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?"

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Fucking bulimia.
Binge eating disorder is real.

I have struggled with bulimia since the age of 19, so... about 20 years now. It wasn't a solid 20 years. There were periods of abstinance from the abuse, but overall the disorder has dogged me during that time. The last few months have been good. I don't now the exact date, but it has been a while since I vomited last.

After so many years, you have no idea how good that feels.

The disorder itself is conniving and persistent. It will never let me go, it will never go away. I can never forget that I have it. Last night I ate about ten cookies all at once, which for me constitutes a binge. For another individual, he or she might not bat an eyelash when eating ten cookies - for me, I definitely bat an eyelash.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Look to the right and to the left of you

October 1995, Naples, Florida.

"Look to the right of you," the therapist said. "Now, look to the left. Now look at the person across from you."

We stood in our circle, looking to the right, then to the left, then across. Careful glances and self-conscious smiles were exchanged as we waited for the therapist's big reveal. What the hell was she talking about?

"Of the people you see directly around you," the therapist went on, "the majority of you will relapse, about 75-85%." Our smiles faded as we took in this news.

"Only about one in four or five of you will continue clean eating for more than a year. Some of you will not even make it to that." Somberly now, we again considered the people around us.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Beer tails

Driving in the car, on the radio a song is playing where the singer croons about being drunk.

Sevilla: Drunk? Not cool.
Me: Definitely not cool.
Caden: What's drunk?
Me: It's when people have too much alcohol and it makes them feel dizzy, and act funny.
Caden: What's alcohol?
Me: Alcohol is something that is in some drinks. Drinks like beer, wine, and some other drinks. Not all drinks, but there are some adult drinks that have alcohol, and when people drink too much they start feeling really funny and silly.
Caden: I feel like that all the time.
Me: This is different, this is from having too much alcohol. And you feel dizzy and not good.
Caden: I've had beer before. I had it with Dad.
Me: Did you have ginger beer? Or root beer? Because those are ok. They are not the same as regular beer. Ginger beer or root beer don't have alcohol in them.
Caden: No, I've had beer before. I had one this big (he indicates the size of a whole bottle).
Me: It had to be root beer buddy, it had to be.
Caden: No! It was real beer!
Me: Where did you have it?
Caden: At school!
Me: Who gave it to you?
Caden: The teachers!
Me: (laughing) Buddy, that's couldn't have happened, they wouldn't give that to you. It's not for kids. You have to be 21 to drink alcohol.
Caden: Well I did! (pause) And I saw a dog drink alcohol once.
Me: (laughing) Caden!
Caden: I did! But it's ok, he was 22.

Friday, June 5, 2015

But something

I know you have bad reception, just sending you a few more updates now that you don't have to respond to, but I just need to say to someone, she texted. Not because they are important, just because I have to get them out.

My favorite supervisor left work today. The girl that sits next to me was fired. It was sad and we didn't even say goodbye. 

Maggie is sick, she has a fever. Probably fine but who knows. Oliver is non-responsive. Not because he is sick, just because that's how he is. He is watching a show. 

I paid the babysitter $144 to watch the kids all day and they don't even like her and I don't either but I can't find anybody else. Summer camp starts on Monday. The babysitter the kids do like might be gone all summer, but didn't want to tell me. I can't find anybody else. I will keep looking. 

The kids' dad is sick. He is getting surgery on his ankle. He's not really sick, but he's not well. He came over last night to see the kids. It was weird and sad but good to see him and have him here. The kids were sad when he left. Fine, but sad. I just said sad a lot in those last few sentences.

This is a really long text. 

I am fine, but something. I don't know what the something is. I am really fine. But something. 

I love you so much and look forward to seeing you when you get back xxxxxxxx

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bigfoot is just a lonely bear

Caden: "Maybe Bigfoot is really just a lonely bear."

I loved this but wanted an explanation. "You think so? What makes you say that?"

He shrugged. "Maybe he's just a bear who decided to stand on two legs and walk around."

We had not been talking about Bigfoot on that occasion. These are apparently just the types of things he thinks about.

This was not the first time Caden had offered a different view on a character I would not have classified as sympathetic. The first time he did this was regarding Krampus, a horned, beast-like figure from European folklore said to creep into the homes of naughty children at Christmas to carry them away from their families forever.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thin

The girl stood at her desk, shifting uncomfortably. Her friend looked over from the next cubical.

"How are you today?" the friend asked.

"Ok. I feel a little tired. I think I need to eat something," the girl said. This last admission was made with what was not quite embarrassment, but definite sheepishness. And perhaps a little guilt.

"Oh," said the friend, looking annoyingly blank. "Well, why don't you eat something?"

The girl rolled her eyes, like isn't that obvious. "Well," she said with an expression indicating if you're really going to make me say it, "it's so I can be more thin."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Back

"I feel like myself again," I said.

"Which is what?" asked the psychiatrist.

"I feel good, I feel happy. Sometimes I think, hey, maybe the depression won't come back."

She looked at me, head tilted, pen poised over paper. She gave a wry smile that wasn't really a smile.

"It'll come back," she said.

~~~

The little girl had a pencil 
and found that whatever she wrote about, she became

So she wrote about being brave
And being strong, steadfast, and true

She wrote about mysteries and adventures
Through foggy swampland and desolate forests 

Over craggy mountaintops and wind-whipped deserts
Where she, the valiant heroine would press on 

Despite threats to her mortality, to her body and soul 
Nothing could harm her 

For she was embodied with a magical power 
That burned from within 

And it could never be extinguished
Not with the wind from ten thousand mountains 
And the torrents from ten thousand storms.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Trail Children

I was hiking purposefully on the John Muir Trail one early morning last August, not purposefully because I had anywhere in particular to be (I didn't), but because the wind was blowing relentlessly. I did not mind the wind and actually felt it was warranted, given that I was on my way home after a failed hike. I had been intending to leave it all on the trail but was returning home early, miles short, so any hardships faced at this point were well deserved and would be absorbed without flinching.

I had camped near Marie Lakes and was now headed northeast towards Donohue Pass. Like everything on the trail, the night had been a mix of discomfort and a sort of simple bliss. I had trembled violently in my bag, barely sleeping as the winds whipped through my campsite, yet I had reveled in it as I wondered when I would next be back in this place, feeling bitterly cold but also achingly, vividly alive. It would not be soon enough.

As I was descending Donohue Pass half-frozen, I came across a family of four just coming out of their tent. They looked tentative but agreeable enough and amply prepared for a morning of hiking, but what surprised me was the size and relative youth of the two children. The oldest looked smaller than my youngest, who was 5. As I talked with the parents, I learned that the children were 3 and 4.

I imagined having my own two children out in those surroundings. The idea baffled and astounded me, seemed outrageous and foreign. Yet, I could see how it was doable. The parents told me how they had huddled in their tent for warmth and that the night had not been easy, but they had survived. They were excited for the opportunity to get out of their tent now and look around. They were headed to Tolumane Meadows, about 10 miles away. This was a simple enough downhill hike and the canyons and streams made for idyllic views, but as I once again thought of my own kids in that situation, I marveled at the distance.

I pulled ahead of them after a short while but got enough of a glimpse to see all four family members moving steadily and making good progress down the trail. I even had to hurry and stay organized at some junctions to make sure they didn't catch me, much to my mortification.

My family is not like that family, but I like thinking about that family as a reminder of how it can be when you introduce your children to the trail at a very early age. My kids got started at a much older age, and I still struggle to involve them in camping and trail running, truth be told. I recognize there is no forcing it. We have certainly had our share of spectacularly unsuccessful attempts.

There was the one time I tried to take the kids hiking at a popular local spot known as Chantry Flats. We got off to a late start, so had to park further from the trail as the parking lot was full and all the closer spots were taken. We parked the car and started hiking towards the trail head, but it was a hot day and a winding asphalt road, and by the time we had actually reached the starting point, both children were threatening a mutiny the likes of which I had never seen. At one point Caden (then 4-5 years old) actually sat on the wall and refused to go any further, which I responded to by saying a few things I wasn't proud of - suffice it to say, it was not my most graceful morning.

I thought it was best for all involved that we give up the attempt (still without ever even making it to the trail head), head back to the car, and live to hike another day - but it was a pretty discouraging first try.

Then there was the time I tried to get the kids to hike up the Echo Mountain Trail. My thinking was that they would love the views of the city if only I could manage to get them on higher ground... but there was the rub. The "getting them on higher ground" - well, they just weren't interested. We went perhaps an eighth of a mile before their whining and complaining got the better of me, and I relented - and as they ran back to the car, they went fast enough to look like trail runners, I can tell you that much. Oddly enough, I didn't find that comforting.

Despite these defeats and others, we stuck at it, and we did make progress. I figured if I kept exposing the kids to trails, hiking, and running, something would have to catch. At some point there would be a feeling. There would be an acceleration. There would be a relaxation, a quickening, or an understanding. There would be an experience. And it would be a good one.

And we have had those experiences. When we expose ourselves to trail running and being outdoors, even fleetingly, I see my kids having those moments. It happens when they charge up the hills so they can run madly back down, or zoom down a single track because they like the way it feels like a roller coaster. When we determine that we will reach a certain tree or a certain hilltop so we can see what's on the other side, or simply so we can hoot that we conquered that incline.

And what has been our mileage? Nothing to write home about, not anywhere close to 10 miles, surely. Maybe 2 or 3 on our longest hikes. More often, they are less than a mile. But they are happening willingly.

Our latest outing was this weekend, taking my boyfriend's dog to the park. I didn't utter the words "let's go hiking." I didn't set out with a plan, other than to get the kids and the dog in the general vicinity of a trail, then see what happened. Then I gave it a simple, "Hey, let's go up there."

"Ok," the kids said. Quick as a wink, they were up the trail. Running. Climbing. Hiking. Running some more. When my daughter tired, I handed the dog over to her, as I could feel he was pulling - he did the same with her, making it easier (and more fun) for her to climb the trail. My son clambered ahead. He was barefoot, which is what finally slowed him down - when he reached a section on the trail that was strewn with tiny pebbles, that gave me a chance to catch up to him.

"We could climb Mount Everest," he said by way of casual conversation.
"That would be amazing," I said.
"Mount Everest is the tallest mountain, and it always will be - that's why they call it ever-est. Because it will be that way forever."
I think of the recent earthquake in Nepal, and how this reportedly caused the mountain shrink by one inch. I decide this is not worth introducing. "Yes, there is none taller."

Caden is silent, focused on his climbing. Then he speaks. "I'm 49 pounds."

This is the extent of the conversation. Throughout it all, there was not one word of complaint. The day was warm, the trails were steep, but not one time did I have to force participation. And there was spontaneous, joyous running.

Those are the associations I am trying for here, these are the memories I am trying to make. We don't need to move or conquer mountains, do 10, 5, or even 2-3 miles in a single day. But we should be enjoying ourselves.

Caden this weekend - up, up, up
More up
Sevilla and Willie heading down

If I can keep getting my kids outside on the trail, keep building these positive associations, the minutes and mileage will follow. They will naturally want to go or climb further. Or maybe they won't. But at least I will have exposed them to a world and a pastime that is of value and they will remember, even if it's later when they are older and looking for ways to fill their time or capture their focus.

Positive associations, not big miles. The miles will follow. For now we will focus on the smiles, and the sheer joy of running.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Next on deck: 200 miles

I'm going to be running 200 miles this week! Or as my kids would say, "So what."

I have run at the Born to Run event for the last four years - 100k in 2011 and 2012, then 100 miles in 2013 and 2014. This year it will be 200 miles.


The course consists of a 10-mile pink loop and a 10-mile yellow loop - do both of these 10 times consecutively to claim the 200 mile finish.

Featured Cartoonist: Jared Roselló


A cartoon by Jarod Roselló - Jared is a Cuban-American teacher, cartoonist, and writer, and you can see his website here. I like some of his more recent stuff featuring the Well-Dressed Bear. I would probably like some of his not-so-recent stuff as well, only I haven't scrolled back that far.

I found Jared's website when a Tumblr I follow posted the cartoon below. Seeing this carton helped me realize that depression is an infliction that affects many people, seemingly striking for no reason. For some reason this made me feel better. Perhaps it was the realization that it was not only happening to me. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chapters

True to form, I have been feeling so optimistic recently I have been downplaying the potential intensity of any oncoming low moods.

Surely, I think, they won't be that bad ever again! I mean gosh, I'm really feeling much better. This whole medication thing is a terrible idea. Completely out of proportion. Not even sure why I would still go see a doctor; it seems like a waste of everyone's time.

We'll see, the more reserved me says patiently (if a little dryly) in the background.

I will still see the psychiatrist this upcoming Saturday, and if she gives me a prescription I will hold it tight in my sweaty little hands and either fill it right away or wait to fill it - we will see.

In the meantime, I've been focusing more on pursuing my life's purpose and doing things I actually enjoy doing, versus things that feel like a waste of time and leave me empty or feeling like crap. It's the most novel idea.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Medication

My friend asks me why I don't take medication for depression. I don't have a good answer.

I don't like medication in general; don't like adding things to my body, especially when I am not convinced it will have any impact. Yet the evidence for the role of medication in improving depression is persuasive. It can change lives, provide a break in the cycle. It can save lives.

I have known people it has helped. I have known people it has helped not at all. Is it worth it to try? That is up to the individual.

I have tried Prozac and Wellbutrin in the past and both seemed to work for a while to improve mood - until they didn't. The most consistent and dramatic improvements I have seen regarding mood are when I'm able to run regularly and boost my endorphins and serotonin naturally (while also relieving stress), but my schedule does not always allow it. Even then, the dark moods can come.

Relapse

How did I get back here again

in this place

You can stop anytime you want to

You decide

You are the one who has to walk away

At any moment, the power is yours

Monday, April 27, 2015

Conversations with Caden: I don't really love you this much

Caden: Do you know why "butter" has two t's in it, and "shit" only has one?
Me: Why?
Caden: It's because butter is delicious, and shit is a word you re not supposed to say.
Me: You are obsessed with that word. Why do you think you are so obsessed with it? Is it because you are not supposed to say it?
Caden: Well, I do say it sometimes. Daddy says it.
Me: Yeah. Does Daddy let you say it?
Caden: Not very often.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Smile

I remember being told it is impossible
to smile and feel fear at the same time

so I make myself smile

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Awakening

We live in a world of bustle and clutter and chaos and we don't even know why we are here sometimes.

Why are we here?

I look around at work sometimes and wonder what we are all doing - not just in my job, in any job.

Why are we here?

We create systems and businesses to generate money and support others. In return we get money, structure, and (hopefully) satisfaction, and (possibly) make the world a better place.

This last one is debatable. Depending on the company we work for or the job we have, we might be making the world a worse place, or leaving it indifferent.

Too often it can feel like we leave the world indifferent, though on a micro-level this cannot be the case.

It just feels like such a big cycle. We go to our jobs every day, generating money and helping people (hopefully) by doing our job. With the money we make, we pay off any debt we have accumulated, most likely due to having a car, home, and college education - except if we are typical, we don't really pay it off, we just make tiny payments that stretch out over decades, or even our lifetime.

We take on these debts because society tells us it is normal and even necessary if we are to enjoy the things that most others enjoy - a car, a home, education, and some extra fun on the side, perhaps nice clothes and spending money. What can happen as a result is that we get locked into our jobs or having to generate a certain amount of money so we can pay off the debts, and maintain a lifestyle we aren't even sure we want.

We make money every day to pay off debts we have accumulated and keep buying shit we don't need. In that mix we are hopefully helping people as well, but too often this can feel lost.

This is what I come to sometimes. It may not be your experience, but it is mine. There has got to be more to life than this - there is. I see evidence of it. I refuse to let this be my experience. I am tired of wondering what the hell I am doing.

What the hell are we doing?

There were things I wanted to do, still need to. there were things I wanted to do with my life, to demonstrate to my kids.

Why am I not doing them?

This needs to end. And it can - (1) by taking control of my debt, and (2) by starting to do some of the things I have always wanted. And it can begin today, in small ways, by starting to live the way I have imagined - purposefully, happily, no longer mindlessly.

The trick, of course, is not not become overwhelmed by the daily bustle to the point where it gets me down and makes me lose my focus.

How can I maintain this focus, how can I succeed? How can I not?

What the hell have I been waiting for?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Finding the beauty

Depression wants to get me down today, but I will not let it.
It wants to creep on my shoulders, settle in my ears and around my head, but I will not let it

I climb out of bed, pull on my clothes, keep moving
I am tired, but I need this run

I hit the streets.

Another day. Another day stretches before me.
I feel bleak at the prospect, broken down.
Head bowed as the day looms, daunting
It threatens to swallow me, crush me, leave me crumbled
But I know this need not be so.

I hammer on, determined to outrun it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The same house

We had just finished dinner. Caden had given me attitude that morning about such little things as putting his plate away after breakfast, so I prepared for more of the same.

"Put your plate away, please," I asked, determined to be consistent.

He made no move. "Well, but you are not helping."

I was already clearing the table and putting dishes in the dishwasher. "Buddy, I'm already doing all of this. I need you to help by bringing your plate. Thank you."

"But you are lazy."

He wasn't smiling, and his words stopped me cold. "What did you say?"

He looked uncomfortable, knowing he had gone to far, but not knowing how to go back. "You are lazy about Daddy."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What animal am I thinking of?

Caden's favorite game to play in the car. It is harder when he uses imaginary animals.

Caden: What animal am I thinking of?
Me: 4 legs?
Caden: No.
Me: 2 legs?
Caden: No.
Me: 6 legs?
Caden: No.
Me: 8 legs?
Caden: No.
Me: No legs?
Caden: No.
Me: Hmmm... 100 legs?
Caden: No. It has 5 legs.
Me: Oh! 5 legs. Ok... it's a starfish!
Caden: No.
Me: It's not? Hmm. Ok. Does it live under the ocean?
Caden: No.
Me: Does it have fur?
Caden: No.
Me: Is it smaller than a cat?
Caden: No. And it's NOT a polar bear.
Me: Ok. (pause) Is it a monster?
Caden: Monsters don't have 5 legs. Only some aliens do.
Me: Is it an alien?
Caden: No.
Me: Does it exist?
Caden: What does that mean?
Me: Is it real? Is it a real animal that lives on this earth?
Caden: Yes.
Me: Does it eat other animals?
Caden: No.
Me: So it eats plants?
Caden: No. It eats nothing.
Me: (pause) It doesn't eat anything?
Caden: It eats air. Me: (pause) I give up.
Caden: It's a tree!
Me: A tree?
Caden: You're not very good at this game.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The talk

My father took me down to the dock for a talk
He chose the dock because it was a place where we were both happy
Snorkeling and swimming were things we enjoyed together
We took a special peace from the water, and being close to it.

He wanted to talk about the rehab we had just spoken to by phone.
He had contacted them after deciding I needed help
I had started drinking at 16, then quickly fell into abuse
Before two spells at a clinic for alcohol poisoning, plus a threatened school suspension
Told me it was time to quit.

I kinda knew I wasn't done yet.
But quitting seemed like the only thing to do
In a place where everybody knows who you are
And your parents are members of AA
And helped establish the chapter of NA
On the island.

You go to meetings. That's what you do.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Facebook Runners

I sit down, open Facebook, and start to scroll.

Jesus Christ, look at these people.
Running, running running.

Here they are running through the desert, on a dirt trail, along the ridge
On beaches, among grass, through rivers, over snow
Sharing runs, posting runs, writing about runs

Who are these people? Are they insane?

Here I am at my latest run!
Here's a climb I did up to the highest peak, look at me!
Here's me and a bunch of other people standing at the top - whoo-hoo!

Jesus Christ, seriously? Don't you people have more important things to be getting on with?
Don't you have jobs, responsibilities, families?
What about earning a living?
What about your future, the future of your kids? What about what's going on in other places?
What about the problems that are going on in the world RIGHT NOW that are real and convoluted and downright depressing, but still demand our attention - did you give any though to any of THAT?

I don't think you did. You were too busy running.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

More days like Thursday

It was a Wednesday, so it was like any other day
And I worried what people thought.

When I saw my neighbors in the morning as we left the apartment
I worried that they thought we were annoying and too noisy.

When I rushed to drop the kids off in front of the school
I worried that the other parents would think I was disorganized and always late.

When I saw my supervisor at work and she didn't meet my eyes
I worried that she must have heard a negative report.

The eyebrow revolt

It was nighttime in the apartment
And all was quiet and still
But unbeknownst to me as I lay sleeping
My eyebrows plotted against me in the dark.

The plan was a daring one. At 3AM, they would revolt.
Patches (the left brow) would make a break for my hairline
While Squiggles (the guy on the right) would head south
Past the yawning cavern of my mouth
In an attempt to summit my chin by sunrise.

Their list of grievances: too long to ponder.
Their goal: to flee and disperse.

The scheme had moxie, but was ultimately ill-fated.
The team had counted on the darkness to provide cover for their tactics
But what they hadn't counted on
Was my bathroom break at 4:07AM.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Getting out of the rut

Tonight's meltdown felt similar to the others in a weary way that I hated. Dinner was not even on the table yet, and the whining, tantrums, and power struggles had been going on for the last two hours.

I was mentally fried and could already predict the course of the rest of the evening - it didn't look good. And it might even be more spectacularly bad than I was anticipating, but I thought I could manage it somewhat if only I could take a few deep breaths and be patient, and react with thought instead of the frustrated and tired way that I had been.

With one child on his back on the floor bouncing between various stages of sadness, outrage, fury, and remorse, and the other child (amazingly) working on her homework at the table and occasionally casting eyes from under raised eyebrows from him, to me, them back to him, I was more aware than ever that they look to me to know how to react and what to do next. I also knew we were all fed up with each other, and mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Night bandit

Running at night, in the dark all alone
Is my new favorite thing.

Under the cover of darkness, you can be anonymous
But still very cozily yourself
Deep inside.

You are at one with the stars and the sky
You turn off your light when the moon's glow allows

And run like a bandit, like a banshee, like whomever you want to be
Under the stars.

You can be no-one
You can be anyone
The night will never reveal.

Until you stumble, whoops
Or trip up and over that branch
Or that hole or that ditch

And you go down, into a tumble
Scratching your knees, bruising your toes

And decide that maybe, running with a light
Is not such a bad idea after all.

Words vs. numbers

Many days, I spend my time with words
Writing them, reading them, picking the right ones
For this or that
But my mind used to be occupied
With numbers.

They crept in slowly
As all things do
At first I cared not too much for numbers

Except in math class (of course)
Or when counting my allowance (even better)
Or when counting laps in swimming
In the 9-12 hours I would spend in training, every week
In the pool.

But then, I went to a new school
3500 miles from my home.
I begged to go, was so excited
As any 17 year old would be.

Questions

There are some mornings when Caden asks a lot of questions. This was one of those mornings.

Caden:

Don't you know that baby polar bears can live on their own when they are 2?
Don't you know that walruses are 3070 pounds?
Don't you know, there was one president that weighted over 300 pounds? Four men could fit in his bathtub.
Abraham Lincoln kept his papers in his hat.
Does Aladdin live in Egypt? When was he born?
Don't you know that Abraham Lincoln was 6 ft 4 inches tall?
When was Scooby Doo born?
Where was I born?
Where was Sevy born?
Where was Daddy born?
Where were you born?
Is your mom alive? Is your dad?
Does Scooby Doo exist in real life?
Are leprechauns nocturnal?
Are robbers real?
Are ninjas real?
Are Vikings? Are dragons?
Can a skeleton talk?
Do demons live under the ground?
Don't you know that penguins have extra fat to keep them warm?
Does Captain America ever sleep?

I believe in leprechauns. I believe in God. I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in fairies. I believe in every one of you.

Why are we here?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The vendetta

In another life Caden was very wronged by a flock of seagulls, I am sure of it. Nothing else could explain his deep vendetta.

When he was three we would take him to the beach so he could play on the sand. We'd sit down on a towel and watch him happily potter about in that space between us and the waves, only he didn't want to happily potter about, he only wanted to chase seagulls. With ferocity.

Off he'd run, with his shovel swinging in the air above his head - as it turns out, a shovel is not only a very good tool for digging with, but also for threatening seagulls. They'd hop with increasing urgency along the beach as he got closer, or take to the skies - but this only made him run further and faster.

I quickly learned that the line of thought "I'm sure he's just about to give up and turn around now" can never be depended on when it comes to seagulls.


A boy and his gulls.

For a boy who loves animals and other forms of nature, I found it odd and a little disturbing that this same compassion did not extend to seagulls - but it is now three years later, and I have found far other things to worry about. I will never know what the seagulls did to him in a former life, because Caden cannot remember, and the seagulls will not tell.

What did you do, seagulls, what did you do? Did you steal his snacks from his hand? Bury his beach toys, or peck at his ears and toes? Or was it something far more sordid, something not he nor I would even have the capacity to dream of?

But they will never tell.

So he will continue to chase them, shovel swinging, and they will continue to flee, for it is a vendetta that will not die - not in this lifetime, nor perhaps in the next.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The beastie


A little beastie visited my apartment last night.
He showed up just before dinner, and refused to sit down. "I don't like it," he said, when I showed him the hot veggies and rice.
"You've never even tried it. You don't know what it is." I encouraged him to try by holding out a small mouthful, but the beastie would not try it.
I coaxed and cajoled. I changed the subject, then tried to engage. The beastie relaxed and came closer, but would not sit down. I did not force it, but tried to stay open. I know beasties get hungry, and want to be included.
"Tell me what you did at school today," I said.
He held up a book they had made. I raised my eyebrows, nodded yes - I would love to see the book. He drew in closer, became a part of our conversation while we ate, and we talked about the day. He started to look less like a beastie and more like a little boy, but still he refused to sit.
After dinner, the beastie was back. "Where's my treat?" he said.
"You don't get a treat, you didn't have dinner."
"I want my treat!" 
"Eat dinner, and you'll get a treat." 
"But I don't like it!"
"And that's fine, you don't have to eat it. But you're not getting a treat."
Oh, the beastie was angry. He screamed and he whined. He sat on the floor and begged, please, please, please can I have a treat. He laid on his back and kicked his legs in the air. He put his feet on the wall. 
I cleaned up the dishes and tended to his sister. She was used to being visited by beasties and coped with it marvelously - she took her bath, played with her toys, and stepped carefully over the wailing beastie in the living room when she had to pass over him to get her drink.
The beastie was outraged to be so ignored. "Look at me!" the beastie shrieked. "Look at me on the floor!"
I examined the beastie. "Yes, I see you," I said.
The beastie looked aghast. "Don't you care? You're the parent, you are supposed to care! You don't care about me!"
I told the beastie I loved him very much, along with his sister, more than anything else in the world. And I wanted to help, if he wanted. But he could not have a treat.
The beastie howled.
This went on for the next two hours. The beastie wanted a treat. He wanted noodles. He wanted a bowl, then a bigger bowl, then a smaller bowl, then a spoon. I told him he could get these things himself. The beastie wailed.
"You don't love me! Everyone in this family hates me!" 
I told the beastie the opposite was true.
"I hate you! I don't want you in my family!"
I said that was too bad because I wanted the beastie in my family always.
The beastie called me a maniac. I wondered where he got that word from, and tried to hide my smile. 
In between cleaning up I tried to make the beastie laugh, to hug him, to distract him, to be casual. The beastie's sister tried to make him laugh as well and was successful for a while, until the beastie remembered that he was not done being beastly, and he screamed "I don't like funny things!"
The beastie's sister shrugged and decided to go to bed after that. She went graciously and happily and decided to read to herself for twenty minutes before turning out the light.
The beastie was exhausted but not finished. He rolled on my bed. "I - want - a - treat. I - want - a - treat." I folded laundry and waited for the beastie to fall asleep. He was out by the time I got halfway through the socks.
I snuck quietly into his sister's bedroom. She was still reading, The Magic Finger, by Roald Dahl. She was on the very last page.
I kissed her forehead and lay down beside her as she read me the last line of the book - "They'll be sleeping in the trees tonight, every one of them!" This line always makes her chuckle. We put the book away and I tucked her in and kissed her again.
"This is my favorite part of the day," she said. 
I smiled and said good night, then went over to the other room. 
The beastie was no longer a beastie but had transformed into a small boy. His hair was golden in the light cast by the bedside lamp, and his face was at peace. He would not wake until morning. I gave him a pillow, then covered him with a blanket. I kissed the small boy, then crept away.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

On running long distances

The fun is in the run

In the longest possible out-and-back
In seeing two sunrises and two sunsets and in knowing
that you can and must go further

In the simplicity of moving forward at the steadiest pace you can muster
Surging ahead when inspired, then falling back
But still finding time to notice the smallest flower
And the color of rocks
The grittiness of dust in the air, in your mouth
The patterns of light on the wall through the leaves

The fun is in the run

In the quiet of night and a thousands stars
Far more than the thirteen or so you count nightly
In the light-polluted skies over your city.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Pretty

I feel rounded as I run, heavy. I have a good pace, but feel the weight of each step.

I catch my reflection in a store's front window. It's not pretty. I realize I'm that person I see while they are running and think, "Good for them! It's uncomfortable, but they are running. Good for them."

Pretty is for other people, it's not for me. I have never cared for pretty.

Good for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The blanket

Depression can feel like a blanket. It smothers me some days, burying me with its weight. It is oppressive. I feel desperate but I cannot find the edges. 

Other days I pull it closer around me, avoiding the glimpses I see of escape - a smiling face, or a friend's invitation. The blanket is restrictive, but familiar. I see opportunities to get out, but I ignore them.

On still other days, I imagine throwing it off in one quick motion and darting out from underneath: 

"Fuck you, blanket!"
~~~~~

Depression has flitted in and out of my life for as long as I can remember. I have to assume this will always be the case. Running makes it better. Talking with friends and interacting with others makes it better. For me it is manageable, but there can still be days that feel bleak. It can be baffling as ultimately nothing seems to be wrong, but the feeling remains.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Woodpecker

I met a woodpecker on my run today.

He would not let me take his picture, no matter how carefully I snuck up
Even after I explained he could be on Facebook,
He would have none of it.

Which is why I cannot show you, I can only state
That I met a woodpecker on my run today.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Drowning

I went for a run last night, and felt like I was drowning.

I was running on the street but I felt like I was screaming inside and no-one could hear me, like I was treading water and waving for help and about to go down for what could be the last time. I didn't know what would happen or who would save me.

I ran, but as I ran all I could see was my struggling self screaming for help. I felt overwhelmed with anxiety. I didn't know what my next steps were. I didn't know where to look for help.

Then a sudden thought struck me. Fuck this, I thought.