coffee? You still drink coffee, right?

  • Yes, a flat white for me please.

  • I'll get a flat white for me, as well.

  • Coincidence?

  • No, Noir, I don't think so.

Gusts of wind rattling through the leafs reminded me of those blissful autumn days, when I went for walks in Hyde Park, looking for the red-coloured leafs. It’s always been about the colour red. I needed my red hair, when I was younger, so that it could eventually return to its natural colour, reminiscent of the auburn-toned leafs, of my forever autumn. The forget-me-not flower tattoo on my left arm feels like it was made many years ago, instead of October last year, probably because there's nothing left for me to do, other that accept what has happened. The forget-me-not has healed and it is part of me. The peony flower is in healing process and it feels just right, on my right hand. It hurt more than the one on the left but that's only natural.

  • Well now, look at you, inked up and blooming. How do you feel?

  • I feel good. I feel at ease with myself. These tattoos mark important milestones.

  • Is that so? I've been wanting to ask you. What's with those flowers?

  • It's quite simple, to be fair. The one on the left, the forget-me-not, marks the commemoration of five years from the fire, and the one on the right, the peony, marks my 30th anniversary. Both of them, black and white, with shades of grey in between.

  • It's all about symbols, isn't it?

  • Of course.

  • Well go on, speak your mind. I'm listening. Don't mind me, it's almost as if I'm not here.

The pandemic has made me question everything. My sanity, my career, my personal life, my values, my skills, my achievements. Writing and photography have saved me, for I am a photographer at heart, a writer by choice, and a storyteller by nature. I've understood that I can be good at more than one thing, but not at the same time. Images and words have kept me going, when things were dark, dull and hopeless, during my journey, and my battle with depression and anxiety. I am grateful that I've had the chance to be a photographer and a writer, these past few months, and I'm glad to say that I've fulfilled both roles, successfully.

I've had moments when I did not leave the house for more than a week, and I was absolutely fine with that. I felt nervous when I knew that I had to go outside and when I returned home, I was tired, petulant and very low on energy. Looking back, I was not a pleasant person to be around, and I regret that. One day, out of the blue, I walked by the mirror on the hallway and I caught a quick glance of the person reflected in it. I did not recognise myself. My eyes had lost their sparkle. I was sad, angry, frustrated and surrounded by an aura of darkness which slowly began to take over my everyday life. I realised that I needed a change of perspective. I had to recalibrate, rewind, revise, and recalculate in order to prioritize and change the order of things, so that I could bring what really matters to me, first and forward.

Now, as I write down these thoughts, I feel relieved and liberated, as if an enormous weight was lifted from my shoulders. I can finally be present and focus on the moment, without worrying about everything all the time, being anxious about all the things that might go wrong, and about the fragility of life. I am aware that my health comes first because that's essential, if I want to live my life to the fullest, and bring joy to the people around me, because knowing I cannot save everyone and being ok with that, not worrying that I’m not good enough because I've proven myself otherwise, no longer feeling unworthy of what I have, and allowing myself to not be a great communicator all the time, has given me the confidence and strength needed to lift the black veil that was clouding my mind, and face the demons within.

The silver lining on my wrist is there to remind me of the silver lining I was looking for, a while ago, and now I've managed to find it. It's the little things that make each day unique and worth living. For example, a small bottle filled with tea-based liquor, perfect for sharing a drink with an angel, a smooth cappuccino and a walk in the park, on a lovely autumn evening, a wonderful bouquet of red roses, received on a bright and cheerful Sunday afternoon, and sharing tasty meals cooked together, at home. In the end, it's all about the gift of time, about how much I've got left of it and last but not least, how I wish to spend it. Ideally, I'd like to keep my loved ones close, eat delicious food, drink a nice glass of wine, every now and then, and just live a happy and peaceful life.

  • Speaking about the silver lining on your wrist, I noticed that you're wearing something else, apart from the bracelet.

  • Yes, Noir. I'm wearing a perfume that I haven't used in quite some time.

  • What's it called?

  • Ange ou Démon. It brings a bitter and slightly leathery aroma to my skin, at first, and then, it blooms into a delightful fragrance that combines mandarin orange and thyme. In the end, it turns out to be mild and vanilla-flavoured, with discrete notes of amber. It's a suitable choice, which adds a touch of warmth, on this cold day of late October, that began with a frosty breeze in the morning, and continued with mellow sunshine in the afternoon.

  • It suits you very well, I dare say.

  • Thank you, Noir. I think so, too.

Today, I look in the mirror and I finally like what I see.

This is who I am, with my scars, my imperfections and my flower tattoos.

I take pride in my scars and I embrace the present version of myself. I'm learning how to be ok with not worrying about everything, all the time. Reading helps me a lot, when it comes to understanding every step of the healing process. For example, the book entitled “On death and dying” by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave me useful information about grief, loss, suffering and hope.

  • When it's too much to handle, I take a break.

  • Don't you think of quitting?

  • No Noir, not anymore.

I have entered the final stage of my grieving process, which is acceptance. It took me six years to get here, a change of decade in age, and many challenges, both physical and mental ones. I’ve come such a long way, I’ve learned to tame my demons and slow down, because things happen exactly when they should, and the sun will shine again. However, there will also be clouds, both black and white ones, brutal storms and harsh winds, orange sunrises, clear blue skies, crimson sunsets and ravishing rainbows in between.

The amber demons have not vanished either, and they shall never do. They're there, in the shadows of my mind, speaking up when I least expect. The difference is that now, I listen to what they have to say, we go for coffee and wine regularly, depending on the tine of day, and I no longer persuade them to leave. We cannot live without each other, and we're fine with that.

  • Your body, touched by fire, will never forget the burning sensation.

  • My soul, tamed by fire, will never let the flame fade away.

  • Your eyes, lit by fire, will never loose their spark.

  • My life, changed by fire, will never be without hope.

  • Is it difficult?

  • Yes. Yes it is, Noir.

  • Is it painful?

  • Absolutely.

  • Does it get easier, as time goes by?

  • No.

Time does not heal all wounds. I do that. I heal my wounds. Healing does not mean that the scars have disappeared. The scars remain and I am learning to live with them, because the amber carousel never stops. Round and round it goes, with good days and bad days, sweet dreams and sleepless nights, moments of pure joy and deep sorrow, hope and despair, the ambition needed to become a better person and the anxiety that something might go wrong. It's time to light a candle and shine a light, for me, for you, for us, for them, for each and every soul, searching for the equilibrium of a circle inscribed in a square.

  • Oh, look at the time, it's afternoon, already.

  • Time flies when you're busy going through the labyrinth of your mind.

  • That's true, sorry for taking up so much of yours, Noir.

  • Nonsense. I'm not going anywhere, I told you.

  • Well then, should we switch from coffee to red wine?

  • Yes, I'd say that the timing is just right. Cheers to you.

  • No, Noir, cheers to all of us.

It's October again.

My amber sun is shining.

So is my eternal flame.

I am alive, here, now.

*Ne obliviscaris.*


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