Field notes, November 7th 2016. Approximately 3:30 PM.
The walls were closing in, so I bestirred myself out of doors. Ambling though a local park, I heard some small voices raised to one another in greeting. Two little girls were shouting hello to each other from yards apart. They ran to one another, kicking up little rooster tails of dried leaves. As much as little girls can be said to bear hug, they embraced each other like there was no tomorrow. Like best friends after a long absence.
It may shock some to know that the scene actually made me smile. Watching those girls take obvious delight in seeing each other created some light in the darkness that has threatened to swallow me up in the latter half of 2016. Some long time readers will know, or have guessed, that depression is not unknown to me. We have, if you will, an understanding.
This year has been rough. Financially, personally, emotionally. The godawful mess that is the election cycle has only worsened over time, compounding the misery we felt earlier in summer when our granddaughter died in her sleep. Shifts in work arrangements, to the detriment of revenue streams for yours truly, added a bitter icing to a leaden cake. The cherry? My big brother's fifty-third birthday is today, but he has been gone for seven years.
Seven years. A dog's age. A lifetime. My heart bears the bruises still.
I know what this gray shadow is looking over my shoulder. I feel the chill of cold hands reaching for my heart. I feel as if I know what Harry Potter felt facing dementors, if fiction can be said to mirror reality. My younger self would have been all over that, identifying with a fictional character as if I were him.
My older self nods knowingly. My older self does not give in all the way, though. I know now through dint of hard experience that real life is stranger than fiction but the myths we indulge in give us the strength to carry on. Hope is found in the oddest of places.
Maybe not so odd. If we want to be hopeful and not consumed by cynicism, maybe hope shows up where we need it most. This is the lesson I told myself I should take away from the scene before me. That I should cease being so wrapped around the axle of my fears, and nurture the flame of hope in my heart.
So I saw these two little girls, one African-American, one Caucasian, shouting hello and running gleefully through the leaves of an early fall day. They appeared to know nothing of the trash fire that is our election of the next President. They knew nothing of the weight on my heart, my troubles with the universe. And they did not need to to. Watching them say hello and embrace each other, it occurred to me that maybe I don't need to know either. What I need to know is that greeting a friend with a great big hug is the starting point to pushing back those great gray walls, and getting on with the business of living.