Winter Nights

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My back stiffened with anxiety.

I should go home and write. I should go to the gym. I should call Apple to get my phone fixed. I should make sure our bills are paid. 

I shifted my weight, adjusting to the pain between my shoulders, as the other passengers of the northbound Red Line train looked deep into their phones or deep into something unknown. When the train emptied and seats opened, I decided not to take one and opted to move to the back of the car to stand and look out the window.

A full moon, clear and high in the sky.

More worry ran through my body.

I haven’t seen many of my friends lately. I should text one to see if they want to hang out. Oh, but she didn’t respond the last time I suggest hanging out. I kind of just want to stay home. I should go to that storytelling show. I should be at home working on a story. I just want to drink tea and color. Or read. Or take a bath. I just want to be. 

At my stop, I walked down the steps, counting each time my hit fit the floor. 52. 53. 54. When I came to the corner where I usually turn south, I went straight, west. I wasn’t sure where I was going but I couldn’t, wouldn’t go home. Not with this mess of emotions wreaking havoc over my body.

I walked down a block and then over one. Down one, over another. I drifted through the streets, acting like I knew where I was going but knowing nothing of the sort. My neighborhood was built straight from a movie set – three-story single family homes with peaked roofs and wood shingles, white porches that most often have swings in the summertime, and big glass windows allowing you a glimpse into someone’s life that is almost certainly better than your own. I took in these fantasies, wondering what type of people lived in these homes and if I could ever be one of them.

It felt like the perfect December night. The day old snow crunched underneath my boot and I carried a shopping bag with a gift for a loved one. Cars passed and planes flew overhead, but none bothered me. I could see multi-colored trees through the windows, some with ornaments and others with not. When I started down a different block, I would scan to see which side had the most outdoor Christmas lights – that’s the side I wanted to be on. The twinkling lights welcomed me; you are not alone, they said.

Forty five minutes passed. My uncovered face stung, the tops of my knees tingled and my knuckles tightened. The winter evening was showing me its consequences. I could take in it’s beauty, but there would be a price.

When I started home, my soul felt a bit lighter. My back now ached from the frigid temperatures, but it was no longer strained from all the things I thought I needed to do in my evening. My steps were slightly lighter, as I let them guide me instead of ruminating thoughts.

I am constantly looking for ways to fix my emotions. Alcohol was never a true fixer, but it would let me escape the heaviness for a few hours. I never sprung back from those nights feeling better.

A walk on a winter night, though, that’ll grind away the hard layers. It’s also is not a fix, rather it sets at the top of the healing journey and beckons you to join.

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