Two days ago, I woke up with a sob, lashes wet with tears. It was only a dream- a nightmare- but my bones are still holding onto the grief, the breath-stopping fear of seeing my sons body dragged from the water. Even now, I don’t want to put the image on paper. Don’t want to shine light on my worst fear, that thing that would undo me completely.
I was late for work today because my son woke up as I was leaving and begged me to stay, to sit by him on the couch just for a little. When I finally left, I pictured explaining to admin that I was late because of a dream. I was late because my son was still alive and I needed to witness his breath. I pictured explaining that I might be late again tomorrow if I find more breath to witness. Won’t be here at all if there isn’t.
Today I don’t feel tired and the queasiness is a distant wave.
Today the sun hit my disco light and lit up my room with glowing bits of hope.
Today my alarm, and not my anxiety, woke me up.
Today, hope feels possible and happiness feels almost easy.
But yesterday, yesterday-
The best parts of my day were those when I was asleep.
Yesterday, everything made me sick- my body, the gray sky, election results, the way coffee smelled.
Yesterday was a pile of moments tipping toward despair. I had to remind my cheeks and lips how to smile and didn’t bother reminding my eyes.
But yesterday has become today and will soon be tomorrow.
All the comes will fade to memory. When moments are hard, don’t carve the sorrow into your skin, but let it slip like sand through your fingers. And when the sun hits the disco ball, hold the light like a quivering butterfly, for moments are here and then gone.
What if that summer hadn’t smelled of antiseptic and hospital food? What if that summer hadn’t sounded like held breath and the constant and varied beeping of life-sustaining machines? What if that summer hadn’t taught me to fear phone calls and love and losing? What if that summer had let my body house joy instead of sorrow?
What if I hadn’t been left with emotional fault lines and bone-deep grief?
What if I was still the girl before, untethered to the crushing after?
It’s the leaves they first notice- swiss cheese holes through them all, like poison rain residue. Horticulture experts gather, brows furrowed, and begin testing samples. But soon the grass begins to whither- everywhere, almost overnight- strong blades turning brown and brittle. Next, the flowers lose their petals, lost pieces swirling across cement. The sky begins to dim on a Thursday, is brown by Sunday night.
The news shows image after image and offers no explanation. For once, pundits simply shake their heads. No one, anywhere, seems to know what to do. No one knows what to say.
Is it the air? The soil? Is anywhere safe? How long before the crops all whither with the grass?
Depression is breathing down my neck and after years of sprinting in the opposite direction, I forgot depression’s arms offer not only sorrow, but false comfort. I forgot a tiny part of me would want to relax into depression’s embrace.
I’m just so tired.
All I want is to stop, to rest. To wear sweatpants and curl up under the covers. Just until I’m no longer tired. Just for an hour or week or month.
But depression isn’t rest.
And it doesn’t allow me to get back up when I’ve had enough.
So I remind myself: I’d rather be tired than numb. I’d rather fall into bed at the end of a long day than live there. I’d rather have bloodshot eyes than eyes that have stopped seeing. I’d rather cry than not feel.
I remind myself: I am tired and I am alive.
I am alive.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life….And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” -Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn