Monday, January 29, 2018

Yosemite in Autumn: reflecting on finding joy after depression.

This was a journal I wrote on Thanksgiving day in Yosemite:

Sometimes there are moments that you need to bottle up for another time when you need to access a happy moment. 

I can still remember one such moment from a summer studying abroad in Spain when I was eighteen. I went to Spain not really knowing what I was doing, not really knowing the language, and not really knowing myself. Yet, I figured out a little about each of those things along the way. It was a big step for me as an eighteen year old to go to Spain for a summer. I was lonely and intimidated, and yet, we traveled to a different city every weekend, navigated public transportation each morning to get to school, and stayed out too late eating pizza and drinking Malibu rum and coke (ew). It was one of the best summers of my life as I discovered a new part of myself: a traveler. That summer set the foundation for many summers to follow. 

There was one moment on my last week there where I was walking through the park by myself. I often took walks alone during siesta time, because I quickly learned that if I took a nap, I struggled with insomnia. I was strolling through the park alone and it was a perfect weather day. The sun shone through the trees in such a way that produced a magical type of light, and I was at peace. With myself, with the world. My heart was full of gratitude for my summer in Spain. I got to know a new part of myself that summer. That was a moment I returned to upon coming home when I needed to find myself and some peace.

Sixteen years later, I am traveling in Yosemite with my two children. 

The last time we were here is imprinted in my mind. One of the moments that stands out the most from my struggle with postpartum depression is driving into Yosemite on the Tioga Pass. We were driving from Mammoth, where we had just spent two weeks, and we were heading into Yosemite. Our two kids were napping in the back seat and I had alone time with my husband on a beautiful mountain road, heading into my happy place, Yosemite. Yet, sitting there in the car, I couldn’t muster up any joy. I was crying to my husband, for seemingly no reason, and I told him I didn’t know why, but I couldn’t feel happy. At that point, it had been two months of suffering. I thought that traveling might make me feel better. I thought that having Matt around more might make me feel better. Neither of those things alleviated my postpartum depression. I wondered if I couldn’t feel joy in the Sierras with my beautiful husband and kids, would I ever feel happy again? 

Today, we spent Thanksgiving in Yosemite. It was probably my favorite Thanksgiving I can remember. We spent a simple, relaxing day wandering around the valley at the pace of our kids. We stopped and strolled through meadows, threw rocks and leaves and sticks in the river, laid down in the sunshine, played tag and chase and tickle tackle, pointed out waterfalls and mountains, and talked about shapes we saw in the granite. We spent the day absorbing the beauty and the joy. 

As we ended our day, Matt was pushing the kids in the stroller, and Everett and Cambria were babbling back and forth. I was a few steps behind them, and I was basking in the moment. The last of the sunlight on the meadow, the ability to be happy and enjoy my kids. I no longer take that feeling for granted. 

It was a moment I want to bottle up, to save to return to when those challenging and not so great moments of life pop up, as they are bound to. It was a perfect moment walking through a meadow in Yosemite at sunset, with my family, on Thanksgiving, and I was happy and grateful.


Because of that, these are some of my favorite photographs, ever. I waited to go through them until I could go to a coffee shop and just enjoy them, reliving these moments. I waited to post them until I was able to print and gift them to my parents, who joined us on the trip. It was worth the wait, because they made my dad cry (which really just says a lot more about my dad than these photographs), but it always brings me joy to see him cry for a happy reason, which luckily happens quite often.

These photographs were moving to me because of the way they capture the crazy and joy-filled personalities of our kids. In these pictures you can see screams of delight and ear-to-ear smiles. Looking back at these photos allows me to drink in the joy of those moments.

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