Ode to Depression

Lately, I’ve heard of so many women who are plagued with anxiety and depression.

I get it. I spent the better part of my adult life, being under the influence of that great, unshakeable, black cloud. I also had a fair share of hit you out of nowhere, heart-racing, palms-sweating anxiety.

Perhaps it is our curse or society’s creation of the noteworthy female- the perfect woman- super woman- who deals with her monthly roller coaster ride of hormones with finesse, who balances the growing and variegated demands of modern life with a perennially cool head, who gives and nurtures, asking nothing in return, who tends to her outward appearance with poise, who accomplishes lots and lots of stuff.

Whatever the cause, when this sadness or panic overtakes us, we feel helpless, possessed by it, even. Some of us hide it. Some of us self-medicate. Some of us try and struggle and fight against it- to seemingly little avail.

This ode is for all the women who understand the battle; all who wish it might be different and don’t give themselves permission to get rid of this demon on their back. And for those of you that don’t deal with either of these things- read this. You need to understand and have sympathy.

To hell with you, depression!

You can sink right back

Into the deep, dark hole that you are.

 

Heavy, my chest rises and falls

Like an incredible weight pressing down

That makes each intake a struggle.

 

I hate you, depression!

You steal days away from me

Like a languishing, wasting disease.

 

Slippery, I grasp to hold on to something,

Anything to climb up from the bottom

Of this dank, slimy pit.

 

Leave me alone, depression!

You hang over the top of me

Like a dark cloud that shrouds the sunlight.

 

Gripping, your tendrils have wrapped themselves

Around my legs and arms

Keeping me prisoner from movement.

 

You don’t own me, depression!

You try to trick me into believing

That I’ll never get through life without you.

 

Menacing, your influence lurks,

Like an invisible evil spirit

Whose black soul sucks the life from me.

 

I take my life back, depression!

Because I can and I will

Because I want to live free

Because there is more to life than this

Because a smile looks better than a frown

Because this is a fight I can win

Because bondage becomes no one

Because I am worth something

Because my strength outdoes yours

 

Because YOU DON’T DEFINE ME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just your average tableware

I really want to be fine china- the kind you have to put on a bridal registry and wealthy relatives can only afford a couple place settings or the kind you have to hand wash because of the exquisite gold rim.

Instead, I’m pretty certain I’ll be your average, every day tableware. Dishwasher and microwave safe too.

To find out how this terrible mistake happened, let’s rewind a bit.

The wheel spun in front of me with a low murmur. Having mastered (or so I thought), just the right amount of pressure, the clay inched slowly up the wheel. Too much pressure and a hole would have punctured, too little and the clay would slump down in unattractive blobs. Patience and precision brought the smooth glistening texture and shape I was hoping for. Something extraordinary and valuable was being fashioned, to my great satisfaction.

Or so I thought.

I can’t say exactly when or how, but my wheel came to a screeching halt. Who was I fooling? It wasn’t me sitting there to begin with.

I WAS the lump of cold, malleable clay- moist and earthy.

There was someone at the wheel though. Not just any old potter, but a Master- one so skilled, that no piece He crafts has ever been discarded. With hands of perfect precision, He applies pressure, molding the clay into shape.

Depending on the day, the design changes. There are days when the wheel’s friction causes an uncomfortable heat. Sometimes it’s a slow, steady spin. No matter what, the Master never leaves. Ever. His presence is constant. His touch is purposeful. His plan for the finished product? Common tableware.

And me? That ugly lump of clay? I acquiesce to being worked on, always trying to stay formable and susceptible to the Master’s touch. Some days though I am, honestly pretty sick of it. Can he just hurry up and be done already?

Until completion, I strive to rest and trust for however long this process endures. This is no easy task for a control freak like me. But I can say with confidence: fine china is not happening.

pottery *Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/26167782@N06/7959118388

 

 

 

 

take your idyllic life and shove it

It used to be white picket fences. Now, pretty sure it’s more along the lines of a 2500 sq. ft. house in the burbs.

I had a white picket. I built it around my heart. (Oddly enough, there was one in front of our very first house and every day, the school kids would scribble words like fuk on it- go figure.)

For far too long I cultivated and conjured the idyllic life. Pretty. Well ordered. Adorned. I thought I had it. Then it slowly disintegrated like a prim mirage in a heat wave.

Finally, the pickets came out one by one. They all had names like perfectionism, self-righteousness, obedient children, financial security, or dream vacations. I am certain a few were taken out by gale force winds of upheaval.

Without that fence, my life felt bare and exposed. This was new ground to tread and nothing appeared picturesque at all.

I have to talk myself out of panic attacks. My toilet hasn’t seen a brush in two weeks. My kids sometimes call each other the “d” words. I look in the mirror most days and think, “Oh crap. The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be.” I can’t paint my rented walls that eggshell shade.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You should see what’s underneath.

Idyllic? No. Ideal? Rarely. Fabulous? Working on it {most days}.

I’m glad that fence came down. It was freedom that I never knew I wanted or needed. Freedom from expectations and confines and religiosity and so-called bliss.

This life of mine is not very neat and tidy but I love it, every weird, loud, emotional, uncertain moment of it.

If I want idyllic, I’ll have to go to Disneyland.

Undaunted

 

IMG_9589

I was dizzy. Someone grabbed my arm and pulled me back from the edge.

“Becky,” they called, “You cannot jump. Who knows what dangers are down there at the bottom? It isn’t safe.”

So I heeded their voices. I strove to fit inside their tidy boundaries for me. Don’t do this. Do this. And for the love of all that is sane and reasonable, do not take risks. People pleasing had always been an art of mine and so I crafted a careful life, safe from all the unknowns. I was afraid of heights anyways.

Somewhere in my late twenties, married, with 2 kids (and one on the way), I began to seek a precipice. For all the years of obedience had left me wondering: “Could there be more than this flat land existence? Is there a place where I can be me, not always bowing to the confines of someone else?” I longed for it, for freedom from the suffocating rules pressing against me. There had to be a way that I could step off of the ledge and not die.

The longing grew stronger, yet inside me there were always voices, warning me, cajoling me not to want it. In the next decade, I started to see the beauty of grace, the treasure of the cross, my salvation full and free, without regard to any rule following on my part. Those things chaffed against the neat list of expectations I had made for myself: the submissive wife, the godly mother, the dutiful daughter. Conversely, I knew the façade of safety was just that. All the flat land existence was eating me up inside. Gloomy clouds of depression suffocated me.

For the first time ever, I slowly taught myself to stop heeding the voices telling me to not seek the cliff. I began shedding those like layers of skin, each one more painful than before. The better I understood the simple message of the gospel, to believe and be free, to live for Jesus because He died for me, to embrace HIS expectations for my life knowing they come without strings attached, the closer I inched to the edge.

When the clouds of gloom were lifted, I saw that my feet were closer than ever to the rim of the canyon and I looked down into the vastness, its beauty captivating. I stopped reading the “how to” books. I stopped making my husband my god, instead putting purposeful and deliberate distance so that I could be me and he could be himself, all the while loving him deeper than ever.

There was one final rock I was about to stumble on; a rock of momentous proportions on which I would not just stumble, but fall entirely: parenting an adult child who chose a path of life I never could have imagined. Only then did I realize that the very thing I hated, all the man made parameters that had constantly kept ME away from the edge, I had built those very things around my kids to a lesser degree. Deconstructing them took time but as I did, the view became clearer and the canyon beckoned me to come.

Unshackled, I ambled to the edge. There was no fear. I was finally ready, confident,  my arms outstretched and breath bated out of sheer thrill of what was to come. I felt dizzy, light, unencumbered and yet, I felt wrapped in a security I could never contrive myself. This was the arms of my Savior that held me, close to His heart, warmly, gently, and safely. I was enveloped in His love and this assured me of a landing without harm.

I could feel the breeze blowing up from below and I began to totter. Before I could acquiesce to any shred of doubt, my feet left the edge. Air that I had never breathed before filled my lungs and I was in a freefall, sure this was not the last time I would fly.

Disarmed

I used to pride myself in saying, “I’m a fighter, not a lover.”

To be a lover meant vulnerability and weakness- two things I didn’t want to classify myself as. To be a lover meant to be all squishy on the inside.

I thought if I displayed my crusty exterior, I’d be prepared for the worst when it inevitably came. With my proverbial sword strapped to my side, I could easily unsheathe it, hacking and hewing with my words or thoughts until I felt vanquished.

But the bad part is, I fought everything, even the good things. I fought grace and forgiveness. I fought joy and freedom. To allow those things to soften me would be to relinquish my self-efficacy. That would not do.

Our pastor used to say: “Behind God’s frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.” This angered me. I conjured a rather cosmic joker image; behind the sugary smile was a benevolent dictator of sorts waiting to pounce with His agenda. I did not understand. I fought this idea with a vengeance. To acquiesce to someone calling the shots, especially bad ones, unsettled me in the worst of ways.

Then my mom died. Then we lost lots of money. Then we lost a house. Then I was diagnosed with a hip disease. Then we lost jobs (plural). Then I had to go to counseling. Then we moved 12 times. Then my son chose a lifestyle of self destruction. Then lots more things happened that I won’t bore you with.

Sometime during all that, something changed. Not all at once or in totality but it happened yet I could never pinpoint the date or time.

 I saw God’s smiling face, behind the frowning providence.

I tasted the goodness. I witnessed the mercy. I felt the love. I heard the assuring words. I was washed with the peace. I was girded up with a strength not my own. I soaked in the grace that flowed like a fountain, free and unconditional. I was awed by the miracles. I was overcome by the provision. I was forgiven.

You might think I laid down my arms and became a lover. Not exactly. (Although I tap into that side of me much more frequently these days.) I still have a strong spirit and a tongue that can be venomous; a hard head and a willful way, but now I (mostly) fight for the good – for joy and peace, for strength and beauty, for making each day count. I fight to accept the frowns of God, knowing His kindness and love are far greater.

Does this make me weak? No, I don’t think so. Vulnerable? Yes, in a sense. Yet it is the very softening that enlarges my faith, causing me lean into the arms of a benevolent Father and say: “Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Shattered Illusion

This is not your typical Mother’s Day blog post, but hang with me.

 The illusion of control…

It’s a concept I have been battling with for several years now. Sometimes the illusion has been broken and I accept it. Most other times though, I’ve fought it with both fists drawn. This invisible force seemed to be working against me at every turn- cruel fate was dealing me a crappy hand and I was not having it.

Recently, I watched a video that compared the safety of driving an automobile to riding in an airplane. By a long shot, riding in the airplane is much safer than driving your car anywhere, BUT why do we feel safer driving and more apprehensive flying? The illusion of control. Behind the wheel, we control our every move. When we fly, we are continuously at the mercy and trust of the pilot. We do not like this, not one little bit.

You see, we fancy ourselves masters of our universe, holding our puppet strings. If we are mothers, we think we are holding our children’s destiny in our very capable mother hands. In marriage, we balk against feeling like our partner controls us (thus why many marriages where men are controlling or women are strong willed, fail.) It chaffs against our very nature. And so, we accept the illusion that we surround ourselves with, convince ourselves with really- that we control us and if we are mothers, we are pretty darn comfortable controlling our kids too.

As of late, I am more and more comfortable outside the illusion. I’ve tried being the one who spins all the plates without dropping them. I’ve tried being the strong, hard ass type who doesn’t let my guard down or ever be vulnerable. I’ve tried controlling my kids’ every move in hopes of churning out successful, motivated, educated, people (who happen to think just like me). Guess what? I failed at everything. And maybe that was the intention; the magician revealed the trickery and spoiled the show. I was undeceived at my ability to be god of my destiny and though at first it unsettled me, slowly, I began to accept it.

This left a void and then I was forced to acquiesce to what I knew deep down all along: faith was the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Try as I might, I let me down. My illusion to control myself, those I loved, and my circumstances broke indefinitely.

Only one thing was left- faith in One greater, wiser, better, more loving, more kind, more fulfilling. God knows the secrets I could never begin to understand. He knows me before and behind. He loves me totally and more importantly, He loves those I love even more than I could ever love them.

The shattered illusion has left me happier and more at peace than I could have ever imagined because what was never intended to be mine in the first place was “put back” into the hands of the God more capable than I ever could be anyways.

30 Days Without

 

sugarspoon-5ee1d9cf2615c976d34480051e0cba6762f7cf81-s6-c30I did IT! I really did not believe I could, but I did AND I LIVED to tell about it :).

For a variety of health related issues, I decided to do something radical (for me):

Cut out all forms of sugar- yes, even honey, agave, stevia, et al. Cut out all white things- rice, flour (wheat and white). Cut out all dairy- my beloved cheese and even butter. Cut out all alcohol- yes, I live in NAPA after all.

Here are my take aways from 30 Days Without:

~ Week One… was pure torture- genuine bona fide food withdrawal hell. I went sulking around, feeling sorry for myself, questioning why on earth I would decide to do such an absurd thing!! I wasn’t trying to get in touch with my Neanderthal relatives by eating paleo (as if I could even do that- I choke most meat down as it is). I drug myself around with zero energy and a hungry tummy. My family shook their heads at me. Opening the pantry, I’m pretty sure the chocolate chips would whisper my name sometimes.

~ The second week was better. I went to Peet’s Coffee and ordered an almond milk latte’ and it was delicious. (NO, I refused to give up my beloved cup of coffee.) I began to notice how sweet ordinary things tasted- lettuce, peas, carrots. I felt less deprived, but still craved a piece of bread- just one little whole grain piece with just a wee bit of butter perhaps. SIGH… I finally figured out how to feed myself alternatives and I cannot tell you how copious my almond and cashew intake was. Raw almond butter was my everyday rave.

~ Week three- I kind of hate to say it out loud, but I felt good and pretty darn proud of myself (although you can’t know how many times I wanted to just grab a spoon, pour some honey in it, and savor the pure ecstasy). The big test came- baking chocolate chip cookies for my dad, who had come for a visit. I solemnly do swear that I did not have a granule of the dough or cookies. (I might have snuck a lick from the spatula of the peanut butter pie I made though- SHHHH.)

~ At the beginning of the fourth week, I finally discovered there are alternatives for “baking”. After a run to Trader Joes for coconut flour and flaxseed meal, I whipped up my own banana bars, using NO sugar. Although the texture was not a satisfying buttery baked goodie, the taste was surprisingly sweet. Even my oldest son partook and thought it was decent. This week found me resolved and steadfast- and UBER SICK OF SALADS WITH VEGAN DRESSING. Ok, but truth be told, I was not missing the cheese, or wine or butter any longer.

I was an addict going through a sort of detox. After the initial feeling like I might die, and the looking longingly into the bag of chocolate chips, I dug in mentally (See, stubbornness IS good for something!)

Then, the 30 days was over and I ate my first chocolate chip cookie. I wasn’t that impressed. In fact, I kind of thought, “What’s the big deal?”

And I thought of a parable for life: We often think we want something. Maybe do this one thing or get this other thing because we think we deserve it or it makes our lives better. It turns out to be not that great after all. It takes our focus away from something much, much better.

Do I intend to eat this way forever? Heck, no. But I learned a thing or two about will power and the bewitching affect something like sugar can have in the mind and body.

I’m actually looking forward to baking up some healthy vegan muffins AND sinking my teeth into a decadent chocolate brownie topped with sea salted caramel from time to time!

At 40

It’s no secret and I‘m not ashamed to say it- I turned 40 this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling it some days, mentally and physically. Every once in a while, I catch a look at my reflection and think, “Ay Carumba, I’m getting the gizzard neck!” Time for more Oil of Olay Night Firming Cream (as if that does anything for the inevitable) or sometimes I might just be an itty, bitty tad forgetful.

But I am not writing to play a sad song on my pity violin about the woes of aging. Instead, am celebrating 40! I mean isn’t it cool, the catch phrase we can now assuage ourselves with at the turn of each new decade: 40 is the new 30, 60 is the new 50 et al.? It makes no sense but it sure makes us feel better!

So, six months into this phase called “MIDDLE AGE”, I think I’ve learned a thing or two. While I know I have yet to arrive at some upper echelon of enlightenment, I do think that a few lights have come on (even if they are just night light bulb sized). So, at 40:

  • I wear what I want, what makes me feel comfortable, what I think looks good. High heels are hellish and I refuse to wear them. If someone thinks I dress “too young”, too bad. I still want a pair of Converse in every color and sometimes, I even wear my daughter’s clothes. It’s not like I am going around in a crop top for the entire world to see my lovely stretch marks that crept up my sides when I was pregnant.
  •  My friendships are deliberate and meaningful, deep and loyal. Life is short, so why waste time on some, whiny, over dramatic, manipulative woman that adds nothing to my life but another pain in the A? I love the fact that I have a variety of friends in all age groups, walks of life and religious persuasions. I’m done with overly zealous, backbiting gossips, quick to judge people.
  • Parenting is the most DIFFICULT job in the world. I went into it blindly and naively, depending on the opinions of others instead of God and my own good common sense. I was dead wrong about a lot of things, right about a few and still down on my face in prayer about most things. Every stage and phase brings a new set of challenges. This I am sure of- your parenting won’t look like mine and vice versa. If your kids turn out A-OK, PLEASE do not break your arm patting yourself on the back or smear it in my face. Likewise, if they turn out “different than expected”, don’t razor strap yourself with a burden of guilt. These are people with a will of their own, not a piece of Jell-O that I mold just how I want and they stay like that for life.
  • Marriage is a strange beast. I went into it with a textbook mentality and I am here to say- THROW THE TEXTBOOK TO THE WALL! (No, I do not literally think marriage books are not helpful.) My marriage has taken twists and turns that were wholly unexpected. Nothing could have prepared me or warned me of the issues we would have to duke out. Yet, my marriage is, this side of heaven, the pinnacle of delight in my life. At the risk of sounding cliché, I do consider my husband, my best friend and confidante. Yet, I speak my mind to him as he does to me and sometimes this does not bode well. Such is life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  •  I am unapologetic about my faith. It is the sum total of why I do what I do, how, when and where. I do not bow to the whims and fancies of man’s theological ideals. I do not ascribe to mere rules taught by other Christians. I think for myself with an abiding sense of awe for God’s word, holding to this as my highest authority; not because I am a weak-minded zealot but because I am convinced that if not for God being LORD of me, I would be dead or at very least in a shambley mess of a life (messier than the one I’m in).

At 40, there are a good many things I’ve learned, a good many things I hope to learn and a constant sense of keeping my fingers on my own pulse. I’m smarter than I was in my 20’s and more confidant than I was in my 30’s.

I’m not dead yet. In fact, I’m feeling rather invigorated, happy and ready to fight the next monster that comes around the corner called inevitable.

Not-So-Manic Monday #1

Today I started a book whose subject matter I’ve been preaching to myself for over two decades. Yet, every once in awhile I need a refresher course- a reminder to embrace a principle that was imperative and central, but seems to have gotten lost or set aside in the shuffle of life.

The book is called, “One Way Love” with the subtitle of, ‘Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World’. Try as I might, I often find myself on the performance treadmill, striving with all my might to get it right, get it done, “be all things to all men (women and children)”, or at the very least earn favor with someone (namely God). Then I am acutely aware of how stupid, self-deprecating, exhausting, and pointless this is.

If you are at all like me, I hope this quote will renew your mind to carry on in God’s lavish GRACE: 

“Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people- prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous.”

~ Tullian  Tchividijan

So Over That

Agonizingly, I put my pencil in the journal’s spine. Was I missing something? Did I overlook an important goal or area of needed improvement? Were the resolutions I made realistic and attainable? I fretted. Reviewing them, I felt the list complete yet already there was this sense of weight, expectation, pressure.

This was me, the first week or so of every new year, dutifully listing out what I truly believed would head me in the right direction towards accomplishment. I had catagories with sub-points (which often included goals for OTHER family members inadvertently).  Little did I know how it would eat away at me, undetected, because breaching my own personal “contract” was a blow of momentous proportions. I would, by mid-year, slunk away from rereading my resolutions, defeated.

You see, this fit in so nicely with my type-A, “get ‘er done” mentality. I couldn’t IMAGINE life without my yearly list! I mean, just creating it gave me a sense of security- I knew where I was headed and why I was headed there. Then about five years ago, through my own series of unfortunate events and the wise counsel of someone, I stopped. January, two thousand something came, and my resolve was NOT to make that list.

I WAS FREE- free at last- from the torment of my own expectations. I could breathe and just live life, come what may. New Year’s Resolutions = bosh and poppycock!! Jane was unshackled!

In the spirit of this same freedom, I embark on the unknown journey of this year. Yes, I have some personal benchmarks in mind. Yes, I will endeavor to become a better version of myself. Yes, I expect growth, change, and accomplishment; all the while knowing full well that divine plans DO prevail, that often I let myself down and other people I love disappoint me.

I accept that, no actually, I embrace that- happily.

Nowadays, come January, I ruminate on a theme for my year; a phrase that I hope will embody the 52 weeks to come (should I be blessed to live that long). I discovered this song the other day. It spoke the words of Psalm 100 to me and I decided that my theme for 2014 is: I shall not want.

http://youtu.be/LjGExaRTCvA