Oh, what a difference four days can make. It would’ve been hard to believe that on Monday.
The entire week became one gloopy shapeshifter — a shitty spring monster that strangely turned docile with each passing day.
Sunday was Mother’s Day which, of course, everything that could go wrong, did. It was an odd week in a month I knew would be challenging: the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death, and worries about my own future and that of friends and family, who were having similar losses. I wanted to write about the pain I was feeling, but it felt too raw by Sunday night. There was no one to talk to about it.
So I woke up Monday morning feeling confused and overtired. A psychic burr had gotten under my skin, rubbing every nerve end raw with every movement I tried to make. I couldn’t concentrate.
“Uh-oh,” I thought. “This is how my old depressive episodes begin.”
So I wisely left work early and went home to sleep for three hours. After a morning and early afternoon of nausea and general “pissed-off-ness,” I realized I had an appetite (which is a positive sign), so grabbed a late lunch near The Old Girl — what I call “Lilac Alley.”
I should pay her a visit, I thought, taking a last bite and eyeing the sky.
But it threatened rain that day, so I decided the timing wasn’t right and I’d see her before the lilacs lost their bloom in the St. Paul alley where she lives. It was a tough decision since I really needed to see her.
I needed her advice.
The suffering only got worse on Tuesday, when I promised all my Medium readers I’d be publishing a new post (only adding a new layer of shame). I struggled through the day and even treated myself to early bed.
“Sleep,” I thought. “Eat well, drink plenty of water, and sleep. You can stave it off.”
Then, at 1:30 a.m., I awoke from a nightmare.
In the dream, I was walking with a friend (no one I can specifically recall) in the parks that line the Mississippi River Road between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
In the distance a disheveled woman in a wheelchair beckoned to us. “Hey you guys! Wanna see some gold?” she yelled.
I tapped my friend on the shoulder. “No,” I said. “Let’s keep going.”
“What if she really needs our help?” he said.
We reluctantly went over to the woman, who led us to a pile of brambles and a tree that had fallen in a storm.
And there it was — at our feet was a decomposing body, facedown, still in street clothes, skeleton intact but the lower half had been eaten away by creatures that must’ve scrambled up from a nearby pond. The smell was horrific; the sight disgusting.
I tried to remember upon awakening how the woman in the wheelchair reacted to our surprise. But dreams are funny that way. They’re selective, even now in the telling.
But I do remember this: We couldn’t look away. There was a dead body.
Wednesday I learned a journalist acquaintance had died. I reacted to the news on social media somewhat haphazardly, with assumptions I was in no position to make. I got called out for that and responded, well… a tad pointedly. Then I realized I wouldn’t have had that reaction had I been thinking more clearly. I was only three days into what seemed like a classic onset to a depressive episode, but I shouldn’t have been acting like everything was “just okay.”
I failed again, because of thinking.
So last night, Thursday, the weather improved and I went to see The Old Girl. I needed less thoughts, more tree-hugging.
When I approached her, familiarly patting her massive old trunk, I thought I could sense her reaction. I thought she said: “Oh, you. It’s been awhile. You … just came from a funeral home. These things happen. I know. I see it all the time.”
I wasn’t finding her attitude very comforting.
But maybe that was the point.
Rather than be defensive and instantly walk away, I just hung out with her for a while. I resisted the urge to ask questions or have her prognosticate. I was there to listen.
I noticed green shoots peeking out from her aged bark. It was good to see her standing tall and ready to weather a new season, to witness her leaves glinting in the May sunlight.
So, I left Lilac Alley.
By this morning, I was feeling much lighter and promised myself to be gentler to others (and myself). It’s not an easy thing to do.
Sometimes, I guess, you just have to wait it out a couple days.