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I went to the beach today with a dear friend and his two year old daughter. She and I were in the very mild surf collecting water when she decided to lie belly down at the water’s edge. As I stood watching her little hands dig further down into the mud, I suddenly had a sense of how she was experiencing this moment. How nothing would exist for her but the spectacle of sensations revealing themselves to her–that she was discovering right then for the first and only time. When a wave pushed her tiny body across the sand and she giggled delightedly, the laugh that broke free of me was one of the most purely spontaneous events of my life thus far. For the length of it, I knew without thought what it was to be alive.

A few hours later I was walking my dog through the neighborhood and I could feel the ire in me start to rise. I was sleepy, he was dawdling in some grass per usual, and there was a couple coming up behind us, near enough that I could hear his voice but not quite yet catching up. I yanked my dog’s leash, said, “Come on!” in a particularly snappy tone and suddenly it was there and I was swimming in it. We crossed the street half a block later to avoid the German Shepherd walking his family toward us. It was about that time that I started to feel claustrophobic. A group of about ten pedestrians went past us and I burst into tears, caught in my inability to either scream or run away. And as we crossed the street and I walked down a quiet block with tears pouring down my cheeks and small, hiccuped sobs escaping me, the thought passed through my mind, “What is wrong with me?”

I just wish someone had told me life could be like this. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken it so personally for so long if I’d just known.