I wish I weren't so old
I wish it wasn't cold
I wish to fly to a warm place.
I wish I weren't so fat
I wish that I could paint
I wish I could get out of my head.
I wish the house was not a mess
I wish I had been a success
I wish a lot of things…
Of course, my thoughts were not a catchy tune but an endless inner dialogue, feeding on itself in a sad spiral of self-loathing. I gave in to Toby's insistence and got up to feed him and make coffee. As I trudged upstairs to the computer, I vaguely hoped that the Internet would distract me. Two cups of coffee later the blog and Facebook interactions that usually energize me and give me a sense of connection were instead draining me. The unconscious numerical comparisons of page likes, friends, page views, followers, usually so easily shrugged off, brought me down even more. I stared outside at the frigid gray of another dreary winter morning.
"And now the dog needs a walk," hissed my inner voice. "It's 31 degrees and the dog needs a walk."
I contemplated this unpleasant chore. How short could I make this walk? Would Toby care or even notice if we just went around the block? What was the maximum cold drudgery I'd have to endure? What a disgusting attitude I have today.
Abruptly, like flipping a switch, my mood flashed from discouragement to anger. To hell with this! To hell with the cold, and to hell with walking around the block. We are going for a hike. Not a walk - a HIKE.
I hurriedly laced my boots and grabbed my warmest jacket, hat, and gloves. Car keys, leash, and at the last moment, the camera went into my pocket. Toby appealed with his eyes as he waited by the door, let's go, let's go now!
I drove to Northwest River Park. There are several miles of trails through the woods out there. We had them all to ourselves. Under my boots the ice crunched amid the leaves. Mud squelched on the wetter parts of the trail. I looked for potential photos to snap with the camera. Toby zoomed in circles through the trees with a reckless abandon, tongue hanging out of his wide grinning mouth.
We walked on. After a while it dawned on me that I was getting hot. I unzipped my jacket. I took more pictures. We took another trail. I heard a bird singing and peered into the branches above me, hoping to see and identify it. And then I realized something extraordinary.
I was enjoying myself.
Just like in the musical, taking my problems into the woods had worked magic. The bewitching inner voices of failure, disappointment, and fear had been hushed. There is another song in Into the Woods, sung by the Baker's Wife:
You're different in the woods.
What is it about the woods?
It will be a busy day. There is no more time today for the destructive parts of myself - and unlike the musical, there is no Act II looming as Toby and I walk confidently out of the woods.