Tag: Depression


Ducks AWOL

It’s a little after midnight, and I really should be in bed. If a 24-hour virus hadn’t made bed a necessity, my 8 a.m. dentist appointment tomorrow certainly should… but I can’t pull myself off the couch just yet. It’s been a hard couple of days. On Monday, Sophie snuggled up to me on the rocking chair and sweetly threw up 15 gallons of curdled milk. I came down with it yesterday around lunch, then Natalie at bed time last night, then Dan this morning, and I would just about trade my soul for a sick day right now. Just one day to settle into my skin without dishes piling up or little tears to wipe. Paid leave to hibernate under the covers and figure out who the heck I am again.

I feel as though my reserves of mothering strength have worn down over the last few weeks through rainy days and too many bouts of sickness, but mommies can’t be pansies. No, every bit of strength goes by instinct to the girls, which means other things suffer—marriage, health (ha!) career aspirations (ha2!). Nothing is terrible right now… just a little frayed. Too tired to exercise, too tired to write, too tired to fully engage my mind with my husband’s, too tired to shut down the computer and go to bed already.

When I was in school, autumn never lagged like this. A little by late November, sure, but there were always still tidy typed deadlines and bursts of knowledge to keep my mind churning along.  Without that pressure, without someone dictating most of my time to me, I feel grossly incapable. I come up with aspirations for myself, then divide them by two little daughters, then subtract housecleaning duties, then lower them by several degrees of self-esteem… and still I can never seem to reach. It sure looks a lot like failure around here.

This isn’t exactly how I wanted this year to end. I guess I supposed that 2008 was going to be the year I would get my ducks in a row… but here I am, and one of those ducks is lost somewhere under the couch, and one is partying in Bali, and one drowned just four hours ago under a deluge of preschool vomit, and six are wearing cool glasses in NYC getting published without me, and one tiny one is pecking around in the fridge for something resembling food. The ducks, they’re decidedly NOT in a row, and I’m not sure how okay I am with that. I can’t get to officially living my life until they are, right?

Probably not. I’ve always like John Lennon’s quote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” though I kind of hate it when it applies to me. I enjoy my plans working from time to time… but I’m pretty sure that nothing—plans or life or ducks-getting-in-a-row—is going to happen tonight. Perhaps I should get myself tucked responsibly into bed to get some of that sleep I keep complaining about not having, eh?

P.S. – If you like getting surprises in your mailbox, the holiday goodie from my last entry still stands!


Mismatched Socks

Thirteen minutes, by my calculations, until the girls are awake… or at least half-awake, rosy from sleep, and needing closeness. Such little time, and as always—do I do, or do I write?

I think constantly these days about something Jenn Mattern once wrote, about her writing not being widely accepted because it was too haphazard. Too funny and too serious all at once with no firm publishable constant. That’s me, I think. My writing style is as steadfast as mismatched socks… much like my days, swooping from hilarity to dejection and always the vague sense that I’m not getting it right. I hesitate so often to blog because I just don’t know where to take this next. This isn’t a mommy blog or an ex-pat blog or a humor blog or a depression blog. It’s the unwashed contents of my brain, and who really wants to see that?

I’m in wildly different emotional territory than I was a year ago, but I can still feel these gray mornings tugging like gravity. I lie in bed until the last possible moment and wish and wish I knew what to expect throughout the day. The week. The month. Every uncharted moment faces me like a linebacker as I try to figure out if I am really as messy as I feel right now. Who knows? Maybe these daily giggles and heartaches are more of a gorgeous mosaic rather than a mess. I can’t help but hope so, at any rate… And until I figure out what kind of mosaic it is, this will just have to be a haphazard blog. Thank you for braving me.


Warning: Do Not Scrapbook

I’ve caught that little internet cold that makes its rounds during the chilling downslope of seasons. I was hoping, sincerely, to catch the homey enchantment of A Week In A Life instead; everyone’s week looks so lovely in detail, and scrapbooking! What says “I am a fount of creativity and time-management” more than that? (I have a beautiful bin of scrapbooking supplies myself, but it only comes out during weeks my family agrees not to eat or wear clothes or use the floors. So, not often.) I did try starting a Week In A Life post, and it went like this:


7:30 a.m. – My alarm goes off, even though I don’t remember setting it last night. I kick husband repeatedly until he gets up to turn it off for me (thankfully for our marriage, he understands I’m not accountable for anything before 10 a.m… and sleeps with me anyway). I lie in bed thinking violent morning thoughts, ruing the day I was born, etc. until Sophie’s hungry shrieks become impossible to tune out.

8:30 a.m. – Natalie, who is coughing up bits of spleen, is sent off to the doctor who prescribes antibiotics and staying home from school. We have a solid ten minutes of fun dusting the living room before she deteriorates into boredom as I start Hour #1 of dishes for the day. “Mommy, can you pleeeeease play with me? Mommy, can you pleeeeease read with me? Mommy, isn’t it a struggle not to succumb to the guilt of wasting away my precious childhood by scrubbing windows that will just be grimy again by the weekend?” She hasn’t coughed once since getting back from the doctor’s, of course.

12:30 p.m. – Sophie, who may or may not be teething, is up from her nap and wants to be held. I, multi-tasker though I am, have limits and cannot manage to hold her whilst simultaneously mashing the potatoes, hanging the wet laundry, and washing Hour #2 of dishes before Dan gets home for lunch. Sophie stands in the middle of the room perfecting her Nazgûl scream. Natalie is frustrated with her puzzle and begins to cry. My sanity calls in a sick day.

Technically, the week started with Sunday, but that found me three seconds away from a nervous breakdown at church, complete with bloodthirsty fantasies toward Natalie’s Sunday School class bully and the very near cussing-out of the kindly old people pestering Sophie into gut-wrenching sobs. It hasn’t exactly been a scrapbook-worthy week.

No, the internet cold I got is the one that makes people forget who they want to be when they grow up and lose inspiration for everything from art to regular showering and wonder why they keep blogging anyway. I caught it right in the face, too. It’s a doozy of a mental crisis, and it usually distills down to The House. More specifically, the messes that characterize The House. Even more specifically, the hours upon vain hours I spend cleaning up the messes that characterize The House under some sort of delusion that it will stay clean. You know, at least for 24 hours.

And now you know how much of a pansy I am. Historically significant elections are going on, my nation is teetering on the brink of economic collapse, war and terrorism are flourishing in the Middle East… and I’m falling into pieces over misplaced loads of laundry and smushed carpet peas. Who knows—maybe The House is just a metaphor for some greater mental tableau I can’t adequately process. I hope I’m that deep.

In some ways, it’s exciting to be in the midst of a breakdown. It means that something is happening, that I could wake up tomorrow with an epiphany or a new superpower. On the other hand, it means I’ve written nary a word in days. It means I feel both aimless and harrowed, and my brain tissue by now is mostly held together with smushed peas. And lemme tell ya—that, combined with soap-splattered clothes and my lack of showering inspiration? Is not a lovely thing.


Thinking Without Responsibility

It’s the third full day of some eerie symptomless sickness that has left me bedridden. There’s no pain or congestion or nausea or anything out of the ordinary except for a vast hollowness where my head used to be, and even reading ten pages of a book tires me out. In between the heavy sleeping and the dizzy waking, I’ve been thinking. It’s nice to be able to think without responsibility, when no one expects you to be coherent or figure out so much as a lunch menu.

I’ve thought a lot about the upcoming elections and America’s future. I have little faith in candidates’ platforms, though I am concerned what McCain and Obama plan to do regarding our drowning economy. I find myself drawn toward the candidate exhibiting the most sincere goodwill toward people—not America’s status in the world, not its corporate wealth, not any generalized patriotic ideals—but individuals who are struggling to pay their rent. Who can’t afford health care (raise your hand, anyone?). Who don’t make enough to support their families because of corrupt corporations and an impersonal government. Who feel cheated by decisions our leadership never adequately informed us about (no names, but it rhymes with Shmiraq). Our nation needs a hefty dose of TLC.

I pretty much keep my political ideas confined to 1) my husband, who has always respected what I think, and 2) my own head, because people are pretty polarized about the presidential election and I have no immediate death wish. So no, I won’t tell you who I’m voting for… but here’s a hint: If you’re Alaskan, we may or may not agree. ::Grin::

My thoughts of late have also been occupied with family life. I am a hopeless perfectionist, and my addled brain has latched onto the following ideal of motherhood:

  • Takes the kids for daily hikes, nature walks, and/or camping trips. Teaches survival skills, knot-tying, etc.
  • Structures each day according to Somebody-or-the-Other’s accredited theory of education, packing spare knowledge into all empty spots of the day and raising bright-eyed geniuses. Creepy nighttime learning tapes optional.
  • Plays regular sports with the family. Kids get a wide enough exposure to athletics that they can make educated decisions whether they want to become MBA players or make the Olympic curling team.
  • Converts a portion of the house into a communal art studio, complete with miniature canvases, safety glass scissors, and sippy cups of gel medium.
  • Earns the nickname Mrs. Montessori for her colorful playroom always stocked with dress-up clothes, abaci, and imagination enhancement drugs.
  • Reigns over her little domestic kingdom in high heels and oven mitts, singing supercalifragilistic ditties to scare toys into place and always baking something light and fluffy. By age four, kids would know how to scrub grout and make perfect quiche.

I feel like I’m just now waking up and OMG! I have spawn! and OMG! I have no parenting archetype! It feels a lot like the flu. I’ve done a lot of problem-solving over the last 3.6 years—figuring out how much rice cereal to fix at a time, how to battle diaper rash, how to get a stubborn toddler to stay in her bed—and I’ve relied heavily on mamalove to fill in the gaps. It’s not a bad way to parent. And yet, I want incredibly special girlhoods for my daughters. I want them to remember a mother who was fully present with them, not constantly thinking about writing or worrying about the dirty house. I want us to use our imaginations together and create sparkling memories, whether we’re learning multiplication tables or simply having a ticklefest.

I haven’t done a good job getting my genetic anxiety under control, and OMG! it’s time for me to relax and enjoy life already. Especially with my little girls, who matter 1,000,000% more than anything I spend my time worrying over. So now the question: How to parent more purposefully without stressing out about all the versions of mother I am not? Because I so am not a sports person. Survival skills I have none. We have no space for dress-up clothes, and I don’t even know how to use gel medium. Something tells me that I don’t have to be perfect at everything in the world to be a great mom, but that something has a “Kick me” sign stuck to its bum, compliments of my brain. Stupid brain.

My bedridden thoughts have also drifted toward holiday gifts and Matt Damon and tarte tatin and how I really should shower once this week and I’m just going to stop there. After all, sick people aren’t responsible for hygiene any more than they are for perfect parenting or political involvement. OMG! whew.


Social Housefly

Summer has been a sore loser this year. Rather than make its curtain call and exit gracefully, it’s been brooding backstage, pulling down sullen clouds to mask any potential autumnal glory. I can handle rain and wind and sun, but I never can figure out what to do with sulk. Feel free to blame my recent blog neglect on this.

Of course, by the time I finished writing that last sentence, the sun had flexed its ironic muscle and blazed through every wisp of mopey gray. It’s hard to stay pessimistic when the world is so stubbornly beautiful. It’s just… The things I’ve always loved the most about fall are all social. School starting up with fresh lined paper and gooey nuggets of knowledge to share with my classmates. A Halloween costume party with pumpkins to carve (though one year, I had to resort to cantaloupe), hilarious group games, and cauldron cakes. Thanksgiving dinner for everyone we knew didn’t have a home-cooked meal at his or her disposal; Cajun turkey and angel biscuits and no less than three types of pie, our large dining room bursting at the seams. I grow a bit desperate for community when the sky glazes over.

Last year, I was too busy bringing forth offspring to wallow in loneliness, but this fall, I’m fighting my blessings tooth and nail. We have a lovely apartment in our dream country; I should be bowled over with gratefulness every time I walk in the door, but I can’t stop focusing on its size. Which is close to that of a matchbox. It snags at my sense of purpose not to be able to invite groups over, have overnight guests, or keep an open-door policy like we used to have for our friends. Tiny apartments, especially those inhabited by tiny children, are always, always, always a mess, and I’ve been keeping visitors at bay.

I should be glad I’m not in school too. I mean, I am glad to spend my days unshackled by assignments or deadlines. But oh, I miss the learning environment. I had some amazing classmates in college, and my brain goes into a panicky flutter when I consider never being in a circle of like-minded academics again. I’m aching to go buy pencils.

For the record, I have no reason to be lonely this autumn. We’ve made more friends here than we can manage at once, and all it will take is some effort on my part to coax out a fulfilling relationship or two. And other people have been quite willing to open their [larger] homes for our feasts so far. But the clouds are back, mountains of damp smoke piled just outside my window, and they whisper of a bleak social future.

How does a natural pessimist stop reading her fortune in the weather? And how does a shy conformist break out of her bubble to find community?


Leaf Piles of Failure

Yesterday was one of Those Days, the kind you can’t help laughing over when retelling even though you really want to weep. To get my mind off of writer’s block and the subsequent gloom-and-doom of my future, I spent over a significant chunk of day cooking, peeling, and pureeing pumpkin. I whipped up two loaves’ worth of spicy-sweet pumpkin bread batter and deposited them in the oven… at which instant the oven breathed its last. I had to leave the kitchen as-is, heaped with dirty dishes and unbaked bread and orange splatters aplenty, to pick Natalie up from school, and then it took us over two hours to get back. A certain three-year-old—no names, but you catch my drift—dragged her feet to the extent that I pushed two girls with the stroller up-up-uphill. First to one store, then to another, then uphill yet again for an essential we forgot. A certain eleven-month-old—again, no names—threw her hat as we were crossing a spectacularly busy intersection, and the resulting car honks and angry shouts made me die a little inside. Then the stroller tipped over at the park, our grocery bag burst, and we all limped back to our pumpkin-besmeared home spewing a trail of white sugar in our wake. That was when the doorbell rang.

I’m learning that all you can do with a day so determined to be a failure is to let it. Roll around in its messiness and stupidity like a pile of fall leaves and have a blast scattering them to the wind. (Though honestly, I have hated rolling around in leaf piles since I was eight and realized that they probably contain bugs. And also dried leaves, which are awfully poky. And also bugs. Nevertheless, the metaphor stays.) Once I get over my unreasonable expectations, such as productivity and basic hygiene, failure days can be kind of fun. And the best news? Hours away is a brand new day that, chances are, has already learned to behave itself.

(I may acquire a taste for optimism yet… Who would have guessed?)


In Between

Sweet vanilla chai this morning in a quiet house, stuck in between paragraphs of a story. My mind wanders as always. To the four neat publication packages tied with invisible bows, probably somewhere over the Atlantic right now in a gray bin of papercuts. To my wilderness of a kitchen, ravaged as always by the elements of children and smallness, stickiness concentrate. To the jewel of a morning outside but never inside, no matter how many windows are open or how earnestly I coax the world to slip in and bustle with me awhile. To my baby’s runny nose and the doubt-gremlins in my head and my chipped nail polish and the dust in the cracks of my keyboard and the photos my old harddrive took down to its grave and the marching ranks of to-dos.

When I’m in the groove, words sprinting from warehouses in my brain to my fingers to the page, I have no trouble with the world. Dishes could be heaped in the bathtub and bills perched in a line on my desk, but as long as I had written something to be proud of that day, Polyanna herself could not be more optimistic. On the flip side, writer’s block makes me forget how to be content.

Today I need to remember.

Fresh pumpkin waiting in the fridge (and not having to pull anyone’s teeth to acquire it this year)
Sweet baby gurgles and quacks from the other room
Natalie’s sunny change of heart about school
Cinnamon cocoa
My favorite ultra-petite laptop, The Organicow, suddenly being back in commission when I need it most
The luxury of hours to spend as I choose
Anne of the Island
Bright orange flowers sunbursting on the balcony
10 minutes mapping out melodies on the piano (and discovering my fingers aren’t quite as rusty as I thought)
An afternoon espresso date with Dan
Always, always, fresh starts—new bursts of oxygen to the brain, new ideas, new hours with opportunities all their own

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