30 March 2013

on hope

[I've seen a lot of raw, honest content recently out there in the social media world.  Given that I am a big believer in group morale, I generally prefer to only have a neutral-to-super-duper-positive presence on the Internet. But right now I am feeling a very strong emotion and I want to share it publicly.]

So I just got back from my run and I'm all choked up. 

I've had a terrible week. I don't think I've cried so much in one week ever. Anger, fear, anxiety, betrayal, more anxiety, frustration, depression, uncertainty, and buckets of worry -- all of the nastiest feelings have run through me. I couldn't sleep, tossing and turning in the dark, wide-eyed and full of terror and rage each night. I was exhausted. During standard work hours it took all the energy I had to maintain focus, plus I always try to keep the usual smiles and wisecracks coming (you know, for the sake of group morale and all).

The worst part of not being able to sleep is being left alone with your thoughts. Friday morning, between the hours of 5 and 8 AM, will remain in my mind as the lowest point in my life. I found the rock bottom. I bawled my face off, wailing through gritted teeth, kicking and punching, hyperventilating. My husband held (restrained, really) me, and my dog jumped all over me trying to get close enough to lick my face. Nothing made me feel better. I was convinced this had to be the end for me. There was nothing left of hope for me. I needed to give up on all of my biggest goals in life right here and accept that I'd failed completely. These goals were now impossible to achieve. That the best of times were already behind me:  my first year of grad school, when I'd moved to the most awesome place in the whole wide world to finally live with the person I love the most. We were going to be badass, smartypants geologists. I made a bunch of new friends, had a super encouraging advisor, and paid off my credit card bills like a boss on student salary -- surely in four or five years my partner and I would move on with our happily ever after, teaching and researching our hearts out, presumably at some super crunchy liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest or something. After all, I'd be the most highly educated woman in my family and that had to be worth something to somebody. And here we are, with a masters and a PhD, scrambling. A new, crippling life time first happened this very week: typing "how to get food stamps" into Google. We are running out of options. Too much failure. My sense of hope that I'd been clinging to for over three years that it would all be okay someday just timed out.

At this point I could see the sunlight peeking around the curtains, and I knew I'd committed to a meeting at work, plus I need the hours before my husband's job position ends, so I had no choice: I had to get to work. With much coaxing, I dragged my broken-hearted self out of bed. It was weird; I've gotten out of bed and gingerly put my weight on a sore leg or an injured foot before, but I'd never felt the need to gingerly use my brain, to test out it's functionality without causing pain. But that was exactly what it was. I assigned myself one task: make coffee. Usually mornings in the kitchen are full of multitasking, in which I simultaneously make coffee, cook oats over the stove, and pack my lunch at the same time. One thing at a time, I told myself. I went through the ritual step-by-step. Check. I made coffee. I make really good coffee. I'd succeeded. One thing at a time. My assignment for the day was not to fix anything, but to take it easy and remain functional no matter how hollow and hopeless I was.

I made it through Friday. Check. 

Last night, I slept for ten hours (B, that backrub was hella appreciated) (but yeah, okay, I did have a few sips of bourbon before heading to bed as well to facilitate the sleeping, so there's that too) (friends with young children, please forgive me, I don't mean to gloat). 

Again, I took the morning as slowly as possibly, even slower than Friday actually. I made my coffee and waited to make breakfast until I'd sipped away the whole thing. Eventually I got dressed and the huzz and I set out to run some errands, albeit several hours later than originally planned.

Then I stepped outside.

Holy crap, is it a beautiful day. The rain in the morning washed away even more gross gray slush. I can see my driveway, which had been covered by a young glacier for months. Crazy.

While running errands, B and I held hands while walking down a street. We giggled and grinned at each other -- it was the first time we held non-gloved hands outside in 2013. Our hands weren't even cold. It was amazing.

Once back home, I was pretty psyched to get out there and go for a glorious run. Capri tights, no hat, no gloves, so free. Within ten minutes of being on the run, I had my sleeves pushed up. 50 F and sunny in Minnesota at the tail end of March. Incredible, finally this long winter was on its way out. I was keeping a solid pace as it felt pretty easy with the warmth. After I turned around, I started to get pretty emotional: I was happy. My head was clear. It was all so symbolic. I associate springtime in Minnesota with rainboots, dreary days, and ugly dark gray slush puddles full of gravel. Suddenly I realized that spring is totally an underrated season -- we hustle through it, feeling that winter should be over once and for all that year, rolling our eyes at the occasional flurry. And then, finally, that first sunny evening hits, and you're sitting on a patio in shorts, enjoying a breeze and a lovely cool beer, and that oddly familiar feeling arrives in which the tension ceases and your shoulders feel weightless. Spring is hope.

So there I was, smoothly running along the River Road, smiling but with a few tears running down my face as well. I fucking figured it out. So thank you, Mother Nature, the Earth, the Moon, and introductory geologic processes, for proving to me that hope is not naive, and that life is a process, in a way that no creature could convey to me with any form of communication. It was a perfect relief. I have regained my hope. 

Seven miles. Check. One thing at a time. Hope is real.