I have been feeling a little…down lately. I look outside and a quote from Moby Dick comes to mind—a damp and drizzly November in my soul. I’m not sure if it’s something big and universal—the actual weather, the political climate and the mass media’s big spotlight on hate, the inexplicable violence we wage against others—or if it’s that, plus some small personal things that have been stacking up—to name just one, my husband’s ankle break three weeks before our first vacation sans kids since my son was 1. The below entire human has come into existence since the last time my husband and I got away together. img_2214And this upcoming, long anticipated trip is to be a hiking-in-Yosemite, then strolling-the-streets-of-San-Fransisco-and-dancing-at-my-cousin’s-wedding vacation, in fact. So yes, I am feeling…down.

Last week, I was spending days trying to shake the weight of all of these things from my bones. I was swimming just below the surface of a pool of my worries and doldrums. It was getting bad, actually. When a family member that was under 5 feet tall was asking rudely for a snack 15 minutes before a meal (a small splash), I was moving straight from splashing them back (“Not right now, and please ask nicely for things,”) to grabbing them and pulling them down with me into my pool of despair, (“NO I’VE TOLD YOU 1000 TIMES NOT TO ASK ME LIKE THAT YOU ARE A MONSTER GO TO YOUR ROOM UNTIL DINNER YOU THANKLESS LITTLE BEAST!!!!”) So you see what I mean—it was bad.

I spent some time trying to pull myself out of it. I tried perspective. I tried thinking of all the people who have it worse than me. I pictured the hospitals full of women with breast cancer, with their dark eyes and their arms plugged into the poison machines, telling me, “Oh, your beautiful vacation might have to be modified slightly to be driving-focused? Try having your boobs attempt to kill you.” I tried thinking of this, and it just added a little extra weight. Dammit. Now I have to sink over pointless illness and suffering, too?

I tried coffee. Surely this instant idea juice will perk me up, like a life raft—perhaps temporary, but just one or two breaths may be enough to smile, to be inspired to create something—or at least to just help me get through the next 24 hours. But the coffee just amplified the herky jerkiness of the weight that was pulling me down, reminded me of all my to-dos, made me click faster through the articles that were talking about 400 pound people on their beds and hate-filled walls and stabbings.

I tried escape via the internet black hole. Oooo, another person jumped off a balcony into a pool and nearly missed the landing? Must click and watch! Oooo, an 81-year-old tries to fight off a bull with just a water bottle and his hat? Must see! Ooooo, a woman hands her husband lunch in the best possible way? I can think of sooo many ways, and I’ve got to know, what is this best way that has made it all the way to a news source and 4,800 people have shared? WHAT IS IT! MUST SPEND 15 SECONDS CONSUMING THIS MIND CANDY! (Spoiler alert: She threw it out a high rise into his sun roof window. And that, my friends, is 15 seconds I will never get back.)

I tried all of these things, and I was still drowning, drowning. And so, still trying to surface, still gasping for air, I prayed. I prayed in the van on my way to my workout. I prayed for peace, for respite from this darkness that seemed to be tangling up my ankles, pulling me deeper. I prayed for a miracle, for a grand gesture, a life raft, a boat, a cruise ship, in fact. I prayed, and then I waited.

I actually wanted something bigger than big. I wanted more than a cruise ship—I wanted the parting of the red sea so I could up and walk out, back to a big deep breath of air. I was listening for the answer, for the thing that would pull me out of this, at the last stoplight before the work out place. I listened, but my listening was distracted by my daughter’s voice in the back seat—a voice I’d normally pull under with me and stifle, remember?

But something made me stop. My listening for an answer made me listen. She was babbling on like the babbler she is. She was entertaining herself, as she tends to do most of the time. “I bit my…tree,” she said. “I mean, I bit my…seat. I mean, I bit my…grass. I mean, I bit my…,” and I kid you not, she continued this with around 25 things before the light turned green and she finally said, “I mean, I bit my…tongue.” It was a joke—a strange string of creativity from a 4-year-old whose mom sometimes gets down, gets too easily angered, gets bothered by her banter.

We continued on through the parking lot, and I kept thinking about how glad I was that I didn’t pull her down with me that time. I parked, let her out, and she dashed ahead of me down the sidewalk. “AHHHHHH! She screamed. “A monster!” and she ran, laughing and glancing back at me like I was the scariest beast she’d ever encountered. And with that, I actually felt less like a monster than I had in weeks.

I went to the desk and scanned my card, got her a name tag for childcare, and headed toward the fitness center stairs. “I’ll beat ya!” she screamed, and she kicked it into high gear up the stairs. All of this joy…I thought. All of this joy in this small little being.

I dropped her off at the childcare and shook my head in wonder. Here was my daughter, all 37 pounds of her, offering me a life raft—in the form of a few nonsense games. Here she was, existing in the same world as me—this same broken world—and she was giggling, playing, living. Here she was, conjuring joy out of nothing—spilling over with it, actually. Enough for her, and some to share.

Maybe this is what is meant when we are told to be more like children—that we should be more closed to worry and open to joy. We spend our time as kids wishing we could grow up, be older, be in charge, have more responsibilities. And then, as adults, we let those responsibilities weigh us down with worry. And what do these worries produce? If you are me, on this day, the answer is misery. My worries have me looking at the water that is around me and seeing its darkness, its weight, the slopping wetness of it all. But couldn’t it be something else? Doesn’t water sometimes have its fair share of beauty?

Then I thought of Silver Lake. My family goes to this beautiful small lake in northern Michigan every August. The lake is surrounded on one side by hundreds of yards of dunes that separate the lake from Lake Michigan. This summer I was standing at the top of the dunes, facing all the dunes that lead to Lake Michigan and imagining what it must have been like to be the one to discover the strange beauty of the place. But then a family member with some history in the area told me it wasn’t discovered. It was a mistake. It used to be a forrest. But after the Chicago fire, loggers traveled across the lake and ravaged the wood from the area in order to rebuild. They took the trees, and there was no Lorax there to stop them. I imagined the little orange fellow, surrounded by sad, slumping stumps, grabbing his tail and floating away like he does at the end of the Dr. Suess tale. I imagined a hopeless place.

But then something happened—the ravaging of the land stirred it up, did something to the earth, did something to the make up of the place. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I like to imagine that the earth shook. The sand piled up upon itself. And this beautiful place, this destination, this strange sandbox of wonder was created.

And isn’t that almost better than something that existed this way from the beginning? Isn’t it better that something that was ruined—something that we ruined—was transformed into something better than it was in the first place? Could the same thing happen with these miseries, large and small, that surround me? And isn’t there some relief in the fact that I am not the one who gets to decide what happens with the ravaged land—but that it is up to the One who makes the dunes?

So I reconsidered my troubles of the day, and saw that my worries are just more water, pulling me down. They add to the misery and offer nothing productive in return. They offer no air or light to see what is actually happening around me.

And, thanks to my daughter, I could now see some goodness in my immediate vicinity—goodness I was missing because I was too busy splashing around in my own worry. And her goodness made me think about something that our troubles and our sensational media makes us forget sometimes, but that must be true: that there are so many more good people in the world than bad. And I have made one of these good people, and get to live with her, and get to share in the light she is sending into the world, that she was sending out right there in that work out place, in fact. This light helped me to see something—this water was not as heavy and thick and weighty as I thought—it was actually just water. And I know how to swim.


And then I felt it—the air in my lungs. Nothing had changed in my world, but at the same time, everything was different. I could breathe again.

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