apple blossoms

The Collapse & The Rising

DenaMay 4, 2023

apple blossoms

Getting to this point——deciding to winter in spring——was a long process. It was an excruciatingly slow descent from a period of general wellness and peace to this very dark, seemingly hopeless place.

Right now, I am sitting at the kitchen table. A eucalyptus and spearmint candle has been burning all morning. There is a vase of lilacs to the left of me. Between the scent of the lilacs and the fragrance of the candle, the room smells heavenly. It’s been a long-time since I could say that. For so long it was only putrid wafts of dirty diapers and dogs that could be smelled in here. Pleasant scents were a luxury that I “could not afford” during those years spent in survival mode. Just like baths. Baths for me, are like bookends that mark my stretches in survival mode. There is no room for baths in survival. The last time I took a bath was in 2019 and that explains a lot, I suppose.

Another thing that gets neglected during these stretches of suffering are my houseplants. From 2018 to 2019, my houseplants were lush and thriving. Three months ago, they were barely hanging on. How could I keep something as frivolous as houseplants alive, when every day was one long march of death, an agonizing struggle to do what needed to be done, until I could finally collapse into bed each night.

Now, this room smells like heaven. My houseplants are slowly springing back to life, there are even new leaves uncurling on my pothos, those miraculous, indomitable plants that cling to life, withstanding the harshest periods of neglect, and then with just a little attention, bravely send forth another little leaf to try again, in spite of it all.

Baths haven’t happened yet, but I turn 39 tomorrow, and I am thinking, just maybe…

I’ve just put the twins down for their nap. I am hungry but I want to write. My soul has been set on fire these last few days as I’ve launched myself full bore into the idea of wintering in spring, into the hope that things can finally change.

I keep closing my eyes and trying to remember when precisely it all started. The memory of a bitter cold evening in 2020 drifts like a photograph into my mind. The year was turning, we were moving into the depth of winter. I was in the house and I felt like I was suffocating, like there were 3 tons of weight pressing down on my chest. It was terrifying.

Despite the bitter cold outside, I told Roman and Marina to bundle up. We had to get out. We had to get out of the house right then. (I’ve known that feeling before.)

So we walked outside and over to the ballpark, a stone’s throw from our house. I took deep breaths and watched the icy blue sky as it turned from late afternoon to twilight. Wisps of pink and purple clouds were strewn across the blue, luminous and iridescent swipes of color that only a fading winter sunset can display. Puffs of grey smoke escaped our warm mouths and filled the freezing air for fleeting moments at a time. Puff, puff, puff as we walked along in the cold, our feet crunching over the grass that was just beginning to freeze. I took photographs. I still have them somewhere——the sky, Marina’s hand-knitted scarf, Roman’s bright red cheeks, the bare tree branches like spilled ink across the watercolor winter sky.

I wanted to stay out there, maybe forever. I felt immune to the cold because I had escaped. Maybe I embraced the cold because anything would be better than coming back inside. Anything at all.

But then my children were climbing on a cement statue and Marina fell, and she got hurt. And maybe because of the cold, her pain was exaggerated, and she started to weep. I took her into my arms, shushing gently, trying to calm her, as a mother does. But suddenly it all started to spin out of my control. The cold began to pierce the 3 of us and they looked at me with cold, tired, longing eyes and I knew that we had to come back inside.

Maybe that was the turning point, the beginning of the descent. I cannot recall with perfect clarity because we don’t remember the exact moment when these things start. We just know that it happens, slowly, insidiously. Things start to get bad, and then they get worse. Months or years pass. And then one day we wake up and we cannot recognize ourselves in the mirror, and the suffocating feeling has burrowed itself into the deepest parts of us. It is as though the entire body is painfully crushed into a terrible vice, and it just keeps getting tighter and tighter. The room spins at a dizzying speed. Breathing becomes an impossible labor. The heart races and hope feels desperately out of reach.

This is when the collapse happens. It’s dreadful and it’s terrifying. But, my God, it is necessary. Because it is the point at which we stand back up, and begin again.

So that is how I got here. And this is why I am wintering in spring. Because I have stood back up after the collapse. And the woman who cherished her suffering is dead. I will go on from here and I will write a new story.

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