Fires

Yesterday I was jogging and started to feel sick—wait, not sick exactly, but something was off in my—stomach, maybe? It wasn’t nausea, I hadn’t eaten something strange, but I didn’t feel right. It was in my gut, definitely. There was a pit. It took me a few minutes of wondering, sincerely, to realize that it was depression. I could have guessed that it was coming, and here it was, making me feel ill in spite of doing the healthiest thing I had done for my body in months, despite being outside on a warm fall day at the start of a weekend. This insidious thing. I had spent the previous day home from the office to try to rescue myself from a freefall of anxiety. While that was a good decision, perhaps I hadn’t caught myself early enough to avoid skidding into the dark mud at the bottom.

As I continued jogging I had the kind of woo-woo thought to which I’m not usually prone: that some negative energy was bubbling and seeping out right now. Maybe that was why I’d felt such an intense need to do this run, why I suddenly found the motivation to put off brunch and coffee until I had worked myself out. Strange that I didn’t take a single walking break, too, which is something I normally need for a run of more than a mile. There was some kind of desperation inside me. I’d had a particularly difficult week, not in any critical way but in several ways that hit my sensitive spots. I made a few foolish decisions and put myself in some vulnerable places, and naturally, I’d gotten hurt. Maybe I had tried to shrug off the pain, but now I needed to reckon with it. Or maybe that is too abstract an explanation for what depression is.

I knew better than to cancel any of my plans for the rest of the day. Depression didn’t want me to run my errands or go to a party, but I did both, and I felt lighter by the end of the night. I still was not at rest, though. Today I’m further along this odd trajectory—I am not depressed but filled with an exuberant ache, if there can be such a thing. I drove down the freeway into the sun, with music playing loud, and I felt painfully alive, as if I was on the verge of either great joy or great sorrow. Nothing extraordinary was happening; I was on my way to volunteer at a library among giggling high school students. Yet I felt like I could cry and burst and dissolve into the orange-yellow sunshine that surrounded me. I didn’t know what to do. As when I’m depressed, the best course to take is the one already laid out. Pretend that things are going normally. Of course, I don’t want to pretend that all the time. Life is ordinary enough, filled with days that are more or less predictable. If I feel like bursting, I should burst, even if only question marks come out. And I’m asking myself a lot of questions right now. The most salient are, What is the nature of this fire in my heart? and What can I do with it?

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