Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Lessons of Fireflies

There is not much doubt that I feel as though I'm engaged on the losing end of the 12th round of a heavyweight fight.  One more punch and I think I'm down for the count.  And more than once I've thought that I may be okay with that because it's been a long, bloody fight.  I am not sure what clinical depression feels like, but I'm guessing it's a lot like this, if not exactly like this:  getting up out of bed every morning is a chore, and one I don't particularly want to do.  But I do.  I work hard to perform ably at my job and keep the house up, feed and care for the pets.  But really there is not much joy in any of it.  There is just too much anxiety at the moment.  I'm anxious about trying to figure the money out, wrestling with the renewed sense of loss and guilt after the man who was with my daughter when she died wrote his horrible letter.  I tell myself it's a temporary setback, and it almost certainly is, but that's probably what clinical depression looks like too - there just doesn't seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel.  When I'm feeling self critical, I tell myself that my wallowing in my own anxieties is self-indulgent.  Actually I always tell myself that it is - it's just I don't always care.  But self-indulgent or not, once you're in that cycle, it's a hard one to break out of.  However, in truth, I don't confess all this for the pity.  And because I assume it will come across that way, I've thought long and hard about writing this.  But, I have chosen to because I believe these are dips in the road along the way to true grief recovery that many will take.  Maybe because something like that awful letter will come along or just maybe because it'll happen with no emotional trigger at all.  Grief recovery, as it turns out, is really hard.  Giving up is far, far easier.   So, for any readers who hit those hard moments and wonder why really bother pushing on, I hope you can take some hope and momentary joy in the smallest of moments where wonder still lurks.  Enough anyway to push on through the hard days until the easier ones find you again.

For me, I've been here before.  Very early on when we were struggling to come to terms with the concept that Kelsey even had a problem, let alone a really serious one, I didn't do well with it.  And I have to say it was true selfishness at the time, but I hit a real low one night in particular.  A couple of days later was the first time one of the deer who came to the house to be fed approached me and ate directly from my hand.  Later of course they were so used to me they'd surround me when I walked out with the feed bucket, nudging one another for the best access, stepping on my toes to get their noses in the bucket before I could pour it out and sometimes come up to the window and peer inside with their noses literally pressed to the glass looking for me to come feed them again, but that first moment when that little doe walked up to me seemed like a miracle.  I think she single handedly helped me turn a corner and decide I could soldier on if I could have little moments like that peppered in amongst what would become a struggle that was harder and longer than I could have even imagined on that low night.

Now here I am floundering again.  I'm older, more worn out and have no more deer coming to see me hoping for a nibble to brighten my spirits and make me feel needed.  What, I've wondered, is the point?  Well, the other night after a violent rain storm swept through the area, literally washing away some of the oppressive heat and humidity for a time, I stepped outside shortly after dusk and was greeted by a riot of fireflies the like of which I have never seen before.  I could still hear the rain falling softly around me, but under the cover of the old maple in my backyard only a few drips were getting through, so there I stood transfixed for a long while, having never seen so many at once, as Ripley danced around my feet trying to capture first one blinking dash of light then another.

Fireflies are a visual thing.  Words cannot do them justice.  Not even photographs can, for you lose the wonder of how the males pulse in waves high above the ground, floating among the high branches of the firs, making them sparkle like Christmas trees, while the females coat the grass like shimmering diamonds calling them down to mate.  I love to watch them and can spend hours at it, but I had never seen such a display before.  One would suddenly flash right before my eyes and then I would see one just over my shoulder, then another over the other shoulder and on and on.  They seemed to coat the ground in a blanket of yellow shimmer.  It was amazing.  I was transfixed.  And it occurred to me how lucky I was to be alive at this moment to see such a sight.  And just like that, these tiny little creatures, with very little else on their mind beyond making the next generation of fireflies, reminded me of the valuable lesson that doe brought to me all those years before.  Which is that joy can come at unexpected moments, maybe if for only a brief time, but it would be a shame to miss out on it because you're too absorbed by your misery.  So since that night I've tried to pay attention to the little things:  the smell of lavender from a neighbor's garden that I catch when I walk by with the dogs in the morning, watching the fat squirrel lazing on my porch railing today or Ripley racing around the yard in youthful puppy exuberance.   Appreciating the way Cheyenne looks at me sometimes, like nothing else in the world matters.  These are all the little things I'll have to rely on until this little time passes.  Little slivers of sun through the dark clouds.  But I think I almost lost sight of that until some fireflies came to light the way.  

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