Every day I come home to a mystery. Sliding my key into the lock, I pause to wonder what kind of apartment I’ll find.
Some days I open the door and my home greets me with open arms. I smile, entering my sanctuary. Where there is a place for everything and everything in its place, even if that place is scattered on the floor or tossed on the table. Living on your own means you can build you own little world exactly the way you want.
On those days my dog greets me with the wag of his tail and a barrage of kisses. I unpack my stuff, throw on some music or podcasts, and cook a tasty meal. I give far too much of it to my dog (I can’t say no to those adorable eyes!) and I savor every bite he leaves me.
On those days, I play with my dog. We do games of hide and seek, tug of war, and wrestle on the bed. We practice some tricks and I fail in teaching him to stop pulling on his leash. Then we snuggle on the couch or bed while I happily lose myself in a wonderful book, movie, or video game.
On those days, I tidy up, knock a few things off my to-do list, and fall into bed, happy to be alive. I fall asleep, relaxed and ready to tackle the next day.
Other days, my door opens into a prison.
I step into a small dark box, my senses on high alert. Loneliness oozes from the walls; a dark, engulfing sludge of nothingness. I have to be careful to avoid it, lest it swallow me up. Sometimes I’m not quick enough and it gets me.
On those days, when my home becomes a cage, I turn on all the lights but it’s never enough. I look around, swearing the space had shrunk since the last time I was here. The mere 509 square feet stands precariously balanced between being cozy and suffocating and I never know which I’ll get.
On those days my dog is a burden, and even when he licks away my tears I can’t find the strength to smile and love him back.
On those days I can barely breathe. On those days I wish I could disconnect from the world. Put it on pause. Hit fast forward. Anything to get out from underneath the sadness.
But that’s not how life works.
So I press on, hopeful for better days ahead. And better days always do come! More and more frequently lately. I know that life won’t always be this strange and dark.
Looking back on how far I’ve come, I’m struck with amazement. I can do this. I’ve already done this. Even when life gets tough, I know that my best years are yet to come. So on days when I am strong, I smile through the tears. I hug my dog. And I let the feelings wash over me in a cleansing wave of emotion.
I will get through this.
But fuck, those prison days suck.