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The Big Sigh

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The piece was originally published on Spectrum Women.

This is one of those days. I feel it the moment I open my eyes. I instantly loathe that I am awake. I fall into an old habit of calculating how many hours I will have to reasonably be out of my bed before I can crawl back into it without having to feign illness or apologize for not returning a text. Twelve? Maybe if I stay in bed a little longer I can make it eleven. As I close my eyes, hoping for a lessened sentence, the dogs start to rouse. I hear the shuffle of early morning stretches, yawns, and scratches that tell me I don’t have long. The cat paw on my face tells me I am already late. These sounds, these sensations; this is morning and I am not a morning person.

As breakfast preparations for all species begin, I am cranky and short with canine, feline, and human alike. My morning disposition does not discriminate. The coffee grinder interrupts an effort to remind myself that not too long ago my life was quiet because it was empty and sad. I note that I am criticizing my past self, even as I try to focus on the present. I push away thoughts of canceling my day and getting back into bed as I fill my cereal bowl. Gluten free cereal and almond milk. Who is this person and why do I bother? I start out each day like this, with healthy intention but I know I will end it with chocolate. While I should be marveling at my abilities to both set intentions and not be perfect, I instead question the reason for it all.

The thought floats around my head just long enough for me to recognize the voice. I have heard it many times over the years. Deftly, it seeps into my bones through the language of my mind. I know you, depression. We’ve spent plenty of time together. While we go periods without talking at all, when you come back, it’s like you never left. We pick up right where we left off. With thick, critical judgements and sharp, self deprecating descriptions. I can always anticipate you dropping by after I have spent a day or so with your partner in crime, anxiety. In my exhaustion, I do not have the strength to say no to you.

The day moves forward as my energy moves in dull spikes. I float in a dissociative nebula of thoughts and motions trying to push through this day that will not end. I am reminded to take a break and eat something. I have no appetite. Stupid interoception. Six hours down, six more to go. I eat something. I chew but don’t taste. The waste of time irritates me, so does the low blood sugar. Whatever.

A few hours later. I can focus no more. I turn off my computer and head upstairs. A dog walk is suggested. I look out the window and a tiny piece of me can actually see that it is beautiful outside. It’s chilly, as early Autumn is supposed be. I layer on a heavy hoodie and a hat. The weight and warmth instantly comfort me. I take the first deep breath I have taken all day. The cool air easily fills my lungs leaving me ever so slightly lighter, looser.

In the car, behind the safety of sunglasses, I can hear the dogs panting as they stick their noses into the wind. They too understand the importance of a lungful of cool fall air. We arrive at the place we will walk. I forget myself and grumble, driving to walk. My depression takes the tone of a curmudgeonly old man fighting change as I step onto trail.

I watch as the dogs take in each smell, each sound. Their paws never wavering as we make our way over the loose rocks that make up the trail floor. Occasionally, a rock gets kicked into the brush or a twig cracks under a foot or paw. The remaining leaves rustle on the trees as some float silently to ground. I can almost smell snow. I notice the world seems closer. More detailed. My depression lifts with each footfall. I can tell because my brain is taking pictures with my eyes again. When I see it all this clearly it seems so simple. This is what it is all about. A walk. A breath. A reminder.

It is not twelve hours later that I return to where this day began, but thirteen. My hair flattens under the weight of my head as I lean back onto my pillow. My feet are safely tucked under one dog as the other takes her place next to me. Two cats take their positions as head warmers. The soft light of the tv flicks off and we turn out the light. In the almost darkness that streetlights and blinds provide, I listen. The night sounds are different. It is a quiet symphony of breathing, adjustments, and purrs. But I am waiting for my favorite sound. A cat cleans itself and yawns. I adjust my pillow. From down by feet, I hear it. My dog takes a deep breath which is followed by a big sigh. I love that sound. It is the sound of giving into rest. It is the sound of comfort. It is the sound that reminds I am exactly where I am supposed to be. As I close my eyes, I don’t worry about when the morning the will arrive. I take in a deep breath and let out my own big sigh.

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