Being Productive

June 2, 2017

I finished a big deadline, and was working way too much, up until bedtime, every day including weekends. It was exhausting and not ideal but there was also a purpose to it. I felt like I was useful and doing something productive.

I met the deadline and am back to normal amounts of work and feel… like something is missing. I thought I’d feel relieved but I don’t. Instead, I feel less worthy somehow (does that even make sense?) Like working is a useful thing to do but I don’t deserve free relaxation time. In the back of my mind somewhere there’s a feeling about being single and childless… if I don’t have a partner or children to spend time with, I should be doing something else productive.

I don’t know how to explain this better. Something about me by myself is not worth enough so I need to be working? I don’t even understand it myself!


Happily Boring

May 29, 2017

This long weekend has been boring. Happily boring, which is a new thing for me.

I used to equate boredom with depression. When I was really young, I would say I was bored and mean I was really sad or lonely and didn’t know what to do. It actually took me years to realize that boredom and depression are two different things because boredom was such a trigger for my depression. I just didn’t have the right word for it.

In college, one three-day weekends, many people would go visit their families, of course. I usually stuck around and I was lonely and bored. And really, really, severely depressed. Again, it seemed like the same thing for me. It’s a visceral memory for me – being in the quiet dorms with just the out of state students left for company. I’d walk and walk and read and read and try to outrun the feelings.

So you can see why it felt like a minor miracle that this weekend has been extraordinarily boring and restful and it feels fine. This is what mundane progress looks like.


Alan Alda

May 19, 2017

[written for my writing group for the subject: Permit]

My second-grade teacher and my parents were at odds over how to deal with me. They didn’t know they were giving me such mixed messages because I didn’t tell my teacher about what was going on at home (although, having taught 7-year-olds, I am sure she knew something was wrong). And my parents never received any complaints from my school, just the occasional note that I seemed sad.

One afternoon that year, my teacher had us watch Free to Be You and Me, the 70’s TV special narrated by Alan Alda and some other people I don’t remember, all about being comfortable in your own skin, not putting labels on people, and various other hippie ideals that were not quite as popular in 1982, but that my teacher firmly believed in.

I remember very little about the TV show except for two things: the radical notion that boys and girls could like the same things and the song “It’s All Right to Cry.” You see, in my family, it wasn’t all right to cry. Crying was not permitted, at least for me. It was all right for my little sister to cry, and my mom was rarely not crying. I was pretty sure that my little brother or sister on the way was going to be crying most of the time. But for me, it had never been OK.

My mom had me when she was 25 – not that young by the standards of the day, but she was completely emotionally unprepared. To this day, when someone talks about how they might be less lonely if they had a baby, or how it would be nice to have a child so there would be someone who was always there, I have to walk away. I recently ended a friendship because my former friend spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments, confiding to me that, without a partner, she was really lonely, so even though she was financially and emotionally unprepared to have a baby, she just “really needed someone who loved her unconditionally.”

That’s exactly what my mother intended I would be for her.

It should really be no surprise then that she couldn’t handle me. From the time I learned to walk and talk (both around nine months old, which shocked everyone), I had opinions. Actually, I probably had opinions before then. I was not the malleable precious little doll-baby she had imagined, but was strong-willed and emotional, and she had no idea what to do with me. So she made the rule that I couldn’t cry. After all, only one of us could be upset at a time, and it was usually my mother.

This rule was enforced in different ways at different times. I’m not sure what the mandatory reporter laws were like in the late 70s and early 80s, but it was probably more convenient for everyone that I didn’t talk to my teachers about this enforcement. The mildest version was to be sent to my room if I cried, and if she could hear me through the closed door, the next threat was to have to spend the night in the garage. I never had to do that because I would put the pillow over my head and hold my breath, trying to stop myself from calling out for my parents, who were clearly not going to be any help.

If my mom wasn’t feeling patient, she’d slap me across the face which would generally do the trick. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” and all that. It’s hard to blame her – that would have been an act of love compared to what she grew up with. It’s no wonder that I grew up steeped in shame and fear; she had come by those honestly and passed them on to her children in our DNA and from her behavior

One day though, everything changed. I came home from school and something happened, and I cried, and she slapped me across the face. We had just watched the last part of Free to Be You and Me and I just wasn’t taking it any more. “My teacher says it’s OK to cry!” I yelled at her. “It was on TV! You can’t punish me for crying!”

I’m not sure she had any idea what I was talking about but I kept going. “If you hit me, I’m going to tell my teacher because I’M ALLOWED TO CRY!” I screamed at her. And went in my room to do precisely that.

That ended it. There were plenty of other problems in my family, but I wasn’t punished for crying anymore and she never hit me again.

But, of course, it didn’t really end it. The shame never left. I still feel it every time tears come – I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m disappointing people, I’m not good enough.

My nieces and nephew though – they don’t have this. They know it’s OK to cry. They know feelings matter and are valid, and they don’t feel ashamed when they express their feelings. The cycle of shame seems to be ending, and maybe it’s time for the adults to learn from the kids. They didn’t even need Alan Alda.


Giving Myself Credit

May 16, 2017

I’m exhausted. I’m changing my anti-depressants again. I went off of one that was making me feel crazy, like actually crazy. I have an appointment on Wednesday with the doctor. Not sure how long the withdrawal from the one I went off takes – it wasn’t that high a dose so maybe I’m imagining things but I feel exhausted and am really craving sugar.

And you know what? Right now I’m eating the sugar. That’s not a fight I’m willing to have with myself right now. The sugar is comforting, and I’m eating it. I’m not harming myself in any drastic ways, I’m not self-medicating with alcohol or drugs… I’m going to eat the damn cake. For now.

And I’m trying to focus on what I HAVE gotten done today. Yes, I took a 2-hour nap in the middle of the day even though I slept enough. Yes, I dropped my bike and scratched up the new bike that I love. I left things places that I’ll have to go pick up tomorrow because I’m so tired that I am getting really absent-minded. And yes, I’m going to bed at 9 pm.

But also: I tutored four kids today and I think they learned something. I edited three articles and answered a ton of emails and went grocery shopping and rode my bike. That all counts. And I prayed. And I ate. And I took my medicine.

So I’m going to try very hard to convince myself that today is a win.


Some Days You Just Survive

May 7, 2017

Today is one of those. Depression and sleep deprivation from changing my medications and not being used to them and not knowing if it’s the right combination. And grief. Still with the grief from the loss of my relationship, now over a year ago.

There were so many things I wanted to do today. I just can’t. I’m going to bed. But I did survive.


Letter to My Ex

May 4, 2017

The letter I can’t actually send:

It’s been over a year and I still don’t understand. In fact, not only do I not understand, but nobody I know does. My friends are still confused. “But he loved you.” “But he was the one who wanted to date you, before you were interested.” “But you were so good together.” In fact, even the few of YOUR friends I’ve talked to don’t understand. You might be the only one who does, but I’m not sure you know either.

What was actually wrong? You never did say. “I need more freedom” when I was giving you freedom but you rarely went to see your old friends you talked about missing didn’t make sense. The weekend you broke up with me, our counselor said she was amazed at our progress and was so happy with where we were. Was it all an act for her?

You said it wasn’t fear. Then what was it? The same counselor — the one who you said you trusted implicitly — she said if you left it would be because you were afraid. She said that it was going to me more frightening for you to stay but it would be better for you because you can only do growing about relationship in a relationship. She urged you to work through the fear because (although she didn’t like to tell people what to do in a relationship), she thought we were better together.

You were the one who pursued me. I was unsure and you stuck with it and were patient with me. You fell in love with me first and you waited until I loved you back. You were the one who started talking about a future and travel and these things that terrified me, but I came around and I learned to love you deeply. What was all that for? Why did I go through this process.

I haven’t seen you in over a year and I still miss you so much that it hurts. Our vacation photos look like paradise. I remember your conversations with my family and how excited they were that you were a quality person who loved me.

I just wish I understood.


That Afterward Feeling

May 1, 2017

I had a wonderful day today. I took my four-year-old nephew across the bay in the ferry into the big city, where we had lunch and “treats” (truth be told, he had way more treats than lunch, but aunties get to spoil people, right?). It was an absolutely beautiful sunny day and he had fun making up stories about his stuffed bunny, riding the ferry, passing close by bridges, seeing fire boats and police boats, eating ice cream, and much more. It was absolutely joyful.

He’s still in the cuddly stage and is a little small for his age, so he sits on my lap and holds my hand, and I have to bend way down to hear what he’s saying as he chatters along about everything. He has the adorable little-kid trait of not yet speaking in contractions. On the way back, he said, “I  cannot wait to tell Mommy and Daddy how much fun we had and everything we did that was so fun.” I’m a really good auntie!

It was wonderful. Then I came home and took a nap with my dog who is freshly washed and smells good and whose fur is so soft.

I couldn’t have asked for better.

So now, of course, my brain and its messed-up chemistry is kicking in. Now instead of realizing that it’s a blessing to be able to go home from a hot, busy, noisy day with a little boy I love and be alone and quiet, I am fixating on the fact that I’m alone. That no one would know right away if I lived or died. That there’s no one who puts me first in their life. That my nephew loves me but of course, his immediate family will always come first. I’ve managed to negate everything that was so special and wonderful about today.

Instead of realizing how wonderful I am to have such a wonderful dog, I’m worried about when she’ll die. She’s seven years old, barely, so she’s in the second half of her life but may have 5+ more years. And I’m wasting them by worrying about what I’ll do when she dies.

I don’t know if this is depression or growing up in an alcoholic family and always having to be prepared for the worst, because no one else was. I’m sure it’s b18222306_10155025134535700_2956203768163496233_noth. But I do not want this legacy any more. I need to find a way to change this; I am not willing to go through the rest of my life losing out on this joy.