Hot Baths

September 17, 2018

When I was really depressed, people would often tell me to “just take a hot bath.” As if that would make me want to live? As if that would take away the darkness crawling up inside me and threatening to swallow me up whole.  The suggestion was right up there for me with “try to be grateful” and “just snap out of it.” A hot bath may feel good, but when you are severely depressed, it just isn’t going to do anything.

Lately though, I’ve noticed that I’ve been taking hot baths when I’m lonely. I’m not sure what’s going on. I like living alone but it’s still hard to be single (I know it’s hard to be married/partnered also, but in a different way). I am still missing my ex, even though we broke up almost 2 1/2 years ago. Wow, that’s a long time.

As I’ve talked about before, boredom, loneliness, and depression all get mixed up for me. So when I feel myself getting bored or lonely, I worry. Lately what I’ve been doing is taking a very hot bath in the evening when I’m either bored or lonely. I think California is technically out of the drought, but as a life-long Californian, I still feel guilty about the water use, since I’ve been doing this most nights.

However, as a form of self-medication, it’s pretty healthy.

300px-Clawfoot_bathtub

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Wave

September 11, 2018

This was originally written for an event for my writing group. The monthly theme was “Wave.”

IMG_3898There is a painting hanging over my parents’ fireplace that is my single favorite piece of art in the world. It is a painting of a bottle green wave, caught in the act of rising up and crashing down on calmer water – the Pacific Ocean in all its glory. You can see every shade of green and blue imaginable present in the wave, capturing the infinite power of the ocean in a still picture.  The obvious violence and power of the wave is clear but its unpredictability also simmers right below the calmer surface. It is incredible, and my grandfather painted it.

My grandfather was an unpredictable man. He could be wonderful. He was an artist who taught me how to paint. The lessons had a somewhat unorthodox beginning: I was about seven years old and visiting my grandparents who lived on Stinson Beach. He asked me what kind of art I was doing in school. I said well, we have art for half an hour every other Wednesday. He said, “Goddamn it!” (that was his favorite phrase) “That’s not enough!”

We spent the next few hours in his studio which smelled gloriously like a mix of linseed oil, turpentine, salt water, bourbon, creosote, and other smells that I can’t identify but bring me right back to 1982. He showed me how to mix paints, clean brushes, sketch out the basics of the painting before starting, and use a paintbrush correctly. Somewhere in my parents’ house, there’s still a small rectangle of canvas with the beginning of a terrible painting of polo players, which I had inexplicably chosen for the subject of my first painting.

My grandfather could also explode, violently. My grandmother was often skittish, and as an adult, I think I know why. During my next painting lesson, I stuck a paintbrush through a tube of lavender oil paint, for a reason I cannot remember, and I saw all the adults in my family flinch. My mom started yelling at me, probably to stop my grandfather from punishing me, but he told her, crudely, to leave me alone, and began berating her, saying, “Kids make mistakes! Leave her alone!”

I wasn’t his favorite for long though. As he progressed further into alcohol and mental illness, I saw the other side of him. He died when I was about nine years old but before that he found plenty of opportunities to tell me that he didn’t want me and that I wasn’t his favorite.

One memory is especially strong: I went to visit him in the skilled nursing facility at the end of his life, wearing a purple gingham sundress, with my hair in two pigtails. The seniors in the home were starved for attention and became visibly excited about seeing a cute child, dressed up to see her grandfather. But when I walked into his room, he yelled, “I don’t want you! I want your sister!”

My grandfather died shortly after that and I’ve always thought it was a shame that his ashes weren’t scattered in the Pacific, because he loved the ocean. It seemed like he loved the ocean more than he was able to love his family members. He taught me to be afraid of men, to cringe when people raise their voices, to hold my breath when adults blew cigarette smoke in my face, and to shut up and pray when drunk people drove me around as fast as they could with no seatbelts. But he also taught me how to paint. And he also gave me my deep, deep love for the ocean.

I spend as much time as possible on the Pacific Coast. I love the warm waters of the Caribbean or swimming in Hawaii, but the Northern California coast is my kind of ocean. I bundle up in a down jacket, settle myself onto the rocks, and watch the pounding waves, in awe of their power.

 


Learning to Live Alone

September 6, 2018

I live alone for the first time in my life. I actually love it. I wasn’t expecting to love it – for most of my life I did everything possible to NOT live alone. In the past, when I was alone for a weekend, for example, if a roommate was out of town, it was a huge trigger for depression.

In my mind, loneliness, boredom, and depression are almost interchangeable. I remember long weekends in college when most of my friends would go home and I didn’t want to but then I’d be lonely, not have enough to do, and I would get so depressed that I just couldn’t move. Not didn’t want to move, COULDN’T MOVE.

When I was a little kid, I would say I was bored when now I understand what I meant was that I was really depressed. All through my adulthood, I avoided being along for very long, because I would get so depressed.

Now, at age 43, I am living alone. And I LOVE IT. I absolutely love it. My home feels like a retreat.

I still get lonely and bored, and I still get depressed. But it’s not as much and most of the time, I really love living alone.

What a gift.

(this is not my reading nook but I have a pretty good one)Top-27-Cozy-Reading-Nooks-That-Will-Inspire-You-To-Design-One-Yourself-In-Your-Home-homesthetics-7


Depression Paralysis

September 1, 2018

I haven’t had a lot of time to write lately but I’m seeing posts and articles that feel so relevant that I don’t want to miss them!

Anyone who has truly suffered from depression understands this, the idea of the “impossible task.” It’s different for all of us (and I feel so grateful right now that I am not there), and could be anything from getting out of bed to showering to going to work to going grocery shopping. Grocery shopping and anything that involved a phone call were the things that get me.

And I think when you’re depressed, it’s so easy to feel angry and disappointed in yourself. You’re already so down and feel like such a failure, that piling on is easy to do, almost inevitable. Then when there’s something that is so easy for the rest of the world – they can do it so effortlessly – and we just can’t do it, just literally cannot do it, and can’t explain why… well, of course we feel like failures at that point.

I hope this article makes other people feel validated too.

https://wokesloth.com/the-impossible-task/mariam/


Loneliness

August 30, 2018

This is a very interesting article. I’m really glad we’re studying loneliness now. It’s a public health crisis.

https://www.citylab.com/life/2018/08/single-people-arent-to-blame-for-the-loneliness-epidemic/568819/


Fear

August 16, 2018

A very partial list of things I’m afraid of right now. Really afraid of:

-earthquakes (I live near San Francisco)

-becoming financially bankrupt

-being alone forever

-someone I love dying

-being evicted

-not being able to work

-becoming disabled

-not being able to afford rent

 

What do all these things have in common? Aside from being alone, none of them have happened yet. They’re all in the future. I am 100% living in the fear of the future and not the relative calm of the present.

Jesus says not to worry about tomorrow. Jesus says that God will provide for his children just like he provides for the lilies and sparrows. Yet here I am, worrying.

 


Getting Up Every Day

August 5, 2018

I’m in a sort of mild depression now, no doubt at least partially fueled by my forced inactivity. It’s not the kind of depression that makes me want to die, but it is the kind that makes me not want to get up in the morning.

Everything seems a little overwhelming, and very anxiety-producing. Everything feels lonely. Everything looks fine, not just to outsiders but also to me! I have a nice place to live, I mostly have enough money, I have a great dog, I have friends, and I have fantastic nieces and nephews. But something isn’t right in me.

I think it’ll go away. I think it’ll be better again and probably won’t take too long. But in the meantime, getting up every day is hard. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard.