In my dream, I'm in the bed I'm sleeping in. I can't move. I try to roll but I can't. It feels like gravity has pinned me to the mattress. Lying on my back, head looking turned right, arms at my side, I hear a sound coming. It's the sound of chaos, it sounds like a plane flying overhead. The sound grows louder and louder. I can't turn my head to see what's going on. I try to move again, frozen in place. I feel helpless and terrified. My breathing speeds up and I try to - . . . . . I wake in the same position. On my back, head turned to the right, hands at my side. The loud noise isn't real. Only a fan and sound of rain from my phone fill the room. I move my head to the left. Nothing there but a sleeping dog. I sigh then roll over. It takes me an hour to fall back asleep.
The ice cold wind gives me no favors. It burns my lungs the way I imagine a cigarette would. It feels like knives are cutting off my airways when I try to inhale. In these moments I feel my incapabilities fully. The pain from the air shoots through my chest as I try to take a full breath. I can do it but it’s difficult. 50s in January doesn’t feel like 50s in spring or fall, a reminder that we’re still in the midst of winter. I carry on with my shallow breathing that hurts less. When I get back home, I look in the mirror and my nose is red as a lobster from the wind. I smell smoke on my scarf when I take it off. Confused, I open the sliding glass door to see what’s going on. Sure enough, the air is filled with hazy campfire smoke I didn’t smell when I was outside.
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
When I read on Twitter last Thursday that Joan Didion had died, I was shocked. I kept on thinking, Joan Didion is dead. I don’t know why my brain kept on repeating that sentence as my body began to process the information that one of the women who inspired me to start writing had passed away.
Didion was 87. Her death hit me in an unexpected way. She played a significant part on why I began writing in my early 20s. I was assigned to read her essay Why I Write in a creative writing class in college the first week of summer semester in 2014. A quote from that essay has been on the header of my blog for several years now.
Didion processed culture, grief, mental illness with honesty. She never shied away from hard topics. She wrote about difficult situations as way to process them. I write because I too want to figure out how I’m feeling about something. Writing is a coping mechanism during rough times. It helps me makes sense of situations and emotions. She taught me how to write without shying away from my feelings. Being honest about a topic helps the reader connect to your work.
Her writing and voice has stayed with me throughout the years. I’ve turned to her books and essays time and time again as tough times in my life and in society have happened. She’s been a touchstone for me. Her Netflix documentary is my favorite documentary. I get something new each time I watch it. I watched it again yesterday and felt a sense of hope wash over me.
I will forever appreciate Joan Didion’s writing. How she used language and voice to tell difficult stories. She captured the times in a society that felt uncertain, much like how it feels today. The way she told her internal stories with her own struggles of mental illness and relationships. She’s an icon for a reason and she will be remembered as one.
The noise that overtook my thoughts slowly faded into a gentle silence. The cat purred in my presence as he drifted off into dreams. Christmas lights hung from the trees lit up the warm winter nights. One text distracted me from my anxiety. Anticipation for a moment was worse than the moment itself. We're almost in 2022, I'm still processing 2019.
I ran up the hill before the others could follow. I held onto the leash connected to my dog. He kept me going. It’s the only way I could get up without feeling the air escape from my lungs. It gave me time to move forward without thinking. We passed families carrying down Christmas trees, I leaned against the side of the path. I refused to give in to the lack of oxygen, not until I had time to get it back, not until I was at the top. We round the bend. I collapse (sit) on a dirt hill. My lungs struggle to find air. I smile. I made it to the top and now I can rest.
I was busy focusing on my work when an idea leaped into my head. It was a line for a possible poem. I began to daydream of all the lines that would come after. When I realized I wasn’t in a place where I could write it down, I told myself I’d remember it later and I’d write it down then. Well… later came and went and my idea vanished from my head as soon as I focused back at the task at hand. I guess it wasn’t as good as I thought.
Tomorrow would have been my birthday had I been born on my due date. I'm writing this the night before thanksgiving. It's strange to think in an alternate universe, my birthday falls on a national holiday every few years instead of in late August. I think I would feel gypped if I had to celebrate my arrival into life on a day where everyone else is celebrating something else. I will never know that feeling, but I think about it more often than I'd ever admit. Not in a longing way, I will never know the version of me in the alternate universe. I am not her and she is not me.
Autumn arrived when I wasn't looking. I was too busy adjusting and daydreaming to see the beauty that was emerging around me. I didn't feel the anticipatory feeling of my favorite season the way I'm used to. On Saturday, I looked out my window and the leaves were bright yellow! I stopped in shock and amazement at how quickly time can move when I'm not paying attention. A reminder from the universe - always appreciate the beauty of the present before it gets blown away in the wind.
A few weeks ago, I took a day trip with my aunt and uncle up to Greenville, Maine. We drove around and had lunch near the lake at a place called the Stress Free Moose. We entered the restaurant and the bar was packed with people. On a Tuesday afternoon! We ate outside and people-watched as people and families walk in and out of the bar. Our server was a natural comedian and made us laugh throughout the meal. I had a BLT with avocado. My aunt killed a bee that landed on the table while I ran away. Afterwards, we drove around the lake and marveled at the spectacular views of Maine in early fall.
Late September, early fall, crisp in the air. Center Pond, Maine, late-afternoon. I sit by the lake with a jacket and boots on, kindle in my hand. The leaves across the way are changing. The slight breeze in the air drops the temperature, but the sun blaring in my eyes allows some warmth to stay. This is my happy place. This is where I’ve been waiting two years to be. I’m here once again. I’ve never heard quiet so loud. I could hear a leaf fall feet away from me. I read a few chapters of one book before switching to another. This is the perfect reading place.