When looking back on days that really meant something to me, December 4, 1991 always pops into my mind. I was officially an adult: I had recently graduated from Ohio University and was actually using my degree. I was taking my first, real vacation – one that I paid for myself. I was going alone. I chose the destination. I set my itinerary. It wasn’t going to include visiting relatives I barely knew or doing things that didn’t interest me. It was solely my gig.
I chose Summit County, Colorado. I had exactly one contact there – a girl I’d met while working at a summer camp for over-privileged children (yes, despite working towards my degree in social work, I chose to work at a camp where my skills were not welcome. I know, I’m weird.) Regardless, this chick was a real cool cat and I was really looking forward to hanging out with her in between all my skiing and sight seeing. She picked me up at the airport in Denver and took me further west to the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. As she drove to the summit of Loveland Pass, she insisted that we stop at the top. Everyone stops at the top. It’s a Kodak moment for all tourists. Except this was late at night and not exactly when most tourists visited. However, on this particular evening, the moon was full and there were a bazillion stars dotting the sky. There was not another soul in sight. I got out of her car and was simply stunned by how bright the moon was as it reflected off the snow. I could see absolutely everything. I could see more mountain peaks in the distance. I could see my friend as if it were daytime. She was encouraging me to follow her to a path that lead to a set of steps that went even higher. I tried to catch my breath in the thin mountain air, feeling the severe lack of oxygen. The only things I could hear was the echoey laughter of my friend bounding up the stairs, my boots as they crunched through the packed snow, and my shallow breathing. I had to work hard for the view, but once I got there, I truly felt like I was on top of the world. I’m not sure if I said it out loud or not, but I made the determination then and there that I would live there one day.
Two years later – almost to the day – I made good on that promise to myself, packed up my little Ford Escort (which mostly contained my massive stereo, remember when speakers were big enough to be buried in?) and headed west.
But wait. I’m getting off track. Back to that perfect day…. We woke up early to get a jump on skiing. I was fairly new at the whole skiing gig but I couldn’t wait to get out there. My only other experience was Ohio skiing, which is pretty sad in comparison. Anyway, we skied, met lots of fun people, made dinner plans with a group of her awesome friends… the entire day was nothing but high energy fun. I felt amazing the entire day. If I had to choose one word to describe that experience, I’d pick “Wheeee!”
I know I’ve mentioned my issue with depression before – and it might be hard for someone who doesn’t understand depression to “get it” – but there wasn’t a single moment in that day where depression crept through the cracks. I’d never experienced that before (and honestly, have had very few days like that again – depression is a really bad boyfriend that even though I try really hard to break up with him, he always finds a way back in.)
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to recreate that day. I used to catch myself mourning that I haven’t topped what I’ve deemed my “Holy Grail.” So, I decided to give up that particular quest. That day was perfect from a standpoint of not having any depression. What other things can qualify as perfection? First of all, it’s a very personal quest. What makes me happy probably doesn’t make you happy. A day of skiing might sound like a personal hell to you.
But who says it has to be a whole stretch of time? Why can’t I simply have perfect moments? Okay, so Monday, I took my son to the hospital. He didn’t want to have any infusions at all so he was really disappointed when he needed two. After we dealt with the setback, we made the most of our time while he was tied to his bed via an IV. As he drifted off to sleep due to the benadryl required before a platelet transfusion, he asked “Do you know what you mean to me?” My eyes welled with tears as I thoroughly lived this moment of perfection. I soaked it up so I could use it to help me get through the next dark bit that might be coming my way.
Someone challenged me a while ago by asking, “Don’t you see your life getting better as you get older? You make a little more money, you drive a little nicer car, you move to a roomier home…” And while this topic might fly at a typical cocktail party, I had to smile and say, “not in my case.” And it used to make me really sad. Oh, okay, sometimes it still does. But my life isn’t like your life which isn’t like their life. Comparisons will get you nowhere.
We each have to find our individual joy (and damn anyone who tries to take that away from us.) For now, my joy is listening to the soft snores of my unintelligent dog and the clicking of the controls on my son’s DS as he plays a video game.
I might not ever have another “perfect day,” but I have a million perfect moments.
And that’s enough.