The soft season.

the hard season

will

split you through. . . /

but do not worry. . . /

keep speaking the years from their hiding places.

keep coughing up smoke from all the deaths you

have died.

keep the rage tender.

because the soft season will come.

it will come. . . /

up all night.

up all of the nights.

to drink all damage into love.

– From “therapy” by Nayyirah Waheed

It was the kind of perfect August day I’d spent the last two summers hoping for. For the last two summers, there had been fires. Terrible fires, fires that rained ash and turned the sun an angry red and smelled of acrid smoke that stained the usually pristine Pacific Northwest sky. Fires that were alarmingly evocative of the fire seasons I’d grown used to during my years in California, when flames jumped freeways and burned the hills above L.A.

But there were no fires on the day we took the boat out. Just a layer of morning fog that burned off surprisingly quickly, causing me to strip off my jacket and settle into my seat, enjoying the sea spray and the sun on my face as we zipped along the inland waterways of Puget Sound toward Boston Harbor.

When I booked my flight to Seattle, the length of my stay – three weeks – felt like an eternity. But as Rick, Karrin and I ate lunch on a covered dock, overlooking boats bobbing on sunlit, sapphire blue water, it suddenly seemed like scarcely enough. “I can’t believe I’ve been here a week already,” I lamented. “It’s going so fast.”

Rick laughed. “Of course it’s going fast. Time only goes slowly when you’re doing something you don’t want to do.”

That’s so true, I thought. Over the last week, I have felt a persistent urge to slow down and hold time in my hands, savoring the fading moments of summer before they become memories.

My big plan was to come here and make a plan. I would update my portfolio and my resume and apply for jobs and write essays. I would use this serene, tranquil environment to put my nose to the grindstone and work, so that by the time I went back to Manhattan I would be clear headed enough to answer some of the big life questions I’d been putting off.

But instead of finding focus, I’ve felt my edges blur. I’ve felt my insides softening, and nostalgia for years past welling up inside of me. I’ve taken long walks in the woods and picked wildflowers and spent hours upon hours sitting on the deck of the house that belonged to my grandfather, watching the birds and seals and occasional boats travel along Case Inlet.

And I’ve been swimming. It always takes a small act of courage for me to take that first plunge into the water, but once I’m past the initial shock of cold, I know the result is worth it. I’m not sure what it is about saltwater, but it fixes everything. It feels like hope.

On the day of the boat ride, I almost chickened out. The daylight was rapidly fading and a not-so-gentle breeze picked up over the inlet. I stood there, ankle deep in the water, wearing my grandfather’s faded, half-disintegrated orange swim fins, and tried to talk myself into it. You know what? I thought, shivering. It’s too cold. I should just wrap myself up in my oversized towel and watch the sunset from the safety of the deck of the beach house.

But as I stood there, half in, half out, watching the waning sun spread its rosy glow over steel blue water, something bigger than my fear took over. I thought about how much my grandfather had loved to swim in that bay, and how heartbroken he’d been when he no longer could. I thought about how, even on days much colder than this, my mother never hesitated to jump into the water with delight. And I thought about the morning two months earlier, long after both of them were gone, when I sat with my boyfriend in Central Park and cried, because I had just seen my doctor and signed a whole host of pre-surgery consent forms and was afraid I might die.

Do it, Sar, I thought. Do it for all the people who no longer can. And do it for yourself, because you still can.

And so, I jumped in. I hit the water hard and screamed as the bracing cold hit me back. I took a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling saltwater, trying to slow the hammering in my chest. For several moments, I just floated, staring up at the enormous pink sky. And then, I felt it: relief. I was all alone with the inlet and the sky and the world got quiet, and I got quiet too. And I thought, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for wanting to slow everything down. Maybe slowing down was exactly what I needed right now.

“It takes as long as it takes,” I heard myself say aloud, to no one in particular.

It takes as long as it takes.

Healing.

Forgiveness.

Finding your way in the great big world.

It takes as long as it takes.

And then I thought:

Relax, kid.

You’ve got plenty of time.

6 thoughts on “The soft season.

  1. Struggling with anxiety at the moment and coming to terms with the fact that perhaps, my anxiety will never fully go away. Some days it feels all-consuming. But this calmed me – it takes as long as it takes.

    I’m glad you’re having a lovely, slow break. The pictures are beautiful! Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    • Hi Grace,

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling. I battle anxiety myself and the first half of this year was particularly hard on me. I felt so tired and emotionally drained ALL the time. Finally, I talked to a good friend who suggested I make a list of all the things that give me energy. Activities that give me a boost – mentally, emotionally, creatively, spiritually – and try to do as many of them in a day as I can. That helped.

      Am I the only one who feels guilty for taking time out to do things purely because I enjoy them? I don’t think I am. I think that’s really hard for most people, and for women, in particular. So if you need someone to give you permission to slow down and take care of yourself, well, consider this your permission slip.

      I’m glad reading my post gave you a sense of calm. Occasionally, I contribute to a website called The Mighty, which you may want to check out if you’re unfamiliar. You can go on their site and search “anxiety” and literally read hundreds of posts by people who struggle just as you’ve been struggling. I don’t know about you, but I take a lot of comfort in community, in knowing I’m not alone.

      I’m wishing you well. ❤️

      • Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful comment. 🙂

        You’re definitely not alone in feeling guilty for taking time out. I barely did anything today, apart from reading half a book in one sitting (The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer – I highly recommend it, by the way) and I kept thinking “I must get up and do something”. But, actually, that was just what I needed and everything else could wait.

        I’m sorry you have to deal with anxiety too. I’ll check out The Mighty – it’s always a comfort to read things by people who understand.

      • You are so welcome! And thank you for the book recommendation.

        I hope you do find comfort in some of the posts on The Mighty. The internet can be such a double edged sword, but one of the things I think is great about it is its ability to connect people that are going through similarly challenging experiences and to help them/us find a community.

        Take good care. x

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