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My depression has taken on a physical countenance.  The pain rips across my abdomen osculating between pain and nausea.  I know it’s depression because when I think of something I need to do, it gets worse and when I focus on it, really look deeper, it disappears.  Depression comes when you’re not paying attention, when you’re so wrapped up in everyday life that the moment you look away it sneaks past and takes hold and the next thing you know all you can do is think about how much of a failure you are, how much you haven’t done, and how much you will never get done. 

It dawned on me that my days, my year, are a collection of things I haven’t done.  Stories I haven’t written.  Activities I haven’t done with the kids.  Rooms that haven’t been cleaned.  And I realized that I have a choice.  I can choose to have my days filled with things I haven’t done, or I can fill them with things I have.  I made the bed today.  Ok so it’s not much but it is something I have done.  I made a bracelet for a friend yesterday and took the kids to the pond.  And I will force the kids to step away from the video games and make a bird house or something today and even though I am going alone, I will take the kids to Sturbridge Village tomorrow. 

It doesn’t have to be much but if I can force myself to focus on the things I’ve done then I can slowly whittle away at the pain striping across my belly and maybe, eventually, I can do the things I really need to do, like finish my stories, send out queries and go back to school.  This is me still fighting. This is me still working toward a better life.  I think a year of letting depression take over is enough and I am making the choice today that I want my life back.  Life is too short not to make every single day count for something.  It’s time to start counting.

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I published “Nothing” because sometimes there is no happy ending.  Sometimes the darkness lasts longer than a day, a week, or a month.  Sometimes you are thrown into a well so dark that all you can do is feel the thorns, weeds and brambles growing in your own soul and do your best to just hold on and sometimes you don’t, hold on that is, sometimes you fall and you disappear.

I wish depression could be classified as illness because then I could go to bed, rest up for a few days and then be done.  At the very least I would have an excuse  as to why I disappear from life for a while, why Girl Scouts is less than it could be, why I don’t get together with friends, why I don’t apply for jobs, why I don’t write.  I can’t.  I can’t do any of it when I’m depressed.  I just move through life feeling my way in the dark, doing what I have to, feed the family, do the laundry, sweep the floor, clean the bathroom, go to church, teach Sunday School, do Girl Scouts, etc.

I think it’s going to break any day now.  I push against it, I rage against it, I let it in, I push it away, I embrace it, I cast it out, I work around it,  I work through it but sometimes nothing works and I just have to let it run its course and drag me along for the ride and stay alive.

I suffer from depression.  Yes, I know you know.  If you’ve read any post on this blog, you know.  If you’ve talked to me in person, you know.  In fact the only one who doesn’t really know, who needs to be reminded, and needs to get with the program…is me.  I want so desperately to NOT suffer from depression that I forget, and then it hits me like a Mac truck and I’m like, oh yeah, that.

Its breaking.  The fact that I’m writing this is a definite indication.  I woke up yesterday and actually felt satisfaction while doing the laundry.  Yeah that’s my tell.  When I feel like I’m accomplishing something by throwing in a load of laundry, I know it’s starting to break.  I actually felt excited about working on “end of the year” cards, something I haven’t felt in a while. The house is a little messier…actually a tell because I’m trying to fit other things into my life.  I think I’m at about a six on the scale, precariously balanced, on the verge of falling, but just above the halfway mark, then again maybe I’m a four.  At any rate I’m moving up.

I know, somewhere past the darkness, beyond the brambles, around the useless and waste of time and space, I am learning.  I am growing.  I am becoming stronger.  I know that I am becoming who I am supposed to be.   I know that I have to be true to myself, or else it will kill me.  I know I have to follow my heart and listen to my soul, it’s this or the darkness.  The thorns have thinned a bit,  the weeds have loosened their grasp and I’m beginning to move forward, with a little less baggage and a little less pain.  I’ve actually had a few bouts of joy bubble up here and there.  It’s amazing what you find when the darkness clears and the sun peeks through the vines.  I’m focusing on the joy.  I’m reaching for the light.  I’m going to be ok.

Nothing

Lately, I’ve been wafting through life.  You know, not writing, not really doing or saying anything and for the most part I still am.  I’m not feeling particularly happy but not feeling sad either.  I put in an application for an 8th grade English teacher position, which I would love, but at the same time  I’m trying not to get my hopes up (it is the same position I didn’t get last year).  I know I need to get my masters but honestly if I don’t get a teaching position I’m not sure which direction I’m going in so I’m sort of holding off.  My youngest daughter’s teacher gave me a sheet for an online school, but I can’t seem to find it and I’m just walking along life in a daze, just waiting, nowhere to go and no real idea of where I want to go anyway.

I haven’t written, part of me is waiting for the whole thing to go away, another part of me is waiting for the passion to return, but either way I need to move on and I’m afraid if I fall right back into the writing that the desire to teach will fade and I can’t risk that.  I can’t go another year not teaching, not writing, and not getting anywhere.

So I’ve done very little.  The house is a little cleaner, but other than that nothing is really happening.  I’m sort of in the middle, waiting for my mood to finally go one way or another.  Yesterday I ran, but didn’t really care; today I am working and again, don’t care.

Here’s the thing, if I give in to writing then will I loose teaching?  I can’t help but think that if I let writing back in, I’ll go back to dreaming, to aspiring and I will never get a job.  I will never become a teacher, but in the same token, I don’t want to be here, working that is.  Well I do I just don’t want to be here right now.  If I was an English teacher, then I’d want to be here…right?

I’m just letting my stream of consciousness run its course,  trying to figure things out, but it seems to me that I need to conform…to fit in to what the world thinks I should be and not what I want to be.  I need to start wanting to be a teacher, working towards it and hopefully become it, then I can see how I can fit writing into my life, if at all.

But then, I know, that at the end of my life, it is my writing that will define me, not my teaching, not the amount of money I made, or how many kids I helped, it will be my stories…but I’m sorry, I am just not strong enough to hold onto them anymore.  I’m not strong enough to keep fighting the fight, keep writing the right…I give up.  I quit.

 

Perspective

I’m feeling a little cabin feverish.  I have been locked up in the house since Saturday with two sick kids.  Now admittedly, some of my sequester is self imposed.  Sunday I could have left my son in the capable hands of my husband, but I was afraid of a fever spike and when the boy looked at me with his flushed little face and said, “Mom, please stay home,” well, I caved.  Tuesday the school called about my daughter and as the first child was preparing to go back to school the second was now home with a temp of 101 and rising. Tuesday night I could have gone to my Writers club meeting, same said husband made arrangements and I could have gone,  consumed with guilt and worry the entire time but I could have.  But now that the second child is feeling better I am gaining a different perspective and it’s not like she would have had a death inducing fever spike in the time it would have taken me to get home to judge the temperature of the warm bath water warm enough not to induce a seizer.  Yes I’ve been in the house way too long.

So I’ve puttered around the house, made homemade organic chicken soup that apparently tasted like soap according to the feverish nine year old and generally got nothing done.  I’m feeling a little devoid of adult companionship right now, a little crazy due to the fact that I cleaned and really you can’t tell and a bit sick after eating too many snickerdoodles eaten out of boredom.  And now on top of that I’m forcing myself to run, because, I guess, I don’t feel bad enough. 

Running sucks.  It hurts so bad that when I begin a run I’m certain even childbirth wasn’t this bad.  And yet here I am on my fifth attempt at making it a solid part of my life.  Why?  Like the stated perspective from above this is my present perspective on running now in the hopes that when I do want to quit this will help me to keep going.

I’m not running now.  I’m sitting at my computer, writing this post, not running.  The absolute best thing about running is not running.  The best day is a non-running day.  Oh to wake up in the morning and think, “This is not a running day!  Yes!” That is one of the best things in the world.  And I only have to suffer for 30 minutes out of every 48 hours.  Really that’s not too tough to take.

The next best thing about running is how I feel when I am not running.  (noticing a theme here?)  I ran Monday, I slept like a log Monday night.  I woke Tuesday morning with my body tingling in a strange satisfying way (please do not tell me the tingling is indicative of some major disease…la la, la, la. I’m not listening).  Walking feels good, cuz it’s not running.  I move more and do more when I’m in between the running because a walk down my killer driveway and the trek back up…is not running!  Anything physical hurts less than running. 

Also, I can easily track my progress.  No I don’t mean on the scale that would be way too normal, and clearly I am not.  When I first started this sadistic activity, running for one minute hurt, like, want to die hurt.  I can now run a whole minute and not want to die.  That’s progress.  Today I ran three sets of 3 minutes…I think.  I’ve stopped keeping track.  I walk for five minutes, run to the next song which is 3 minutes, walk to the next song, then run and so forth until I reach thirty minutes of activity.   If I can keep up a three day a week schedule then I’ll increase but for right now I’m moving.  That is measurable progress.

And the final best thing, when I am running and trying not to let my eyes focus on any one object because I’ll get dizzy and throw up, I think.  I write in my head. I remember things that I already should know but have forgotten.  Like today, I was reminded that if I want my dream to come true, well then no one else is going to make it happen for me.  It is up to me and I better get myself back to work and my eyes on the prize. 

As always I am still trying to find balance in my life and if my goal is to be the absolute best me then I need to work on the body, mind and soul.  Those three things will make me complete.  I work on my soul when I do good things, when I pray and when I meditate.  I work on my mind when I write and when I force myself to learn new things like create a website and go to an All in One Overnight Girl Scout Training…ALL BY MYSELF!  Which honestly has me in a nauseous panic but I’m going to discuss the date with my husband and sign up tomorrow.  After that, there’s no backing out. (unless there’s a hurricane or a flood…tsunami? One can only hope)  Aannd I work on my body by running and trying to eat right.  

We are all works in progress.  Some of us (me) just progress a little slower than others.  Some have the perfect scene painted on the outside but underneath the color is an entirely different perspective.  I’m trying to paint who I am directly onto the canvass.  I’m striving to paint my truth regardless of how difficult and intimidating it might be because honestly if I paint a facade I’m terrified the real me will disappear under the synthetic colors and bleaching overlays.  So I paint real, real joy, real pain and everything in between. There will be mistakes…lots of them and it might just take me a lifetime…or two…or twenty to finally finish this work, but I know if I paint true to myself there is going to come a day when my perspective will change, where I will be standing on the outside looking back at all of my hard work and think, now there’s the masterpiece I’ve had pictured in my head since I started this gig, oh roughly about the beginning of time.

The Magic

Words have left me.  Oh not the normal words like, get your backpack, get in the car, get ready for bed, have you brushed your teeth yet…I still have all of those words and then some.  I’m talking about the beautiful words.  The ones that when strung together can make someone feel something you yourself simply made up.  The ones that are capable of making someone pause for a second and see something new within.  My writing has left me and I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself.  I wrote a post last Tuesday but it was so miserable I didn’t put it up.  No point in making everyone else feel as bad as I did.

I wrote that I quit trying to be a writer, that I had officially given up,  I would never get published and I think I said a few things that weren’t very nice about myself.  Yes I was depressed, but I was doing all the right things, meditating, praying, trying to write, exercising, but nothing was working.  I was pushing all the right buttons but getting all the wrong items to fall out of the vending machine, or just getting nothing at all.

I felt my story calling to me but whenever I went to it I was painfully disappointed at how inadequate the words were. Sure it had a beginning, middle and an end.  Of course the words said something, but they didn’t paint the emotion or affectivity (my new word for the day) of the story.  They didn’t flow with the beauty and magic this story is and I couldn’t fix it, and the dark cloud got thicker and colder around me.

Sunday morning I sat in church with this weight in my chest, cuddling up to my children, too overburdened to speak with anyone and a thought formed in my head; I am supposed to be learning something from this. This awful feeling has something to teach me. Peace came over me for a second and then it was gone.

Over this past week I just dragged the depression around with me.  Getting through the week, no longer trying to write through it.  What was the point.  Sometimes depression needs to be fought, sometimes it needs to be felt but every time it needs to be heard.  And I wasn’t listening. (Again!)  My default setting needs some serious rewiring.  This is getting ridiculous.

But interestingly enough, on occasion something would peek through the clouds, little gems of my life showing themselves.  Tuesday I stumbled my way through planning a Girl Scout meeting.  When my co-leader asked my reasoning for doing an activity the ‘hard way’ I automatically explained, without thought, that letting the girls figure it out for themselves not only gave them a chance to lead but gave us a chance to see the dynamics of the group at work.  To see who could stand up and lead, who needed to be encouraged a little more and who stood on the sidelines with the potential but not the opportunity (that’s me by the way).  Later walking into the grocery store (for the fifth time this week!) I thought through the darkness, hey, I’m still in there somewhere.  It was a relief to know the best of me was not as lost as I felt.

Later in the week, I was changing out of my work clothes into my comfy lounge pants and noted, it was almost time for bed, my husband would be home and soon I’d be lying next to him, warm and safe.  After 11 years of marriage, it is still the absolute best part of my day.  “Life is good,” crossed my mind.

Thursday I worked and of course the kids asked how my book was coming.  I think I growled.  “That good huh?” One responded.  “I’m in a slump,” I answered.  I stopped their questioning and got to work, we had homework to correct, a story to read and MCAS prep to do. No time to distract Mrs. Warner today.  We read the story and I asked the questions the teacher’s book told me to ask and the kids asked their questions.  Why does the author use that word?  Why can’t he just say the kid felt bad instead of “remorse settled on him like a quilt”?  and I told them, nothing an author writes is for no reason.  Every word is suffered for, thought about, revised and re-revised.  Authors used words to create art, like a painter using colors.  The more vivid the colors the more vibrant the painting and the same goes for writing.   Writing is Art.

Today I opened up my email and a blog I follow was on there, and honestly I don’t follow many.  Mainly because I don’t have time and I am easily distracted if I am checking my email before I get to writing.  “Live simply, travel lightly, love passionately & don’t forget to breathe”  is written by a woman who travels and photographs the places she experiences.  What I like about it is that she has the courage to go places I wouldn’t dare to dream about and she takes me with her in her posts, in her photographs and with her words.

Thank you Elena for reminded me the Magic is always there.  I just forgot for a little while.

“Your salvation lies within the soul of your story.”

(a whisper running around in my head when I woke up at 2am)

Magic can never be owned.  It can only be experienced.  My words are magic and I have to let them bloom rather than force them to be what I think they should be.  I write for more than hope of a paycheck.  Writing is my connection to my God and my self and I forgot that for a moment. My words are back, the dark rain cloud is away for now, and the magic is waiting.  I can’t wait to discover it all over again.

See you in 35

We are now in the season of Lent, well actually we’ve been in the season of Lent for about a week now I just haven’t stopped long enough to notice or choose if I will give something up or add something in.  I know, I embrace many different religious ideals and I also know I don’t have to participate in the practice, but I kind of like Lent.  I can hear it now.  You’re not supposed to like Lent.  It’s supposed to be a time where you suffer before the joy of Easter…  It’s not supposed to be fun!

Ok, so maybe fun is a little over the top but Lent brings me back.  I have a Catholic foundation and despite some of the non-Catholics and former Catholics around me I don’t necessarily look to my childhood religious experience as bad.  I remember going to church with my mother and grandmother, leaning against my mom, her rubbing my hand to quiet me.  I remember donuts or malasadas on Sunday mornings and big Sunday dinners and I remember Lent, giving up something like soda or chocolate for forty days and then joyously getting it all back plus some on Easter morning.  Who wouldn’t equate that with good feelings?

Now don’t get me wrong I have always been just a little different when it came to church, even as a kid.  I always looked for more in every story, saw Jesus as a man more than a god and as I got older, was always looking for a deeper connection even if my eyes wandered to another church or school of thought, but my foundation is Catholic and I don’t think I could have found a stronger structure to build my “new age” ideas upon because when all else fails and I’m too tired or sorrowful to see the power of the Universe I always fall right back into God’s arms.  It’s kind of like that line in The Hunt for Red October, you know the Sean Connery submarine movie, where the sonar can’t figure out what the silent sub is and says it’s something geologic.  The tech says the software used to be for geologic study so when it doesn’t understand something is just, “runs back home to mama.”  That’s me, when things get really bad I run back home to God and He is always there waiting to catch me.

Some might think that my practice is wrong, taking and leaving God.  I am surely going to Hell.  Well, maybe, but considering my aforementioned differences I have always seen Him as a father, and as a mother I want my children to go out into the world and make informed choices, to think for themselves and embrace differences and I believe that is what God wants for me.  I believe He is in every part and every feeling of every good religious/spiritual belief and like a father playing hide and seek or peek a boo with his child, He wants me to find him in every place I can.  I was born with this seeker’s heart; my dance has always been just a step out of the norm and I know He wants me to embrace the gift he has given, even if on some days I don’t see it as a gift.

Lent is like one of those little organized lessons of man.  It takes a really big concept and puts it into understandable steps and actions.  You take a time and give something up and become a little better and possibly a little closer to God because of your sacrifice.  Over the years it has gotten more specific, or I have gotten older and a smidge smarter, so now during your time of sacrifice you are to pray or meditate or read a book, and instead of giving something up you make a positive change.  A few Lents back made a promise to attend church more.  I so have that covered now.  I teach Sunday School to preschoolers and I rarely miss a day, not exactly what I was going for but I’m there.  This year they asked us instead of giving up something to give more, give more of yourself, more of your time, and/or more of your love to others.  Honestly I’m not sure I have anymore to give.  I feel like I’m running on empty now.

I sub, I write, I take care of my family, I teach Sunday School, I do Girl Scouts, I run an enrichment program when school is not in session, I tutor and each of these things get 100 % of me.  I throw myself into Girl Scouts as much as I throw myself into my writing.  A few years back I had my first anxiety attack because I was doing so much it simply didn’t fit into my life.  I wrote everything I was doing onto little scraps of paper so I could “see”  my activities.  I was doing 12 different things, not including the house (which let’s be honest I really don’t do) and realized I needed to make a change and with some work and a little help from above I was able to cut some of the things either back or completely out in an effort to stay sane.

So what should I do for Lent?  I am presently working on being my best wherever I am, I am trying to get back to a consistent running schedule (presently in the failure part of the process once again), and I am trying to (ok maybe just thinking about) organize the office, my crafts and the upstairs closets.  Each and every day is a time for me to make myself better, do I really need Lent?  Well since it is still buzzing around inside my crazy head, I guess I do.
What I need is to fortify my soul.  I need to be quiet more.  If God lies within then I need to spend a little more time with myself and stop letting the activity of the outside world (and my brain) distract me from sitting in silence and hearing what God wants me to know.   If Lent is a time to get closer to God then I need to think along those lines.

Yes, I know the answer. (sigh) I’ve known all along; I was just effectively ignoring it.  I need to meditate more.  I’ve written about it before, but because it’s a spiritual thing I’ve always just let my feelings indicate when I should sit still, the indicating feelings usually being absolute desperation and insanity.  I need to take my spiritual beliefs and add a religious(repetitive) component so it becomes stronger.  Ohhhhh…so this is why these little exercises were devised so we can take a look at what we have and make it better.  I know that I give to those around me, I now need to give to God.  It’s like what I tell my ten year old in church every week, “You can give ten minutes to God.”  I can give him ten minutes a day?  Let’s not get crazy!  Baby steps.  Right now I’m lucky if I’m giving ten minutes a month.  Ooo! that is so bad. Just writing it shows me how bad it is.  Ok, so lets start small and see where I can go with this.  Lets start with ten minutes of meditation a week for Lent and then see if I can work up to ten minutes a day over the course of the year.  Sounds like a plan right?  Right.  Now I have to go meditate, feed the kids, do laundry, run, write…where in the Lenten Law did adding new things become concurrent?  I think I’m hyperventilating.  Maybe I can get rid of one of the kids.  Just Kidding!  Deep Breath.  This will help!  I can do this and I will be better for it.  See you in forty days…nope, wait, 35.

Finding My Way

To back up my claim that I am getting messages that point in equally opposite directions (see post “Halfway” ) or maybe to simply confirm that I am not completely crazy I have been paying attention which is the lesson I learned from my first six months doing this blog.  Let me share a few events.  Last Friday was the first day since the end of November that I had time to write.  I had the day off and three hours before I was to meet a friend for lunch.  Although I didn’t actually write, I did work on the the basic outline for the juvenile novel I am working on.  As I researched and worked with little cards to try and figure out the long term storyline I came to the realization that this book is actually going to be 6 or 7 books.  The theme is wonderful and all the pieces came together so well I actually got goosebumps.  It felt so incredible to be creating again.  Writing Right!

I picked up my friend for lunch and we had a lovely afternoon together.  After lunch we went to the Paper Store.  We were searching through clearance jewelry and as I was searching I found a charm bracelet for nurses.  My friends a nurse so naturally I handed it to her.  It was five bucks and we joked it was meant to be.  After more searching, I came across a teacher one.  My friend laughed and told me I should get it, and honestly if I had not had the wonderful writing moment just hours before I might have.  Teaching Right!

This week (despite Martin Luther King Day and a teacher professional day) I worked a full week.  On Monday I babysat, tutored an adult student and had about six teenagers over the house.  Tuesday I had 18 girl scouts plus 3 to 4 boys and a teenager.  We made baking soda bombs, a salad dressing emulsion and a silly putty colloid.  We made a huge salad bar and then I did the whole thing all over again.  Wednesday thru Friday I was a math teacher.  The kids were good and by the end of the week I was getting my groove back.    Teaching Right!

But!  They asked about my book.  They asked really good questions.  Yes I know they are attempting to distract me so they don’t have to actually do math (gasp),  believe me, they spend an awful lot of energy trying to do everything but math.  But wait!  They had to be quiet for ten minutes while working on a worksheet and if they did then I told them I would read a chapter from my book.  Anyone who even made a sound was promptly shushed by the rest of the class and when it was time to go and I hadn’t finished reading, they wanted to stay.  A few weeks ago I gave a class of eighth graders fifteen minutes of free time because they had written in silence for an hour straight.  They asked me to read them a chapter.  I argued with them.  “Guys, this is your free time.  You can do whatever you want.”  “Yeah, but we want to hear a chapter of your book.”  When I was done they wanted more and I had to say no and told them to talk to each other.  It was a very odd moment.  Writing Right!

I’m not so sure anymore.  While the messages seem to be pointing in two different directions that would depend if writing and teaching were placed opposite each other.   Is it possible they are on the same side?  Don’t get me wrong I would love to stay home and write.  I would also love to have my own classroom with my own students and my own rules instead of trying to fit myself into someone else’s.  I can’t see myself ever being able to do both at the same time, but maybe someone else can.  Maybe someone up there is watching all of this and can see so much more than I can.  Maybe, even though I can’t envision it, these two things fit together.  Then again maybe they don’t and this will all lead me in another direction (please no), but in the meantime I’m creating and I’m teaching.  I am working hard at trying to fit writing into a normal work week.  I am trying to do both because I think if I finally started publishing on line and subbed three days a week I would be content with that.

The other day I impacted at least one kid’s life.  I think I made someone feel good about who they are and who they are capable of becoming, maybe I made someone want to be a little better than the day before and isn’t that the goal of any spiritual journey, isn’t that the goal of living this life, to be just a little better than the day before?  My new story is calling me, bringing me down a path I have yet to see and I hope with every new day and every new step I’m just a little better me than I was yesterday.  I’m paying attention.  I’m listening for the messages and I’m trying to be where I am.  Let’s see what today has to teach me.