I’m standing in my kitchen in the middle of the day talking to a friend when my husband wakes up and comes downstairs. He walks behind me wearing old Army sweats and says, his voice dripping with contempt, “Right, your life is so hard.” I feel that familiar sickness in my gut, my heart starts to race, and I struggle to breathe as I sit up in the morning darkness. “Here Comes The Sun” is playing to wake me up from another bad dream. I am exhausted.
That’s not an unusual morning–some ugly dream and then I wake up feeling awful. Naturally, I want to go back to sleep and try again–maybe I won’t feel so tired and desperate. I understand that each choice I make will either take me deeper into that black pit of despair–or out of it. The coming out won’t be fast, it won’t be painless, and it’s going to take more of my critically depleted force of will.
I take a deep breath and turn on the light. I lay there, hearing the music and the rush of air from the heating vent, hand over my pounding heart. I name my emotions: Exhausted. Afraid. Frustrated. Tears roll down my cheeks. I long for my cat to come remind me it’s time to feed her; but my cat has died. It’s just me and all the shitty feelings. I have a headache. I close my eyes and will myself to see the face of my student Lisa, telling me that she sees me as this superhero and it helps her to know that I struggle, too. I visualize my friend Joan standing up on the 6th day of Kwanzaa to tell a mostly white crowd about the generations of her family, born enslaved, who kept going. I feel the weak light of hope dimly illuminate within me; I throw off the covers. The morning air is cold.
Later, as I drive to the pool, the sun blazes orange, coloring the sky low over the longleaf pine on the horizon. It’s a beautiful morning.