Written by Addie Barnett
Art by Pascal Campion
Hi. I’m Michael Lavazzo. There is nothing all that interesting about me, but sometimes even boring people need to talk. Not with anyone in particular. That’s why I chose you. Because you can’t talk back.
I just need to vent, really. Life has been hectic for me, as I am sure it has been hectic for all of you reading the diary entry I left on this tree, in the middle of this forest, specifically for someone like you to find it, hoping it might help–if not you, then me–get my thoughts out of the cramped space of my mind. So, hi there, whoever you are. I hope my note reaches you in one of your high moments, not one of your low ones. But even if you have been feeling particularly down, please remember you are not alone.
Caught between my depression, social anxiety, and OCD, there have been days when I wonder what I am doing with my life. What is the purpose of my being here? Not even my trusted companion, Rex (whose paw print I used to sign this entry), can do anything to help. Sure, he is cute and constitutes a good cushion to cry on sometimes, but even when he looks at me with his brown eyes, all sad-like, I’ve never felt he could really understand what I am feeling. A mixture of anger, frustration, sadness, and grief–and yet somehow, none of those things at all. I have a roof over my head and a couple of friends. Why would I be angry? I have also never lost someone important to me, so who am I grieving? Am I grieving the life I dreamed of as a child, but never seemed to be able to attain?
It took me a while to realize that my feelings were keeping me up at night. It also took me a while to realize that I wasn’t processing them the way I should. We are so used to running around all the time (caught between working, school, taking care of our families, and trying our best to eat healthily and work out–because, somehow, we are supposed to have the time to do all that and still get more than eight hours of sleep?) that we simply dull them out. They become the background noise to our daily lives.
At first, when the realization struck me, I felt the shock of a child who has just discovered that their grandma is really dead and she is never coming back. For an entire week, my mind became a broken record, yelling at me that I had taken the wrong turn and it was all my fault as if life is a giant motorway with road signs to guide your every step. No one ever teaches you what you are supposed to do if you’re driving in pitch-black darkness and you can’t see any signs. “How do you not see the signs? Aren’t you like thirty? You’d think you knew how to do this “life” thing by now.” If you ask for help, that’s the only answer you are ever going to get. Unless you meet a nice old granny in the park, and since times are tough, grannies are scant to find nowadays.
So, I did what anyone would do. I went to search for a map, or, at the very least, a lantern. That’s how I ended up in this forest. It’s Saturday, so I am not supposed to be working anyway. I came here to detox my mind and ended up writing this because, as it turns out, journaling actually works.
Who knew? I still can’t believe it.
You might be wondering what prompted this revelation. Well, if I were a therapist, I would say a change of scenery, which ultimately caused a change in my old thinking patterns. If I were a biologist, I would say it was returning back to nature, where we supposedly came from. My parents are religious folk – my dad a pastor, and my mother the wife of a pastor (duh!) – so I bet dad would say, “You found Jesus.”
But I am neither of those things (to my dad’s disappointment – sorry dad!), so all I can say for sure is: I stopped running. I think that’s what worked for me. The “rat race”, as so many call it, makes me sick to my stomach, and it took me too much time to come to this conclusion. You run, run, run, and then what? Retire? That’s it?
But what if you’re tired? Do you just lie down and…die?
No. I think there is an alternative. You run, you elbow your way through life. And then you stop, you sit and you take it all in. And you realize how futile elbows are. Seriously, what are elbows???
You look at the sky, close your eyes and listen to all the birds chirping. One poops on you and you curse. Then, of course, you start laughing like an idiot. Life is so simple, so mundane – why do we have to complicate it? Do you think the sparrows are preparing for the next sparrow elections? I’d love to see that.
That’s what happened to me today. I stopped. I looked at the sky, then I closed my eyes and listened to the birds chirping, smiled at Rex’s panting breaths beside me. A bird pooped on me and I cursed. I laughed like a maniac. I lived. I forgot that I had a phone and deadlines and that I hadn’t washed my clothes. The peace that came with forgetting was so encompassing, I broke down sobbing and slapped Rex away when he tried to lick me. Sorry, buddy.
And now, as I am heading back to my “ordinary” life, I can’t help but wonder how this is normal. When did this race become normal? I am going back to work, back into the fray. But for once, I feel like I can breathe unhindered. I feel like I am strong enough to tackle everything coming my way – and I will make sure not to forget it.
Because now, once in a while, I will stop, I will sit, and I will take it all in.
That’s what life is really about.
Little moments. So little you might not notice them at first, like the way a droplet of water shines in the sunlight. Or the way bird poop feels when it lands on your head. Or how rough your dog’s tongue is, how bad their breath stinks.
Or how much you want to live, even when you think you don’t.
Little moments remind you that the sun comes up every day, and that’s nothing short of a miracle.