Thursday, April 24, 2014

Driving Me Sane

Little A.’s school is about ten miles from our house. One road takes us nearly all the way and it’s really a lovely stretch of road. Sure, we pass some fast food and the highway at first, but then it’s miles of one lane each way as the road cruises past older, settled neighborhoods, farms, the Sarasota National Cemetery, and Myakka State Park.

It reminds me a little of the country roads I drove growing up. I doubt if anything is actually as laidback as those roads anymore—it seemed like we used to wait to pull out if we even saw another car on the road, anywhere. But this road has a good vibe—the speed limit’s fifty-five, not many vehicles pull on or off, and the nature’s wild!

Yesterday on the way home from school, we had a young alligator and a bounding doe both cross the road in front of us. They crossed in opposite directions, so who knows what that means. But they, and many of their cohorts, provide much to meditate on as I drive out by myself or much to discuss as I drive back with Little A.

One week we witnessed a flock of vultures slowly dismantling a wild pig carcass. The most astonishing moment came when a vulture took off, flying low across the road, only to meet the grill of an oversized pickup truck driving the opposite direction. The newly deceased vulture fell into the road, much to the fascination of the birds he had been feasting with moments before.

They gave him a look exactly like the seagulls in Finding Nemo. “Mine? Mine?”

Food for thought, right there.

Lately, we’ve been watching a patch of forest reacting to a controlled burn a few weeks ago. The park rangers seem to have done an excellent job imitating the mild lightning fires that maintained Florida’s forest naturally, before the advent of man. The dead leaves and underbrush burned, but the pines, oaks, and palmettos are only scorched. Green shoots have sprouted on the forest floor and we know the trees will follow suit soon with new leaves and needles. It’s magical to watch it unfold.

More than that, the peaceful drive—so unlike fighting traffic and watching lights in town—gives me mandatory down time. The act of driving can free the mind under those conditions, so I take pleasure in my fifteen minute moving meditation each afternoon.

It’s a pain to have the kids in two schools with wildly different schedules and the road is changing—they’re building a new development right now and there’s a “Proposed Land Use Change” sign up along another section.

But for today, for now, for this moment, the road to school grounds me. It brings me peace. It’s driving me sane.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Life

This Easter, we made a few changes around here. At least, I did. I think I like them.

I didn’t make a to-do list.
Instead, I just did what was in front of me.

I didn’t pull weeds before the kids hunted Easter eggs.
Instead, I’ll crop weeds out of the picture. Maybe. They’re just flowers in the wrong place, after all.

I didn’t spend hours and weep tears of blood over coordinating our outfits.
Instead, we all picked what we liked. Oddly, it all coordinated. Hmmmm.

I didn’t force myself to get everything in my to-do pile done.
Instead, I shoved it all in my desk and shut the doors. I think it actually shrank in there?????

I didn’t go crazy cleaning the house.
Instead, I—actually, the whole family—just didn’t spend time staring critically at the dust. Funny how that worked.

I didn’t spend all Sunday cooking.
Instead, we cooked ahead. We shared some, too. I took a nap on Sunday afternoon.

We didn’t make 17 special holiday desserts.
Instead, we enjoyed a little of the high-quality chocolate the E. B. brought this year, rejoicing in happy stomachs and no piles of dessert going stale.

I didn’t once feel isolated in a whirling vortex of stress while the rest of the family played.
Instead, we all hung out and had fun.

Okay, so we did hustle a little bit to get to early church and I did delete a bunch of pictures off my phone before saving them to the computer, but it was all okay. I guess I just proved that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Hope you all had a Happy Easter!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reason #437

Reasons You Should Never Mess With a Primary Caregiver
Reason #437 -- A Typical Morning

5:15 Wake up
5:30 Run—I won’t tell you how far, ‘cause you’ll know my time stinks
6:10 Take dog out for run
6:40 Make lunches
6:50 Pause to wake up kids, then finish lunches
7:00 Cereal and juice for kids, start bagel and sausage for Little A.’s second breakfast
7:01 S. shows up in “first draft” of her pirate costume for Florida history class
Clearly, she's not happy with it.
7:30 Get Big A. and Little A. out the door
Rummage, search, stress, cajole and tweak pirate costume into “final draft” while simultaneously…
Changing all the towels and starting the washer
Stripping Little A.’s bed
Making our bed
Vacuuming the mounds of dirt in the front hall
Loading the dishwasher
Booting up the computer for work
Supervising piano practice
8:35 Leave house for bus stop, pirate aboard

I have FOURTEEN more hours to go, people! Geesh. But I think the final draft came out great!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cheesy Love Poem: NPM

I hear it's National Poetry Month, so here's a flashback poem, a glimpse of a very young me falling in love.  Totally cheesy! (Hahahaha--read the poem; you'll get it!) W&L folks who gave blood in the gym at one of the Chi Psi blood drives might recognize a few details.

In all seriousness, though, how lucky am I to have been writing poems about my husband for twenty years now?

Blood and Sandwiches

I went to give blood
The other day and
A sweet old man in
A uniform said
Won’t you have a sandwich
And I said no
I usually end up with
Pimento cheese there
What is

He asked me if
I was living off
(Ungrammatical I know)
And I laughed because
How could I

But they say
Live long enough
You’ll find out
So I lived
And what
Do you know

Three days later
I found you
And me with you
And w*o*w
Funny old guys
In uniforms
Know what
They’re talking about

Let’s get lunch.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Am Spartacus

This is the third of three posts I’ve written recently about my depression. I had filed them away, never to see the light of day, but to heck with that. I’m writing about this now; it’s my truth and that’s okay on my blog.

And, because I know that reading other bloggers’ honest accounts of their struggles helps me, I hope it helps someone someday.

With this particular post, I know I’m messing with the timeline, because I’m now (April) posting something I wrote in January, something that led me to decide to post about depression in March. I think we can work with that--just don’t think about it too hard!

A couple of weeks back, I started a blog about a couple of sweet moments that were rays of light in what’s been a dark time for me. I started like this:

When I struggled with postpartum depression after S. was born, I forced myself to write in my journal every night.

It didn’t have to be long and it often wasn’t—three or four sentences at most. But I made myself write down one good thing that happened that day.

I had planned to write more about how those recent, brief positive experiences cheered me up. Maybe I will sometime. But after I wrote the introductory sentences above, I decided to dig up my journals and read the entries from the first year after S. was born.

Yes, I had a few “Awww, I’d forgotten that” reactions, but one thought overwhelmed me.

What a load of crap.

Yes, I’m glad I documented the good stuff. But writing down only the good stuff doesn’t mean the bad stuff didn’t happen. Forcing myself to record the best two percent of the day did, in fact, help me to keep going, but it didn’t negate the other 98% of the day, which sucked.

Why am I glad I documented the good stuff? Because I wouldn’t remember it otherwise. Why? Because I was horribly depressed and, for a good chunk of those first eighteen months, suffering thyroiditis and the subsequent hypothyroidism. I wouldn’t have remembered because I was mentally and physically gutted.

That was the bad stuff. It was real and it happened. I don’t see any point in hiding it anymore. If I say depression is nothing to be ashamed of, why do I keep acting (or trying to) like I’m always fine?

In a mystery novel I like, Julia Spencer Fleming’s One Was a Soldier, the main character says this, “We’re all so in love with the idea of moving on and growing through loss and making lemonade when life hands us lemons that we don’t take time to mourn. Before you can move on, you have to stand still and account for what’s been lost. Sometimes, you have to throw the damn lemon against the wall and yell, I wanted chocolate chip cookies, not this bitter fruit.”

So, that day I ended up exploring more of the mourning and anger of my depressions—recent and not-so-recent—than the bright moments. And I actually think that was the most productive thing I could have done at that time.
Back in April now—pay attention, keep up, we can do this!

Today, I saw this on Upworthy and it’s so true. Not only does the video give us a lot of great information about mental illness (illness!) these days, but it also reminds me of how depression feels—going through the motions of life wrapped in a furry, suffocating, gray thing, feeling like everyone can see how messed up you are, and yet not really being seen by anyone.
I didn’t see the video until today, but it’s the other half of why I started to post about my depression. The first half, as I’ve written, was because I need to be honest about my life, depression, anger, and all. The second half was to get some attention for that elephant, for me and for all the others.

Either way, I’m standing up to say, “I am Spartacus…and I struggle with depression!”

And my profound admiration and gratitude goes out to everyone who has commented or messaged me. I've always known I have been blessed with beautiful friends, but hearing from some of you that you also deal with depression and are still as amazing as you are means the world to me. We are Spartacus!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reading Between the Lines

I had an interesting conversation lately. I mentioned how hard it was to keep up with my running when I’m depressed. My friend, in caring and concern, said, “But I always feel better when I run.” So true!

It’s like that old saying, though—you have to have money to make money. I find I need to have a teeny little scrap of spiritual energy to do anything to feel better.

When I’m depressed, I often think of a great description I read in an absolutely fantastic book, Emergence by David R. Palmer. (Now that I think about it, Emergence came decades before Hunger Games and Divergent and pretty much leaves them in the dust. Just sayin’.) Anyway, his main character describes depression as ignoring twenty good choices and flipping a coin over what’s left.

Yep, when I’m depressed, I could be dying of thirst and have some overpowering reason not to get a drink of water.

Anyway, now that I’m feeling better, I can’t believe how…unlike myself I’ve been. Take reading, for example.

Evaluate the following statements, True or False.

  • I learned to read looking over my dad’s shoulder while he read Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to me.
  • I read nine books a week for most of elementary school and junior high.
  • Teachers used to yell at me for reading while I walked up and down the stairs on the way to and from recess.
  • On nighttime car trips, I tried to read by the light of the streetlamps we passed.
  • At Christmas, my family gave me books, but not until the very end—otherwise I’d be oblivious to all of it.
  • For a number of years, I read Les Miserables once a year.
  • When the last two Harry Potter books were released and delivered to our house, I told Big A. to put them on a high shelf between five and eight o’clock at night, so I would be able to focus on dinner and bedtime with S.
  • For a number of years, I read The Lord of the Rings once a year.
  • I generally read fiction at one hundred pages per hour.
  • My only requirement for a handbag is that it be able to hold a paperback.
  • I have read Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady, which the New York Times estimated had a word count of 984,870—moreover, 984,870 not very good words. (That's my opinion, not the NYT's.)
  • I love my job as an editor because I get to read.

Okay, yeah, they’re all true. Geez, I’m predictable.

But that’s the thing. Reading hasn’t been fun lately. For me, that’s like missing a…well, a part of me. The fancy word for it is anhedonia, the inability to find pleasure in things you usually enjoy. Anhedonia sounds a lot better than it feels.

Now, that I'm feeling better, I’m really enjoying rediscovering my joy in reading. And walking the dog. And cooking—oh, and eating. And running. And hanging with my family. And…everything.

It blows me away how all those fabulous feelings snuck away into the fog without me noticing. And I’m so glad to have them back. I hope the novelty wears off a little so I can do something other than eat, read, and walk the dog A LOT.

I also hope the novelty never wears off; I want to remember the contrast so I can hold on to my profound appreciation of life’s pleasures.