Saturday, May 7, 2016

Things my mother taught me

Things my mother taught me

To help others
The first step when baking anything is to get out all of the ingredients to make sure you have everything When you clean a kitchen counter a wipe the crumbs onto the floor, make sure the drawer is not open Don't chew with your mouth full
Eat your brussel sprouts
When you are leaving someone's house at the end of a visit, say "thank you for having me" Schoolwork is more important than swimming
It doesn't matter how much money you are making if you are unhappy
Soap operas will rot your brain
Comic books are not real books, but a Peanuts Anthology is legit
No matter how long you have been married you should always try to look nice for your husband at the end of every day
That the disappointment of your parents is the worst punishment
Finish your food and don't be selfish, there are children in other countries who have nothing
No TV at dinner. Ask the people in your family, "how was your day"
Never lie, unless it's to strangers who mean you harm
If someone ever tries to snatch you, kick them as hard as you can in the nuts
It's ok to cry
It doesn't matter what other people think
We all learn in different ways - people who learn differently are not disabled, even though it might feel that way
Calling someone stupid is one of the worst things you can say
A woman can be emotional and cry easily and it means nothing about her level of strength
A mother will do anything for her child
We are all human
We all make mistakes

Saturday, January 23, 2016

On the History of our Nation and White Privilege

So, I've been thinking a bit about white privilege recently. This has mainly stemmed from my conversations with white friends over the years, some of whom do not believe that white privilege exists, which I understand, but not really.

Others still seem confused as to why it would matter, or I would be bringing it up. I'd like to discuss both of those issues now, and would be happy for any thoughts or feedback.

In the US, I am often surprised by our inability as white people (I'm speaking of white people in general here, and from my experience) to understand the degree to which our country is built on the notion that whites are better and more deserving than blacks, and the extent to which that affects us today.

I don't understand why this is so hard to grasp. It's a huge component of our history.

"White privilege" is not a new term. It was discussed in the 1989 article by Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack," where it refers to "unearned skin privilege." In more recent years, the term has surfaced primarily with reference to how the police will respond to a white suspect versus a black one who has committed the same offense. In the news and social media, we have seen example after real-life example of how those responses will vary.

But white privilege doesn't just have to do with how the police treat us. It's about how everyone treats us, and how we treat it other. It's the basis on which our society was constructed. Our entire society is built upon black people having nothing and white people having everything; at least in the years that slavery was in effect, which was from 1619 - 1865, and for the years of segregation, from 1881 to 1964.

That's a span of 345 years. As stated on the PBS website Slavery and the Making of America,"America and slavery developed side by side."

And that time period ended just 52 years ago.

As a refresher, here are the dates.

Slavery was established in 1619, when 20 captive Africans were sold into slavery in Jamestown, Virginia. In 1641, Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize slavery.

It was 1865 when the Civil war ended and the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, but many states and communities remained in upheaval. That same year, Mississippi and other states passed laws dramatically limiting the rights and liberties of blacks. In 1866, the Ku Klux Klan was founded.

In 1881 Tennessee became the first state to legalize segregation, and other states followed. Black men who had gained the right to vote during Reconstruction were now stripped of this right (for a better description of all these facts, see here).

By 1892, the lynching of blacks was a common practice as a tool to instill fear in black communities.

That was just 124 years ago.

In 1896, the Supreme Court passed "separate by equal" doctrine, allowing the spread of segregation in the North and across the country.

That was just 120 years ago.

In 1954, segregation in public schools was declared illegal.

That was just 62 years ago.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed, making segregation illegal in all states. Blacks were given the right to vote.

That was just 52 years ago.

To re-iterate, segregation, which demanded that black people had to sit at the back of the bus, use different doors and water fountains, different bathrooms, different everything, because they were considered to be not as good as white people or somehow "dirty," ended just 52 years ago.

Yet we think that today, because segregation is over and we have a black president, that as white people we do not benefit from our whiteness? Do we not consider that from 350 years of racism and segregation, that our societies might still be set up to favor the white person? That our worth is not still socially and systemically attached to that time?

Consider that black people in America are disproportionally poorer. By 2013, 38% of black children were living in poverty, according to the Pew Research Center. For white children, that number is 11%, and in fact, the number of black children in poverty in 2013 eclipsed the number of white children in poverty for the first time ever (4.2 million vs. 4.1), even though there are three times more white children than black in our country.

The distribution of land in America is also built on inequality. The ownership of land is critical to the establishment of wealth and stable families and communities, yet during slavery the vast majority of blacks were not permitted to own land or buy goods, and had little if anything to pass down to their ancestors. Whites, by comparison, were free to accumulate wealth and pass it to the next generation.

In the years following slavery, blacks still faced discrimination when it came to land ownership. In the 1900s, communities used discriminatory real estate practices and ordinances to excluded African-Americans, and financial institutions created rules that favored white neighborhoods. As recently as 1991, a US Government Survey found that African Americans were 60% more likely to be denied bank mortgages as compared to a white applicant with an application that was essentially the same.

The wealth of our communities today is directly tied to the unfair laws that were practiced for close to 350 years, yet we wonder if white privilege exists?

That's my case for the existence of white privilege. It blows my mind that I would even need to craft such an argument, but there it is. As for why it matters, it matters because it's unfair, blatantly unfair. It's unjust. We have minorities living in communities and conditions that they do not deserve due to our unequal society, and we need to make changes. And we need to start by recognizing that the system is unjust and always has been. That's why it matters.

Black lives matter in this country. They matter to me. Yes I care about other lives, but it's not the other lives I see getting the short end of the stick, not on a daily basis, not by all of us and by society in general. We need to stick up for each other and say something when we feel like society is unjust or unfair, and I see that with the members of our black community.

That's why it's important to talk about.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Women We Used To Be

I've been listening to Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road recently, and I got me thinking about our complicated relationships with our mothers.

Ms. Steinem describes her mother as being a confident and assertive writer in her younger days, a traveler who loved to explore new cities with friends and might take to the road at a moment's notice, but this was a mother than Steinem never knew. The mother she knew was depressed and withdrawn, traveling only when following her husband on one of his countless spontaneous trips around the country. All that ended when Steinem turned 10, however, and her parents separated.

At this point Steinem's father continues to travel while their mother is seen to by different people and places, including Steinem's sister and a spell at a mental health institution. It was after this that Steinem went to visit her mother, and began to realize how much they had in common. She reminisces over the things her mother taught her and what she sacrificed by staying home to have and raise her children when she was a nomad at heart.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I will not break

You call me crazy, yet I prefer the term versatile

You wonder how I can see things one way, then at another time see them differently
While I wonder at your inability to see things in more than one way at all.

You call me selfish, only thinking of myself
And I wonder how I would possibly survive if I did not put myself first now, ahead of you
When you cannot even see what I see.

This morning I feel as though I am going to fly into a million pieces
Do not touch me today, for I might break

These are the words on my mind
As I round the last corner of my morning run

Then I think about these words.

No, I will not break
I am not some delicate thing, though I can feel fragile inside
If you push me, I may step back but I will not break

I will go stronger, more sure on my feet
As I turn and carefully walk away in another direction.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My dignity

Sevilla was examining boxes on the shelf in Michaels. The boxes came in different sizes, some medium and some small. Others were long and elegant.

Sevilla swept her hand along the shelf, dipping it down only once to touch a small navy box nestled among the bulkier ones.

"This is for something precious, like my dignity," she said.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Let 'em play, ref!

I read an article recently about the importance of standing back and letting kids figure out disputes amongst themselves.

In theory, I like this idea very much. In practice, I have a hard time employing it, simply because it's just so irresistible to jump in and tell them exactly what they should do, which they would never have come to themselves, surely.

It's not that I have a good track record for solving disputes among children, I don't. It's probably about the same as that of the general population. Perhaps that's why it was with keen eyes and ears that I returned to the idea of standing back and letting them figure it out for themselves.

The article reminded me of a birthday party for one of my son's friends who was turning 5. The party was at a house with a yard and a large hammock, the latter of which became the focal point of the party early on. There were four or five children on it at any time, with more waiting impatiently to clamber on  at the first hint that a spot might become available (or sooner).

The rides grew more raucous and the hammock swung back and forth recklessly, sometimes teetering on the edge of collapse or flipping over. I would lean forward, back straight as I anticipated that this was the swing, this was the instant when a smaller child in the front would roll forward and out of the hammock at just the wrong time, but it didn't happen. It was hard not to say anything, but the kids were having a great time, no-one had hurt themselves, and I didn't want to be "that" parent, so... I bit my lip. But still I continued watching anxiously, determined not to give up my post.

When it got to the point where there were so many children, so much pushing and rabble-rousing, with even one or two kids around the sides who were now crying softly as they had never gotten a turn at all - well, I felt myself ready to interject.

But then along came Sevilla, the oldest in the bunch by 2 years. She strode confidently to the front, patting the heads of the smallest children as she passed and giving them a smile. "Hey, hey, hey!" she said. "What's going on here? You guys have to get into a line."

Some kids turned towards her, faces only, then began the first small steps of getting into a line, but overall there wasn't much movement. She moved to the other side of the hammock, facing the crowd. "Do you want me to push you?" she asked briskly, motioning to the hammock - she meant they could sit in the hammock, and she would push them higher and faster than they had been going before.

They shuffled excitedly, yes, they would like to be pushed by this large older girl. "Then you have to get in line," she said. "Come on, you guys off now," she said to the five kids on the hammock currently, who were reluctant to give up their spots. "It's someone else's turn."

I tensed, wondering if they would listen to her. They didn't have to - she had no authority there, and Caden was one of the kids on the hammock. All it would take was one shout from him to turn the crowd against her, rendering her powerless. I had been watching him so far, and knew he was feeling rowdy. I readied myself for his inevitable protest.

Instead they all listened, and clambered off the seat. Five more kids got on - well, six really, but she shooed the extra swinger away, telling them she could only take five and they would have to wait their turn. The child shyly returned to the line.

She ran that line for the next 10-20 minutes, me watching all the time. There were a few instances where it started getting hairy, but she always pulled through. There was one moment when a bunch of kids got impatient, trying to get on the hammock en masse when it wasn't their turn, and she told them that two of them would have to wait for the next round. When none of them budged (it was at that moment that I expected her to say "fine. Then I'm not doing this anymore" because that's something I would have done), she said "Ok. Whoever gets off now, you get double the amount of time in the swing the next time." She quickly had takers. She made her deals, then shuffled the extra two folks off the hammock and back into the line.

Genius. She didn't learn this from me, any of it.

I was so proud watching her. And it happened again tonight.

Sevilla had wanted to see a movie and her brother had agreed, but when his friend came over he was no longer interested, and only wanted to stay with his buddy at home and play.

I felt bad for Sevilla. She didn't have a friend at the playdate so I had promised to take them to the movie she wanted, but now her brother wanted out of the deal. I didn't want to force anyone to go, but backing out seemed patently unfair. I implored Caden and his friend to reconsider.

"Come on. You know you'll enjoy the movie when you get there, let's just go." I said, but the boys kept pushing back. It was raining outside. It was getting dark. They felt less and less like it with every moment that went by. I was frustrated, and my next step would be insisting.

Sevy moved in swiftly. "Hey Sammy, did I ever show you the magic trick with the paperclip?"

Sammy shook his head no, he had never seen the magic trick. He and Sevilla had both taken a magic class at school, so she knew magic was his bag.

"It's really cool," she said nonchalantly, like it was no big deal. "I'll show you in the car. Let's go." She got up to get her shoes.

I waited, tense as before. This almost seemed to obvious. Would they see through her scheme? Or was she once again a genius?

The boys followed, the promise of a new magic trick dancing in their minds. Once in the car, the topic changed to music. "I'll let you guys pick the first song," Sevilla said.

This was big. When we drive in the car, the kids take turns saying what song we listen to, and the battle to be the one to get the first turn is hard-fought. The boys, drunk with power, fretted about what song to pick and thought nothing about why she was doing them the favor (it was to stop them from realizing we were about to drive to a movie they had been protesting minutes before, of course, but we didn't need them knowing that).

"Actually, I'll give you four songs," she said confidently. They rejoiced, pondering which songs they would pick, not once stopping to why she was suddenly empowered to be the giver of such choices.

Caden paused for a minute. "Ok," he said hesitantly. "But you have to get four songs on the way back. That's only fair."

Sevilla looked at him, trying to assess his game. Then she shrugged, realizing he was just being nice. "Ok," she said.

I smiled in the front seat. My kids were trying to out-nice each other, and everyone was happy. They had come to a resolution by themselves and learned something in the process.

I can't say I will stay out of it every time from now on, but I will try much harder.

Friday, December 18, 2015

I don't care if you like it

There's a great story in the book Bossypants by Tina Fey. It goes as follows.

“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers' room, waiting for the Wednesday night read-through to start. [...] Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can't remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and "unladylike". Jimmy Fallon [...] turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, "Stop that! It's not cute! I don't like it."

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. "I don't fucking care if you like it." Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.

With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn't there to be cute. She wasn't there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys' scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”

I think about that story quite a bit. As women, we tend to exist in a state of seeking approval, of waiting to be validated. I love that expression, the self-validation. "I don't fucking care if you like it."

Follow the rules you have to in life, but don't forget to also do what you want when you can. If it turns you on and it's not hurting anybody else, do it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday December 15th (II)

Sevilla's in the bath.

Me: How you doing in there?
Sevilla: Mom? You know the movie Finding Nemo?
Me: Yes...?
Sevilla: You know how his dad and Nemo are the only two clown fish in the entire movie?
Me: Yes...
Sevilla: In the movie they swim across the whole ocean, and we don't see any other clown fish.
Me: That's true.
Sevilla: So they're basically extinct.
Me: Well, we just don't see any others.
Sevilla: So they're going to have to mate with each other. They're the only ones left.
Me: (laughing) Sevilla...

Fourth grader problems.

Tuesday, December 15th

Finances

I have long known the stress that finances can put on a relationship.

I was not raised to pay too much attention to finances. My parents didn't do a totally crappy job with it; they gave me an allowance ($0.50 a week to start), let us do extra chores for money ($0.01 per weed you pull, but the joke was on them as I loved gardening and our yard was massive and overgrown), and allowed us to work as early as 14 (swimming lessons for kids all summer, camp counsellor, selling t-shirts to tourists) to earn our own money, money we could do what we wanted to with (like that $320 pair of teeny, tiny sunglasses I just had to have, then never wore because they were so teeny-tiny).

Savings? No. I was oblivious of savings - so I guess they could have done better, but at the same time, they probably did about as well as any other.

That was, until my dad died, and we came to the stark realization that he had been the one managing everything. He took care of the finances and the bulk of the earning, so after he died it was just a matter of time before we started running into trouble. It was just my mom and I at home at that time, my sister was already at school in England.

I remember a friend of the family, a dear gentleman who had been best friends with my mother and father both, visiting us and sitting in our living room to tell my mother and me the news that we had to stop spending money at the same rate we always had because it was going to run out very soon.

We hadn't thought that we were excessive, we just lived our normal lives, but the problem was that no-one had taken over the earning, and our savings were being rapidly depleted.

This is such a basic concept I don't know how it could have eluded us for so long, but there you have it. And, apparently it wasn't enough to have this kind man come and tell us in our homes, because even after that we could not put an effective budget and plan in place to make sure we were only spending within our means.

I tried very hard, but it was tough for my mother and me to agree on how the budget should work. She didn't like having to keep track of things, nor having to stop spending in the same was she was accustomed to. It's not that we were extravagant (the days of $320 shades well behind me), but we did like to spend money on the things we liked, and that was money we just didn't have.

It was very hard to express to my mother that we needed to curb our spending. She refused to acknowledge even the most basic truths, like "If we don't pay this $300 electric bill, they will turn off the power." Her response to this was "So? I don't care."

To this day I don't know what to do with that answer (except perhaps a grim "You WILL care!" accompanied by a shaking of the fist before storming out of the room. Pretty certain that's not productive, however).

I never was able to find a budgeting method that worked for us, or a way to get my mom to curb her spending. It was distressing at the time as we were literally running out of money, and my first experience with what it's like to be in a situation where the stakes are high and it would be best if both parties could agree, yet both parties could never agree. I always felt I failed her in that manner.

So that was my first lesson with finances (not much of one). Fast-forward to marriage. There are those that think couples should keep their finances separate (my sister and her husband practice this, quite happily). My husband and I did not do this; we blended finances early, which was perhaps an indication of the poor judgement skills of both of us.

It's a common mistake and might have been ok if we had better sense in other ways, but alas, we did not, and soon enough I found myself in that same situation, where one person in the relationship is desperately trying to explain to the other why a budget makes sense while the other refuses to stick to one.

To this day there are some conflicts that just I don't know how to resolve. I think this is why I was never a good manager of people in the workplace. I don't shy away from conflict, but I'm not the best at finding a resolution when parties cannot agree, and at some point, I just throw up my hands.

The result for our marriage was that our finances were constantly precarious, and we were stressed and at times emotionally raw from having to deal with them. It was then that I first experienced how one can carry stress in one's body, how it creeps up the spine and into the shoulders. It was a tough time for both of us, especially as we could never agree on the most basic steps towards resolution.

I don't know if finances can single-handedly destroy relationships. Ultimately we broke up for reasons other than that, but it did teach me how damaging it can be to be in a state of constant worry over your financial situation.

Fast-forward to today.

I still carry this stress with me. I am trying to clean up over 15 years worth of bad decision-making and credit-card debt while co-parenting two children, and while I am still not immune to bad decision making (apparently my mom and former husband were not the only ones who have trouble sticking to a budget, quell surprise), I do have some things on my side, including a job with benefits and a sister who is always ready to help out in a pinch. I hate calling my big sister for help when I fall, but sometimes it's got to be done, as humbling as it is. I really don't know where I would be without her. I mean I'd survive, but it would be a lot rockier.

I try to let go of that tension and remind myself that it's ok, that I have it better than most, but when you have two kids relying on you and the penalty for your failure is very real, it is hard to let it go and relax about it. One day I will have financial security (what a phrase! Does such a thing even exist? What a statement!).

It's time to get ready for work.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday, December 13

Diary

I've decided I'm going to start writing here as a form of a diary, because I'm not sure how else to do it. We'll see how this goes. 

Sunday

I spoke to my sister for nearly two hours, which was good because we haven't spoken in a few weeks, plus she is one of the people who knows me best and considering I have been feeling pretty lonely recently, I knew it would be good to talk. She rewarded me with the kind of gems I have come to cherish from her, including a story from their recent trip to church.

I am an atheist and so are my sister's two young boys, but my sister is Christian, or some version of it - I'm not sure if she knows herself exactly what she is, which I think is fine with everyone. She does however love going to church around Christmas and singing carols there, as well as setting out the nativity scene in their home, you know, things like that - she likes the rituals associated with the holidays and Christmas. Not that she doesn't believe in God the rest of the year too, because I'm pretty sure she does... but I'm getting off track. Back to the story about her visit to church.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Fear, Part II

NOTE: This is interesting - right after posting The Fear, I noticed a similarly titled post in my "unpublished posts" section. This entry was from four months ago, but it might as well have been from a year ago, or longer. To me it speaks to the recurrence of  this mindset. I don't know what that means, but it means something.

From four months ago, another Fear posting:

I sit at the traffic light at night and stare into the dark intersection ahead. The melancholy. The sense of listlessness. Why does it always come back? The depressions might not run as deep, but they are as wide and reliable. The dialogue remains the same. Why do I always come back to the same thinking?

My mind searches for reasons in my recent past, then throws up imaginary hands. There is no recent event or outside cause for this way of thinking, it is embedded in me all along. What is it that I'm really afraid of? It's none of the stuff I keep thinking it is. There must be something more going on under. What am I really afraid of?

I sit at the traffic light still, waiting for the light. I try to verbalize the first thing that comes into my mind, because that might be the thing.

"I'm afraid it's all for nothing," I say out loud. That felt right, but I try again.

"I'm afraid nothing I do will ever mean anything." Better. "I'm afraid it will all be for no reason. I'm afraid that I'll never be able to get anything done. I'm afraid I will die without my children really knowing me, because I was never able to communicate certain parts of myself."

I consider all of these things. So these are my biggest fears? They are. And what would happen if they were true? Would it be so bad?

I don't have the answers.

The Fear

I am overwhelmed and afraid that nothing is going to happen to me my entire life, and I won't get anything done, and then I'm going to die.

I had an anxiety attack in my bed last night thinking about this very thing. Well, "attack" might be too dramatic a term for it. But I felt it creeping up on me, felt my breathing start to increase. Felt the tension in my shoulders and that awful awareness unfurling slowly in my mind - so I curled up tight in the fetal position and frantically, tearfully, tried not to think too much about anything at all.

It's the fear of facing a whole span of nothing, a life devoid of meaning. Then there's the awareness that none of that even matters. Not after the fact anyway, it only matters during my experience of it; but if it doesn't matter after the fact, what difference does it make at all?

These are the thoughts that plague my mind. I command  myself to keep them from my children; don't let them see. The thoughts go away when I tell them to scat, but only retreat to the edges, and are not vanquished entirely. They creep back in when I am not looking.

I know they are useless and unhelpful. I'd like to say they are also untrue, but I don't think they are. I think they are just truths it's more convenient to forget, as they are not conducive to life.

I know this is depressing, but this is how I feel.

But I will continue on, trying not to think too deeply about any of it, trying to choose joy. I know I can choose joy. I try to keep the thoughts away. Maybe one day I won't be afraid of them - who can tell?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Morning swim

I'm getting back into swimming again, which is nice. I was on the swim team when I was younger, and the pool feels like home. I am not as fit as I was then and it takes much longer to go up and down than it used to, but I'll get some fitness back.

I like the feeling of fluttering through the water and hearing the woosh, woosh in my ears. Best of all is on a sunny day when I can see my shadow below me on the bottom of the pool. I push off the wall and just glide, weightless - completely surrounded by water in that moment, not one bit of me breaking the surface. I love that feeling. When I was younger there were times when I would just hover there, or exhale my breath so I could sink to the bottom and then just hang out for a few moments looking up, watching the light dance through the liquid and listening to the muffled sounds of movement above. I like that underwater world.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Is there a Santa?

Sevilla found out this week that Santa Claus doesn't exist. I think the exact way she phrased it was "Does Santa Claus exist, or is it just your mom and dad?"

I tried to walk the middle ground. To explain that yes, it is her parents that buy those gifts, but it is for the love of Christmas and the child and the joy of giving. I explained the history of Santa and St. Nicholas and of the kindness and goodwill in his heart. I spoke of tradition and the magic of the season.

She wasn't having it.

She went through all five stages of loss:

Denial: "I can't believe it! It was you guys all along? What about all that stuff about the long white beard?"
Anger: (not so much a vocalization as a silent smolder)
Bargaining: "Just tell me he exists. It's OK Mom, I'll believe you."
Depression: (sustained, chronic wailing)
Acceptance: "Can I help hide the gifts next year?"

Evening Run

I run into the clearing
The words in my ears are haunting
They wash over me, their long fingers curling
Around the ache in my heart

They are too beautiful to let go, yet I cannot keep them
They slip through my ears, through my fingers, into thin air
Their meaning soon forgotten

I follow the trail

Turning the corner, I climb up the path
Footsteps kick up dust
I look out over the park from that vantage
Lights are fading

At the top of the slope I stop, hands to the sky
Not because I am praying
But because I am drowning

Sunday, August 16, 2015

4 o'clock

4 o'clock
It's 4 o'clock
I said I wouldn't start drinking
'Til 4 o'clock

The clocks hits 4
I start to pour
How many days
Until I stop

But at 4 o'clock
Yes 4 o'clock
The wine gets opened
at 4 o'clock

First one bottle goes down
Then the other, easy now
Then shot after shot
Until I fall

Until 2 o'clock
Suddenly it's 2 o'clock
The night winds on
But the fun is all gone

At 2 o'clock
Now it's 2 o'clock
Have to get into bed
Despite my swimming head

How many times more
Until I'm dead

It all started at 4 o'clock

~~~~~

What this is about:

When I used to drink, I would always set the magical time of 4PM as the time after which I could start drinking. I always promised myself it would be just one glass of wine, maybe two, together with a home-cooked meal - but somehow, the one or two glasses always turned into one or two bottles, followed by hard liquor. The next thing I knew, it would be the wee hours of the morning, and I would have to face the fact that once again, despite my best intentions, I had become hopelessly, haplessly drunk - but this never seemed to make me give up hope that next time, the story might have a different ending. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The first night

I remember what I wore on the night I went into rehab, because I had chosen the outfit carefully. I don't remember what I was told to take, or what I packed.

I remember standing in my aunt's kitchen in Richmond, tearfully explaining why I felt I had to go. I remember the look of skepticism on my uncle's face.

He rolled his eyes when I said I was depressed. "Everyone gets depressed," he said, widening his eyes and making an expression as he said depressed to indicate the term itself was worthy of ridicule. Wasn't I overreacting just a bit? Wasn't I taking things a bit far?

No, I shook my head forcefully. No, I hadn't been taking things far enough. Later I would find that my uncle had been depressed for many years himself but would do nothing, and his reaction took on a deeper meaning.

It wouldn't matter if they agreed, I knew I had to go - so I went.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The sunset tonight

The sunset tonight
Told me I was in the right place at the right time
With the right person, doing the right thing

Running

Along the ridge
Laughing and talking, with a best friend
The news we share is not always good, but for once
It was mostly untroubling

We don't get out much anymore
Were struck by the sunset, the pastels and neons in the sky

We laughed and cursed at the people who see it frequently, get to see it all the time
Who take it for granted
We swore we would get out more often

I stared at the sun-streaked sky, trying to take it all in
Knowing if I looked back again, even one minute later
It would be completely different
And loving that fact

This show was ours, vivid and breathtaking
This was the backdrop for our run, for our evening

We deserved it

We always have.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Calculator

Caden got a calculator last night. It was love at first sight.

He got it at the 99 cent store and the battery died almost immediately, which didn't surprise me, but crushed Caden. That is, until he discovered a trick: that if you hold the calculator next to a light or direct a flashlight towards the screen, the crisp digits become visible instantly.

I said I was sorry it wasn't working properly, told him he shouldn't have to point a light at the screen. I told him I'd get a better one tomorrow. He rejected this however, saying he liked the one he had.

"I can just take my flashlight," he said, then bent his head towards the screen again, marveling at the numbers.

"What do you not know?" he would ask me next. "What numbers shall we try?"

Friday, July 24, 2015

Space

I wrote this after realizing that things that used to rile me up were not having the same effect as usual. It's like when I go to get mad, there's a gap there instead.

I'm assuming it's the medication, "smoothing out" the peaks and valleys. Lexapro: a steamroller for your emotional landscape.

~~~


I feel more chill, I can't get mad
I still get worried, but there's no edge
The rage just fizzles, can't even be brought
Things that once angered are now impotent
Even when my son pushes boundaries, pushes me
I get short with him, yes
But feel compassion underneath
There's a space where my anger used to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lexapro

Life before Lexapro (antidepressant, 5 mg daily):

Overwhelming
Fraught
Tedious
Empty
Grey
Desperate and exhausting
Increasingly rageful and cynical (perhaps due to all of the above)

Life with Lexapro:

Lighter
Hopeful
Easier
More simple
Things are clearer and brighter
I can hear again and focus my thoughts
It feels like I am breathing different air.

What Lexapro is not doing:

Solving my problems (that part is up to me), and making the negative thoughts go away completely.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Structure, please

I hate days off. I have so many things to do but no idea how to begin them.

And it's not that they aren't important, I have overdue bills and a green card that's going to expire soon and an apartment overflowing with papers and books and children's toys, belongings, artwork, and so many other things that it just feels like chaos - it's no wonder my favorite thing to do is go and be in the mountains for the day.

But that won't get my green card processed or improve my quality of life when I am back in that overflowing apartment. In fact it only makes everything worse, as I am not dealing with the issues at hand.

For days when my mind is an almost incomprehensible muddle of thoughts, I have started making a list of things to do.

From The Moth - "A New Home"

I listen to a radio spot called The Moth sometimes when I run or drive - The Moth is a not-for-profit organization focused on storytelling, featuring "true stories told live," Participants stand in front of an audience without notes and recount tales about 12 minutes in length. The stories can be funny, heartwarming, quirky, triumphant, or even (and often) break your heart, but they must be true.

This is a recent segment from their show called "Fathers."

Dori Samadzai Bonner - A New Home

In this segment, a woman describes her ordeal as her family struggled to remain in the United States after escaping from Afghanistan using forged papers. It is a brief but moving account of a father who will do anything for his family, and the overwhelming emotional and mental strain many immigrants face during the process of application for amnesty.

I have listened to it twice - it moved me enough the share. There are many other great stories on The Moth website worth listening to as well.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Meaning

I'm searching for meaning.
Will I find it written somewhere in the sky?

I'm searching for meaning.
Will I find it under this rock?

I'm searching for meaning.
Can I find it by searching my soul?

Is meaning in another person? In my kids? In myself? Is it all around?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Validate my run

The boy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had heard this question before; knew what the reaction would be even before he gave his answer. He gave it anyway, then waited for the inevitable expression that would follow.

"It's not that I have to upload every run I do to Strava," he said, "It's just that I want to."

His therapist looked skeptical. Yup, that was the expression.

"And what do you think would happen," his therapist paused gently, as if the idea he was about to impart was so shocking, so anxiety-inducing that it must be brought forward as discreetly as possible, as one might first introduce a baby sea lion to the peacefully lapping shores of a quiet cove rather than exposing it directly to the screaming winds and waves of a torrid sea, "if you didn't upload it to Strava? Would it be as if the run didn't happen?"