three things: 1/5/17

1)  I once knew a very bitter old woman named Ann-Marie who said NO, no matter what you asked. Back when her kids were almost teenagers (she was in her late 70s when I met her), she had gotten tired of doing for everyone, of always being the one who sacrificed, and so she decided that whatever they asked her, she would say no. “Will you take me there?” NO. “Can you bring—” “NO.” There was almost nothing they could ask her that would get a yes answer. She stuck with it too, to a truly remarkable degree. Even in her dying years, she would still say no to almost any request. It was stunning, and sobering, and her bitterness is the main thing I remember about her. My kids were pre-teens when I met her, and she became a cautionary tale for me, about the poison of years-long, intense self-sacrifice. As with all things, it’s a balance and we all have to find our own way, but I know I’ve too-easily felt like I gave away the farm, like I just said yes, sure, I will, OK, whatever you want way too often. And the underneath of that (the “the dark, tarry smear” of it, to steal a bit of a quote that Peggy shared yesterday, by Amy Bloom) is resentment. And resentment is definitely a poison. I tell my daughters all the time not to constantly set themselves aside. To get themselves a new shirt when they need one, instead of wearing a ratty old one but buying another toy for their babies. To go out for some time to themselves.

So at the guided meditation at MoMA yesterday, when the meditation teacher asked us to think of a characteristic we might want to focus on in the coming year, I heard in a very quiet but clear voice that I want two things: (a) quiet, and (b) selfishness. And by that I mean that I want to privilege myself in the coming year, I want to pause before every commitment and allow my own needs and desires to be my first consideration. I’m a pleaser and a sacrificer so it’ll be hard and that probably means I don’t have to worry too much about becoming the bad kind of selfish; privileging myself will just help me course-correct and bring me a little closer to some illusory middleground. It’s hard even to say this! I don’t want to be like Anne-Marie, obviously, but this is something that will be helpful to me, I hope. YES. I say yes to this.

I would ask if this is something you struggle with, but since everyone who reads this (as far as I know) is a woman, I imagine the answer is yes. And to the degree it’s less true for you, I also imagine that’s because you pointedly worked on it. Yes?

2)  Tonight I’m meeting my friend Craig for dinner at an Indian food restaurant, but before then I’m going to the main New York Public Library because the Rose Reading Room reopened in October after an extended period of renovation. I’ll take my moleskine and my beautiful pen and sit at a long table with a low light, underneath the magnificent ceiling, and write for a while. That will be a slug of beauty in my day, for sure. My friend Anne mentioned seeking out a beautiful thing to photograph every day, and January in NYC makes it pretty tough but I am sure I’ll find a corner, a bit of architectural detail, a book jacket, something to relish.

Ceiling detail
Isn’t it so lovely? And it’s even more lovely when there are people reading and working there.

3) So, my new theory. Going to MoMA for the Quiet Morning event was as juvenating (not rejuvenating because I was so low in the trough there was no juvenation to re-ignite) as I’d hoped and maybe even more. This depression, this new kind, isn’t about my deep psyche, and so I imagine that’s exactly why art is working. My depression is about the world, the bitter cold wind of it, the tyrant-coming of it, the fear and dread. Because every day brings new terribleness, it’s hard to find space to catch my breath and get my head above the depressed water. But art is still in the world, and artists. Poetry, and poets. Music, and composers and performers. Dance, and dancers. Beautiful novels, and novelists. That’s all still there, too. And so are blue skies (just not where I am, FOR REAL) and all my favorite clouds, and Bali, and Vietnam and Laos, and all the places I’ve loved. To help with this depression, those are the medicine, soaking them in, being reminded. Unusually, my people aren’t the direct medicine this time, because the dread world is going to steamroll all of them and so they remind me even more of my fear and dread — oh no, not them too, please. Please.

I’ve already bought my ticket for the next Quiet Morning at MoMA, February 1, and in between I am planning to keep inoculating myself with art. I think I’ll pick an artist for each week, and a poet for each week, and sort of assign myself to soak them up in a more focused way.  OR I could choose a color for a week, here and there — brilliant golden-yellow, find art that features that color, maybe, or crimson, or blues (OH MY the blues, I saw some extraordinary blues at MoMA yesterday).

I cried like a BABY. I stared at all his brush strokes and thought about his own suffering, and his ecstasy, and how I could feel his and my own. This was the third time I’ve seen it in person and it’s never less than the same electric experience.

And that reminds me of a thing Sherlock used to do, back in the pre-digital camera days. I did this with him one Saturday our first year of graduate school I think, and it was fabulous. Before we set out with our cameras loaded with a roll of film (36 pictures, if I recall), we each chose a theme. Circles, maybe. Red. Words. Something abstract like that. Then we just drove. We drove through the countryside, we stopped in very small towns, and we took photographs of whatever fit our theme. When we’d taken all our pictures, we dropped off the film to be developed and printed, and we went out for lunch while we waited. It was so much fun, I remember it still (and that was probably 1999, which is….what? No, really? Eighteen years ago??).

Republicans don’t appear to think so, but we need art. We need beauty. We need the abstract. We need the Big. xoxox

three things: 1/3/17

1)  I started reading Underground Airlines by Ben Winters, following on the heels of The Underground Railroad, and so far it’s spectacular. Honestly, I don’t know why the black people in the United States aren’t raging and fighting white America all the time. (And we women, too.) They (we) have every right to be doing that, and every single time some white American says something about slavery being a long time ago just get over it . . . well hell, even want to punch those people in the throat. This country. We arrived and right off the bat started killing people and stealing their land, and just kept doing that (through to today). And then we stole people from another continent and brutalized them in unimaginable ways to enrich ourselves, and then enacted laws to keep them from getting anywhere (through to today). One horrible thing I learned when a friend did my ancestry is that someone in my history owned slaves in Georgia. She shrugged a little, it’s the thing you learn, and yet it’s horrifying to imagine. And so I too deserve the rage. In the second episode of The OA, a new series on Netflix, a voice-over read the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty (“The New Colossus”) and vomit came up in my throat, it’s such a lie.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The world is going mad and it’s so scary. And the United States is the engine of so much of it. How does a person work with that? (I’ll say more about Underground Airlines after I finish it….)

2) Depression status stable. Not feeling better but not feeling worse, and when you deal with depression you know that’s a good enough report. One thing I’m trying (among many things) is a daily inoculation of art, and today I’m rolling my eyeballs around in this glorious color — great thanks to my beautiful friend Anne for posting the painting on FB a couple of days ago:

Max Kurzweil (Austrian; Art Nouveau, Vienna Secession; 1867-1916): Lady in Yellow, 1899. Oil on canvas. Vienna Museum at Karlsplatz, Vienna, Austria.

That color! I would really like to take my eyeballs out of my head and just roll them around in it, coat them like you do a sugar cookie, and then pop them back so that color can seep into me. It’s so glorious, especially in these very gray NYC days. Tomorrow I’m going to a special event at MoMA, 1.5 hours of silence on the 4th and 5th floor galleries, ending in a guided meditation (in front of Monet’s “Water Lilies,” I think). That ought to help too.

My dear sister-friend Peggy gave me the suggestion to make a long list (25 items on mine) of small things I could do, simple things, nourishing things, and you know, when you’re mentally flat and blank the problem is that nothing feels do-able anyway, much less thinking up a list of things. But with her help I did, and daily art is doable. If you are prone to depression, make your list when you’re not depressed, it’s much easier.

3)  Another bit of art stolen from a friend’s FB (this time from beautiful Kathy, who understands so much):

This is not an age of beauty,
I say to the Rite-Aid as I pass a knee-high plastic witch
whose speaker-box laugh is tripped by my calf
breaking the invisible line cast by her motion
sensor. My heart believes it is a muscle

of love, so how do I tell it it is a muscle of blood?

This morning, I found myself
awake before my alarm & felt I’d been betrayed

by someone. My sleep is as thin as a paper bill
backed by black bars of coal that iridesce
indigo in the federal reserve of

dreams. Look, I said to the horse’s
head I saw severed & then set on the ground, the soft
tissue of the cheek & crown cleaved with a necropsy
knife until the skull was visible. You look more
horse than the horses

with names & quilted coats in the pasture, grazing unbothered

by your body in pieces, steaming

against the drizzle. You once had a name
that filled your ears like amphitheaters,
that caused an electrical

spark to bead to your brain. My grief was born
in the wrong time, my grief an old soul, grief re-
incarnate. My grief, once a black-winged

beetle. How I find every excuse to indulge it, like a child
given quarters. In the restaurant, eating alone,

instead of interrogating my own
solitude, I’m nearly undone by the old
woman on her own. The window so filthy,

it won’t even reflect her face, which must not be the same
face she sees when she dreams

of herself in the third person.

– “Age of Beauty” by Emilia Phillips

What a wonder art is. Thank you to everyone who puts it into the world.

here we go.

And so it begins. I have not been able to say the three words one says on the first day of the year—the ones that begin with ‘happy.’ I do not see the possibility this year, even though of course I know I will have my own personal, private moments. Inevitably, they will involve my family, my friends, my pleasures in books and movies, good food, poetry, and travel. And they will exist in the context of our horrorshow government which, well, I can’t even find words. All the ones I can think of are too ordinary.

I ended 2016 with this poem, which I think also gives me a way into 2017:

In a dark place
in a dark time

start with black.
Stop. Soak up its energy.

Remember the circle
however bent and broken.

Prize balance. Seek Pleasure.
Allow surprise. Let music

guide your every impulse.
Support those who falter.

Steer by our fixed star:
No Justice, No Peace.

Jim Haba, 2016

Excerpt from “French Window at Collioure,” 1914, by Henri Matisse. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris. (Image: Wikipedia)

I am certainly in a dark place, my own deep depression and my bone-clenching fear about the incoming government, and as my dear sister Peggy suggested in a long conversation about depression, one step is “Be OK with it.” As Haba echoed, “Start with black. Stop. Soak up its energy.” Only when we stop and give ourselves over to fully taking in this darkness can we begin to gauge its scope and scale, he said.

But then unfolds the rest, right? Prize balance — and so I need to find that, and I’ll find it on my yoga mat to start, and I’ll figure out how to balance activism and life. I’ll need to seek pleasure, which means allowing the cracks to let some light in, because right now I’m too flat to feel any of it. Anhedonia, donchaknow. That poem is a flashlight in the dark, the guiding star I needed (among the rest, including friends who reach out in all the ways thankyousomuch), and perhaps, if I’m lucky enough, it will deliver me to this beautiful place shared by my friend Jacqueline:

To dance so hard my heart will learn to float above water again. It doesn’t feel possible right now, but it’s a goal. I have a feeling this year is going to be characterized by all the extremes. I will be marching, and shouting, and protesting. I will be crying, and raging. I will not be nice. (That one will be good for me.) I will be angry. I am angry.

This year I don’t have a ‘word’ for the year. I don’t have resolutions (except one: RESIST). I don’t even really have goals beyond surviving it and fighting back. In January I’ll protest on inauguration day, and I will march next to my friends Cindy and Don Ray in the Women’s March the day after, wearing our pink hats. I’ll attend rallies and organizing meetings. And to help myself survive, I’ll see Katie and her kids, and (we hope) Marnie and Ilan, and I’ll spend time with friends. I’ll make myself good food, and listen to music and try to make my feet dance — and as my beautiful friend Judi dreamed, I’ll hugdance whenever possible.

I just choke on the words, so I won’t wish a happy…but I will wish a powerful year, a productive year, a committed year, a meaningful year, and if you aren’t in this country and having to fight, as we are, those wishes apply to whatever you’re facing or embracing.

Let’s get going.

(p.s. I love you.)

 

three things: 12/30/16

1)  No talking around it, or talking in the general direction, it’s time to be blunt: I am very depressed. I know from depression, as people in the northeast would say — like my taxonomy of headaches, I have one for depression and it’s enlarged by generations behind me and now beyond me. My people are the kings of depression. I have so many versions, including one version that visits me every eight years like clockwork and ends in a suicide effort/attempt (I’ve had three of those, the last pinning the cycle in 8 years for me). I have another version that makes me sick and lays me so low I struggle to breathe. I have another version that makes me so enraged I hate the fucking sun for shining. I have a version that completely blanks out my mind, bleaches away the words and thoughts. I have the light ones, the little dips and low periods that descend and then lift, like everyone else. When I am very depressed, except for the blank version I always have an ‘explanation’ for it, my list of ‘reasons.’ They are always more or less true, more or less connected to the reality of things, even if they are slanted and deepened. Except for the dips, I have to take them seriously, for my history is as serious as death. The depression I feel now feels very true and connected perfectly to the reality of things, even as I can also see that it’s not the whole reality. The incoming president and his gang of thieves, along with my contempt for all those who voted for him, have nearly paralyzed me with fear and dread. The world I want — one where we respect each other, one where we are thoughtful and value intelligence, one where we lift an umbrella over those in need, one where we engage thoughtfully with the world — has been kicked to the curb with jackboots. That’s not hyperbole, it’s not a simple “nyah nyah I wanted my girl to win,” it’s the truth of this change that’s coming and it terrifies me. All the things I value, my values, are being shit on. They’re not just being erased, or set to the side . . . they are being shit on. And I am depressed. I really am. So many of us are. Had the Republican voters elected Jeb Bush or any other “normal” Republican, I’d have dreaded the policies of hate and cronyism, the pulling-away of concern for any but the super-rich, but it wouldn’t be the same. It’s absolute dread I feel, and I am so depressed. Color seems faded. Hope seems too quiet and tiny, a mustard seed hidden in a dusty corner behind the drapes.

I see my grandchildren there. (And then I fear the world they’re getting.) I my see my beloved children (and ditto, plus my dread for them as parents). I see my friends, the overwhelming majority of whom are with me, fighting with me, we’re helping each other (and thank God for all of you, all of you). I see travel in my future, I see happy time with friends, I see babysitting of Oliver and Lucy, I see celebrating birthdays together, I see all that. And all that matters, it does. It’s not disappeared by the depression, it’s there, it just feels muted by the heaviness of the world that’s coming. And so this is another kind of depression to add to my taxonomy: the extremely realistic kind that’s due entirely to the world. I do not feel suicidal or in any kind of danger beyond the kind my government is about to cause, it’s not that kind of depression. Goddamn. Help me Jesus. Help us all.

“Gooseneck barnacles,” photograph by @fifi_dob

2) It is such a weird, weird world. You know how much I depend on every single person I know? Instagram keeps me going: I depend on seeing Fiona’s underwater photography every single day, depend on it. Mary’s shots of the beaches around Sydney. Judi’s gorgeous sunrises and sunsets when she is in Lorne, and the various amazing birds she sees. Friends who travel? I live for your pictures — Mary’s in South Africa right now, Leanne is showing her sons a glorious white Christmas in Europe, Alison is usually off to somewhere I want to see. Megan always has some kind of lush delight for the eye and spirit, whether it’s her extraordinary shots of flowers or the art she makes. Who knew how important an app could be, how invaluable to my daily life could be people I have not yet met. I depend on you, every day. You have a very real spot in the hours of my day, in my anticipation, in my making-it-through. (And it must be said that it’s not just your photos, it’s the real, and very personal kindnesses you show me regularly, the way you are so open with me, the way you share in my life, too.)

I depend on a close watch on politics by my friends Cindy, and Don Ray, and Tina, and Matt, and Margie, and Debra, and Anne, and all of you who are new militants like me. And of course I depend on your communications with me, as we share and worry over the onslaught we’re facing. You help me feel less alone, you help me remember that there are millions of us in this battle.

I depend on people in my real life that I can see in person, regularly (even if not regularly enough), I can’t even name you all because I’m afraid I’ll leave one of you off. I depend on those coffee breaks, those glasses of wine or beer, those dinners or breakfasts, those walks, those hand-clutching conversations. And I depend on the online private communications just as much, whether you are a friend I can see in person, or a friend in another country — the emails, the FB PMs, the texts, the way I can be feeling low and hear a ping and a friend’s note reminds me that I am not sitting alone in the dark. I depend on you more than you could ever imagine. Ever. You give me so much more than I ever give you. (And while I was writing this, *ping* came a note of big love from Dixie, while I was writing a response to one from Alethea. See?)

I depend on my oldest friends, my years-long friends, and friends I’ve just made (a wonder, that, making new friends at 58, especially when they are like long-lost sisters) whether I see you regularly, or not. I really depend on you, and I mean that in a blood-and-bones-and-breath way. I depend on you, I depend on knowing you’re there.

It’s too easy, I think, for us to feel some degree of isolation, and surely we all have those moments—even if they’re brief—of feeling unimportant, or unseen. Unappreciated. Undervalued. So let me tell you: if you were gone, a hole would be blown in my world. You probably wouldn’t think that, but you’d be wrong. My beautiful, beautiful friend Laura in Perth shared this image of a net with me, and let me remind us all that we are connected like a net, we’re each a knot, a nodule, a small thing with arms out to others nearby, and together we are mighty.

3) Even if it’s not your easy style, call a friend sweetheart, or darling. Anne does this and I literally explode in delight, a small fireworks of feeling loved, of feeling special every single time she says it. Give that to someone today.

Helen

cotardIn November 2008 I put myself in the hospital in New York, Weill Cornell/ Payne Whitney, because I was very, very sick. It went beyond wanting to die — I quite literally thought I was already dead. It’s a kind of psychosis that can accompany severe clinical depression, and though it’s not at all common, it’s known. It’s called the Cotard Delusion, and one day I’ll write about it. I’ve had it twice in my life.

But while I was in the hospital, I wrote a LOT. A lot. Luckily I dumped it all in a private blog and I just came across it. This story is chilling, as you’ll see at the end.

* * *

My first morning at breakfast, a very tall blind woman was escorted into the dining room for breakfast. Her blue eyes were strange: one was milky, and the other had a very sharp circle cut out of the blue iris, just outside the pupil. She didn’t wear dark glasses. She had a very strong accent, which I initially thought was German, a very deep and rich voice, and she was beautiful. Her messy hair was piled up on the back of her head into what must have been a twist of some kind, several days before. It was gray, but with reddish-colored ends, so she used to color it. Her skin was translucent, and her features were fine and beautiful. Her lips were full. Though she had a stick, as she called it, she didn’t use it as blind people do, tapping in front of themselves left and right. She just held it upright like a scepter, and held the arm of anyone who escorted her.

She sat at the breakfast table and announced, “Derek. I vant vaffles. And hot cho-co-lat.” None of the staff responded, though it seemed they were preparing her food. Of course she was blind and couldn’t see that, so a minute later she’d repeat, “Derek. Can I please have some vaffles and hot cho-co-lat.” No response, request repeated a minute later, exactly the same. Finally the staff became irritated with her and snapped at her – “Helen, you have to wait and be patient.”

So she’d pick up her vaffle with her fingers and eat it, no butter or syrup: a bite of vaffle then a drink of her hot chocolate. A bite of waffle, a drink of hot chocolate. When she finished, staff would escort her back to her room and she wouldn’t be seen until the next meal. Lunch was always baked eggplant. Dinner was always baked eggplant. And breakfast was always vaffles and hot cho-co-lat. It wasn’t that they only served those things to her – it’s that those were the foods she always asked for. Demanded. The rest of us had to eat whatever was being served, but Helen ate only these things. If she was not eating, she was left in her room.

One evening she appeared in the doorway of her room and said, “Would someone help me make a call?” None of the patients moved, and few people even looked up. The staff didn’t respond in any way at all. So finally, I stood up and went to her, offering to help. We walked over to the phone, I dialed the number and waited while she completed her call, then escorted her back to her room.

I don’t remember how it began, but it became our evening habit that I would walk her around the unit until she tired. She asked my name, and though I said Lori she called me Lora. With her accent, the r sounded like a d. She would come to her door and bellow, “Lora! Lora!” The unit was very small, so our walk was just a square – a short hallway, a small sitting area in the back, overlooking the East River and the FDR, then back up the opposite short hallway, and then across the front sitting area. While we walked, we talked. The insane girl would race past us, up and down with manic speed, and as we rounded the corner the tiny, fat Jewish man who had a 24-hour guard would blow his shofar.

I learned that Helen was from Russia, and she believed that was why the staff hated her. I asked her where in Russia and she snapped at me, she didn’t want to talk about that because she’s an American. I apologized, and said that I’m from Texas, and then she started talking about her childhood in Russia. Her mother was an actress in Russia, I remember that. She was curious about me, and asked me why I was there, which led to long conversations. She scolded me for wanting to be dead. She asked me how I came to NY. She never smiled, but she was very friendly and warm. She said she was there because she’d just become blind, a year before, due to cataracts and glaucoma and something else, and all surgical options were exhausted. She said she was stagnant, warehoused. I couldn’t disagree with her, which broke my heart.

The last couple of nights she opened up more to me, and wanted to lie on the couch in the back sitting area with her head in my lap. She didn’t want me to stroke her head – she said it made her feel like a pet. But she seemed to want to be touched, and to have real contact. So I sat at the end of the couch and allowed her to put her head in my lap, and I lay my hand on her shoulder. The last night, she lay on her side with her head in my lap, curled up in a loose ball, and she pulled my hand into her chest and held it there the whole time.

She asked me what I look like, so I tried to describe myself. Then I also told her the story of my tattoos, and this absolutely gorgeous smile spread across her face. She said, “Lora, you are so silly. This is a silly thing you have done, vy did you do this silly thing.” She teased me, and it was wonderful, a light and touching moment.

She said the staff was going to transfer her to the state hospital and she said, with her deep-voiced Russian drama, “Lora, I vill perish. Lora, I vill perish.” I looked into her eyes and had no response. What could I say?

blindFinally I asked her the obvious question: “Helen, why are you here, on the psych ward, instead of in a hospital for blind people where you could learn how to navigate the world?” She said it was her punishment, because when she lived in France she made her living telling fortunes and reading cards. She was very religious, and believed that this part of her life was as it should be, given by God, as punishment. Then she said, almost in passing, “They said I poured bleach into my eyes, can you imagine such a thing?”

live, suffer, and learn

My mean old grandmother Mamo used to say, with a grim mouth, “Live and learn, die and forget it all.” It cracks me up, and I say it sometimes to make myself laugh.

But this last depression was actually an incredible one for me, which is strange to say about something that gave me so much suffering. Yesterday I was entering the day’s gratitude note and decided to scroll backward, mainly to see the pictures I posted along with each entry because they always make me happy — usually they’re faces of friends and family, and I just might have stolen one of you off Facebook…. ANYWAY, a word jumped out at me on the September 4th entry, and that word was die. As in, I wish I would die.

SEPTEMBER 4th! I honestly had no idea it started that long ago. I knew I was sliding into down, but I got the timeframe all wrong, apparently. Sliding into down started mid-August, apparently, if I go by my gratitude journal, which means it might have begun earlier. Wow. I had no idea.

So I was thinking about this during my walk last night, and thinking about what a different world I’m in when in real, deep, dangerous depression. I know you see me, and I appear to be walking and talking, but really I’m not in the world with you like you think I am. I was thinking that it’s not really a matter of degree, it’s an entirely different thing, a different place. You get there through the sliding degrees, but then you are somewhere else entirely, and it’s disconnected from what came before.

dimmerAnd I was thinking about the way the lights just slowly dim—so slowly you don’t really notice it, like that old parable about the frog and boiling water. A down day. Meh. Another down day. A week later the down day is a bit dimmer, but the knob movement is really fine, so you had no idea it was getting dimmer. A month later, really so dim — if you just walked in you’d know it was dark instantly, but you’ve been in that room all along, so you don’t know.

And then you just kind of become a shadow sitting in the dark, and you pass through the wall. You’re not in that old room anymore. Now you’re a shadow just outside that room. You can see everything — oh, there’s my daughter I know I love. There’s my friend, I know I love her too — but it’s so distant, not where you are at all. You can see that people are talking, waving their arms around, beckoning you, but you can’t hear well and it doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway. You’re on the other side of the wall. How can you get back in that room?

Everyone who suffers with chronic, cyclical depression, as I do (especially if it goes into suicidality), really should pay very close attention and identify flags. For me, when I’m thinking I’m just so tired. I’m so tired, I’m just so tired, I know that’s a flag. That’s a big red flag. And from now on the moment the words die or death are uttered by me in any way, I’m going to consider that a flag too, and look at it closely. Start telling people then. Start turning on lights, opening windows, bringing in flowers, because I’m ready to pass into that other room.

I’ve also learned so SO many things from this one, it’s been one of my great learning experiences, actually, but those lessons are saved for something I’m working on. But I will say this: with this one, I realized that I become suicidal every 8 years. Isn’t that fascinating? That can’t be just an accident of timing. The time of year varies, but it’s every 8 years (-ish, because this one came two months early, otherwise 8 on the dot). A lesson. And a shock, because I had no idea!

Before I sign off, hey! I have a recommendation. I’ve always meant to read Richard Ford, but I always got him confused with Richard Yates (haven’t read him either). He’s promoting his most recent book, so he was on Fresh Air last Friday, and I listened to the podcast while I walked. He’s so funny! I was under the impression that his books were somber, serious (maybe I’m wrong….haven’t read him!), but even if they are, HE is hilarious. Here is the link — the interview is ostensibly about death and dying, not a topic known for its raucous laughs, but I guarantee it’s hilarious. Terry Gross laughs a lot, and real genuine laughs too. I laughed out loud while I was walking. Probably looked like a crazy person to drivers passing by, but I couldn’t care less. Now I want to read his books — if you have read him, do you recommend a starting place?

xoL

a post, in two parts

PART I

The tide has turned. The worm has turned. It’s a beautiful morning. The world has turned. Morning has broken. And many other sayings like that.

Light is coming back. Light and air are coming back to me. Yesterday I actually laughed spontaneously, and I haven’t had “those” thoughts for three straight days, now. If bad language offends you, turn away (but then you probably aren’t one who reads my damn blog 🙂 ) — I think it’s fucking ending. Halle-fuckin-lujah. And thus ends the F word, in this post, anyway.

For you professional depression-havers out there, you know how it sidles up alongside you, a dark day turns into a week but you know, people have down weeks. A week slips into two, then three, and then you’re in it and don’t even remember that it ever was anything but this. I wish it announced itself in some way, that would make it all so much easier.

I told people slowly, very slowly, too slowly. One here, another there. This one. A hint of it to that one so as not to freak out that person. A secret group, and then another secret group, and then the last one, and then that last blog post and a public-ish post on open Facebook. Damn depression, the way it makes you unable to think and see! There was pretty much a linear correlation (thus ends the statistical stuff) between help I got and people I told. And a big duh right there. If I weren’t depressed I’d have caught it on the second person. So the next time this comes around, as I sadly imagine it will even as I hope it doesn’t, I hope I can remember this, and simply tell all my support people, my friends, those who love me, those I love, and accept the help they so generously give. Just do that. Tell, and as soon as you can. And as many people who love you as you can. You’ll know the ones who’ll get cold, or freak out, so don’t tell them but tell all the others, the ones who will rush toward you in even the slightest of ways.

This morning I was telling a group of friends about what this giant all-out launching of love has done for me, and a sweet little bit of writing slipped out of my fingertips so I’ll plagiarize myself: “this kind of love bombing I’ve been receiving ever since I went ‘public’ with it has been like a booster rocket, sending me above the ocean’s surface where I can take deep gulps of good air. And even if I go down again, I don’t go nearly as far.”  [pretty good imagery if I do say so myself. thank you, subconscious.]

Of course every time is different, and it’s different for every person (different each person x different each time = I can’t do the math but that’s a lot of instances), but I learned something this time that I want to try for others, and I hope to ask for, for myself. When you are way down in the hole, people who love you remind you how much they love you, and of course they do, and you know it even if you can’t feel it while you’re down there. But the nasty little sentences I was resisting were these: No one would miss you. It wouldn’t matter if you just died.

People not only showed up, they gently took me out for a drink, for dinner, they held my hand and looked into my eyes and told me what I meant to them, they told me they understood because they suffer depression, they sent me little notes, or they bought me music, or they wrote me letters, or they sent me gifts. They listened to me with great heart and compassion, and I could see it in their glowing eyes. They pinged me every single morning asking how I was, darling, and sometimes again at night. If I said it was really really bad, I got good practical advice — go outside and take a very fast walk, go do it now. And text me when you’re back.

And sometimes they wrote out what it would mean to them if I weren’t here. And there it was, the very real argument against those miserable thoughts. Liar! She would be devastated, and in these particular ways! Liar! Her world would change in these particular ways! Liar! Liar! Liar! Not only were those like silver bullets against the thoughts, they were also overwhelmingly wonderful to read — not that people would suffer, but that my presence in their life means all those things.

And so I will carry this with me out of the darkness, and not just wait until someone is depressed to tell them what they mean in my life, how important they are in the very fiber of my life, but tell them all. (I mean, not all the time, for heaven’s sake. 🙂 )  You might file this away for the next time someone you love is severely depressed. It may or may not help them, but there is no way it can hurt. And maybe it will just make them feel too guilty to leave. Whatever works, man. Whatever works.

Part II

Just the right person came into my life at just the right time. I didn’t recognize it at the beginning, because I was too far gone in grief and loss, and she went out of the country for six months. I kind of feel like I’ve been waiting all my life for her, but don’t tell her that, she’ll get embarrassed.

I’ll only be able to explain her importance when I write the dedication and acknowledgements for my memoir, but thanks to her, it’s an entirely different book now, and it’s amazing and flowing. Yesterday I wrote for five hours straight, non-stop, two chapters, 7326 words. I could have written chapter 3 and chapter 4, probably, if I didn’t have to stop and clean the kitchen and brush my teeth and go to bed. (And take my mighty-strong extra antidepressant, which is also part of the equation in addition to all that love bombing.)

And so my silence here is probably going to be prolonged, but for a very different reason. I actually have two books to finish, one the publisher is waiting for, and I’m ~75% through, and the one I’m writing now, like a river flowing out of me, and I want to spend all my non-working time on these two writing projects. My friend turned the dial so it’s oriented at a different angle, said a magic sentence, and flipped the switch. How can I ever thank her enough.

So many people have helped me, I’d need an index-length acknowledgement to include them all, and I hope you know who you are if you read this. For everyone who said a little something, sent a little smile, told me to write, gave me your attention, your love, allowed me to give those to you, I am forever in your debt.

a quiet little voice from a deep, dark hole

Depression is so awful, as you know if you have experienced it in its bad form. I mean, not the kind where you’re so depressed because you couldn’t find any fresh strawberries and you really wanted some. I mean the kind where your eyelids are heavy and your arms and legs are heavy and breathing feels heavy and the air feels heavy and the light looks dim and your brain whispers horrible little slugs of poison to you all day and night long:

No one would care if you weren’t here. It wouldn’t matter one bit.

That’s such a lie, and even I know it in the midst of this darkness. People from all over the world are doing their best to hold me up and keep me going, and they tell me the lie of it straight out. And I believe them.

I lie in bed and know all the blessings I have. My daughters. Their sons. Their husbands. My dear, dear friends, from right next door to throughout Austin and Texas and the United States and around the world, with a beautiful antipodean contingent. I know that I am healthy, and I know that makes me lucky. A friend has been fighting for her very life, and how obscene it is that I am wishing not to be alive, with all I have, all the riches, excellent health, beautiful people who love me dearly. Who would be devastated if I left. And I know that very devastation.

And it’s so funny how I can know the truth of all that in the deepest dark. It isn’t that I don’t know it, and it isn’t that I don’t care about all that, it’s just that depression is another world, a different landscape, an outside mind. A tomb. In fact, knowing all that makes it worse in some ways, because I have no reason to be depressed. None whatsoever. Sure, I have heartaches and worries and sorrows like anyone in the world, but all my blessings and riches outweigh those by far — and my heartaches and worries and sorrows are ordinary.

netI’m SO touched by the ways my loves are helping me, so touched I can’t even describe it. There are so many ways I can’t even list them all, even though this is my blog and there are no word count limitations. But there are so many, big and small, tangible and intangible, expressed and given with love and concern and big care. I was telling a friend how aware I  am of the net beneath me, the thousand tiny little knots strung together, each so small, really, but they’re everything. I started thinking about this after Gracie died, and wrote about it here. The image has stayed with me, and I feel it now. My friend told me about this, so perfect:

The metaphor of Indra’s Jeweled Net is attributed to an ancient Buddhist named Tu-Shun (557-640 B.C.E.) who asks us to envision a vast net that:

at each juncture there lies a jewel;
each jewel reflects all the other jewels in this cosmic matrix.
Every jewel represents an individual life form, atom, cell or unit of consciousness.
Each jewel, in turn, is intrinsically and intimately connected to all the others;
thus, a change in one gem is reflected in all the others.
This last aspect of the jeweled net is explored in a question/answer dialog of teacher and student in the Avatamsaka Sutra. In answer to the question: “how can all these jewels be considered one jewel?” it is replied: “If you don’t believe that one jewel…is all the jewels…just put a dot on the jewel [in question]. When one jewel is dotted, there are dots on all the jewels…Since there are dots on all the jewels…We know that all the jewels are one jewel”

The moral of Indra’s net is that the compassionate and the constructive interventions a person makes or does can produce a ripple effect of beneficial action that will reverberate throughout the universe or until it plays out. By the same token you cannot damage one strand of the web without damaging the others or setting off a cascade effect of destruction.

Isn’t that beautiful? And so, even as I deeply understand and believe all this, even as I recognize all the extraordinary love around me, even as I know everything I have, even as I have beautiful good health, even as I have everything, the poison of depression whispers to me all day and night. It’s so terrible, and if you know and understand that I’m so sorry that you do.

Thank you for all you do for me. I know you are there and I love and appreciate you, and this is what it’s like to be me right now, and for the last several weeks.

comparisons

Even though I no longer post political material on Facebook, I still have to see some of it — though I’ve found ways to block a good deal of it. One thing I see is that it’s the fashion now to compare everyone you don’t like to Hitler. It’s not all that uncommon to hear people compare Obama to Hitler, or even to say that he is making our country into North Korea. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

it's ugly and hard to look at, but THIS is addiction. donut craving is not.
it’s ugly and hard to look at, but THIS is addiction. serial sexing is not.

Similar to this is the over-comparison of some behaviors to addiction. There may be professionals who believe that there is such a thing as sex addiction or love addiction, but it galls me. It riles me up. It may well be a compulsion, it may well be an array of behaviors that serve to manage anxiety, but addiction is a very specific thing. I know a man who was a heroin addict, and I’ve obviously known a number of alcoholics, many of whom died as a result of their addiction. That is addiction. You can die, you can literally die, if you simply stop (or keep!) using. You may feel like you’ll die if you don’t have non-stop compulsive sex with anyone who will slow down long enough, but you will not actually die. The overuse of the word addiction (OMG I am so addicted to these donuts!) dilutes the real horror of what addiction really means. And it is a horror. (edit: Please know that I am in no way wanting to diminish the suffering of people who live with compulsions, which surely can make life a living hell.)

To a lighter degree, I feel the same way about the word depression, which can be a fatal illness but we lightly use it (OMG, I’m so depressed because there were no donuts at the bakery today!) and then think we know what it means. Then when someone is really depressed, that word has been drained of its real meaning and the horror is minimized.

US policy you do not agree with does not EQUAL this. Auschwitz ovens.
US policy you do not agree with does not EQUAL this. Auschwitz ovens.

I guess I’m just wanting to keep a boundary around extreme conditions so we understand their true horrors, so our understanding doesn’t get diluted and then we shrug.  Our political leaders may make decisions we don’t agree with, but unless they are rounding up people by the tens of thousands or millions and creating large-scale institutions and systems to systematically slaughter and eliminate a whole people from the face of the earth, they are not Hitler. They are not moving our country to the North Korea endpoint. I know it’s nice and easy to throw that in, it gets similarly minded others all riled up too, and it saves the writer from having to think and come up with a reasoned argument and appropriate careful description, but it’s horrible in so many ways. If my great-grandparents had been slaughtered in the camps, if most of my family were starved and gassed to death and just tossed into a hole with dozens of others after being robbed of even their fillings, and I heard someone casually equate another leader making a political decision they didn’t like to the murderer of my family and millions of my people? I would be outraged, the writer and I both sitting in our relative riches and freedom to be, and not to be gassed to death because of who we are.

And now North Korea. Do you know what is going on in North Korea, really? Few of us really do, of course, but it’s not impossible to find out a little. Read The Orphan Master’s Son immediately. Here’s my review of it on GoodReads:

The Orphan Master's SonThe Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book left me speechless, on nearly every level. The simplest: how the author made the secret world of North Korea so profoundly real and understandable. Detestable, but understandable. But more, it left me speechless by its craft. This is a story about the power of story, the truth within fiction, and he keeps it operating on so very many levels simultaneously. It’s also about trauma, and surviving trauma, and what that takes from you and how you endure. I’ll remember this book for a very long time and will definitely read it again and again. I highlighted so many passages, some with chills in my stomach, some with an ache in my heart, some with understanding in my whole being.

At the same time it is all these things, all these deep and profound and literary things, it’s also just an incredible story, a page-turner I didn’t want to end but I couldn’t wait to finish. Because there are lies upon lies, fictions within fictions, I couldn’t predict where the story would go and that was thrilling.

Just a superb book in every way. Very highly recommended.

US policy you do not agree with does not EQUAL this.
US policy you do not agree with does not EQUAL this.

Here’s an article from The Washington Post about the only person ever to escape from a labor camp who was born in a labor camp. Read that. And then read his book Escape From Camp 14, which was so hard to read I had to come at it out of the sides of my eyes. There is nothing anyone is doing in this country that approaches what the three generations of insane tyrants have done in North Korea. It’s not even close. And it’s grossly offensive to make that comparison, it diminishes the horrors of those people’s suffering.  It’s a false equivalence, and the slippery slope argument does not hold.

Addiction, depression, slaughter, tyranny, genocide, those words speak to a range of personal and political horror. If we don’t save some words and take care of them, respect their meanings, something important is lost. If everyone is Hitler, the real Hitler got away with it. If everything is addiction (and setting aside the over-use of that word to relieve people from taking responsibility for putting down the damn donut), then we will care even less about real addicts than we already do. If we think we understand our suicidally depressed friend because we too have felt bad about not getting a donut, we’re apt to lose our friend. This post is not as much about politics — though it is about politics — as it is about language, and horror, and taking care. A heavy post here at the end of the year but I’ve been immersed in accounts of real people’s lives in North Korea and it’s hard to tolerate the casual comparisons I often see.

BUT: Marc arrives tomorrow morning for a 5-day stay here with me, which is such a treat. It’ll be a dramatically different New Year’s Eve this year than last, that’s for sure. In New York, we always walked out to the middle of Riverside Drive at midnight, looked at the stars, kissed each other, and went back to our warm apartment. Last New Year’s Eve I’d planned to walk out on my new and lonely street and look up at the stars all by myself but I couldn’t, I just went to bed early. This year I’ll walk out there with Marc, we’ll look up at the stars, and the street won’t be so lonely — and it’s not new, either! Happy Monday, y’all, and happy preparations for your own New Year’s Eve, whatever that will be.

when you really know

OK, enough about Nick Flynn already. I have more to say about yesterday — 3.5 hours with him — but I’ll just leave that for my private writing. This morning in the shower I was bopping along, mainly just thinking about shampoo or whatever, listening to music. I have a device to play my iPod in the bathroom, whatever you call those things. Docking stations. Whatever. Anyway, up comes “The Dark I Know Well,” a gorgeous song from Spring Awakening, one of my two favorite Broadway musicals of all time, along with Cabaret. Spring Awakening is gorgeous, funny, heartbreaking. I saw it with the original cast, but if you ever get the chance to see it, take it. The music is just wonderful. “The Dark I Know Well” made me think about how very well I know the dark, too. And then that made me start thinking about taxonomies and the other things I know well enough to have developed a taxonomy — an ordering of major categories and subcategories.

  • OK, well, the dark. Depression. I wrote about this in March 2011, on my other blog, so I’ll just link here in case you want to read that post.
  • Insomnia! In the shower I was also thinking about last night’s sleep, which might sound like it’s the same as what I’ve suffered recently, but it’s not. Again last night I slept a little bit and then had long periods of being awake, slept a little bit, long period awake, etc. But it was different! The last couple of nights the long periods of being awake have been more like nearly being asleep. Awake but not, asleep but not. Aware of the time. Able to think. Not asleep, definitely, but not exactly awake. The other version was entirely awake, 100% awake. In last night’s version I rested during the wakefulness in a way I didn’t in the other. It’s not that my mind was racing in the other version, it is just about full wakefulness. There’s also the can’t-get-to-sleep version, more common. But this difference in the types of sleep maintenance insomnia (the official name for it) now gives me the opening to a taxonomy.
  • Happiness, joy! Boy do I know dozens of flavors of this state. Dozens. I know subtle differences, differences that I can identify but there aren’t meaningfully different words for the states. The words for this general state are  pretty broad — ‘happy,’ ‘joyful,’ ‘content,’ ‘bliss’ — but I’d need gradations. Wouldn’t you? There’s a thing called alexithymia, which refers to the inability to identify and describe emotions. It seems to occur more often in men (surprise!). I would have the opposite of that, but there’s not a word for it.
  • Leaving. Just wrote about that one, so I’ll just refer you back to the post.

whalesThere are all kinds of things I know a lot about — knitting, social psychology, pronouns, words, love, friendship, poetry,  books — but that’s different. That’s just a body of knowledge, a deep and perhaps very specific understanding. Taxonomy is more structured, more detailed, hierarchical. It always kills me when people think Moby Dick is about Ahab’s obsession with the white whale. That’s just the story line they picked out to make a movie. It’s very deeply about taxonomy (most famously, Cetology, the chapter about categorizing whales, listen to it here!), about categorizing things, this vs that, organization (and importantly, the inability to grasp the thing by doing that).

I’ll bet you have taxonomies of your own! There’s a real pleasure in that, for me, although i was also the little kid who loved to make outlines of things. 🙂

Off to a good week, and I hope it’s the same for you. xoxo

dim light

darkroomI had a feeling it was happening, I know the signs so well. For the last few weeks I’ve felt empty and dissatisfied, dull, uninterested and uninteresting. I’ve felt like doing things required more effort, more energy, more everything than I had. Like I was in a darkened room. My thoughts tended toward bleh, who cares and even — unbelievably — who cares about me. It’s that time again: depression.

And so I take my meds. Big deal. The curtains will be drawn back, I’ll feel my old self again, and all thanks to a little white capsule which does not bother me in any way. Thank you, Valeant, makers of Wellbutrin, I salute you. I look forward to that light coming back.

The tricky thing for knowing whether it’s back is that I rarely sleep, and I never have long enough periods of uninterrupted sleep. Chronic exhaustion produces so many of the same symptoms; both bring deep fatigue and low energy, and both bring very easy tears (more often the sad tears, but any kind of tears because both bring emotional lability). But I think I waited a little too long, assuming it was just exhaustion, so last night I cracked open the bottle. There is no need to worry, I’ll be back on lighter feet in a week or so.

I’m always looking for ideas about sleep. I have tried every kind of pill (yes, melatonin, yes every herb and OTC product, yes prescription products including old antidepressants that couldn’t be effectively used because they just made people zonk out so powerfully), and none work. I have exquisite sleep hygiene: regular bedtime, only sleep in bed, absolutely no lights in my bedroom, regular routine. I have tried having white noise and having silence. I drink no caffeine after 10am. I have no trouble whatsoever falling asleep (hello, chronic exhaustion), I just cannot stay asleep. Cannot do it. If this happens to you and you’ve found something that works, please let me know! Lack of sleep is so bad for your health, and I know it affects my mood and cognitive functioning.

I’ll close the post with a poem by Langston Hughes:

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

mixing it up

First things first: I have a friend date! Which means I have a friend I know well enough to go out with! I can’t tell you how exciting that is. Laura, the lovely woman I met at our poetry group, and I are going to Full English (she’s from London, but she first mentioned it because they host a poetry slam). We’re going there on Saturday, just us girls, and I am so excited. It’s been nice having the brunch/disco gang, and I definitely want to stick with them for the long haul, they’re my gang, but there’s something special about meeting someone and finding your way to a friendship. And Sunday night I’m going to the Firehouse Lounge to listen to my friend Art and his band in a blues jam. By day Art is a highly-regarded cognitive psychologist on the UT faculty, and this is what he does to keep himself off the streets and out of trouble, I guess. 🙂 Art is a good friend, has been a good friend to me for a while, so I’m looking forward to seeing him again, and to watching him play.

So anyway, here’s the deal relating to the post’s title: it isn’t just that I’m trying to figure out how to write about things, it’s that I’m trying to figure out what is going on, and how I’m feeling. And how I’m feeling (depression aside) is sad and grieving and lost and lonely at times, and tentatively hopeful and even quite happy at other times (before the depression hit, of course, but that’ll come back). When I realize I’m sitting there thinking about this from the blog’s perspective (isn’t that a funny idea; I guess I mean from your perspective, a reader), I imagine you must think Well golly, isn’t she all over the place! What’s it gonna be today! She’s crazy!  And then I think I’d better not write this thing after having posted that thing.  Of course the deal is that I am all over the place, and I suspect that’s just what it’s like for anyone whose life has been turned upside down.

But when the depression lifts (and it’s lifting already) I want one remedy to be a return to writing about all kinds of other things. For now I can’t quite summon the interest, but like I said in an earlier post, it’s temporary and we’ll soon return to our regular programming—which really means our regular programming from way back last summer, before The Troubles. Depression is such a self-focused, self-centered state; in fact, did you know that depressed people use the pronoun “I” substantially more often than non-depressed people? And in fact, it can be diagnostic. And curiously, it’s about “I” and “my” but not “me.” Love that.

So when I get that glass cleaned a little more, don’t be surprised when I’m bouncy. And curious. And thinking (about things besides me, good grief!). And exploring. And reading and telling you about it. Probably starting tomorrow, from the look of things around here. I’ve cleaned a big enough area in that old filthy glass bottomed boat and I see some gorgeous fish, red and orange and sparkling. Halle-fuckin-lujah, man.

good thing of the day: John Prine, who writes the most beautiful songs that make me laugh or cry, or feel wistful which is my favorite feeling of them all. Listening now to Some Humans Ain’t Human (link goes to the lyrics, if you don’t know the song. and bonus points he gets for saying something apt about GWBush.). Here’s a video of him performing the song at Austin City Limits, of all places!

old pro

When you’re an old pro at something, you have perspective — even if it’s something as black and bleak as depression. And I’m definitely an old pro, whoo boy. It runs in my family on one side so I’ve got experience with it from every direction: the child of, the Sufferer Herself, the sister of, the mother of, the granddaughter of, and more generations though I didn’t know them.

So I’m in this really bizarre situation of being unable to stop crying, and feeling nothing but dark gray, while simultaneously (as an old pro) seeing what all is there inside me and around me. It’s like being in a filthy glass bottom boat. (Hey, that was pretty good!) There are rumblings inside that I know but can’t yet feel, but I know they’re coming:

Thing the first:  I’ve got a great book, I can tell it’s great, I know it is, I know it would suck me in and I’d be unable to sleep until I finished (which would be a few nights, because this sucker is big). Marnie, it’s been compared favorably to 2666. If you’re interested, check out the Amazon reviews here. The original book is written in Hungarian and it’s just recently been translated. It grabbed me from the first sentence, but my current inability to think and persist keeps me from going on. But I can tell I want to.  See? Filthy glass bottom boat, doesn’t mean there aren’t gorgeous fish under there. I’m watching my pennies so I’m getting books from the library instead of automatically buying them on kindle, but I think this is one I’d want to own and read again so I may even spring for a real version.

Thing the next: Underneath my flatness, I can tell there is real excitement about fixing up my patio. I’ve been bloodlessly daydreaming and Googling about strings of lights, like these, or these, or these, or even these. My patio area isn’t huge, but it’s a nice enough size. There is a tree right out the French door, and a gated plank 6′ fence all around, so I could string lights (maybe) from the tree to the fence, and then swag them along the fence. I don’t know, I need to figure this out. And chairs, I know I’ll want chairs. And flowers. (If you have any advice on any of this, bring it.) So even though I don’t feel any of the excitement when I think about it, I know it’s under there, under the filth.

Thing the next: I’m going to a women-only happy hour tomorrow (hope Cindy is there), and then beer and pizza Thursday night with the brunch/disco gang, and on Friday night I’m going to the Texas Printmakers Juried Show (holla, Marnie!) at Gallery Black Lagoon. The mere thought doesn’t make me more exhausted than I already am, nor am I utterly filled with dread at the idea of any of it. Perspective!

Thing the last: I glanced at the French doors and saw the dawn and noticed the beautiful spread of colors, soft pinks and purples, and felt something way down inside me do a little flip. Musta been one a them little fish.

Thank heavens for being older, I’m not kidding. I’ve been around this miserable old place enough times to know there are lots of doors, even if I don’t see them just yet because it’s still too dark. AND I know how to find the light switches. And then my well-practiced legs will know how to dance me right out the door, once I get it open. (Hey, pretty good extended metaphor!) Now I’ve been here enough times to go, “Hey, wait. I know this place, I’ve been here before. Sit down, get your bearings. Take a deep breath, it’s going to be OK, I promise.” And then I says to myself, I says, “Self, OK.”

Oh my god, now the sky is nearly lurid, the colors are so intense. If you saw an accurate painting of it, you’d sneer and think the painter was bad, one of those kinds of skies. And I hear that tiny little flip down under the boat.

good thing of the day: patience and fortitude, plus a landlord to come fix the dryer for me. 🙂

little remedies

Yesterday after a couple of work Skype sessions, I decided to take the afternoon off and take a drive. Mid-morning, the skies were as blue as a robin’s egg, and it was going to be 74 degrees . . . perfect for a day hiking around Bull Creek. By the time I got off the second call, though, the skies turned into a puffy gray blanket—but not the pretty kind. The kind that looks like it got dragged through dirty dust bunnies. The warmer temperature remained, but it had more of an oppressive feeling, even though the winds had also kicked up. I went out anyway, drove Loop 360, stopped on South Congress and poked around in the cool shops, and went to the flagship Whole Foods to buy the makings for a good dinner. (Did you know Whole Foods started here in Austin? You should see the main store, it has several floors, a chocolate fountain, several places to eat, underground parking of at least a couple of levels, it’s amazing. You could spend a day there.) I bought a beautiful piece of salmon, some fresh spinach, and a basketful of good food to take care of myself.

And I realized that I am now in Depressed Land. It’s a familiar place, I’ve lived there several times over my long life. The inability to go 5 minutes without crying, the wish to just stay in bed and never get out, the thoughts. Yep, I’m back. So this morning I’m back on my antidepressants, no second thought about that. Because what matters is that I live, and that I live to find my new life, my new self, to enjoy the next part of my life, to see my children, to find my way, to rediscover joy and brilliance and the ebullience I so easily feel. Does it pain me to acknowledge I’m back? Does it pain me to know I have to take this medication? Not in the slightest. Not in the slightest.

I’m getting dressed to go out to a meet-and-greet brunch, and then to a knitting group. Tonight I’m hoping to have the energy to go to Sherlock’s for a bit of disco dancing. Those are big tasks for a depressed person, and I’m going to be kind to myself so if it’s too hard, I’ll just leave. While I’m getting ready, here are today’s little remedies for getting through:

  • a lovely talk with my beautiful daughter Marnie
  • bluegrass music! I made a playlist, because who can be too sad when there’s banjo in the background, I ask you.
  • putting on a pretty face, a bit of makeup (mascara and lipstick, a big deal for me these days), trying to dress well just for today
  • a glass of orange juice, honestly like drinking the sun
  • turning on all the lights in the house, not just the lamps
  • singing along

Those things are helping me get ready to get out the door, and that’s a big deal some days, you know?

And just so I give you something, here are some links I can’t seem to close, in case you like them too! 

Happy Saturday, y’all. Better days ahead.

good thing of the day:  antidepressants. Seriously, man. I thank the makers of Wellbutrin from the bottom of my aching heart.