I wake in the early morning and see it right away; a heavy dusting of snow outside through the small window where I didn’t draw the shade. I shrink as though seeing a ghost, my heart pounds. My breath catches and I am afraid. I cover my head with a pillow and pull my weighted blanket all the way up to my chin. I succeed in putting off the reckoning a little longer; my depressed nervous system eagerly seizes another opportunity to give up. I suffer my pounding heart only a short while before dozing back off. I wake when the electric appliances beep back on after a power outage.
It’s cold in the house. The curtains are drawn and my spouse sleeps facing away from me, only ass and feet touching my body. It isn’t the comforting touch of someone who loves me, rather the utilitarian gesture of a cold person exploiting my body for comfort while providing none in return.
I get up and look out the window; the blanket of snow is thick and every house is dark. I feel inexplicably shaken by the spectre of being trapped alone with the person I married. My breath catches and my heart pounds.
My sense of peril is undeterred by a morning meditation and time with my cat. There is an undefined panic urging me to get out of the house right now, so I dig out my winter boots and ski socks, a hat and mittens–silently. I close the front door and lock it, whisper-quiet. I walk rapidly away from the house. I don’t look up until I’m several doors down and then I take in the architecture of snow on branches, the undisturbed pristine white of neighborhood streets with no tire tracks, the perfect silence of the morning. My body is moving and I feel safe out here, high-stepping through drifted snow with no particular destination.
I rise from bed frantic. I remember talking with Kevin about how we’d be together for the winter storms, how we’d walk outside together and where we might go sledding. I imagine how this scene would look from his bedroom window and begin to cry. I see the snow still falling out the small window and shake, turning my head away. I reach up and yank the cord on the blinds, shutting out the snowfall I cannot tolerate.
I remember my first snowstorm in North Carolina, how my new boyfriend spent three hours driving up to me from Ft Bragg as soon as the post shut down. I was moved by his devotion and desire to be with me. We took pictures in the snow–actually he took pictures of me. I am revolted by the once-treasured memory of my abuser.
I turn around and around the house, looking for anything that will soothe me. I can see the silhouettes of snow covered trees out each window and I panic, trapped alone with my fear. My heart races and my breathing is ragged. I begin to see spots.
I’m driving back to my friend’s house. He flew out hours ago. I’ll be alone there, I’m gasping for air through my tears. Scott doesn’t love me. How could he let me get so close when he doesn’t love me? It hurts so much I can’t see straight. The traffic is insane, it’s not moving, I feel trapped. I turn off on a narrow country roadway. There are no tire tracks to show what is road and what is ditch. My skin suddenly feels cold and my abdomen knots up as I grasp the perilousness of my situation; I eye my crutches leaning across the passenger side. I am all alone, trapped and helpless–and terrified.
I seize the phone and check for messages. Of course there is nothing.
“I can’t handle it,” I wail to my therapist. “I can’t handle growing to feel for Kevin what I feel for Scott! I don’t want to be disgusted and angry every time I think of him!” She asks what I would need to not feel that way.
“I just need him to talk to me. I need to be able to process the end of our relationship in a way that isn’t totally dysfunctional.” She reminds me gently that no answer is my answer as I cry with grief and frustration.
I’m numb and wild-eyed in the mirror brushing my teeth. I didn’t dig through storage for my winter boots or my YakTrax, so I really can’t go anywhere. Why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I go to my friend’s last night? How am I going to tolerate this?
Reverend Grove patiently listens as I describe the relationship and the breakup. She asks me about him and I light up describing him. Then my face falls. She digs for tissues as I cry.
Holy shit, stop! I scold myself as I pace like a caged tiger. I set my yoga mat in the center of the room far away from the window where I usually meditate. I lay down and become more frightened. For once I use a guided meditation. I stare hard at the ceiling, much too agitated to close my eyes. I obey the instructions; notice what I am feeling and favor the breath. Holy shit, I’m going to fall apart, I can’t breathe. I’m terrified. I cry and cry–but I anchor my attention to the little gasping breaths in and I sputter and hiss breathing out. I observe my shallow breath and my racing heart. I allow myself to be scared out of my mind. I look at the white ceiling and gray ducts and when the meditation ends I sit up so fast it makes my head spin.
There’s a text. It’s my friend whose guest house I am staying in. She’s home and she’s checking on me. I tell her I’m not doing very well, that I have a bunch of bad associations with the snow.
I’m not even going to attempt Surya Namaskara I feel so shitty. I grab my bolster and hope I can calm myself down with restorative yoga. I position myself and begin, warily, to lie down. The phone vibrates again. She’s telling me the back door is open. For a moment, I think maybe I should try to practice a little first—and then I glimpse the sight of falling snow again in the high, unshaded windows and I’m on my feet heading to the door. I take only my phone and my keys and I run down the snowy walkway to her door like a frightened animal.
Standing inside the doorway of her home I call for her while taking in the sights of her living room; the wide, tall windows, the ample kitchen and natural wood, fire dancing in the stone fireplace. I gaze there, mesmerized by the flames and feel my heart begin to slow. We sit by the fire and talk for hours. She brings tissues when I cry. She tells me some of the struggles she’s been through and assures me things will get better, that I’m stronger than I think.
When she needs to retreat she allows me to stay in the living room before the fire. I crawl directly onto the stone hearth and lie there, safe and warm.