personal history

Faking It

“Fake it until you make it”.
“If you forget your part, or lose your place, just fake it”.
That first statement is one that most everyone has heard. Not sure who to attribute it to.  The second statement is something that our high school band director would advise us whenever we were participating in school symphonic band competitions.  “What people always remember during a concert is the beginning and the ending.  Have a strong opening and a strong close and in between, if you personally get messed up, just fake it until you can catch up”.  Although, if you happened to be a soloist, that advice didn’t work so well.  Hard to hide mistakes if you were the only one up there making noise.

People who are depressed are actually quite good at faking happiness and general “normalcy”.  For whatever reasons, it feels like an adrenaline push to conceal the truth whenever out in public spaces.  And it is EXHAUSTING.   It’s probably much like how wounded and sick animals will try to hide themselves or behave as if everything is perfectly fine; they’re just, you know, taking it easy right now.  Pet owners know this.  It isn’t until your cat or dog is actually quite ill, or is not eating or drinking anymore, that you end up at the vets office where they inform you that something is urgent.  “What?? But, he’s been acting like his usual self!”  If animals could actually speak our language, maybe it would be different.  But then again, mammals have an instinct to not appear weak or injured because other mammals tend to attack or shun each other when they behave that way.  They tend to eat one another.  And humans, after all, are mammals.

However, humans are different from other mammals in many other ways.  We have a language that is incredibly nuanced, massively creative, endlessly evolving, and our language can do other things besides warn or beckon or comfort or express joy.   Our language can actually affect our own brains, our own feelings, our own behavior and health.  Our language can influence other human’s brains, feelings, behavior, health, attitudes.

When I was depressed, I couldn’t remember a time when I did not disgust myself; when I was not ashamed of myself; when I did not hate myself.  The playlist in my head, which ran constantly included such hits as “I’m A Failure”, “I Can Never Do Anything Right”, “I Will Never Accomplish Anything”, “I Am Stupid”, “I Am Worthless”, “I Am Too Weird”, “I Don’t Belong Here”, “I Don’t Belong Anywhere”, “I Always Mess Up”, “I’m An Idiot”, “I’m A Fool”, “I Will Never Do Anything Right”, “I Hate Myself”, “I Am A Disgusting Mess”, “Everyone Thinks So Too”…..and so many more! OH SO MANY VARIATIONS!

The psychologist who managed to change things for me made me do something on our very first visit.  It was after my last episode of feeling suicidal – and it was one of my worst episodes.  It was during my first visit with her after getting a reference from my psychiatrist (and after starting back up on a new anti-depressant).  After acknowledging with great sympathy just how broken and shitty I was feeling, she made me do something, which she laughingly told me was “going to feel really stupid and really silly and really corny right now and it’s something no one likes to do”.   She made me say out loud, “I am wonderful”.  I shot her a look.  “We aren’t going anywhere or talking at all until you say it”.  Then she made me say it again with a little more conviction.  I started crying.  She handed me a box of tissue with an encouraging nod and an even more sympathetic face.  Then she told me to say, “I love myself!”.   I indicated that I just really couldn’t fathom uttering those words and she said, “It doesn’t matter if you actually feel it right now, just say it out loud.  Say it because it is perfectly fine to say it!…Let me tell you, I love myself! That’s right! And I’m proud of it! It’s okay to love yourself! It doesn’t mean you think that you are perfect.  NO ONE is perfect. We all have our issues and our flaws….and it’s okay to love ourselves anyway!”

So I did.  With a huge eye roll.
So she made me do it again without the huge eye roll.

“Okay. Now we can begin to get you feeling better…. because you deserve to.”

Basically (and she acknowledges this) it was a form of “fake it ’til you make it” therapy.
And I have to begrudgingly admit that it works.

It’s not like I don’t still get mad at myself, or even have some suicide ideation anymore, but I’ve come to recognize exactly when something has managed to hit the high volume button on those old tunes.

Breaking those 24/7 recordings in your head of all the stuff you hate about yourself and replacing them with soundtracks of kindness and love towards yourself is crucial to being able to get better.  You have to think of yourself as a friend or family member that you love dearly and don’t want to lose.  Would you EVER say those nasty things to them? Of course not! Would you EVER believe those things about them? NO.  And you know exactly why you would never say or think those things about that person?  Yes. You do.  It’s because you LOVE THEM.  You love them despite whatever quirks or issues they have.  And EVERYONE in this world has quirks and issues and flaws and mistakes.  You do not have to be flawless to be loved.  You do not have to be flawless to exist.  You can love your own self.

A lot of depression has to do with chemistry.  I happen to know that well.  A lot of it also has to do with language; namely, the language you use with yourself.  If you can beat yourself down into a pulp with negative language in your head, it stands to reason that you can help to heal yourself with language too.  If you can fake happy language outwardly to other people, why the hell not fake it to yourself?  The only difference is that instead of deceiving other people to make them feel okay, you can change the way you think of yourself in order to actually crawl out of the hold that depression has on you.  And that is worth doing.

It’s hard work because it involves breaking lifelong habits.  But it isn’t impossible.



My Intentions Are Always Good

My follow-through is bad.

I’ve never been quite able to figure out why.  I’m suspecting it’s because I’m an ambivert. I just discovered that term this year in an article about introverts and extroverts and new research about them. I was most definitely an introvert when I was younger – or at least I was when I began school. I morphed somewhat into an extrovert later after getting some life experiences under my belt.

Perhaps this is where I should insert a link to my favorite Courtney Barnett song, “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party”,  but instead I’ll just skip to the resonant chorus for me:

“I wanna go out, but I wanna stay home”

And how apropos that song is, indeed, for today.

You see, right about now my daughter and I should be heading out to a wedding across town. Way across town. Normally it would take us about one to one and a half hours to get there (Texas and its’ major cities are big and sprawling, y’all). However, our city happens to have, or rather always seems to have, freeways under construction.  I’d forgotten about that. Until I called my sister-in-law a little bit ago and she said that they were just about to leave because of all the road closures. A little trill of panic fluttered in my chest.

We were going to carpool with them, because my husband, who is the one related to the person getting married, refused to go.  It followed that if my husband was going to stay home, then my son, who has ADHD, was going to stay home as well. Neither of them are particularly social; it’s downright tortuous for them. My husband wasn’t always this bad about it, but he’s still trying to crawl out of the Depression Pit.

I’d already RSVPd for all four of us to attend.  In light of the heel-digging, however, I figured that we’d just say my husband and son were under the weather and my daughter and I would do our best to enjoy ourselves there. The truth is that I did not particularly want to go either.

No. Wait. That’s not entirely true. When we got the invite in the mail, I remember thinking, “Oh! N. is getting married! How nice! Of course we will attend. We haven’t seen them for a long time now”.   I operated with that intention for a couple of months.

No, wait. I’m going to back up again.

I did indeed intend for us to go when we got the “save the date” notice in the mail. Then came the invite to a wedding shower for the bride. About 3 days before the actual event. With no email to respond to. And the wrong phone number.

The bride is on my husband’s side of a very large family. She is the daughter of my husband’s cousin (I can never remember if that makes her his second cousin or his 1st cousin once removed. I forget how that works). She is someone I think of fondly because I remember how cute she was at our wedding and she always sought me out at the infrequent family get-togethers in the past. But since my mother-in-law passed away, those get-togethers where her family’s children and grandchildren are invited are much fewer and farther between.

My husband and his brother have always maintained that they’re never quite sure who is who at these gatherings, aside from the cousins, aunts and uncles that they grew up with. Like I said, it’s a pretty big family and it takes awhile at these reunions to figure out which kid belongs to which person and how they are all related. In other words, we aren’t all that close.  But I give them an A for trying, because they are a lot closer than my dad’s family of seven siblings and all their children who never really even bothered to get together at holidays. My dad says it’s because none of them could last very long in one room without getting into an argument. So, we mostly see them at funerals.

My mother, one of two children, finds this terribly tragic and just plain wrong. She was raised with strict focus on etiquette and the importance of milestones such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc. It doesn’t matter what your relationship is with your family members, no matter how you really feel about them, you GO. So, at least my husband’s family makes an attempt.

But when I reached the automated message informing me that the phone number of the family member throwing the shower, the only contact I had for her, was disconnected or no-longer-in-use, I found myself a bit indignant. WHO the hell puts only a phone number on an invite, and a wrong one at that?!?  Since we don’t keep in close contact, it wasn’t like I had any of their information.

Ahhhhhh. But there is Facebook, I have to remind myself. And Facebook is also the reason that I initially suspected that the wrong information was deliberate.

Because, here is the other wrinkle: I am actually “friends” with many of his family members on FB and that is the only way we seem to keep in contact, through “likes” and smiley faces and general posts; much like I do with my dad’s side of the family.  Facebook is actually how our families got to know each other better.  I’m sure that since most people are by this time familiar with, and users of, social media, you can sense how that has gone.  Yeah. Not too pretty!

I never realized how many closeted racists I was related to and how deeply that racism ran. I never realized how fanatical some of my relations were. I didn’t know that they were practically ALL zealous, right-wing, conservatives.  For their part, they never realized I am a liberal die-hard Democrat, a feminist, and embracer of all races.  And they didn’t know how “yappity” I am about it.
I’ve been blocked by, and have blocked, many family members.  On both sides.  You might as well disown someone if you do that because it is basically the internet equivalent.

But back to the wedding issue…

I got over my indignation about the invite because it didn’t really make much sense.  We were set again to attend. I bought the gift and it will be delivered soon. My daughter and I chose what we were going to wear. I was going to run out this morning and get a nice card to leave at the reception. We were going to carpool, as I mentioned.  I had good intentions.  Firm intentions.

Until I woke up quite groggily at eleven a.m. this morning and my daughter woke up even later. You’d think I would have planned better, set my alarm for earlier, right? I did, though. Snooze buttons are a useless invention. My daughter is even worse. She sets her alarm and then sleeps on, oblivious to it for up to hours.  She doesn’t even manage to wake up to hit it!  We are terrible night-owls. I exit sleep at a turtle’s pace. My children are following in my footsteps. (God only knows how we are going to handle it when school starts back soon!!)  I’ve been wondering if I need to get my Adderall refilled.

However,  I still, unrealistically, thought we had time to get ready. And then I called my sister-in-law. And I hadn’t yet had my second, most necessary, cup of coffee; and my teen-age daughter was still in her pajamas; and so was I; and we both needed to take showers; and we both needed to get dressed; and we both needed to put on make-up; and I still hadn’t run out to get that card; and there were so many things that still needed doing while we were gone which I knew my husband wouldn’t do because he was still in bed. I didn’t want to embarrass ourselves by walking into the ceremony half-way. I didn’t want us to show up just to the reception because that seemed too awkward and a little rude somehow.  “Hi!! We only showed up for the chow!!”.  Uh, no.

My husband mumbled from his pillow, “Don’t go. It doesn’t matter. You won’t make it in time anyway. They really won’t notice. You sent a gift and that’s all what it’s about anyway.”  Did I mention yet that my husband is a pretty cynical guy?

My mother will most likely call me tomorrow and ask how the wedding was. I might have to lie to her, because she is the original fount of my sense of guilt and shame. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m feeling like a horrible, no good, terrible, no-class and very bad person right now.

I said we would go, and we didn’t. My intention was good, but it failed.

I wanted to go, but I ended up staying home.

Am I awful? Am I rude? Am I lame? Am I overthinking this?

Am I the only one who does this? Please tell me no.

It’s really hard being an ambivert.





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.

Current State of My Union

My husband is deeply depressed. Deeply. Depressed.
I, myself, have fought depression almost all of my life and feel like I am dancing on the edge of it every day.
Thank God my medicine works for me! What a couple, right?
He’s my soul mate. But sometimes that can cause some problems.
Our poor kids. They’ve got a pretty crappy gene pool really…Mental Illness, Cancer, Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease….
And although (thank GOD and knock on wood!) they haven’t displayed any terrible signs of trouble – aside from ADHD and a little Anxiety…I’m noticing how our depression is affecting them. And it needs to stop. It’s needed to stop for some time now; they miss out on so much because of us.

Anyway. This post isn’t about all that. Not directly anyway.

It is New Year’s Eve and I’m trying to get my head around a bunch of stuff because I really need to pull myself together. Things are getting to me big time.  Again. And I’m really tired of this waltz.

I’ve decided that I’m going to do what everyone else does on New Year’s Eve and try to make a new start on a new year. Not that it’s ever worked for me in the past, but whatever. Hope springs eternal. Even when you are slightly depressed.

So, I am permitting myself to indulge in some junk food (Cool Ranch Doritos) and some Prosecco (Hey! Don’t judge the combo…) this evening as I wait for the old year to roll on out (good riddance!) and my new year of (hopefully) better habits to roll in (which will, obviously,  not include junk food or alcohol).  Oh, and better luck! PLEASE PLEASE let some better luck come on in!!!

I’m just going to proceed to spew some thoughts I’ve been having lately; some musings that have replayed and jangled around my head about a particular subject. And I’m probably not going to exhaust them all just now.

I’m trying to find my way. I’m needing to readjust my perspective, and to do that, I’ve got to figure out what my perspective is to begin with.

I’ve been obsessed with Housework for some time now. And not because I love it.

For the record: I never wanted to be a Housewife in the strictest terms. I do not enjoy housework. I do not enjoy cooking.

I do enjoy kids, however. I find them pretty adorable. I do enjoy living in a clean environment as well.

Hence, a dilemma: I don’t like to clean or cook BUT I do like being a mom and I like a clean environment.

(Unfortunately, we do not have the income to afford maids and cooks. Never have; probably never will…)

I think this subject has been at the forefront of my mind ever since I became a stay-at-home mom, around 2001.
(Geez. I wish there were a less awkward term, or another term that isn’t so archaic as “housewife” or “homemaker”…. And, weird, how those two terms should make me bristle. I think I blame it on being a product of the feministic 60’s and 70’s. And, yes, for the record, I consider myself a “feminist”. I am a woman and I like having legal rights. But, I digress…..)
I envisioned a clean, comfortable, tidy, pleasant, home for my children. Toys being scattered about was a given.
Stickiness and dirt and pet-hair and dust and food debris and sour laundry didn’t factor into my vision so much.
Or who would be responsible for IT ALL getting taken care of.
I was just going to be there for my kiddos and play with them and feed them and read to them and and love them and keep THEM clean, at least.
So, I did my best doing those things I felt were essential to my children. Making sure they had my attention and trying to revel in that particular time of special baby-smell and coos and grins and socializing.
I tried not to let the state of my house bother me.
I was, in fact, told not to let the state of my house bother me, by more experienced mothers. Told I should enjoy the various stages of their early development. “Quit worrying about the house!”, I was admonished by many.
Not to mention, I was also very, very, tired. Breastfeeding, diaper-changing, laundry, etc. etc.
My hubs worked.
He was exhausted when he came home. He had a god-awful one to one and a half hour commute every day.  So he usually was DONE by the time he got home. Done for the day.
Still, I felt terrible about the state of the house.
To the point that I didn’t want to invite anyone over.
Because, everyone else’s house always looked nice. At least, presentable.
And they had little ones too.
Maybe not as many pets as us (at least 3 to 4 dogs and 3 to 4 cats at any given time). Yeah. That’s a lot of work too.  Litter boxes. Poop scooping. Vacuuming. Feeding. Playing. Exercising. Not that I was great about getting to all of that either….after all, I also had the kids. Lots of love to go around. Just not a lot of energy. (Needless to mention, our dogs are not the most well behaved….but I digress again)
I was 35 when I had my daughter. 38 when I had my son.

Oh, and I never had that “nesting” impulse while I was pregnant. 9/11 occurred in the weeks leading up to my first child’s birth and I was a bit distracted and distraught over what kind of world we were bringing a child into. And I think I mentioned that I’ve struggled with depression too, did I not?

Anyway. Housekeeping has always been a huge chore to me.
A. CHORE. An all day, all-encompassing, hold-your-nose and do-it CHORE.
I was an only child of working parents. A latch-key kid. And, truth-be-told, despite my problems, a pretty good kid….for the most part.
So, while mom and dad were working, who was responsible for helping out with the housework?
When I was in junior high, beginning in 6th grade, I would come home to an empty house, usually pretty upset about something or other, my depression was setting in, and get a call from my mom, checking in on me and then giving me a list of things I needed to do, like vacuum or dust or pick up or clean the bathrooms or whatever she needed help with. Set the table for dinner. Doing my homework was also a given. The grown-up me understands. The youthful me just felt like Cinderella. It continued throughout High School. I was not allowed to leave the house until all my chores were done. Until all the drudgery had been taken care of. Including the weekends. And I still can recall having some of it being criticized when I rushed through it. Streaks on the bathroom mirrors?! Heaven forbid!

Did I always do my chores? Always do what I was told, on time, on a regular basis? Hell NO! Because I was a kid!! I resented the HELL out of missing out on meeting up with friends  because I had to clean the house! and I absolutely hated the guilt trips and the arguments (as I’m absolutely certain my mom did too) when I didn’t do it and shirked it off.

Housework and Resentment soon became close and intimate associates.  And they have remained so until this day.  This is what I need to examine. This is the partnership I think I need to destroy somehow.


Never Say Never

I consider this my Life Lesson #1:  Never say never.

My mind flashes back to so many moments in my life in which I uttered sentences that began with “I will never…..”  Oh, the many blog posts I could write on all the examples of when I so confidently announced what I would never do!  

(There’s a thought!:  A blog devoted to all the the things I said I would never do and how it all came back to bite me in the butt. Because there’s nothing more that Karma loves than the meaty challenge of a fool proclaiming “Never!!”)  

(I never thought I would actually start a blog for one, but I digress…)

I never wanted, nor planned, to be a Housewife. A Hausfrau. Oh, you should have heard me as a teenager! “Never!”  Yet, here I am.

If I had known that that is indeed what I would end up doing, perhaps I would have elected to partake in those Home Economics classes in high school. Do they still teach those classes? Are they still called “Home Economics?” I didn’t take them because running a household and cooking and cleaning and budgeting and sewing and mending clothes were things I was not interested in. Certainly not things that I imagined at the time were going to factor greatly in my future. I apparently did not go so far as to wonder who was going to be responsible for those things in my adult life. That was a bit fuzzier. All I knew is that it wasn’t going to be all up to me.

When I got married I still didn’t picture it all being up to me. I was working (in the “outside world”) at the time and I had these strange visions in my head of my husband and I making the bed together, doing the laundry together, cooking together, washing the dishes together, one of us dusting while the other one vacuumed. A day or two a week set aside in which both of us cleaned house as a team and then in the evening afterwards relaxing together. I don’t think we actually ever discussed this wonderful, romantic, plan of mine in the mandatory, but very brief, “couples counseling” sessions requested by the pastor who married us.  In fact, I think the session involved us turning in questionnaires that were given to us to fill out at home and then listening as the pastor tallied up the score and said that though it looked like there were “things we probably needed to work on”, in general, it seemed we were compatible. No. We didn’t really delve into how we planned on managing our household “together”.  I think we just figured it would evolve organically. Do couples ever plan out these things? Looking back, I probably should have mentioned to my bridegroom that I really didn’t love to clean (are there really people who do?) despite the fact that in our very first long distance conversation over the phone, that first call after I’d given him my number, he caught me meticulously dusting and Lysol-ing my parents’ books and bookcase. What can I say? I don’t love to clean, but when I do, I want it really, really, clean.

I don’t enjoy cooking either. I wish I did. But, in truth, I don’t.

When I found out I was pregnant, there was never a doubt that I wanted to stay at home with our baby. I had been a latch-key kid from the time I was 11 and for me it wasn’t such a great thing. I knew that I didn’t want that for my own child.  Not particularly enjoying my job history, and the costs of daycare and commuting, certainly factored into the decision to stay home as well. We weren’t sure how long I would do it, but we were willing to try.  Again, I had very romantic, hazy, sorts of ideas about how this plan would go.

Excuse me while I take a moment to laugh somewhat hysterically to myself.  Oooooo, hoooo….yeah.

Again, there was that whole not really thinking through who would be “responsible” for this or that or the other. It just wasn’t going to be all on my shoulders. Because, after all, especially as a child of the “Free to Be, You and Me” era, this (cleaning), that (cooking) and the other (everything else involved in maintaining a house) was never anything I had seriously considered as a “vocation”. As a life’s “work”. As “my job”.  As an identity.

And here I am. 

The thing is, as a somewhat introverted person, I love being at home. I love being able to operate on my own schedule. I love not having to answer to a boss. I love not having to deal with the general public and the lousy days that they may be having. I love not being chained to a desk in an office. I love being here 24-7 for my kids (I really do!).

I just really don’t like the whole “housekeeping” bit. It is, and has been, a huge struggle for me. I guess because I still don’t see myself as a Housewife. I was never going to be a Housewife. A wife – yes. A mom – yes. An artist who worked from home? – a dream, but yes, please!! A Housewife?


Karmic lesson gained: I realize now just how judgmental, how snobbish, how ignorant I was about housewives.