People, people – we still have a month before school starts. Don’t make me say goodbye to summer just yet.
A year ago this week, I had a crippling nightmare. I dreamed it was December. Christmas time. It was dark at 4:45 pm and I had the trace of a winter sniffle – Desmond’s cheeks were red and raw. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like a school bus was on my chest.
And in typical dream form, a school bus was actually on my chest! Don’t you love dreams?
And then I woke up, and I looked out the window and it was August. And you know what I’m talking about – August has a particular look, a particular sound, a particular smell and a particular feel. There’s probably even a taste in there somewhere. I was afraid of the cold and darkness. I thought they would go through my skin to my heart. I thought winter would make me cold and dark.
It’s not what happened. It’s been a wonderful year. In many ways. These kids. These friends. You.
For the most part, I truly believe my default setting is to have feelings of joy. That doesn’t mean the chill doesn’t get in and stay anywhere from two minutes to two years. I started writing this last week when I had a dark few days. And now that I’m continuing these August thoughts, I don’t feel the darkness as much, if at all. This year was filled with just as much, if not more, of the pitfalls of living and loving – sickness, financial trouble, deaths, frustrations, excruciatingly low self-esteem. There is no such thing as immunity.
Not if you love, and you love so much.
I once heard that sadness peaks as you get older – and sometimes your mind unlocks new and terrible ways of dealing with stress. I used to get crazy butterflies when I was nervous as a kid. I can feel short of breath or very nauseous when nervous as an adult.
I shudder to think that the stress reactions could get worse and worse, but I do believe we can fight it by adding more items to our toolbelts. I do believe I can get stronger and more able to effectively manage the hard times. I do believe that just as the depths of sadness can exist, so can the heights of ecstasy. There is always a lower, sure. And there is always a higher.
Last week when the fall air came in at night and people went back-to-school crazy, I felt it – that hint of doubt in my strength. The fear of December, which by the way, I do always enjoy while it’s happening in all of its festive frenzy. I think I just started mourning the loss of summer before it really ended. I feel steady ground more often these days – and that’s no metaphor. I mean my anxiety used to make me feel a little off-balance. I feel sturdier right now. I feel full right now. I feel in motion. I feel connected. Just a step backwards and I fear the worst. I fear I’ll lose it all. I fear I’ll disappear again. Little by little. There’s just too much good in here.
It’s almost too much to handle.
These are my August things. I fear the chill always, but I feel my inner core has warmed to withstand it more. Maybe just a little.
And that’s all it takes.