You know that feeling when something bad happens just before you go to sleep – you fight with your spouse or a beloved character on your favorite TV show dies – and there’s a moment, just before you open your eyes the next morning, when you’re between asleep and awake, that you’ve forgotten it happened and all is well? That’s my favorite moment of the day – that moment of peace before I remember, before the shadow creeps back in, before the heaviness of our burden settles on me.
I lay quietly for a minute, willing myself out of bed, talking myself into going to work, not calling in sick. I’m going to need those sick days for doctor’s visits that aren’t mine, caring for sick people that aren’t me.
I listen to you snoring (loudly) next to me like you have been since you came to bed long after I fell asleep. I was angry with you when you woke me up as you climbed into bed, your restless movements jarring me awake. I was angry with you when you woke me up snoring and kept snoring even when I shoved you and told you to roll over. I was angry with you when the baby woke me up at four in the morning and you kept sleeping so I had to get up, even though I had to be up in less than two hours and you would keep sleeping. I was so angry I growled at you, this primitive noise starting in my chest before I even knew it was happening.
But then you start coughing and my heart pounds, beating erratically, fearfully in time to each bark. I worry about you. Why are you still coughing? Shouldn’t this be better? Shouldn’t you be better?
I try to remember what it was like when a cough was just a cough as I wait for your fit to stop. When it does, I ask if you’re okay, if you need anything. You mutter something unintelligible and settle back into sleep and I shrug, swing my legs out of bed, and head to the bathroom to get ready for the day.
I feel awake – tired, but awake. I make the mistake of looking in the mirror and see someone that looks a little like me, but she’s older – drawn, wan, haggard. I pull out my concealer, the only expensive bit of makeup I buy because I need something good to paint over those dark circles under my eyes. I’m tired but I keep painting – eyeliner, mascara, blush, bronzer. I was going for the human look today but might have actually just barely managed zombie princess.
I curl my hair and then pull it up because it looks silly – too flat on the right, too frizzy on the left. But at least I look normal, maybe even better than I did yesterday.
Maybe today no one will tell me I look tired or sick. Maybe today I won’t have to say “I’m okay” when someone asks me how I am. Maybe today I’ll actually be okay.
I’m running late. I’m always running late. And I still have to get the baby ready for school. I walk out of the bathroom. Should I kiss you goodbye? What if I wake you? What if I don’t? I tiptoe up next to you and breathe a short prayer over your head and move before the dogs make any more noise – they’re anxiously waiting to be let out. I don’t want to risk waking you after so little sleep. You need more sleep.
I can hear the baby before I open the door. She’s calling for you. Dada. Dada! DADA! She always calls for you in the morning. I might be jealous if she didn’t reach up for me excitedly and bury her head in my neck happily when I pick her up. She pulls back and touches my face and whispers, “hi.”
And I realize I was wrong because this – this is my favorite moment of the day. So, I stand there just a minute longer, knowing I’ll be a minute later because in this moment, the shadows have retreated, the heaviness has lifted, and I’m at peace.