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If I Befriend My Enemy

As long as I’ve been alive, he’s been there. Dreadful, ghastly little creature, following me through years and inside of days, like a shadow I can never part from.

Oh heavens, how I wish we could part! Must I always be taunted by something so ugly, so vindictive, so persistent? Every time I draw a picture on a slate board, there he is to run an eraser through the chalk. Every time I sit alone in a field to think, there he is to disrupt the bliss of quiet. Every time I lay awake with dreams that make me smile, there he is in the morning, with every intent of hurling them away.

Most people learn to live with him. They even love him. Embrace him. Accept him.

Oh, they cannot be faulted, I suppose. After all, it is the human way—whether fault or virtue. Who really knows?

But myself, I cannot love him. I have too long hated him. Too long been afraid of him, disappointed by him, angry at him. Even as a wisp of a girl, I would slip away to silence and burden my journal with grievances of him. I would write of the battles, so many battles. Why must I always lose, I wondered?

And yet even in defeat, I knew it was inevitable. My enemy, after all, was something as vital as air, as endless as time, as certain as the ebb and flow of a summer’s tide.

He calls himself reality. Others call him that, too.

But not me.

I call him the chilly, bleak fog that settles over a graveyard at eventide. I call him the weary, half-muffled sigh of a disappointed soul. I call him the helter-skelter race of a panicked heart, or the fatal screech of tires on pavement, or the lonely creaks of a house long left empty.

Not to say reality has been cruel to me. No, never cruel—for he’s never slashed me with the scars so many others have borne.

Yet still, reality is always groping for the sweet tail of imagination. He watches me sit and think, knows what I hope for, then takes great delight in playing out the circumstances in ways far less exciting than what I had desired.

Nothing ever happens just how I thought it would. Smiles are less magical, moments are less breathless, sights and sounds are less surreal. Life is not romance, glistening fairy-tales, or castles atop sky-reaching hills. If anything, reality has handed me the ordinary.

My life is simple.

Not how I’d ever imagined. Not what I’d hoped for as a child. Not what I’d read about in books, watched in movies, or felt with the refrains of some stirring poem.

But I am not a child any longer. I no longer have silly battles. I no longer write about my enemy, as if he were some belligerent stranger with every hope of thwarting me.

No, by this time, I’ve gotten use to him. Grown accustomed to him reshaping my chalk board drawings. Accepted his noise and company as I wander into fields alone. Been happy in the mornings, even when I wake to find the dream is over.

Because reality isn’t always what I’d want him to be, but he is always real. He has tugged me from a child into a woman. He has persuaded me from the pages of a book into a life that I can feel, touch, and breathe.

So let it be known, I can despise him no longer. No more shall he be my enemy.

Instead, I shall live my life hand in hand with reality…my bittersweet friend.

Hannah Linder is a Christian fiction author, graphic designer, and photographer.

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