How could they not be? Place a human in a box of sand, and they’ll create castles. Leave them under the sky, and they’ll wax poetic about the clouds. Heck, give them nothing, and they’ll scratch up a hodgepodge family out of their own tired bones and bloodied hearts.
We don’t know what we’re doing in this chapter. Some of us are standing in our kitchens trying to remember what we came in for or we’re lounging on our couch with no interest in any of what’s on the 2–3 screens we’ve got going or we’re working gigs-warehouse packing, delivering, online selling-trying to remember what normal conversation felt like without a restless undercurrent.
We’re rushing from case to case, hospital bed to hospital bed, with barely enough time to think, let alone take a minute. Some of us are listening to a person whose family beat Covid months ago trivialize it while our father’s quiet the funeral is Saturday is echoing in our mind.
Some of us have got dreams, old and new, rattling around our minds and chests that keep getting swept over by steadily disappearing distractions or the semi-permanent state of despondency that greets us every morning. It’s burnout and anxiety. Chronic and situational. Global trauma mixed with good old-fashioned existential dread.
This year, I’ve made major emotional breakthroughs, clawed my way back to love, developed important policies, gained great work opportunities, and lost thirty pounds.
I’ve also had my worst depressive episode in a decade, confessed to my husband, lost big clients, had 5 friends die, and gained horrible insomnia.
There’s a 7-year climate change countdown to the literal end of the world, and it can’t get here fast enough. 750K dead because the opioid crisis didn’t take a break this year and unfortunately ramped up. 200K dead from a virus that isn’t going anywhere. We’re on track for more than double that by 2021. California and Oregon probably won’t get a chance to secede since the West Coast has been burning to ash under a red sky straight out of a dystopian science-fiction novel. Texas and Florida might be seceding…… if they don’t wipe out their populations with ignorance and ill-founded patriotism first. There are millions unemployed and without insurance during a pandemic. What exactly are we waiting for? If we’re all going to either burn, suffocate, or drown within a decade, let’s just get it over with. Jesus Christ.
Hi. Look, I’m going to level with you. If that’s too depressing to read, I’m not sure why you chose to read the person with Sad AF in their bio. You want another sweet distraction from your life? Throw a rock and hit literally any other door in the hallway of the internet.
I’ve been poking and prodding the feelings in my chest while people immediately chime in about “find the light” (where?) and “we’re doing fine.” (again, where?) and “we’ve been through this before” (we haven’t) and “don’t be so depressing” (again, my bio).
In the back of my mouth, a thousand stories itch and burn, but none seem nuanced enough. None fit the moment. The moments turn to days, the days turn to weeks, and before I know it, I’ve been in my home for 60% of the year.
For the first time in……………years, I’m not bottling emotions up until they spill out in writing. I talk with the person I love instead of about him. I’ve stopped filling my days with screens and slowly crawled back to my analogue self. I haven’t been on Facebook or Instagram other than work in months, and I stopped my breakneck writing cycle of the summer. Demons have been exorcised, confessions have been made, and now, I’m watching the fall.
I’m readying my soil to rest for winter, chasing my dogs among crunchy leaves, watching black-and-white movies, baking sweets every other day, and having winding walks on forest trails. I’m loved. I’m safe. I’m happy. (Yeah, I’m slightly surprised about it too.)
Let’s write a story for old time’s sake.
No, not that one.
The legend hasn’t been born. The man hasn’t been cursed. The princess hasn’t been kissed. The dragon hasn’t been slayed. I want to wrap the horror in pretty poetic prose because my words are flimsy, but hope is the most stubborn possession of my heart.
We all burst, wet and panting, from flawed people on their sincerest day of living. Since that first gasp, we all grasp to rekindle that honesty, pure and soothing. I’ve been keeping my words close and my happiness closer. Knots tied in the ropes that are barely keeping the world together like a ship that doesn’t yet know it’s sinking. Our hopes are compasses that point us home — straining over our chests — wishing on dandelions and gods and dumb luck that we’ll make it. We’ll make it. I don’t quite believe we will some days, but that’s too stark and not stark enough at the same time. Tell me, how much joy do I add to this recipe? A pinch? A cup? The whole damn barrel as I scrape for the bits?
Strangling on borrowed air and fistfuls of joy, we’re still hoping for a savior. I know we’re all long-forgotten, wrecked submarines-cleansed and tied to the tide. Bring your soap and let’s wash each other’s shoulders with a rough swish of the waves. Knit our hearts together in bedraggled, ramshackle notes of bittersweet jazz. Turn to the side and let me rinse the blood off.
All shivering chest and toothy grin. Hanging off the plywood, wading in the ocean. Like children whispering promises on the playground that we’ll forget as soon as the bell rings, we’ll make it. We’ll make it. Bound together by borrowed glue and borrowed time and backup chances. Our chants are barely blocking out the adrenaline in our veins, but barely is enough.
Our old dreams were swords that were washed out to sea before we learned to use them, but this new dream is soft and tender like crunching through snow underfoot. We all hid our promises under our pillows, lightweight yet carved from the iron in our blood, until we let them sink. They didn’t help us float. How could they? They were the anchors we thought were too pretty to let slip to the bottom of the ocean.
Slowly, bashfully, our breaths hitch with the clarity. We hope and dream and scream and mourn and giggle, but we float. Laying our bodies flat like upturned gifts to the sky, we straighten our spines, breathe in the frigid air that burns our lungs, and watch as the waves crest and recede, crest and recede. Who knew the world would wash away?
We all predicted a meteor, a crash and burn, a wildfire that didn’t stop spreading until it consumed us all. Eventually, we’ll all slip into the deep, wet and panting, on our sincerest day of living. Eventually, but not now. Not today. We’ll make it. We’ll make it. Impossible, beautiful, cruel and lovely humanity? Millions of shipwrecks made of tattered memories and forgotten rivalries and old wishes? We’re still here.
By the skin of my teeth, I’m alive.
So are you.
Give a human a recipe for disaster, and somehow, they’ll manage to make it taste like hope.