some days panic wraps its hot hands around my throat and squeezes. it mixes a cocktail of sadness and fear and missing and worry, pinches my nose, and forces me to drink. I push away the looming cloud for as long as I can, distracting myself with music and movement, but I can’t keep it at bay forever, and when it catches up with me… the world feels like a hopeless place.

so often I feel trapped within myself, living in a suffocating atmosphere of thoughts and emotions that just won’t let me go. no matter how I try to escape from myself, there is another layer, a box within a box within a box within a box, and I’m just trying to get out into the clean air and take a deep, clear breath. sometimes it feels like I’ll never get there. when I’m so trapped in circumstances I can’t change, when I’ve done everything in my power to do, when there’s still no ship on the horizon coming to rescue me from my island… well, only metaphor comes to mind to explain what that feels like. I am a whirlpool. I am a mess of scribbles. I am a wild thing curled inside a rubber ball. but I guess in the end, I am just me–a girl with a lovesick heart–and that is the problem. I can be no one else but me, and I have to learn how to live with it.

and so here I will try to compile moments from the last few days that carried some release, some beauty, some hope. moments which reminded me that there is a world that exists outside of me, and I can still interact with it. moments that said, you won’t be like this forever, no matter how you feel. moments which reminded me that it’s worth it to keep on pushing through.

the quiet rush of a river in the mountains. steel patterning the sky, holding up the bridge I stand beneath. Sweet Frog somehow still refreshing on a cold day. two pairs of footsteps on wood. the unexpectedly wise words of my fifteen-year-old sister. art galleries. songs in the car.

pushing myself on a new route, white pinches and burly moves. remembering my body still has the power in it to do hard things and come out on top. feeling my mind clear for those few moments. being successful at something I like doing.

Disney cartoons. hearing myself laugh. letting myself laugh. allowing myself to enjoy the childish ridiculousness of a fruitcake falling on a talking snowman’s head and sleighs spontaneously combusting… only in the world of Frozen. creating new inside jokes with my mom.

the tradition of Christmas Eve services. the rare blessing of feeling¬†something, of knowing that my prayers are heard and I am cared about. the big brown eyes of baby Gabe staring at me from the row in front, obliviously sticking his tongue out in the adorable way he does.¬†a fierce hug and present from Hilton that made me laugh out loud… a giant fake butterfly knife, perfect in utter ridiculousness.

feeling like a family on Christmas day. a dreamcatcher ornament, metal feathers silver and tinkling. the happy anticipation of giving and opening presents. the satisfying tearing and crinkling of wrapping paper. tea in a new mug with dark chocolate mint Tim Tams. playing Scrabble on a mini board.

the thrum of an electric guitar against my stomach. messing around with volume and chords. the squawk of the amp makes me smile.

the crackle of a fire. a soft knitted blanket. my mom’s heartbeat. my question, “you still praying with me?” her answer, of course, “I’m still praying.” beef stew in a gingerbread man mug. watching characters play out their antics across TV screen.

squishy movie theater seats. superheroes and their crazy adventures. the smell of extra buttery popcorn. the darkness that envelops me in story when the lights go out and sound and color shake the huge room. the ability to get lost in another world and emerge feeling like I could be more than I am. like I could fight for something that matters. like happy endings are possible.

written down this way, these moments seem more than I remember. in the flood of stretching days, of waking up and immediately entering the struggle not to drown in myself, I forget about the shafts of light, where panic eases up, when sadness consents to sit more quietly in my chest. but whether I remember them or not, they are there. and even as I hope and pray and breathe and feel and be, I will try to remember them still.