I rolled over and looked at the clock. 10:00 a.m.? How the hell did I end up sleeping twelve hours? I guess it was my mind and my body’s way of trying to hide from this wretched day for as long as possible. This was a planned “sick day” for me. Well, it was really more of a “mental health day,” actually, and I don’t give a shit who knows. I shuffled to the bathroom to brush my teeth, flipping on the television for the mindless blather that is “Kathy Lee and Hoda,” because I just didn’t want to think. They didn’t disappoint. “Ambush Makeover” and the “All-Star Thanksgiving” cooking segment did the trick…temporarily. Winnie greeted me with the vigorous tail wags of a dog overjoyed by my unexpected presence this day. I picked at the scrambled eggs and toast I’d made. I began to lose the battle to hold back my thoughts and feelings once I started scrolling through the kind words and thoughtful messages left as comments on my husband’s post about the significance of this day. I read them through tear-filled eyes. The dam was broken, and what was left of the morning would now be spent in the ache of the here and now.
With each passing year, I think, “It won’t be like that this time. I won’t end up spending the entire day choking on tears or being completely unable to breathe through my nose all day due to sporadic episodes of violent weeping.” And yet, by the time the twelve o’clock news came around, my eyes were red and swollen, and breathing was only possible via my mouth. The newscast was a grim reminder of troubling recent events. That, combined with my own personal anguish, left my head swimming and gave me an urgent, panicked desire to escape. Running away has always been my first reaction to pain – figuratively, frequently, and, sometimes, literally. So, I took the dog and drove to my hideaway – a public nature preserve a few miles from where I grew up. It’s a place to which I’d run during the many dark times in my life. I hadn’t been there in a while, though, so I was shocked to see its new, upgraded state. Many of the trails have been paved, and it now has “right-proper” accessibility. Call me selfish, but it made me disappointed and sad. This place had always been my escape. It had been a rugged, solitary place with rough winding trails, rocky outcroppings, marshy spots to find your way around, and fallen trees to climb over in order to continue your journey. Today this place was filled with helmet-wearing senior citizens biking about, Lululemon clad suburban mommies running behind jogging strollers, and same sex millennial couples from the nearby community college strolling hand-in-hand. The place where I once found clarity amidst emotional storms was now a suburban, 5K-hosting,“linear recreation trail.”
All I wanted today was for the forest to envelope and embrace me, while I hid there to nurse a bloody wound. What I got was a healthy bit of physical activity, which is probably a good thing. I’ve let my exercise routine go by the wayside, because my mind and emotions seem determined to force my body into the hibernation I long for this time of year. Winnie loved the walk. So, there’s that. Still, I returned home, frustrated, to wait for my husband to come home from the meeting he was at in a town an hour away. We planned to go to the cemetery together. I sat, cuddled with the dog, waiting. Glancing out the window, I noticed the shadows of the trees in the yard growing longer. It was getting late, and there was no word from my husband. I had hoped the big bosses might cut him some slack, in light of the situation. They did not. I’d need to go to the cemetery alone.
On the way to the cemetery, I picked up a dozen roses. Roses were Sarah’s favorite flower and the flowers I always bring to her. Luckily, I made it to the cemetery before the gates were locked for the night. The last rays of an early-setting autumn sun peeked over the tree line and gave just enough light for me to see. It was good that I was alone. It made me feel free to release the day’s remaining tears fully and completely. I drove home stuffy-nosed and mouth breathing, with my eyes red and swollen again. I needed music. I plugged my phone into stereo jack, found the most fitting song, and pushed play. I discovered Andra Day’s song “Rise Up” long before Hillary Clinton ever played it on the campaign trail. I’m not surprised Clinton chose it. It’s an incredibly moving song, and one that I find myself singing at the top of my lungs, punctuated by violent sobs, during my long commute home at night sometimes.
You’re broken down and tired of living life on a merry-go-round. And you can’t find the fighter. But I see it in you, so we’re gonna walk it out…and move mountains. We’re gonna walk it out and move mountains. I’ll rise up. I’ll rise like the day. I’ll rise up. I’ll rise unafraid. I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again. And I’ll rise up, high like the waves. I rise up in spite of the ache. And I’ll do it a thousand times again…for you.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll rise up. My alarm will go off at 5:45. There’ll be no twelve hours of sleeping. I’ll get up and brush my teeth. I’ll get ready for work, pick up some Starbucks, and make my long commute while listening to the Free Beer and Hot Wings radio show. I’ll spend the day teaching. I’ll come home to eat pizza, drink a glass or two of wine, and watch Gold Rush with my husband. It’ll be just another Friday night. Underneath it all, though, will be a tender bandaged wound, healing again for the umpteenth time. Maybe next year will be different.