Three Days on a Couch

For the past three days, I have been living on the couch with my dog. I claimed the living room as my territory and covered it with cough drops, tissues, and medicine. I have lived almost entirely on canned soup and water. It has not been a glamorous existence. Despite a complete lack of energy or motivation to move, there are a few achievements I can boast. I managed to not worry about my job for more than a day, I read about 450 pages in a novel, and I reflected on my life. When stuck at home with no pressing obligations other than feeding the dog, there is a lot of time to think.

For the first day I was mostly miserable, wondering if there was any possible upside to my situation. My fiance once told me that frustration is futile: becoming annoyed with situations outside of my control only leads to unnecessary negativity. I forget those words almost daily but when I do remember, they always bring a sense of peace. If I was going to be confined to the house, I might as well make some positive use of my time. I snuggled with Huxley until he eventually groaned and went to lie down in the corner. I came very close to being halfway done reading Atlas Shrugged, yet I feel like I am no closer to finding out “Who is John Galt?” Then, as I entered the third day of my couch life, I realized something that changed the way I felt entirely.

People often say that it is impossible to appreciate the good in life without the bad there for comparison. This applies to more than I thought. For 95% of every year, I am well. I don’t notice every day that I am not ill, but maybe I should. Instead of waking up healthy and going straight into stressing or complaining about the day, maybe I could spend a few moments being grateful for an able body and mind. When I am sick I think of all the things I cannot do, but if I am honest with myself I know that on a normal day I wouldn’t do most of those things anyway. What if I did? What if I lived every day to its fullest potential? Then maybe those 10-15 days per year when I am too sick to do everything, I could just relax without feeling like I am missing out on something.

What could I accomplish if I spent more time working toward my goals than I do watching television or fighting off boredom? How can I be bored when I have things to learn, words to write, and dreams to follow? It is easy to get caught up in the defeating belief that life is a rut made up of miserable jobs and meaningless interactions, but it isn’t true. Life can be an adventure, a story to be written and read and relived by millions of people. It can be a story of self-discovery or service to others. It can be beautiful with ugly painful streaks scattered among the years. It can be so much more than 40 hours, frozen pizzas, and season finales. I intend to write a story for myself and for the world. I hope you will read it when you’re living on your couch with your dog for three days in winter.

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A Celebration of Life and Love

We wake within minutes of each other, and turn so that our faces are only inches apart.

“Good morning.”

“Happy anniversary.”

I promised to make breakfast if only he would start the coffee. He obliges. I rummage in the refrigerator for bacon, eggs, toast, cheese, and butter. It isn’t meant to be a healthy breakfast. Soon we are sitting side by side, sipping unsweetened coffee and silently munching on breakfast sandwiches. Huxley, our dog, finishes his own breakfast in less than a minute and begs for a bite of ours. I can’t resist; I give him a tiny piece of bacon. We clean our plates and finish our coffee.

My fiance Mason is a runner. He has plans to go for a short run, and I uncharacteristically decide to join him. We drive over to the greenway with Huxley hanging his head out the window. We start running at a pace that feels comfortable for me. For the first sixty seconds, I feel great. As we run, I remember that it isn’t meant to be easy. My breath gets shorter, my legs urge me to stop, but I tell myself that I must keep going. It is a beautiful day, and I am grateful to be able to spend it with the man I love. We run for just over a mile until Huxley and I stop. I need to catch my breath and the dog needs to relieve himself. We pick up the pace again, and have gone about another mile when I start walking. This is the most exercise I’ve had in a while. Our efforts have paid off; we have reached a pier overlooking the river. The wind is strong and cool, and the view is great. When we turn back around, I resolve to walk back with the dog while Mason continues his run.

The air is crisp and the sun is warm. As I pass under barren trees against a bright blue sky, I marvel at the beauty. I feel the ground beneath my feet and my legs are tired but strong. Birds sing in the trees, and each fenced dog we pass has something to say. When I arrive back at the car, I almost wish I had another mile to go.

About an hour later, we prepare for our next adventure.

I put on the jacket, complete with pads and a back protector. It’s a little too big and is far from flattering. I add boots and gloves to my ensemble, then pull the helmet on over my head. I’m nervous and excited all at once; this is my first time riding with Mason and his first time with a passenger. I grew up on motorcycles so there is no inherent fear, but I know there is a difference between riding with my father as a child and riding with my less experienced fiance. He starts the bike and I climb on behind him. I hold onto his waist tightly as we take off, slowly at first then gathering speed. We circle the apartment complex a few times then he checks in to make sure I am feeling okay. As we near the main road, I take a breath and brace myself. He turns out, and then we’re flying.

I don’t remember when I started to relax, but at some point it started to come naturally. I leaned back and looked around, recalling how incredible it felt to travel this way. We rode for less than a couple of miles, but I got off feeling light and thrilled.

As the sun falls later in the day, we keep tradition alive by visiting a friend at work. She was formerly the executive chef at one of our favorite restaurants in our home town, and we all relocated to the same city. Without originally intending to, we had spent our last two anniversaries having dinner at her restaurant. She is now a line cook at a well-loved place downtown, and it seems fitting for us to experience her food today. We walk in without a reservation and the restaurant is nearly full. We are lucky; there are two seats right in the middle of the raw bar. We sit and order drinks, and watch our friends do the work they love.

We have two craft beers each and share the beef tartare and crispy oysters. It is nothing short of amazing. He has three raw oysters, which he says are great with the meyer lemon-thyme mignonette. I am not a fan of raw oysters so I opt for the oyster slider instead, as suggested by our friend. The food is incredible, and we are having a great time. As we finish our beers and prepare to leave, our server comes out with two desserts for us, compliments of our friends in the kitchen. They are perfect. We leave the restaurant satisfied and happy and walk the streets of the city we love so much until it is time to go home. We don’t say it out loud, but we both know it was time well spent. Tomorrow we will return to work and routine, but I will smile as I recall these memories.

This day was more than just a celebration, it was a testament to being alive.