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

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.

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.

Nectarine Season

I originally posted this on my old blog last year, August 15, 2014. I was reeling from the death of Robin Williams by suicide and by the death of Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson. I just reread it and thought it was worth a new look–I hope you do, as well.

___

I was already dreadfully late this morning when I realized that my husband had finished off the coffee I had planned on pouring into my travel mug. I decided that people would rather see me fully caffeinated but a little later than half-caffeinated and just late, so I made another pot. As the coffee was brewing, I decided to make a sandwich because eating at my desk would make up for the being very, very late. I’m quite good at rationalizing.

I got out the turkey, and the spread and the bread and washed off a few limp pieces of iceberg lettuce. As I was making the sandwich, I was thinking how appropriate this sandwich is for this week: bland turkey on wheat-ish bread with soggy iceberg lettuce and a generous helping of Miracle Whip.  Ah, my comfort sandwich. This week of Robin Williams and Ferguson and the always present other news of people hurting each other with policy and projectiles–this week required a full-on comfort sandwich.

I don’t know that anyone would be surprised to hear that I have experienced depression in my life. I know there are people that I love dearly who would prefer that I didn’t share that statement out loud or online, but, frankly, it’s not a very well hidden secret and the tougher I think I am being in my battle with it, the less control I have over my reaction to the rest of the world. So, I’m making a declaration here that is scary in its public nature, but I hope will allow you to see that when I say I needed that sandwich, I wasn’t being just a melodramatic middle-aged white woman. I was being a melodramatic middle-aged white woman who got a severe gut-punch on Monday.

You see, I knew that Robin Williams took his own life when I heard the news that he was dead. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that and I didn’t even really want to know it. Monday night I sat quietly, trying to watch and not watch the news about it at the same time. My instincts were to protect me, because, well, lets just say I wasn’t in the best head place to begin with.

And then I spent the week watching and not watching, reading and not reading, starting to write and never really writing. People told me how I should talk about suicide and depression, and how I shouldn’t. All of it was, I’m sure, well meaning, but frankly, I just didn’t need the word police knocking on my door this week.

And then Michael Brown and Ferguson and militarized police. And that’s all I’m going to say about that right now because … I am a middle-aged white woman with an understanding of institutionalized racism and the politics of privilege and I just think so many people have addressed this so much better than I ever will and yet … yet it is important to be public about being a middle-aged white woman who is angry as hell that black men and boys continue to be killed and jailed disproportionately in this country at this time.

And so, I needed that sandwich. That bland and dough-y concoction that represents home on the day after Thanksgiving (or Thanksgiving night, after all the guests are gone and we have all tucked into the couch and turned on “Love Actually”)–that was what I needed.

I finished making the sandwich and poured my cup of coffee into my travel mug and then I looked around for something to accompany that sandwich at lunch time. And there it was: the Nectarine.

I knew as soon as I picked up that nectarine that it was perfectly ripe. You know how you know these things, you intuit it from the slight give when you pick it up and the weight of it that indicates it is full of juice and sugar and happiness. And I knew that if I packed that nectarine into something to take with me to eat with lunch that it would be bruised or the skin would tear and leak all that loveliness all over my backpack.

So I stood there, in my kitchen, with that nectarine in my hand, looking out over what promised to be a stunningly beautiful day with the sun shining on my deck and on all the lovely flowers, and I knew what had to be done.

I dug my teeth into the flesh of that perfect nectarine while holding the paper towel under my chin and as my teeth tore through the flesh, they released the juices which would have dribbled all over my chin if I hadn’t had the forethought and good teaching to just slurp those juices up while I ripped at that flesh. And the taste? Divine.

I stood in my kitchen, leaning out over the island, ripping and slurping with an abandon that was downright pornographic, but I didn’t care. The nectarine was perfect and it needed to be appreciated in its fullness. But more than that, I realized after I’d wiped my chin and washed my hands and was heading in to work with the taste still lingering at the roof of my mouth–lingering in a way that made me put off taking a drink of coffee because I just didn’t want to lose that flavor–I needed to eat it.

I needed to taste that taste that is the perfection of life–the fruit at its height of ripeness. I needed to feel that burst of flavor and color that is the exact antithesis to the eating experience I envisioned as I made that sandwich.

I needed that nectarine AND I needed that sandwich at the end of this week. I needed to be comforted and I needed to be shocked back into living in this real and complex world, this world that has rules we understand and those we don’t. This world that has spoken and unspoken codes by which we are supposed to live. One of my struggles with depression is not that I’m sad, but that I am expected to not be, because that isn’t “normal.” But really, it is normal– for me.

As I drove home, I thought about that nectarine and how I wanted to sing it’s praises for just being perfect and about how great fruit season is and all that. I thought about Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which really was the start of my spiritual journey. I had to go look up the quote I was thinking about, you probably know it, it’s the one everyone knows:

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple 

And I’m glad that I didn’t piss God off today by walking past that nectarine, but I’m even more glad that the search for that quote led me to this one:

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple
both quotes found here: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3300573-the-color-purple

This is my theology. This is what I (mostly) live by.

And this is my learning this week. Not that I should say this or I shouldn’t say that. Not that depression is what it is and it won’t ever not be that. But that there are ebbs and flows and that I needed to be jolted back into living, writing, and being and it took this little ball of fruit to re-anchor me.

We are all an expression of the divine. It is important to remember that of each other, but also of ourselves. It may not be enough to save ourselves from the diseases that pull at us, or from the learned behaviors that keep directing us to believe we are not a connected body. But then again, it may be enough, and for now, that’s where I’m putting my energy. Because “for now” is really all any of us has.