This is how I feel–like I woke up in the middle of a strange forest. I’m lost. Or more like, I feel like I’ve lost something and am casting around for it, not even exactly sure what I lost, only that I feel vulnerable and not-me without it, confused. I want to go home, something inside me says, loud and clear. I want to go home. And then it hits me–that’s what I’ve lost. Home. My home.

But there’s this other voice–and it tells me I can’t go home. But that’s the only thing I know–it’s what my heart is telling me to do, go home. Can’t I just please go home? No, the voice says. You can’t. And I know it’s right.

So I wander around the forest, not really sure where I’m going, feeling very small under the tall, vast trees. I feel like a little girl again, uncertain and quiet, big-eyed and unprotected, innocent in a big, big world that she doesn’t understand anymore.

How can I try to make my home somewhere alone in this forest? Just choose a random spot and build a little shack? How can I do that, when I know where home is, and how to get there?

I even go and look at my house sometimes, get really close, just to the edge of the forest, peering around the last trunk. It’s so close, right there–I just want to run across the clearing and through the door. It would be so easy. But the voice tells me that is a very bad idea, and I know it’s right somehow. So I don’t.

But going back into the forest hurts so much. I send myself to very dark places, scary corners of the wood I know I shouldn’t be exploring but I can’t help myself. I always feel icky and shaky afterward. Bad idea, Ashley. Bad idea. But still I do it–I just want another glimpse of that house.

There’s a person inside–a boy. He knows I’m out here. He knows I can’t come home. He’s seen me peering through the trees–I’ve seen him looking through the window. I trust this boy, a lot. I know he misses me. But he won’t come get me for some reason. This scares me and hurts me. I’m not sure why he won’t come. I say for ‘some reason’–I know that’s not fair. I understand it’s scary out here, but with two of us, I think we’d be okay. We’d find our way back home. He just needs to take the first steps to me, and then neither of us will be alone anymore. We can find the way together. But he’s not coming. Does he not care about me enough? Does it hurt too much now that I’m gone? Maybe it’s my fault. Is it easier to forget that I was ever there? I wouldn’t ever do that to him. He knows that. I know he wouldn’t do that to me either, at least not on purpose. He knows how much I miss him. He knows I want to come home but I can’t. I know I’m simplifying this too much–but being so sad and scared and hurt makes things seem much simpler than they are. I just feel abandoned, even though I know I shouldn’t. He probably feels that way about me.

I mean, he could be making plans to step outside that house, to give it a try, and I wouldn’t even know–I have no idea. But I feel like I would know, wouldn’t I? But there’s also a chance that he’s done trying, that he isn’t planning on coming to rescue me. I just wish I had a little hope. But the house has been quiet recently. I hate that quiet. I go wander the dark places again because I’m so scared but I don’t find any answers and now I feel so sick. This is very bad for me. I need to stop. But stop how? I don’t want to stop going to look at the house, look for glimpses of the boy, remember the happy days I had there. I don’t want him to forget about me, give up on me. Maybe I’m scared that if I stop going to look, stop throwing acorns at the windowpane, that he will.

But at the same time, I know the voice is true–I can’t go back home. It has to come to me, if it’s going to come at all. He has to  come to me, step into the forest, come looking. There’s a whisper in my head that says maybe I’m just not important enough. Or maybe he thinks he won’t find anything–that the voice isn’t real. That maybe it’s less scary to stay where he is, with the hope of something more out there, than come looking and risk finding that it’s not true. I don’t think that will happen, but he doesn’t know that for himself yet. I understand it’s easier to stay in that house. I just wish I knew what was going on in there, like I used to. I miss the boy, very very much. But unless he gives me a reason to keep on going to the edge of the forest just to look, just to be close, I have to stop.

I’m losing myself in those dark places. I can’t lose any more of myself than I have already. I won’t ever give up on the boy, I’d never do that. But I have to trust that if home is still really home, and if the boy still really cares like he did, or I thought he did, then home and the boy will come for me. So now I’ve got to follow that voice, find myself a nice tree somewhere with a nice nook partway up, not too high, and build myself a nest and try to make it cozy. I’ll try to make friends with the forest animals and find ferns to line my nest to make it soft and gather flowers for my hair. I’ll try to build my strength back up again, til I can climb and run and swing and jump on my own again, even with the big absence all around me in the echoing forest and beside me and in me. Even with no one to give a steadying hand when I’m off balance or keep me warm on cool nights. But I have to make a life. Somehow.

But I won’t stop hoping that one day he’ll walk into my little clearing and look up at my tree with that smile and say ‘hi.’ And then I’ll know I’ve truly come home again. But for now, I’ll spin a blanket out of memories, content myself with visits  of laughter and togetherness in my dreams, and hold on to what I knew to be true what seems like so long ago, although it really isn’t that far away. Maybe in time, this forest won’t be so scary anymore. Maybe the dark ugly places will go away and won’t lure me with sad siren songs or jump out at me with teeth and claws. Maybe I can find somewhere to be safe and even happy. But I’ll always miss you. Don’t forget that, please. I don’t think you will. And if one day you come calling, to take me home, I’ll be ready.