To See Something Beautiful

To See Something Beautiful January 28, 2022


The darkest part of the year is not a good time.

I’ve already said a hundred times that I suffer from anxiety, as a symptom of trauma and of my PCOS. I’d like to say I’m used to it, but the fact is, anxiety does not allow you to get used to it. That’s the whole point. It never feels like the same old thing; every single time, it feels like for once the fear is all really merited.

Maybe it is. The situation with our harassing, menacing neighbor has gone downhill once again: I’ll have something to say publicly about that before long.  There won’t be a garden this year if she’s still alive by spring. I can’t set foot in my own backyard without an incident and a panic attack. We installed a camera on the porch in case of further trespassing, and now I jump in fear every one of the ten times a day that the wind shakes Rose’s birdhouse and triggers the motion sensor. We still have to park the car in a hiding place a block away. But it could be that nothing more will go wrong. I’ve been telling myself that for awhile.

The anxiety quickly deflates into depression when it’s this dark. After I get good and scared I get sad, and the sadness doesn’t lift.

I wanted to seem my friends in Columbus at Christmas, but there was no way to afford the expense, and there’s been no way to drive out for a weekend and see them this winter at all. I am desperately homesick for Columbus. I’d do anything to move away from the toxic Ohio Valley where I’ve never belonged, away from the menacing neighbor, away from the university, away from the pockmarked streets of LaBelle, and live in Columbus again. But it’s impossibly expensive. Rent is twice what it is here and buying is out of the question. So we stay where we are.

I promised Rose she could go back to her beloved after school lessons when she was fully vaccinated. It’s been a full two years of loneliness. I hope she doesn’t have to start taekwondo over again from the beginning. But we haven’t been able to budget the expense, so we are waiting. I thought we might be able to pay ahead for a block of lessons with the tax rebate, but we made just enough in the hectic beginning of last year before our income dipped again that we’re going to owe about forty dollars in tax instead of getting back a few hundred. So I’ll have to put it off again.

Everything good is constantly put off. Everything scary or sad or boring grinds on. It’s like this every January, and it feels like January lasts for years.

“Not yet” is the most terrible answer I can imagine, and all I hear is “not yet.” You can’t go outside yet. You can’t go to Columbus yet. Your daughter can’t have fun yet. Nothing good can happen yet. Not yet, not yet, not yet.

Today I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I drove the family out to Raccoon Creek State Park, just to see something beautiful.

I hadn’t driven that route in the snow before. It was brand new to me in May; then we drove there nearly once a week to go swimming in the summer, and now and then in fall to go hiking. But I haven’t been since before Christmas– the anxiety was too severe, and the snow scared me. I hate driving in blowing snow and I hate crossing bridges. The thought of doing the two at once was petrifying, but so was the thought of staying home. Fear battled with fear until I found myself wiping the frost off my windshield with one winter glove, getting in, turning the key. My worst fear of crashing off the bridge would be preferable to one more day trapped in LaBelle, worrying.

It turns out that it’s nice to drive on a snowy day, if the roads are already clear. It feels clean, quiet, solitary– fictional and dissociated in a strange way, as if I’m driving over lined paper instead of through a real, three-dimensional landscape.

The road to the park was clean and dry, but inside the park it was snowy and slippery, so I went even slower. And again came that quiet, clean, not unpleasant loneliness, as if we three were the only people on earth.

When we got out to the lake, there was a group of people already there, playing ice hockey. I didn’t know the lake froze solid enough to be skated on. We stopped to admire them, then drove to a solitary place.

The three of us got out at the swimming beach and trudged through deep powdery drifts out onto the pier, which felt oddly still on top of the rigid lake. The snow went on from shore to shore, with footprints here and there. The only sign of where the water line was was a stand of cattails behind us.

I walked back to shore, not on the pier but on the snow-covered lake, just to see what it was like to walk on water. I had never walked on good sturdy ice before.

Everything was gray, black, white, gray, white clouds blowing past under gray clouds, black trees weighed down with white snow, gray ice appearing as I kicked up white snow, still and silent and crisp, a charcoal landscape sketch turned into a real landscape.

There’ll be a thaw in a day or two: not the spring thaw yet, but a few days’ reprieve. Then cold again and the melted snow will freeze into icicles. Then it will be warmer. Fifty-one days from now it will be spring, and a week or two after that it will look like spring. Maybe by then we’ll have found a solution. Maybe the anxiety will die down on its own. Maybe the neighbor will finally be gone and I’ll be able to go outside. Maybe Rose will get to have some fun. Maybe we will find a way out of the valley and never, ever, ever come back.

“Not yet” doesn’t mean “no.”

It was warmer as we drove home: not warmer outside, but inside.




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