She reminds me that each day brings us closer to when the days start getting longer again. That in thirty-three days it will be as dark as it’s going to get. I try to remind myself of this when I’m outside smoking a cigarette at 4:30 PM and the sun is already sinking below the horizon. When I’m wrestling with my brain to get me out of bed to go running without light. We’re getting closer to it getting bright again.
Like every year, I take my vitamin D, I try to remember to eat, get enough sleep. And like every year I struggle to take care of my most basic needs while I’m living in the dark. All the things I know I need to do to feel better seem to be just out of reach.
My therapist tells me we’ll work on motivation. My psychiatrist tells me we’ll figure out if my medication is draining me. My sister tells me she’s only always a phone call away. My mom sets up my old apartment in case I need to be somewhere else. Chuck says I can stay “for a night, a week, forever”. Andrew checks in on my wellbeing over and over. Vinnie shares smoke breaks with me. We’re rallying.
There has to be a way to get through this again. I’ve managed it this long, it’s silly to think I won’t be able to this time. But every day my alarm clock goes off and I can’t make myself get out of bed. Today I slept until 9:45 when I had to be at work at 10:00. It’s hard. Everything is so hard. My mom tells me how much fight I have in me and follows it up with, “I just wish you didn’t have to use it all the time.” And I find myself wishing that, too.
I don’t want or need life to be easy. I just need it to be a little gentler with me. But I guess like anything it just comes with practice. It’s just muscle memory.
She tells me to write one positive thing a day. A paragraph, a sentence, a page, a word. Tells me to try as hard as I can to flake away the aching and find something beautiful to focus on. Do not let yourself get overrun with hurt. Focus on the good.
Another tells me to let the emotions pass through me. To notice them, give them breath and life, but let them leave again. Do not hold on so tight they control you. Do not let them plant roots. Pain must wash in and out and leave room for good.
In a Twitter message another woman in my life tells me that she has been fragile lately. That she knows I’ve been hurting and she’s been hurting, too. Says she had to protect herself. Tells me about going to a bar and drinking water. Singing karaoke at the top of her lungs. Doing something good.
It’s simple in theory, but hard to remember. I have to lean on those around me to remind me to look for the shiny pieces of life. The ones that make me feel like continuing forward. The ones that makes this whole thing seem like fun. No, it will not cure us. It will not make as bulletproof. But there’s a certain kind of resilience that comes with making sure to notice the good.
So let’s go out. Let’s pretend we forgot how much this is hurting. Let’s wrap ourselves up in vests and raincoats and take to the woods. Let’s undress and lay down on massage tables and melt into the comfort of another set of hands. Let’s make dinner. Sit on the patio and talk at one in the morning. Sleep in. Wake up early and go for a run while it’s still dark out. Let’s find excuses to laugh more and think about all of this less. Got it? Good.
They say to find your edge and hold it. Adjust to the water one half inch of skin at a time. It’s all about sustainability, finding a pace you can maintain for the long haul. Slow progress. Nothing spectacular. Just figure out little tasks you can do every day and then, after a couple years, look back and see how far you’ve come. But I am a bullet. An avalanche. I plow through with huge intentions and then splatter against the wall. I am a sine wave, all ups and downs.
I gently seek out my limit, toeing forward in the dark, arms outstretched. My fingertips find a concrete wall and fumble around for points of weakness. Where is there room to push through? And then I pummel until I reach exhaustion. Collapse into a heap. Get up again. Repeat. Logically, I know there must be a better way to achieve. I should chip away at it slowly. Be patient. Practice. They tell me this is how people burn out, wear down, give up and I know it’s true. I charge forward and then hurdle back. Have to fight twice as hard to gain a quarter of the distance. But I don’t know how to exist peacefully. I am all extremes.
When we first met he called me “wildfire”. Fierce and raging, unpredictable. He had me pegged within a week of exchanging messages. Knew I would throw back my head and cackle at the thought of hesitation. Deal with the fall out later. I wore the statement like a badge of honor. Wanted nothing more than to live the rest of my life aflame. But I’ve begun to wonder when I will be only scorched earth. What will grow after? Anything?