Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Manic Moment

Sometime in May, the clouds of spring at last are drawn back, and the days, yawning, lengthen and stretch. The sun, emboldened by the nearness of the earth, tugs us closer still, and everything responds to its light: budding and blossoming, greening, burrowing and building, mating, birthing, nesting and hatching, planning, delirious with virility, vitality, and strength.

It feels good after months of clouds to be juiced up on sunshine, flush with boundless energy. I can feel it in my gut, like a caffeine buzz run amok, a feeling of overstimulation. It’s almost time to remove the full-spectrum bulb from my lamp at work, which wards off winter depression. But I’m not yet ready to switch. Nevermind the signs that it won’t last long, this phase of pedal-to-the-metal and second winds. Nevermind that it’s likely to end with a crash. Right now I’m into the skimping on sleep and getting away with it. I like keeping the motor revved up high. I want to nurse this sense of well-being, even though I know it’s just a sham.


It was under the solsticial sun—that angel of light—that I had my life’s one manic moment, or at least its strongest hypomanic episode. When I was in eighth or ninth grade, we lived in a large Craftsman-style bungalow. The back door was fairly high off the ground—not a whole flight of stairs up, but more than just two or three steps. The way the ground fell away from the house, the door felt even higher than it was. The back porch was small, not much wider than the door, with stomach-high railings that ended in pillars at the top of the steps. The pillars were a couple of inches taller than the rails, each topped by a circular platform big enough to hold a large potted plant.

On a sunny summer day after a string of sunny days, I noticed as if for the first time that the platforms were big enough to stand on, and so I did. I climbed up on one of the pedestals, despite my fear of heights. I stood there, fully erect, feeling reckless and impossibly high, trying not to be afraid. My younger brother was the monkey in the family, not me. I was the one who was always falling when we were little—down the stairs, off the slide, out of the top bunk. So when we got older, he was the one in the topmost branches, swaying in the breeze, while I was the one frozen with fear on the lowest limb. As I looked at the ground from my perch on the pedestal, giddy and a little queasy, it crossed my mind that if I fell and fractured an arm or a leg, it would be all right. Even if I dove and broke every bone in my body, any doctor could set the bones and they would heal and I would be as good as new. I could do whatever I wanted, and really there wouldn’t be any consequences. I looked up, away from my feet, away from any point of reference that would help me to keep my balance. I stood on the pinnacle and surveyed the world and was tempted by the promise of invincibility. I became perfectly calm and relaxed.

Then I remembered how much it would hurt to break every bone in my body and, abruptly I came to my senses. Shaken, I carefully got down, afraid of myself.

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