Tag Archives: love

Forever Gold. . . in memory of a memory

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“Do not look sad. We shall meet soon again.” “Please, Aslan”, said Lucy,”what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

For the first four months of the pandemic, I could not read.

I mean, I could technically read. But I could not sit and enjoy a book. This was somewhat concerning to me, but I took it to be symptomatic of my anxiety, overwhelm, and general distraction. It wasn’t terribly concerning and anyway, I had other things to which to attend.

Recently, I happened to pick up Villette, Charlotte Bronte’s last and often most acclaimed novel. To my delight, I’ve been not only able to read, but to enjoy the lush and complex Victorian prose.

I’ve read Jane Eyre over 20 times. It’s my favorite novel of all time. Each time I’ve poured over her pages, I’ve found new meaning, new truth, and deeper love for the gothic romance. I still have the copy I used my senior year in college, when I was taking a class called “Justice in Literature.” I’d taken the class because the professor teaching it had grown quite beloved to me. It was because of her I developed a passion for Victorian literature.

Dr. Gold (not her real name), was a diminutive woman in her 50s who had a voice like a tittering fairy. She had a shock of red hair and sparkling eyes. Her face was blessed with the loveliest laugh lines. It was like her entire body would crinkle with delight when she giggled about something. Despite her enchanting outward appearance, there was a fire in her for truth, mercy, and compassion. She adored children’s literature, especially the Chronicle’s of Narnia which she quoted often and from which she drew great comfort.

She walked with a lopsided gait from a number of incredibly severe health issues, an autoimmune disorder among them. But her thrill for life and her ability to love entirely whatever she was doing at that particular moment, would never have given away her disabilities.

When I think of the humans who have shown me truest compassion in my life, Professor Gold is at the top of the list.

To say I fawned over her a bit is not far from the truth. In fact, it is probably more truthful to say I absolutely idolized her. I spent as much time around her as humanly possible, learning not only about literature, but about her life and her gift for love.

When I tried to end my life in my early 20s, it was June Gold I called from the emergency room. It was a horrible thing for me to do, an imposition, a boundary violation, but I needed her support and she was there for me. The memory of that time fills me with deep shame to this day. June was stern with me and she made it clear she could not be my therapist, that she would continue to support me as long as I got proper help, which I did and which she did.

Several years later, after I graduated college and was floundering in the “real world,” I sheepishly called June and asked if she’d write me a letter of recommendation to get into grad school for my MSW.

“Let’s talk about this,” she said. “Tell me more.” Instant terror flooded me at the thought she’d think I was too damaged and wild to ever make a good social worker.

I explained I’d been working with kids with autism and I wanted to go back and become more professionalized so I could make a life for myself. She not only wrote a letter to the graduate program, but also sent me a copy.

When I read the letter, I wept. She told my graduate program-to-be that their greatest regret in admitting me to their program would be that they could not have me as a student forever, and that they would long to have me in every class for my enthusiasm and a bunch of other nice stuff.

I remember reading her letter and feeling deep disbelief anyone could feel that way about me, knowing what they knew about how tragic and flawed I could be.

Turns out understanding flaws and tragedy make me a decent therapist.

I think that was my last interaction with June. I might have sent her a thank you card, but we are going back about 20 years now, and I don’t really remember.

Over the years I’ve certainly thought of her from time to time. I’ve attempted to channel her belief in me, and as I’ve grown out of a bunch of my 20 year old dysfunctions, I’ve wondered if she’d be proud of the little pod of humans I’ve managed to assemble and call a family of my own.

Picking up Villette brought June back to the front of my mind with a sudden and visceral reality. It occurred to me I might write her a letter or send her a card and let her know how she’s shaped my life. It seemed like good timing, being the pandemic has us all connecting or reconnecting with friends, family, and significant people from our past.

Google churned up her obituary front and center, dead first in my search results.

June Gold died a year and a half ago after developing a rare cancer on top of her other dire health concerns.

After an hour and a half diving through dusty boxes in the 90 degree summer heat of my attic, I could not find the letter she wrote me for grad school.

I did find my senior thesis for her on which I’d gotten an A. In her tiny, delicate script, she’d written “This is very fine!. . .” The topic of the paper was Themes of Injustice Toward Women in Jane Eyre and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In her comments, she went on to praise an oral presentation I’d done as “splendid!” although in all fairness I have zero recollection of that.

No matter.

It’s a weird thing, discovering someone you loved so deeply once upon a time has slipped beyond the veil and you didn’t even know about it.

Why do we grow so far from people? I think part of me was still ashamed of my younger self and didn’t know how to go back and face June, was scared that after so many years maybe she’d see me differently or with colder eyes. It’s entirely doubtful that would have been true, and yet it kept me from connecting with someone who meant a great deal to me, who shaped a huge part of my life.

Part of me wants to cry. But another part of me hears June’s favorite literary character, the lion Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, roaring, “Courage, Dear Heart!”

It’s a weird thing, discovering you know exactly what someone you loved dearly would say to comfort you 20 years after your last interaction with them.

The Riots Are Worth It… because BLACK LIVES MATTER

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Tonight I told my kids they had to play in the yard and stay close to home. There were riots and looting in my city last night, and more are forecast for tonight. I explained to the kids, who are 12 and eight, that a white cop murdered a black man and people are angry.

They were confused. I think they were a little scared.

Our state’s national guard has been mobilized and our city’s mayor has enacted a curfew.

So we wait.

I am infinitely blessed to have been raised, and to still live, in one of the most liberal, tolerant states in the nation. We pride ourselves on freedom of religion, thought, and sexuality. We are an artistic, eclectic community of randoms who love the ocean and grassroots advocacy.

Over the weekend, while the rest of the country blazed in flames of violent reactivity to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white cop, my state had a peaceful protest. It felt good to be able to say we were peaceful, even through intense anger and grief at racial injustice and terrorism.

I did not expect that 24 hours later, hundreds of people would descend on our capital city and set it aflame, smash it up. The cars that transport our state’s neediest foster children were smashed and burned to ashes.

All of this news dominated the cycle all day. Many of these characters involved had nothing to do with the essential Black Lives Matter movement, and had everything to do with inciting violence, fear, and terror on our state.

Watching it unfold, I felt fear and sorrow. I felt things I’d never felt before.

I read theories about rage people are feeling in the midst of the pandemic, economic strife, and racial disparities of death from Covid 19.

Fuck my heart was so heavy.

I was frightened for my children. I didn’t want my boy to go biking with his buddy, and I did not want my daughter to leave our yard, not even to walk the dog.

As I cleaned dinner dishes, I watched a bunch of bunnies hop around in our yard. I found it hard to believe our bucolic landscape could soon be dominated by flashing lights and sirens.

It struck me.

This isn’t even a fraction of what black mothers have felt for decades. Centuries even.

This does not even touch on the fear and uncertainty regarding safety, and it my privilege reeks that this is the first time I’ve ever had to be scared like this.

Let me be clear, I don’t condone any violence ever. I don’t ever want to see anyone hurt or harmed. I do not want to see anyone’s business suffer.

But if somehow we can understand even a shred of what our black friends and brothers and sisters have experienced all of their lives, and all of their ancestors’ lives. . . then it is worth it. The looting and rioting is worth it, because we need to know.

We need to understand what it means to have had black bodies looted for all these years by white people in power.

We need to know and we need to make amends.

Please consider donating to one of the charities that support the legal funds of people arrested in the recent protests. The following link has a series of resources for where you can either amplify your voice to assist in the movement, or to help those in need.

https://www.timeout.com/things-to-do/how-to-support-black-lives-matter

What If We Die?

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Over the past few months, I’ve been very conscious about limiting my exposure to and intake of the Covid 19 coverage. I stay informed enough to understand what’s going on in my state, and how I need to protect myself and my family, but I also impose firm boundaries in order to maintain my sanity.

My husband on the other hand seems to thrive on information. He voraciously consumes the science of it all, and is always eager to fire off statistics and new factoids at me. I frequently have to tell him to stop because it makes me super anxious. We all deal with stuff differently.

But this past weekend, he mentioned a new trend in the health crisis that really made me stop and think, and that I have not been able to let go of. He told me about how relatively young and asymptomatic people are dying suddenly of severe strokes. This stopped me dead in my tracks (absolutely NO pun intended).

We’ve been following our state’s stay at home order to the letter of the law, and so far we have presented as healthy. The fact we could be going about our business and randomly drop dead without even a clue it was coming, is absolutely terrifying.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. What if I die? What if he dies?

We are in our second decade of marriage and we have discussed death as it pertains to when we are much, much older, and usually with an atheistic sense of humor around how we can access the cheapest option for body disposal. In these future-oriented discussions, our kids are grown and independent.

In my more rational moments, I’m pretty sure we are going to be okay. But what if we die? I’ve got to tell you, my irrational moments are a lot more frequent these days.

I don’t really have any answers and the hubs and I are yet to have a discussion about what the actual fuck would happen if one of us dropped dead right here and now. To be completely honest, it actually pisses me off that I have to think about this question, let alone plan to have a nuts and bolts conversation about it, but it seems like the responsible thing to do because we have two children who would be lost without us. . .

What do you guys think? Do you have plans for this? Is this something that any other parents in their 30s or 40s are thinking about? 

 

Sweet Spot

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It really was a good week.

I’m contemplating that it really had been just a great week.  I was happy.  I felt genuine, uncomplicated, happiness.

Both of the kids had been relaxed and pleasant.  There was a random, late-winter snow storm and we all got stuck at home.  But instead of contracting cabin fever, we lounged blissfully in our jammies, snuggled, and watched TV.  I even snoozed.  We baked muffins. We ate muffins.  It was a day of cozy comfort.

Then Jack found out a piece of his art had been chosen to be in the district art show.  It was a totally unexpected accomplishment, and we were absolutely thrilled to celebrate it with him.  He was proud and humble as he reluctantly posed in front of his drawing at the local library where the exhibit was held.

The very next day, Emily picked up a book and started reading it to me.  She is having a pretty great year in kindergarten, and all of a sudden, a switch has been turned on in her brain and all she wants to do is read.  She tenaciously sounded out words and struggled through page after page of Dr. Seuss as I cheered her on.

It felt almost too good to be true.

Things almost never go this smoothly.

We were getting out of the house in the morning in one piece without any drama, on time, and with cheerful attitudes. The kids were not bickering with each other as much.  I made a French Toast Bake that Jack (my super picky eater) declared was so good it should be on a cooking show.  Emily slept through each night without coming up to our bed and waking us up.  They said “thank you” for random things that they normally overlook as crap that I just do on the daily because I’m their mom.

Part of me was tempted to break into song and dance, because surely this sort of delightful existence only happened in musicals.

Honestly, I just felt like I was nailing it.  I was totally rocking the working mom gig.  I wasn’t even doing anything different or extraordinary.

I didn’t post about it on any social media for fear of seeming braggy, although I did put up pictures of Jack’s art and a video of Emily reading.  But the larger, greater sense of the motherhood machine running just right- I did not post about that.

It isn’t often that I feel this way; like all is well, and all will be well.

Much more often I am beating myself up for letting the kids watch too much TV, not serving as much veggie as I should, and forgetting to check if Emily has remembered to change her underpants.

I so easily fill with self loathing because I lack energy to force my kids to write thank you notes.  I convince myself I am a failure because my kids’ rooms are pits of despair and I’d rather not deal with them.

And then there are all the times I wonder what the hell I am doing wrong when I can’t seem to get places on time, or when I burn dinner, or when I forget to sign a field trip permission slip.

Even worse are the times when Jack is having a sensory meltdown because his anxiety has gotten the best of him and I am completely helpless to assist him in regulating his emotional state.  Or when Emily is annoyed and frustrated and she tells me she hates me.

This stuff is so hard.  I had no clue that the hard stuff would be so hard, nor that by contrast, that the amazing stuff would be so amazing.

I also had no clue that motherhood would frequently and chronically consist of so much more of the hard stuff.

So, that’s why I’m writing about the little sweet spot we shared that nice week.

It’s important to acknowledge and remember what it feels like to nail it in this gig.  It’s good to write it all down so when times are tough we can remind ourselves what it feels like to know and hold happiness, to do it right.  It’s important to remember that we are doing so, so great, even when we think we aren’t, or when we feel like we are struggling to even put milk in our coffee.

There are good moments if we look for them.  We create them, like we create life, like we create last-minute, haphazard recipes from the last four random things in our fridge at the end of the week.  It doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering.  There can be joy.

And that’s the other important thing to remember in this parenting game:  that there will be joy again.  Even when it feels like the rough patch is going to go on forever, there is still a potential for change.

When was your last parenting sweet spot?  How did you nail it as a mom?  Are you going through a rough patch now?  Talk to me in the comments!  

Find Something Small

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Find something small.
Stay with it.
Give it your heart.
Ache.
Resonate with it.
Tell it your secrets.
Feel the urge to leave.
Stay longer.
Trace its grooves with your fingertip.
Find its secret scent of earth and salt.
Allow your tear to drip onto its surface.
Laugh, but do not leave, not just yet.
Realize the terror in adoring something tiny and tender.
Whisper to it that which you know is certain.
Pull your hand back and continue to find the energy pulsating.
Find something small.
Give it your heart.
Stay there.
Ache.
Stay.
Do it again.
Do it over.
And over.
Again.

……..

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/restart/

Science

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This is science:
I read that for years,
sometimes decades,
after a miscarriage,
random cells
of the deceased fetus
will remain
floating around
in the mama,
having crossed a barrier
and joined
with her tissue,
manipulating
and altering her own
body in ways of which
she may not
be aware
or ever understanding.
So it is
with you.
This is science.
So it is.

Mother’s Day, Depression, and Chosing Your Own Adventure 

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Mother’s Day.

What a fucking crock of shit.  

Do you remember those “Chose Your Own Adventure” books from when we were in fourth or fifth grade?

They were these young reader books where you’d get to the end of a chapter and if you wanted to take the character to a cave to fight a dragon it would tell you to flip to a certain page, and if you wanted the character to get in a boat and sail off someplace, you’d be instructed to go to a different page.

As I got in the shower, and reflected on Mother’s Day, I  thought how motherhood is sort of like a Chose Your Own Adventure book.

I thought this because I thought “Mother’s Day; what a fucking crock of shit.”

And then the guilty little people pleaser in me poked me in the ribs and said meekly, “But you should be so grateful!  It really wasn’t all bad!  Why don’t you just chose to think it was nice?”

It’s true.  Overall it was a nice day.  I felt loved and cared for, managed to please my own mother and my mother in law (nailed it!), and had good laughs among family.  My children made me gifts and delighted me by creating beautiful cards for their grandmothers.

I got sweet, supportive texts from dear friends.  I felt recognized by my husband who pulled out all the stops with four bottles of incredible wine, flowers, and a balloon.  A balloon you guys!  I got a freaking balloon!!  I mean, how does life get any better than that?

If you want your character to chose gratitude and happiness, and to enjoy and be thankful for what she has, please turn to page 42 where she lives happily after.  

Learning to chose the way you think about things is an important step in recovery from anxiety and depression.  I know this as both a mental health professional, and as someone who has experienced anxiety and depression.  When we are able to recognize our negative thoughts and rework them into something more positive and helpful, it often creates a more positive and helpful feeling space in us.

And when we feel better, we behave better.  We get along better with our spouses and friends.  We have more energy for negotiating with the little people in our lives.

So, as I lathered my hair with amazing-smelling coconut shampoo, I tried out some different thoughts about Mother’s Day and I wondered why my initial impulse was to be so negative about it.

Why am I always so negative anyway?  I must really suck at life.  I’m probably going to be rejected by all my friends and family because I’m such a Debbie Downer.  Why can’t I ever just be joyful and super positive about stuff?  What the hell is wrong with me?  Oh.  My.  Gee.

It’s cuz I’m depressed you guys.  That’s why.

I have been for a while.  I’ve been ignoring it and working around the super high anxiety that makes me feel like I’m crawling out of my skin one moment and paralyzed with fear the next.  I’ve been isolating and only talking to a few people in my life.  I’ve had minimal energy to be with friends and family.  

I’ve written almost nothing in the past few months because I’ve had so little energy and almost no joy.

Some of it, I suppose, is chemical- my genetic lot in life.  

A lot of it is situational.

Work has been super stressful for me.  I’m burnt out and experiencing a fairly intense compassion fatigue which doesn’t leave me with much of an empathy cushion for family or social life.

My son’s behavioral issues have been amped up lately and this creates exhaustion and a keen sense of failure as a parent which plays into my depression like a lyrical melody.

I’m also preparing for my daughter to graduate from preschool.  While this is a joyful and exciting time and we are so proud, it also brings into focus a new era for which I am simply not feeling prepared.

Then there is preparing for the summer.  As a working mom, arranging all the moving parts of summer camps, transportation, child care, etc. is hugely nerve wracking for me.  Not to mention a drain on our finances.

Oh, also my mentally ill brother has gone missing again which never fails to throw my family into emotional upheaval.

I’m not sleeping well, so I’m perpetually tired.  My body hurts.  About 67% of the time I’m too stressed to eat so my blood sugar is wonky and I’m grouchy.

And because I’m already feeling emotionally fragile, every other little thing that goes wrong sets me off like a firecracker.

It’s hard for me to admit this.  I actually hate the sound of my own voice in my head as I peck it all out into this post.

It’s hard for me to admit my negative thoughts about Mother’s Day when I should just be fucking grateful.

But you guys, it’s all so hard.  It’s all just so fucking hard.

No one ever told me it would be this hard.  Or maybe they did. . .  maybe somewhere in my memory there is a shadowy recollection of my own mother’s bedraggled face dragging herself in at the end of a working day and trying to get dinner on the table.  Maybe she did try and tell me.  But let’s be honest, even if someone had told me, I would not have believed them, because if any of us believed such a thing we would never procreate.  Our species depends on the very suspension of that disbelief.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is all well and good to chose your thoughts and mood and destiny.  It’s great.  I respect it.

But sometimes the adventures of motherhood chose us and flip us into a cave where it is dark and dank and unpleasant.  When you’re sitting there face to face with the dragon of your depression and your heart is thumping away at a resting rate of 150 beats per minute, it is really hard to have a cohesive thought, let alone a positive one of your own choosing. 

If your character looks up at the dragon and says, “Hey there, guy.  What’s up?” go to page 74 where you will work on acknowledging the shit out of your self worth even on your shittiest day and then eat a taco.  

Yeah.  This isn’t my character’s first trip to the cave.  So I know the least helpful (albeit most tempting) thing to do is to put myself down for being depressed.

I also know that probably the first thing I need to do is look up at that dopey dragon and acknowledge he’s there, lurking and looming like he wants to devour me.  He’s scared of eye contact and he gets a little smaller every time I call him by his name.

It’s all hard, guys, and sometimes holidays can highlight what feels like flaws and make things seem really raw and painful. Part of healing starts with choosing to make room for all those feelings rather than shaming myself for feeling them.