“I see the bright colors before me. What is this wondrous creation? There are vibrant shades, glorious hues everywhere, blues and greens, reds and yellows. It is a rainbow I can touch, I can smell. It is smooth and glossy under my fingertips. And then suddenly it moves. Slowly at first, so I think it is a trick of my imagination. Silly Jaci, you always think you see things no one else can.
But then it gets bigger and there is no doubt it IS moving. No, it is inflating. It is an air mattress, the very same kind that is stored behind my couch, reserved for the very best and longest of family movie days. The kind of perfection where we crawl onto the air mattress together, a mess of arms and legs and blankets to watch something wonderful and funny and happy, taking breaks only to make popcorn and use the bathroom. This is the most beautiful air mattress I have ever seen, and I cannot wait to show my husband. I think he gets particular pleasure out of our movie days, especially late at night when he remains the sole survivor of them, watching whatever he wants from the comfort of our family cocoon while our deep breaths sing the lullaby of peaceful dreams all around him.
But when I think the beautiful colors will stop expanding, they just continue to swell. They are a giant pair of lungs that suck greedily at the air. It must be a bouncy house, one that invokes laughing children. I hear squeals of glee and delight–this must be for my kids. They have always wanted one, but I have never wanted to stay in one place long enough to justify the expense of one. I watch in anticipation as the bouncy house continues to grow, going from small house to mansion to castle. My children will love this. They will play on it for hours and I will get such joy by the simple act of watching them experience joy.
But to my bewilderment, the mass before me continues to grow. I watch in amazement as it inflates bigger and bigger until it blocks the view of anything else. It is the only thing I can see. A giant, beautiful, kaleidoscope of colors that are so magnificent and so expansive, it makes my heart ache. Tears start to pour from my eyes–as often happens whenever I experience beauty in its fullest, finest form–and I briefly feel embarrassed because, at 40, I really should be able to control my emotions better than I do. Then I notice something else: my tears are like crystals and they magnify and reflect the light until the rainbow isn’t just in front of me.
It is inside of me.
It pours into my eyes and my ears until it is all I see. All I hear. All I taste. It radiates and pulses and expands so fully inside of me, there is no more separation between me, Jaci, and it, The Rainbow. I am it. It is me.
At that moment, I realize it isn’t an air mattress at all, nor a child’s bouncy house. Even more importantly, it isn’t for my husband, nor my children. It isn’t meant for anyone else but me. And as I sit with this miracle, the miracle that has just taken hold of me, I see it morph. I see me morph.
I become a hot air balloon, majestic and beautiful. Light and strong. A vessel for dreams and dreaming. A place of freedom.
As I step fully and completely into its golden basket, with just enough room for one, I know I am about to embark on a solo mission: a mission of healing, a mission of love, a mission of transformation.
It is a tense moment. As I stand there battling myself, fear steps in, making my beautiful rainbow vessel, the one that holds me and at the same time is me, quiver. My knees shake. My heart pounds. I wonder if I am strong enough. If I am brave enough. If I actually am up to this mission. Do I even want to transform? Do I want to be anything other than who I thought I was or more accurately, who I think I am? But the battle goes even deeper than that. Do I want to challenge, to change, the person I am meant to be? My future self as defined by me in the present who sprang from me of the past?
As I struggle with these feelings and thoughts, I hear a hissing sound. It is deafening! So loud that it may break my eardrums and I pause my negative thoughts in order to wonder if I can cope in a world of silence. My balloon is deflating. If the hissing bursts my eardrums and the colors collapse with my balloon, will I continue to exist? Will the Jaci I am, without sight and without sound and without feeling, even continue to exist?
Do I even exist now?
In a sheer panic that is also, somehow laced with comfort, I realize the answer is no. I can no longer be the person I am. I can’t continue on this path. This muddy, gravel road that continuously loops me right back to where I started. Even if that road is comfortable simply because I know it so well and have walked it for so long.
I need a new path. I need a new road. I need to let go of all I am and all I have been and all I think defines me. I must break free from the cage I have held myself in for so long. I need to grow. I need to expand. I need to break free of what it is that holds me back and keeps me from transformation.
With those thoughts, the hissing stops. I jump–no, spring–aboard my rainbow balloon ready to soar. Ready to fly. Ready to fly far far far away.
To my surprise, my vessel doesn’t move.
I look around me in confusion. What is wrong? I am ready. I know that I am ready, so why haven’t I launched myself, yet?
That is when I see the bags, the sandbags tightly attached to my beautiful golden basket. They are preventing my flight. They are holding me down.
One by one, I look around my shining vessel and count those hideous, beige bags. As I count them, I know exactly what they are. There is one for you. And one for you. And one for you. And even one for you. As I count them, too numerous to even say out loud, I know, deeper than I have ever known anything, if I want to go forward…
if I want to proceed…
if I want to fly…
if I want to soar…
then I must cut myself free of all of you.
I wait for that knowledge to sting, to cut me, to sink its teeth so deeply inside of my heart the hissing will start again as my balloon pops violently and dies all around me. But to my surprise, it doesn’t. If anything, it makes me more determined.
I want to fly. No, I want to f*cking soar.
I look around me desperate to find the scissors I need to cut away those hideous colorless bags. When I realize I don’t have scissors, a knife, or anything else I can use to severe you from me, something powerful dawns on me. I don’t need a tool. I have teeth. I will chew through those cords, the ones that have bound me to the ground for far too long, the ones that have strapped me down and kept me captive for as long as I can remember.
I will gnaw my teeth into nubs in order to save myself.
To free myself from you.
I pounce on the first bag. I am the cat and it is my mouse and there is absolutely no turning it loose now. It is awkward and heavy in my hands, but I am relentless as I lift the thick cord to my teeth. You think I don’t have the wherewithal to go through with it, but then again, you never really knew me. You never understood me, never were part of me. With each mouthful of rope, I cut through the pain, the ridicule, the years and years and years of hurt.
Take those fake tears that rain down upon us and plant them elsewhere. I will not be held captive by them anymore. I do not want them. I do not want you. Fraudulent Love, false God–I will not worship you anymore.
My mouth, bloodied and sore, reaches its goal. The cord is severed. I watch as the sandbag falls to the cold, dry ground with a thud. The grass crunches beneath my bare feet as I turn towards the next beige bag. This one looks a little different, but I would recognize that scent anywhere. I reach for it and begin to chew.
Ss I continue with my work, I notice my rainbow vessel is moving. As I consciously grind through the bags that have been my prison of gravity for so long, I begin to hear chirping. I am doing it. I am flying. I am one with the birds. I am no longer yours to trample. For how can you possibly step on something you can no longer put under your feet?
I continue to rise so high, soon the cars below me become ants; the houses game pieces on a monopoly board. I feel the wind on my face, the flapping of wings in the air, and with every bag that drops back to the earth, I feel lighter and lighter and lighter.
When the final bag falls to the ground, I am so far away I would have lost sight of its descent if I had been watching. But I am not. I will not look behind me anymore. There is no going back. There is no more sand on this vessel.
Just as I brace myself to cross through the atmosphere, my rainbow balloon stops suddenly. I jerk violently as I hover, locked between worlds. In a panic, I look around me to make sure another sandbag did not escape my jaws, but there are none. I severed them all.
My guts become rocks as a terrible thought nags my brain–maybe my journey has ended. Maybe I was never actually meant to reach those stars.
I wait for the noise, the hissing, the terrible sound that will send me crashing back down to earth. The very land that was cold and dry when I departed is now soggy and wet. The sandbags have shed so many tears, they have made a mudhole. Quicksand waits to suck me down and bury me forever.
In a panic now, I pray. I put my hands up to my bloody mouth and pray long and hard and more fervently than I have ever prayed before. I can’t go back. I won’t. Please help me. Please help me.
When I open my eyes, I am blinded by something shining brilliantly in the light of the sun. Or is it the moon? I cannot be sure because I am trapped just beyond here, but not quite there. I look over the edge of my basket and see that the light trails from the bottom of my vessel. I follow the length of it with my eyes until it disappears into the clouds far, far below me.
Of course. It is an anchor. I should have known you would have used another method to keep me captive. The chain shines so brightly, I assume it is made of titanium or possibly even diamonds. My heart tumbles to my feet. I know that I cannot chew through either of those bonds.
I refuse to be defeated without a fight. I will not fall back to my doom, to the quicksand that waits to swallow me whole. I will grow feathers if I have to, transform myself into a rocket ship if it is my only means of escape.
I heave myself up onto the ledge of the basket. My knees become putty as I look down towards the chain that stubbornly holds me in place. I have never liked heights, but my will is stronger than my fear. I hold tight to the edge as I dangle first one leg and then the other over the side. The wind blows me back and forth as if I were a paper airplane, lost to its mercy. But I am not a paper airplane and I am not lost. I am found because I have found myself.
I am a rainbow. A rainbow of strength. A rainbow of love. A rainbow that will not be contained.
The basket cuts into my hands as I make my way down it. I try to recall the one climbing lesson I took when I was a teenager: on belay, belay on. I find toe holds in the golden material and ignore the pain in my fingers as I slowly descend. I am both inside of me and outside of me as I climb down to the bottom of the basket, which is also me. Braving my fear of heights. Braving my fear of quicksand. Braving death until I am eye-level with the glittering chain.
That is when I discover it is not titanium shining in the light of the sun or the light of the moon, like I originally thought, nor is it diamonds. It is glass. It is one long, glistening umbilical cord that keeps me firmly attached to you.
But it is also fragile. It is breakable.
I hold tight to the basket as I swing my legs back and forth until I have enough momentum to become a force. A power. A wrecking ball. My feet become weapons and I kick at the chain over and over and over again until there are shards of glass flying all around me, like twinkling stars.
But I know they are not stars. They are the chains of bondage. Of servitude. Of repression.
And they are breaking!
‘Goodbye Jaci,’ I scream at the fragments of glass. ‘Goodbye Jaci who hails from the land of ice and snow. Jaci who has always felt everything too much. Jaci who has always seen what is not there. Jaci who is not good enough. Jaci who is not strong enough. Jaci who is not smart enough. Jaci who is simply not enough to be known and loved anyway.’
And with one final blow, I sever the cord. My vessel breaks free.
I have rebirthed myself.
I climb back into my basket. Going up is not nearly as scary as going down. I am going up. Straight up into the stars, into the heavens, into worlds that used to only exist in my dreams.
I will choose a name. A new name. One that gives me freedom and puts pavement on the new road I am traveling on. The journey that has, for so long, only given me stones in my shoes, has morphed into something new. My rocky road is now a flight plan.
My stomach drops with the force that I propel myself into outer space with. I always wanted to be an astronaut. Now I am.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jaci Ohayon of Colorado. Follow her on Instagram here. and visit her website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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