Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Big D

Photo courtesy of Carlos Martinez/Flickr

Tonight as I was tucking her in Lily gave me some advice.

"Mom, you know what I think you should do? You should take a nap. Maybe if you took a nap you wouldn't be so angry."

"I'm not angry," I sighed. Embarrassed and defensive. "I'm just cranky."

"Well, maybe if you took a nap, you wouldn't be so cranky."

And what I wanted to say was that maybe I wouldn't be so cranky if every stage of bedtime preparation didn't involve a negotiation. 

I wouldn't be so cranky if they just cleaned up the various glittery plastic playthings littering their bedroom floor instead of flopping around the floor and whining that "it would take forever" before telling me that it was my job to clean up their room. 

I wouldn't be so cranky if, when I asked them to put on their pajamas, they didn't stand naked in front of their open bedroom window and flash the neighbors. 

I wouldn't be so cranky if they didn't fight over who would get to hold "Little People: Let's Go to the Zoo!" (over 40 fun flaps to lift!) and then be subjected to an extended pre-bedtime session of fun flap lifting. 

I wouldn't be so cranky if there wasn't an argument over who got the first piggyback ride to the bathroom. 

I wouldn't be so cranky if they didn't act as if I was attacking their mouth with barbed wire and spinach-flavored toothpaste every time (every time!!) I needed to brush their teeth and if they made even the smallest effort to spit into the sink.

I wouldn't be so cranky if two minutes after I tucked her in and five minutes after going to the potty, Jovie creeps out of her room and tells me that she needs to go potty again. 

I didn't tell Lily any of this. Instead I thanked her for the tip. Kissed her goodnight.

And here I am. 

Lily's right, I could use a nap. An early bedtime anyway.

But yesterday I went to the York Fair and ran into one of my old coworkers. And his wife told me she loved this blog. And that I should update it every day. 

So I'm taking Heather's request. Well. OK. Not quite. I mean, I probably won't be doing daily updates or anything. (I think the internet just sighed with relief) But I decided to show up tonight anyway.

Lately, it's been hard to show up here. I feel as if I've run out of things to say. I said as much in my last post, I guess. The past few years had been so fertile with ideas and self-expression that this particular drought feels somehow significant and unsettling. I feel as if my creative mind has gone from being a full orchestra to a single violinist playing with broken strings in a subway tunnel at a distant station.

I don't want to write about this feeling though. The futility. The hopelessness. The selfishness. The ingratitude. The stillness of this place. 

I don't want to write about depression. 

I don't want to write about depression, because I don't feel as if I've earned the right to be depressed. The foundation of my life is sound. These beautiful children and my thoughtful husband. A delightfully obnoxious dog. A delightfully shiesty cat. A cozy house. Food in the pantry. Good friends. Sisters (how anyone survives without sisters, I don't know). My needs are met. There are millions of people in the world who have earned the right to feel melancholy. I'm not one of them.

And yet here I am. I feel indulgent and lame and cliche.

If anyone expressed these sentiments to me about their own mental health I would tell them that they feel how they feel. That it's their life. Their experience. That judging themselves for being sad doesn't help them get better. In fact, it only compounds the problem and muddies the process of healing. That they need to be kind to themselves. 

Do as I say, not as I do. 

See, I told you. Cliche.

I don't want to write about depression, because it's too damn depressing. And I don't want the world to be weird around me*. I feel awkward enough as it is. I want to go back to posting pictures of squirrels and sharing stories about how I creep on my quirky neighbors and am kind of obsessed with Louis CK

Remember those days? I was more fun back then, right? Or maybe I was just more delusional? 

But then I end up circling back to this decision I made a while back that when it comes to writing I want to be vulnerable. That's where the real meat of life is. That's where we come together in a meaningful way. 

Usually, I save those narratives for after I have some type of resolution. The problem has been solved. The lessons have been learned. I've moved on, richer for the experience. 

Like any good optimist, I wait for the happy ending.

But the reality is, when you're in this place sometimes you can't wait for the happy ending. Sometimes you don't actually think there will be one.That this is just how you'll feel for the remainder of your existence. That you'll float through this life until it's over and that the whole exercise was pointless. That your time here was meaningless and your impact minimal. 

When you're in this place, sometimes you find yourself staring at your dog and thinking, you know what, humanity isn't all it's cracked up to be. Next time around, I'd like to be an over-coddled beagle whose biggest concerns are breakfast, dinner and that strange dog walking by the house right now. 

See what I mean? Nobody wants to read about that.

So I'll wrap up with this: 

Yesterday, I finally went to a yoga class after a months-long hiatus (why was I on hiatus you ask? Have you not seen a Pristiq commercial? Clearly, I've lost interest in everyday activities I once enjoyed.)

Anyway, I went to this class at Ignite studio while the girls were at preschool. The space was warm and cozy, incense was burning, a fake Eddie Vedder was chanting from an appropriately zen playlist. 

I figured the class would be rough because it'd been a while. But all the rhythms and poses were rote. Just like they were before.

Toward the end of practice as we're settling into half-pigeon, Jason the instructor tells us to observe the discomfort of the pose. Like maybe there was purpose in the awkwardness of that moment. I wasn't totally paying attention, because my hips were fussing at me. Then he says something that grabbed me. 

"A shitty day does not make a shitty life."

And in that moment, in that place, in that position, this was profound to me. I might feel shitty for now, but that won't necessarily translate into a permanent state of shitty. 

At the end of class he pointed out that we are different people than when we entered. That our cells are constantly dying and forming and changing. And he was right. I'd transformed into a hot, sweaty mess. But a happy hot, sweaty mess. 

Then I listened to this TED Talk by psychologist Dan Gilbert (I've been hitting the TED Kool-Aid pretty hard lately. Call it self medicating), in which he shares research about "the end of history illusion."

"Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished," he says. 

While most people don't believe they change much as they get older, in reality, time transforms our preferences, values and personalities. Nothing is constant.

"The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you've ever been."

This is reassuring. Tomorrow I will be different. Even if just slightly different. For Lily's sake, hopefully I'll be less cranky. Just to be safe, I should probably hide that lift-the-flap book. And go to bed.

* Seriously. Don't be weird around me. Weirdness makes me cranky. And Lily will tell you, you don't want see me cranky. So, you know, just pretend like I'm a normal, well-balanced human. Unless, of course, you are an abnormal, unbalanced human, in which case we should talk.


  1. Thanks for sharing this story, Susan. You're also helping those who aren't always quite sure what goes through someone's mind when that someone is depressed. You're obviously a very bright, hard working mama who adores her family. And I understand that there's more than that.

  2. Monique - thanks for taking the time to write. My goal in sharing this type of stuff is always to make sure other people don't feel quite so alone.