Buoyancy

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m sinking. Not bobbing up and down like I’m treading life, nor even my own weird little breast stroke toward a known shore. Just sinking, a teensy bit here and a teensy bit there.

I can feel the tug on my ankles, on my spine, and even, sometimes, at the base of my neck.

Of course, my initial reaction to this feeling is to think of it as negative: I’m drowning! Something is wrong! I must have a foot tumor! (I don’t. I have the fairly common and treatable plantar fasciitis–maybe, I see the doctor next week.)

This is me. “I’m sinking!” waving my arms toward a shore I can’t see and certain that no one is paying attention as the water covers my heart, my ears, my eyes.

Instead, I could rid myself of the water metaphor and simply tell myself: “I’m landing! I’m getting grounded! I’m finding my footing–even with a foot tumor!” and then rest in the damp grass while smelling the newly blooming flowers.

It is a choice, isn’t it? To decide if what I am feeling is a good thing or a thing of dread. Though most days it takes the form of dread and anger, until I look around me and see that I am cared for by someone who deserves so much more from a partner who isn’t partnering much these days–like he threw me the lifeline and instead of helping him to pull me back into the boat, I’m either floating, fully buoyant, or resisting with dead weight because that’s what I feel like right now. Dead weight.

You know, I sat down to write about underpants. Yup. Underpants. He hates when I write about such things. But I was remembering how I opened the underpants drawer the other day as I got dressed and there was a fire of joy lit when I saw that the ones on top were The Big Underpants–the cotton, stretched out but still functioning, REALLY big underpants. It was like, oh, THIS is going to be a comfortable day.

And then, boom, the realization that all my days are “comfortable” right now. None of my days require anything but the big underpants–or at least very few of them. This is when I feel the tug that feels like drowning.

Like when I am enjoying eating an orange as I sit on the steps of the back deck, sun shining on my face and the orange cat stretched out behind me in the shade of my body. And then, BOOM: I don’t deserve this. I have not worked for this moment of joy. And there isn’t enough grace in the universe to cover my not working, not deserving.

I am floating gracelessly these days–even floating between being fully buoyant and easy to move to being the full dead weight of myself. I’ve been floating from one thing until I land at the next, pretending I am laying the groundwork for economic recovery down the road. Except I’m not really pretending, because I believe it. I believe that I am planting seeds even when it feels like I’m just sitting on the wet turf, my bottom sinking deeper and deeper.

But it doesn’t buy bread or wine, this seed-planting.

And maybe I’m a fool for believing in myself when there is no evidence to point toward that ever working before. But this is me, putting one sore foot in front of another. Trying to find my ground again. Trying to remember that gravity is my friend and being pulled down is not always a bad thing.

Oh, and all days should be big underpants days. Just sayin’.

 

70. If I Follow the Line

If I follow the line
from my door
to your harbor

one foot after
the other
striking pavement

heel to toe
heel to toe
heel to toe

the echo thudding
against my ribs
my skull

as I pace
myself
to you

What is the
strength of your
sanctuary?

Will it wall
off the wolves
who gnaw

on the flesh of
my dreams and
small treasure?

If I follow that line
will I remember
who I was?

53. Cotton Candy Clouds

The light is fading
pinky-blue in the
western sky
a huge white cloud
is lit up like
electric cotton candy
and I’m inside
thinking of you
sorrow welling up
for the distance
between us
sorrow consuming me
for lost moments
and lost years

But when I look at
that cotton candy sky
I set the sorrow aside
briefly
and remember
that not all that is lost
is gone
just tucked away
for some other time.

49. Some Day

Some day,
I hope we look back
and laugh
and call it the
season(s) of
flecking off paint
while watching
paint dry

Some day,
I hope the ghost
shows and the ghost
poems and the ghost
projects

will prove to have
added up to
something good
something solid
something you
can be proud of

Today, though,
I’m picking the
black paint from around
my cuticles and
pondering how to
transform a rusty
old drawer into
a coffee table

and wondering how
I have earned
your loyalty in
times filled with
things unseen,
tangible only
like tiny spider webs
that jump up in
door jambs
every other second.

Some day
I hope we both
see what was
being built in these
months that have
stretched out longer
than either of us
imagined

and know that
it was good
like a too-long
pregnancy that
still produces
a loved and
yearned for baby.


Photo credit: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/rid-outside-spiders-harming-bushes-77713.html

Out of the Couch

A few weekends ago, my husband and I attempted (and accomplished) a Herculean task: we moved one couch to the road and another up the stairs.

This is on my mind right now because since then, I have had a constant soreness from the socket of my shoulder down the inside of my upper arm. It is also on my mind because every time I walked through the dining room that week and looked out the window, I saw that old, nasty, under-stuffed, hard-to-get-out-of, cat-hair-covered, couch still sitting out by the side of the road.

Even though, or perhaps because, it is a chocolate brown, the stains from a decade of use are all over it. The truth is I could probably live with the yuck a little longer. Because that couch has been at the center of many of our family gatherings, it has held three goofy girls and a dog; three goofy girls and their cats; and was the place where I would go in the middle of the night when my restlessness overwhelmed me and I feared I would wake my husband.

It was also the place I sought solace in these last several, reclusive months.

So, while I could have lived with its largeness, darkness, and uncomfortableness for a bit longer, what I couldn’t live with any more is what that couch has come to represent for me. I’ve spent way too much time of the last 15 months stuck in that space at the end of the couch, with my Facebook, and knitting, and ghost shows. Perhaps it is too much to share, how these last few months, especially, have been for me. It will make some people uncomfortable if I come out and say, point blank: I’ve been drowning in depression.

I recognized the symptoms. Depression isn’t new to me, but I don’t recall ever having been in it so long or so deep. It took me until recently and with loving prodding to realize how profoundly it had come to affect my family, my marriage, my career, let alone my own sense of self.

I’m getting help now. That’s the up side of the story–as in when you hit the floor of the couch, there’s no place left to go but up. And then back down; and then back up again.

Yeah, I get this. Like I said, this isn’t a new thing except for the depth of it. And I’m hoping with the medicine and the therapy and the support of my family and friends (most especially my husband who is learning a new way of being with me and deserves all the accolades for loving me through this), that the lows will not be as low as they have been all this time.

Why am I telling you this? Maybe because May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I’ve seen other people I know sharing what depression looks like for them. Maybe it’s because I see myself climbing out of the couch and toward something else. Maybe because I’m one of those bloggers who just can’t help herself from sharing all the dark and disgusting parts of her life (and I’m not just talking about the old couch!).

And maybe it’s because I finally realized that pretending is just too hard.

Pretending to be healthy when you are not takes way more energy than allowing yourself to not be healthy. I learned this when a friend in the 1980s finally, finally, revealed to me that her female roommate was actually her lover. Thirty years later, I still remember the relief she showed when she could finally be her whole self with me, and I remember that she was no longer taking one or two sick days per week.

It is hard to be what you are not. This would go for being on the autism spectrum and pretending to not be; to being undiagnosed with ADHD and trying so very hard to be organized and punctual when you just don’t work that way; or when your sex says “male” but your gender says “female” (or vice versa).

It is hard to pretend.

And for several months (years?), I pretended like I was on the mend, on my way to becoming whole and healthy like, you know, “normal” folk. Maybe it is too soon. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything just yet, but even on that rainy, snowy, sleet-y, blowy day when we were lugging that nasty old couch to the road, I could see the depression shifting from something hidden and wrong to something else.

Maybe it was just replacing the deep, dark couch with a lighter and firmer one. But, I think it was more likely that the meds had started to kick in and I was able to stop the pretense, at least in the familiar place of my home, and define a new “normal,” at least for me.

Maybe this is too personal to share. Maybe you aren’t comfortable with any of it.

That’s okay.

Maybe I can just let this hang out there, having been said, and move on, one moment to the next. But moving on is going to include being exactly who I am: kind, loving, funny, cranky, absent-minded, a little judgy, creative, apparently the slowest driver in the family and a lousy co-pilot, to boot. And you know what else it is going to require? Being outside the couch.

So, as Cole Porter would say, “goodbye, dear (couch), and amen“. Here’s hoping we don’t meet again.

Post Script:  Shortly after we took said couch to the road, I had two reminders from two people who let me know that I matter to them. One was a text from a friend, thanking me for reminding her that she does, in fact, love a mutual friend. The second was when a friend literally gave me the sweater off her back. Okay, almost literally. She dropped it off with a loving letter, after I admired it when we had lunch the week before.  I doubted it would fit me because she is quite slender and I am, well, not. But, like the traveling pants, fit, it did.

These acts–a kind word, a meaningful gift–remind me that I am of the living, connected, across time and space, to a wealth of amazing people who love and care about and for me. And for all of them, I’ll keep living one moment into the next wherever those moments lead–up or down or sideways–because I know I’m being buoyed by love.

And I am grateful for everything–from love and support, to therapy and meds–that got me out of the couch, at least for this day and the next. (Though, ironically, I’m writing this from the exact same location on the new, lighter couch. Progress, friends, doesn’t always look like we think it should.)

Post Post-Script: On trash day, before the men came to take said couch away, two women came to my door and asked if they could take it. “It’s nasty!” I said. “We have an upholstery cleaner at home and we have a friend leaving a bad situation–she has no furniture!” I was glad to see the old girl going on to help someone else.

Repeating Grace

Last night I arrived home very late, after driving an hour to and from a three hour meeting that was supposed to make me feel better.

But it didn’t.

I was edgy and I came home to two people with their noses in computers (one of which was MY computer) and Stephen Colbert blaring (but funny), and I sat down in a chair and just kind of started to feel even more edgy. Painfully edgy.

Add to that the fact that several times over the weekend I found myself being snappish with my spouse and child–and being called on it in the most direct and kind ways.

I had no answer for my peevishness. I just simply said, “I don’t know why!” as if to stop the whole thing.

This morning, as is often the case, someone posted something I needed to read on Facebook. This morning, it was Glennon Melton Doyle (aka Momastery) who had an occasion to re-post a post she had posted before because she knows what we all know but we all forget, just like she did: we don’t often learn things after one lesson. Sometimes, when we are tired or whatever, we get the opportunity (!) to learn it all over again.

Before I read this post, the morning had gone along as it should: husband and child got themselves up and out of the house with only a modicum of intervention on my part. And I was going to go back to sleep because last night’s edginess leached into my time to sleep last night and kept me tossing about in my bed and then on the couch until about the time that my husband woke me up exactly as I had asked him to. But the cat crawled onto my chest and he made me sneeze, and then he started loving on me with his claws and then, and then, and then I was up making coffee and reading facebook and started to fall into my bad habit of sinking into the couch while the television told me ghost stories.

Then I came upon Glennon’s post. And I read it. And I cried a little. And I asked myself to identify what it was I was avoiding by being so edgy and prickly and non-communicative with the people who are closest to me. And it hit me. I was simply reacting to being uncomfortable. Not just being uncomfortable, but putting myself into uncomfortable positions ON PURPOSE.

So, you know how one day your kid comes up to you for a hug and you realize that the top of their head is now hitting you uncomfortably in the boob (or whatever) when only last week their face could plant itself smoothly against your flat belly? And then you go, aaaaaah, now I understand why they were such a holy terror last week! Growing pains!

Well, that’s what I did to myself this morning–figured out that what was causing my angst and agitation was the rubbing and chafing of my psyche as it was trying to become something more against the comfort of what I have always been. Growing pains!

It doesn’t make it any less painful to know that’s what’s going on. But it sure does help me understand it and pull it into perspective.

It still doesn’t mean that I don’t have some legitimate gripes about the meeting that was supposed to make me feel better but instead left me feeling more alone and vulnerable than before I went. But it does mean I don’t get to be pissy with my kid about it. I mean, I could be pissy before I realized what was going on because I wasn’t tuning in to the fact that what was making me mad was me, not her. But now, as they say, I know better, so I have to DO better. And it doesn’t let me off the hook for taking my legitimate gripes to the people who can do something about it or explain it away to me.

Oh, this growing stuff. So many expectations, so many opportunities. So many ways to f*** it all up. And, like Glennon, so many opportunities to invite grace in.

I’m off now to go do growing stuff. Y’all have a great day — and I hope it includes at least one opportunity to experience grace and love.

Tina

Memorializing the Milk

Note: I just found this in my notebook. I wrote it at the end of May and it was true then. I read it over yesterday and I realized that it isn’t completely true now. But I find it quirky and a little funny and the invitation you don’t want to receive: the one into my brain. It got me thinking about responsibility and the truth and the way we describe ourselves to ourselves AND to others. I would never write these things about myself now–much has changed since the end of May, when living still seemed like a chore rather than a gift. But here it is. For some reason, I felt you needed to see it today. I hope you laugh a little more than you wince. I did.

Memorializing the Milk

The thing that helps memory
doesn’t work so well in me
and I am frustrated by how
often I have to remind those
who love me that I cannot
remember numbers
That’s why there are writing tools
and tricks to help me

That is also why I married someone
who does remember
not so I can annoy him with my
not remembering
but because he has what I lack
as I have what he lacks
and what we both have
are close to each others on those
important continuums.

I don’t forget
in order to inflict pain
which does not mean that pain
does not happen
or irritation
or anger
or outright hostility

I forget because my brain doesn’t work like yours.

And while there are tips and tricks to help me
manage that skill,, I find myself a slave to
managing a talent I don’t have
and waste time I could spend
on the talents I do have.

There are days or minutes when I wish
I was linear
and could follow you down the straight
path of logic and conclusion
and rational thought

And then my mind spins off in a direction
you’d never go and I find such delight
in the journey
I can’t imagine straight lines of here to there
without the quick trip to somewhere
and somewhere else.

Sometimes you listen and take the ride
with me
and you shake your head and I see
you smile and you wonder at the way my brain
can think so fantastically

and still forget the milk.

and the honey.

and the cheese.

and where I left my phone.

But I’m thinking of how to stop the killing and
incarceration of black and brown people
by the use of verse
and a phrase gets stuck in my brain
and suddenly it has pushed the phone, the milk,
and the cheese to the edges where
they will, sometimes, be found again.

Okay, so sometimes I’m just thinking about
leaves and grass and the temporary and
impermanent

but that, too, sees drastic and important
and worthy of the captivation of my brain.

Anyone can remember the milk.
So why would you ask me to do something
anyone can do
when I am so clearly able to do
things that only I can do
in my brain not built for remembering
but for memorializing.

And it would be odd,
even for me,
to memorialize the milk.