I Often Worry

I often worry. No surprise there to anyone who knows me. I worry about all sorts of things, as all people do. I fall into the category of people, though, who worry too much. Way too much. I know this about myself. I try to deal with it.

I know that parents always worry how well a job they are doing raising their children. They worry if they are screwing their kids up somehow. After all, parents have pretty vivid images of how their own parents raised them and it most definitely affects the kind of parent that they want to be. But, often, there is a huge gap between the parent you want to be and the parent you actually are. And that is, of course, because no two people are ever exactly the same; no two children, no two adults, no two families. That whole “Life is a box of chocolates” thing.  The wishing that kids came with individual instruction manuals thing. Hell, the wish that you had come with an instruction manual!

This piece touched me just now because I often worry as well. I think my husband does too. I wonder how my children are going to remember me, my husband, us.  I wonder how our depression will affect them; has affected them. Because it’s certainly affected everything that he and I have done and do. (Damn you, Depression!!)

I’m curious and anxious about what things look like to them, how things feel to them. Very anxious. Very worried.

Anyway, I enjoyed this piece by Lisa Lim about how things seemed to her.

My Mother Would Walk Miles Upon Miles

By Lisa Lim on Mutha Magazine

“I’d ask, “Mommy, why don’t you have any wrinkles?” “Because I don’t think that hard about things,” she’d answer.” Memories of a mother — and her struggles with homelessness, depression, and varicose veins — in comic form.

via My Mother Would Walk Miles Upon Miles — Discover

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Introspective Lesson No. 1

I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I was going to write about everything. I  was going to write about everything I experienced and noticed about the world and its’ occupants. I was going to create compelling stories and powerful essays!
But mostly I was going to write about THEM. I was going to write about all of THEM who thought I wasn’t smart or smart enough. All of THEM who thought I was weird. All of THEM with whom I did not fit in. All of THEM who couldn’t understand me because I was, actually, smarter than them, better than them! They were shallow and cookie-cutter. They were such sheep. Nay, lemmings!  Conformists all. They didn’t realize how incredibly simple minded and crass, ignorant and, yes, shamefully mean, they were. And I was going to reveal it to them. I was going to SHOW THEM ALL.

I was going to shame everyone who made fun of my love of reading, everyone who teased me for being quiet, everyone who called me a bookworm, as if that was somehow a degrading thing, everyone who said I had my head too much in the clouds. I didn’t consider at the time that since they were not avid readers themselves, that this particular form of revenge would be essentially ineffective.  All the stupid, random, bigoted and boorish utterances that fell from their mouths I would document. I had a special fondness for Harriet the Spy.

They would get “theirs” – oh, ho, ho, yes, they would!!! And in doing so, I guess that I was also searching for those who would, in fact, “get” me. Who would understand and appreciate me. I think I wanted to entertain people too, which was strangely contradictory to my mostly shy nature. I also had a special fondness for Carol Burnett and Erma Bombeck.

And, somehow, this writer’s life was going to be an inherently exciting life. Full of travel balanced with hours of fascinating research in really cool libraries. I was, of course!, going to live in a book lined apartment in New York or Paris or anywhere in Germany. I wanted to “make something of myself’ – on my own terms. In other words, with something that I, myself, held in high regard; something creative and interesting and not the same as everyone else around me.

I was different from THEM.

I was therefore BETTER than THEM.

This has always stuck in a nook in my brain, from one of my favorite books:

“But the thing is, you raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddam ‘unskilled laughter’ coming from the fifth row. And that’s right – that’s right – God knows it’s depressing….But that’s none of your business, really. …An artist’s concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s. You have no right to think about those things, I swear to you.

But I’ll tell you a terrible secret – Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddam secret yet? And don’t you know – listen to me, now – don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is?…Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ himself, buddy.

Zooey. Franny and Zooey , J.D. Salinger

I was a snob.

Skeleton of a Moment (Her)

All along the way, sitting in the front passenger seat, she had been babbling to him about how he could indeed, despite his objections and skepticism, sell his photography.  She pulled up example after example and idea after idea. She hoped that it also confirmed to him that she had trust in his abilities and talent; that she supported him.  He didn’t believe that anyone actually purchased photography prints anymore. She pulled proof off the internet from her smart phone that people did. He remained inscrutable; dubious.

As they entered the cool restaurant from the bright, humid, concrete lined parking lot, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness inside. The kids were chattering behind her. The hostess was greeting her and asking how many people and what menus did they need? Four, she answered. Mom! She turned. How many children’s menus? from the hostess. Two. No, Mom! I don’t want one! Okay, just one. Damn, her eyes were still trying to focus in the dimness.

Suddenly she remembered the last time they’d been at this restaurant and the waiter had handed them a card, the restaurant’s “fan card”, and explained that there was a deal you would get – a discount or something like that – if you recorded on that card how often you came here. She couldn’t remember what the waiter had actually called it. Was it a “fan card”? A coupon? Damn. Did her husband remember and did he still have it in his wallet?
They were trying their best to cut costs lately. This was the first time they’d all been out to a restaurant together in long time. She was pleasantly surprised that he’d suggested it. Anyway, maybe that card could help a little.

She turned to him, still trying to focus, searching for his face within his dark silhouette, backlit with the sun’s blinding rays that kept bursting in whenever the door opened to admit more patrons, encircling his head like a spiky halo.

Hey! Do you still…?
What!?
She was thrown off. His face finally came into the clear.
Damn. Her mind had gone blank.
She vaguely noticed in her periphery that they had started to move towards the hostess and that more people were lining up behind them.
Do you remember that..that…
WHAT?!?
His eyebrows furrowed together, his eyelids narrowed, he was slightly shaking his head. Impatience personified.
A pang shot through her as she tried to get the words out, if she could only remember what that damn card was called. She started up again but was cut short.
WHAT are you trying to tell me!?? Just tell me!!
He was looking at her like she was crazy, neurotic, incomprehensible…

And then a rapid bloom of images burst through her mind:  His mother. Various images of her talking to them, of her nervously fluttering around them, of their impatience with her. Of how annoyed he and his brother and his dad would get with her when she was trying to explain something to them, trying to give voice to what she was thinking, to her own opinion on a situation.  The eye rolling. The dismissal. The jokes made that were intended to go over her head. Sometimes even the barks. His mother was a nervous little bird sometimes, true. His mom did have that small continuous buzz of worry and fret and judgment much of the time. Dare she say self-righteousness coupled with insecurity?  Truth be told, it irked her to the extreme.  His mother did, indeed, do things that didn’t make much sense to anyone else; that only she could fathom; that were motivated by things deep within her psyche that no one else could see.  She had the way she thought things should be firmly set in her mind and hated when the reality of a situation would conflict with it. She could be rather insensitive with things she’d say. But it irked her to the extreme too, when the men in the house would speak so callously to her mother-in-law. There was no need for that. She felt so hurt for that woman when they treated her so. The lack of respect was dismal to witness.

And suddenly her breath caught in her chest as a trapdoor inside dropped open and sent her heart plummeting. It was a blow to her core as she realized he was looking at her the same way he looked at his mom. He was reacting to her the same way! The same irritation, the same interruptions, the same impatience. Was it disappointment? Was it embarrassment? Was it resentment??

You didn’t give me a chance to finish!, she managed to spit out, before she turned abruptly to follow the cute little hostess to their table, fleetingly catching the looks on her children’s faces. They knew what was up. They knew how she was feeling.

And with that, her hopes for a pleasant, loving, convivial, evening out as a family withered abruptly.  There were feeble attempts to water it back to life by everyone else at the table, but the damage had been done.

 

 

Cowardice

Cowardice

Weird that today’s daily prompt happens to be the word “cowardice”.

Weird because I’ve been wrestling with a dilemma that involves that word. Namely, whether or not to venture back out into the “real world” work force.

We are in a bit of a financial bind, my husband and I. Debts, bills, the usual stuff. And I have been an at-home-full-time mom for the last 15 years. I am up there in age. (Okay, fine, just turned 50). I never finished college because I could never decide what degree to go for. Years of clinical depression never helped much either. Work is pretty hard to come by for someone like me, I imagine.

However, like rain in a time of drought, an offer has fallen into my lap at my old job. The pay is great (greater than when I left!). Part-time is really what they’re looking for, which is perfect for me with my kids who are still in school. I would be foolish not to jump at it. Stupid not to jump at it!  And at first, I felt like rejoicing.

But here’s the thing. I really don’t want to go back. I get sick in the stomach at the thought.  I never, ever, ever, liked working for anyone else. . I know, most people probably don’t relish it either.  The last job grew on me more than any other…but still; if I didn’t feel I HAD to go back, I wouldn’t.  I’m sure that this statement belongs in the First World Problem and even more possibly Spoiled Person Problem category. Don’t get me wrong,  I don’t mind work and when I do, I put my all into it…until I burn out.  I don’t come from a wealthy, privileged background. Hard work has always been my family’s motto. Like I said, when I work, I work hard.  But working with people? In the interests of other people?  It exhausts me. It exhausts me mentally and physically and emotionally. When my time belongs to others, it takes everything out of me until I feel like I am slowly being choked to death. There hasn’t been one job in my life that I didn’t come home from with either smoke coming out my ears or tears coming out my eyes.  Not. One.  Physical work is actually much easier for me to deal with than working with other people, and the only way I burn out on that is if I simply become physically exhausted.

For some reason, volunteering in some common goal with other people doesn’t bother me. Having to do it for a paycheck? Mmn. Ugh.

Here’s another thing. I believe that we all have different temperaments. I’m pretty sure that’s been proven. Analytical temperaments, social temperaments, creative temperaments, shy, bold, bossy, introvert, extrovert, diplomatic, problem solving…you-name-it temperaments. And I think that I’ve been running from my temperament for a long, long time.

When I was little and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer with one of two things: an artist or a nurse.  An artist because a love of drawing and painting and making up stories and creating has always been there as long as I can remember. A nurse, because that’s what my mom was at the time and I admired her greatly for it.

The proudest elementary school moment that I can remember as a painfully shy and introverted student was when my teacher chose my drawing of an Autumn path to display above the blackboard in front of the class.  Sadly, to tell the truth, I think that was the ONLY proud moment of my school years.  Oh wait, being inducted into the National Honor Society in Junior High and receiving top medals in band competitions were perhaps the others.  I guess I could count those.

At twelve, I decided I wanted to be a writer, and that stuck in my head as what I would pursue for my entire life,  until the problems with time management and with confidence in my mental abilities began to falter in high school (wish we’d known about ADD back then!) and the black cloud of depression began rolling into my brain. Until I was headed off to college with everyone else’s voices giving me “honest, prudent, realistic” advice that a degree in Literature or English or Art would get me NOWHERE in life and visions of myself alone and starving began to fill my head. Until fear and doubt and perfectionism and self-hatred dried up all the words. I decided that I would not be a writer. I would not be an artist. I deliberately gave up.  I thought that maybe I would go into Social Work because I’d also always had an extreme sense of justice and equality and compassion. Then I was told by someone on a plane that to be in Social Work one had to have a very, very thick skin because it was a depressing field to work in. And I had just gotten over being suicidal.
Shit. Now what?
What do I do with my life when what I had identified with for so long, when what I had wanted to pursue for so long, when the only things for which I had shown any proficiency whatsoever, were stripped away?

I NEVER thought I’d be a housewife for so many years! Was most definitely not in my plans.
(And the thing is, despite my bouts of depression, being a stay-at-home mom has been the best position I’ve ever held).

So, after giving up on college when I caved into my writer’s paralysis, and when I submitted to everyone’s “sage” and future-predicting advice that a degree in Art was “not a useful degree”, I stumbled into whatever job I could get: photography studio lab, retail, temp work, records management in a law firm, admin in a law firm, office manager of a recruitment firm, receptionist at a Veterinarian’s clinic. At the same time, I did take a few classes in metal smithing, all the while dreaming that someday, maybe, I could make some kind of living with it.
And then came marriage, and then came children.

Etsy came along and seemed like it sprung from out of my dreams. I PINED to go for it. For years, I’d been wanting to try my hand. Depression would pop in almost like clockwork and derail me, but just when I gathered up some hope, when I had set up shop and was about to make and list things, I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. All my attention and energy was, of course, diverted. But I didn’t give up the idea.

We moved into our new house last year and it seemed like providence to me. It was bigger to accommodate us and our growing menagerie of pets, it was closer to my husband’s job, it was closer to the new school that we enrolled my ADHD son in so that he could regain some joy in going to school, it was closer to our place of worship, it was closer to my kid’s only cousin, it was closer to just about everyone in my book club, I would be just around the corner to one of my best friends (even though it broke our heart to leave living next to one of my other best friends) AND the most magical thing of all was that it had a space to call a real studio! A place where I could work without interruptions (for the most part), where I wouldn’t have to shoo away cats and dogs who just wanted to “help” with my projects, where I could store all of the craft and art supplies that I had been building up for so many years, itching to get to, where I could leave everything sprawled and strewn across the table exactly where it was and pick up where I left off later. It was like it was MEANT TO BE!

What does this have to do with cowardice?
Well, I can’t help but wonder – a lot lately – about what my path might have been if I had had the moxie and the determination and the bravery to tell everyone and their “real world” advice to go and shove it.  If I’d had the bravery to listen to my gut and my heart about what path I should follow.  If I hadn’t meekly followed the herd off to college like I was “supposed to do”, because everyone else was doing it. If, when I had gotten into college I had said, “Fuck it, I’m going to study what I WANT to study and not give a shit about where it will “get me in Life”.  I mean, it’s, of course, the typical woulda/coulda/shoulda thinking.

But now I’m faced with entering the regular 9-5 job world again.
Right when I have my supplies, I have my ideas, I have my work space, my kids are older and requiring less attention.
I know who I am now and what my temperament has ALWAYS been.
I KNOW how I work best.
I KNOW what I want and I KNOW that it’s a risk.

There was a voice that whispered in my head a day after I got that suggestion to come back to work. It said, “Maybe this is a test. A test to see how dedicated I am to what I really want to do.  A test to see how serious. A second chance to take a different way.”

I know how I work when I’m working on something I want to be working on; when I’m working on something creative. I become obsessed. And that obsession that fuels the work doesn’t operate very well with stops and starts. Or when I’m overloaded and exhausted and physically drained. That’s me. That’s my temperament. That’s how I tick.  And I feel like I’ve been fighting it almost all my life in order to fit in and “do well” by society’s standards.

So, do I take this job, afraid that it will quash my dreams? Or do I not take this job and finally overcome the cowardice I succumbed to in my youth? Do I risk losing out on the only job that will pay me immediate financial returns; the only job that would probably hire me to begin with?

Everyone tells me that I can do both. In my gut, I know that’s not true.  Unless, of course, I give up sleeping…and that, as I’ve learned too many times, especially when I was a new mom, is never a good idea.   I am not a regimented, jump from one mode to another on a precise schedule personality.  I’m old and set in my ways.

Also,  I often have the paranoid thought (though not so paranoid, really) that my cancer could come back. And if it did, I would deeply regret not trying my hand at what I really wanted to do. Work alone, as much as possible, creating.

I was a coward then. Am I a coward now?

Cowardice. I’m wrestling with it these days.

 

 

Her

“Motherfucker! I swear he does this on purpose”, she mumbled as she grabbed the unwashed bowl of chili that he had just left on the kitchen island. She was doing the dishes when he walked in the back door, home from a workday that she knew he despised.  He grabbed a can of the ready made stuff, heated it up in the microwave, ate silently, left the greasy remains, grabbed a beer from the fridge and quietly – oh, how cooly – left the room.
Still, he could have put the dish in the sink where she was rinsing them off. He could have done the same with the empty tin can (recycling had become second nature for them all).
He could have said hello when he walked in.

At least he said a pleasant hello to the kids. That was something.

When had she taken to calling him a motherfucker, she wondered? It left a terrible taste in her mouth after she spit it out. Even if it was just to herself. But those bitter, heated, words were simmering behind her lips more often lately: motherfucker; bastard; son of a bitch; asshole. Was she beginning to think of him in those terms?

She knew it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t, was it?

She had been where he was now. She had been there more times than she cared to count. He knew that about her, but he seemed to have forgotten. He seemed to have forgotten that she knew how it felt; forgotten that she could sympathize; forgotten that she’d had years of experience with it. He seemed to have forgotten long, long ago, because why else was it that back then, when she desperately needed him to show that he noticed her, that he wanted her pain to go away, that he cared, would he have chosen to walk around her like he had just seen an embarrassing stain on the floor that he didn’t have the energy to clean up?

Of course, he had no idea what had been going through her head those couple of years. And, of course, he hadn’t bothered to sincerely ask either.

Now it seemed that it was her turn. Her turn to notice, to care, to want to take the pain away. And she did, with all her heart. But nothing she tried worked. She found herself wondering if depression was contagious. She thought she’d recently read an article in Psychology Today that reported some studies had come to that conclusion. If it was actually contagious, did he catch it from her? Was it her own doing that had led to this point in time? To this end of a long unravelling? Were they really at the end?

 

 

 

So It’s Come to This

“She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day”
– The  Rolling Stones

 

I had a really good therapist before my current one, whom I adore, by the way. I switched just for the sake of consolidating things. She was seeing my son at the time and it seemed convenient to go to her since our issues were overlapping.

Anyway, this previous therapist said in response to a question I had about the whys and wherefores of depression that, lacking any traumatic experience, “it’s all about brain chemistry and that’s pretty much it”.

I’m convinced. And it’s all so weird. And fascinating.

My GP prescribed Wellbutrin to add to the Lexapro I’ve been on since…forever it seems, and since I mentioned that I’m on the low end of the spectrum of ADD, he agreed with my therapist to let me give Adderall a whirl. “Right now, you could use something to get you going”.

I said, “here goes nothing” and took my 5 mg of Adderall this morning and my 5 mg 6 hours later.

My review:  It certainly helped. I wasn’t rushing around. I wasn’t feeling manic or shaky or revved up. But I got things done today. I was moving. The weirdest part is that I found myself looking at household chores I normally would find rather odious, like scooping cat litter or, yet again, cleaning up after one of our dogs who still doesn’t have the hang of house training, and tackling them without too much disgust or resentment – resentment!! – that it fell on me to do for the umpteenth time.  I think that’s what I’m feeling rather bemused by right now. I did find myself muttering occasionally about wishing I wasn’t the only one who did these things on a regular basis…but there wasn’t the anger sticking in my craw about it; the hurt of feeling like the scullery maid. I just felt like a….responsible adult!!! An amiable, responsible, capable, adult. Oh. My. God!!!  I did the dishes, I took out the trash, I cleaned up all the Legos sprawled across our dining room table, and then decided to finally tackle the painting of our laundry room, which has been one of the hundred or so things on my to-do list for months. And I’ve been in a good mood while doing it all!  Weird. Just weird.

I will admit that in my stupid and foolish youth, I may have partaken of some illegal drugs.  Even though I know Adderall is basically amphetamine, I don’t have any of the feelings brought on by what I did illicitly in my younger days. I’ve been calm.  I’ve been relaxed, but not like OVERLY so. I’m not irritable or skittish or “high”.  I just find myself looking at things that need taking care of and thinking “okay, I’ll do that; I can do that…right now”.  And then just….doing it. I’m not paralyzed anymore.

Just. Like. That.

“Mother’s Little Helper”……

Huh.

Brain chemistry is fascinating.

Dream a Little Dream

Hubs has always kidded me about how I manage to remember my dreams. How I’ve managed to collect an assortment over the years that I can pull out and look at again every once in a while, vibrant images intact.

I’m not really into analyzing them very much. I don’t think that they are all that hard to figure out.

An upside to all this sleeping is that I’ve had some pretty vivid and interesting dreams to add to my collection.

One amusing one is this:

I am Katniss Everdeen. I’m in the jungle and being attacked. I’m sweating and pumped full of adrenaline. Breathing heavily and crouched down for better camouflage, I grip my huge bow, reach over my shoulder into the leather sheath that is strapped to my back, and pull out my arrow which is tipped with…..rubber suction cups.

The other dream that has stuck with me is difficult to describe because the detail of the landscape was so incredibly varied and realistic and textured that I don’t think I can do it justice right now.  And I’m still not sure if I’ve got the sequence of events sorted, because a lot seemed to be happening.  The short of it is that I was on a little moped or motorcycle, driving along in a world where all the power had gone out. Trying to make my way along cobbled streets and alleys and paths and feeder roads and freeways and countryside in the pitch dark and pouring rain. Every possible light was out – car lights, my headlight, streetlights, flashlights, every single one. I had this sense of urgency but I couldn’t tell where it was I was trying to go.  I was lost and meandering into neighborhoods I didn’t know.  The buildings all seemed to be out of Harry Potter. Stone and brick and ornate and old.  And there was a dog I found at an intersection where I’d stopped. He looked like maybe he’d been hit and at first I thought he was dead.  He was laying in a puddle and seemed to be drowning. A large shaggy-haired dog. As I leant closer he started to lift his head and wag his tail so I lifted him up and tried to figure out how to bring him with me. He ended up morphing into one of my dogs, L., and I spent a good portion of the rest of the dream trying to keep him alongside my motorcycle on a leash and get us both to safety of some sort.      (Hmn. Whatever could THAT be about, right?)

There are also past dreams that I’ve been thinking about lately because of the way I’ve been feeling. Dreams that seem to have been foreshadowing this feeling that I’ve been struggling with.

One dream I will always remember is from around the late 1990’s, early 2000’s.  I’m standing on the rooftop of a building which seems to be in New York. With me are two of my bosses from my job at the time. They are standing closer to the ledge of the roof and I’m standing at a small distance from them. I’m facing them and they’re yelling something at me. “Stop, drop, and roll!!!! Stop, drop, and roll!!!!!” They start screaming my name and pointing at something behind me. I look down and see a black, powdery substance that leads from my feet…..along the rooftop to….I follow with my eyes back and back to see a spark traveling along this line, turning into flame and coming right at me. One of those scenes in which it seems like slow motion, but happens in seconds. I’m engulfed in flames and through all the crackling and fire, I know I should do what they are yelling at me to do, but instead I just lay down and give up. I’m quite conscious of thinking “Oh, well. This is it”.  I remember my body starting to shake and that’s what woke me up.

There’s another recurring dream I get with a somewhat similar theme. It’s one in which I’m in my pajamas (and it always seems I’m in a nightgown or not fully dressed or something in this one) in a car and it plunges into a body of water. The water starts rushing in the windows as we sink.  I always find myself in this dream, in which small details change but the events are pretty much the same, feeling rather accepting of my fate. There’s an initial sort of panic as the car falls, that sudden drop in the gut, that seizing up of the heart, and then calmness or paralyzation; a recognition that there probably is something I could do to save myself, but I don’t have the energy or presence of mind to attempt or remember it. So be it. Oh, well. There really isn’t time. That’s it. I knew I should have paid attention to those news stories about “what to do if you find yourself in this situation”.  Yeah. I’ve had this dream a lot.

And as I lay on my bed the other day,  I realized that it’s that very feeling I’ve got lately. That paralyzed feeling.

BUT!! I do know what to do (seeing a doctor…or two or three…) and I am doing it. Just took my new cocktail of meds.  So, here’s to not going down with the car.