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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lil’ bit gypsy, nun, feminist

Well, that’s an odd combination, you say. True. I am pretty odd :).

I thought it would be fun to expound a bit on my weird self. Not in a narcissistic kind of way, but in a relatable kind of way. Because like I like to say, we are not so very different after all.

I grew up in two houses and only one I actually remember. My parents built their country dream home and we moved in when I was six years old. It was idyllic- close enough to LA to enjoy the good stuff like cool LA beaches, yet far enough from the gangs and graffiti that I was cushioned from the urban decay.

Constant– it’s the word I use to describe my childhood. Dad works at the same job for 30 years, I live in the same town (until I marry at 19, GULP), mom stays home and is there every day to take care of everything.

Fast forward 25 years. I have moved 13 times, once moving out of and back into the same house. The reasons are vast, varied and would take a volume in itself to tell. But THIS is why I am a lil’ bit gypsy. God thought it was a good idea to s t r e –  t   c   h me, to take my rigid, constant world and turn it upside down. While it isn’t ideal (and it’s really sucked for our kids somewhat), it has made me who I am today- a much more flexible person, able to appreciate and love all the friends I’ve made, and not a lover of “stuff”. (You do a lot of purging when you move this much!)

A lil’ bit nun– that’s an easy one. Remember that I said I grew up “cushioned”? One rule was NO MOVIES at the theater. Why? Because movie theaters are evil, don’t you know… I also double pierced my ears on my honeymoon because, don’t you know, I would have been kicked out for doing it while living under my parent’s roof. Definitely, no two piece bathing suits! Yeah, we went kind of heavy on the rules at my house.

Dirty secret- I’ve never owned or worn a bikini. I go to the beach in shorts and a tank top. And just in case you’re all feeling sorry for my daughter, she owns and wears a bikini. I’m just not into the whole body bearing in public scene and I feel very strongly that this is sadly one of the ways that females unknowingly exploit themselves. (But that is a post for another day and obviously, I have very solid rationale for it.)

A lil’ bit feminist because I spent far too many years with my head wrapped up in the doctrines of MEN who like to write books about being the head of the home (while making the woman the tail) and being king of the castle (while making the woman his vassal, instead of his queen).

It took me way too long to understand my value and see myself as equal, just with a different and unique role. The deprecation and devaluing of women the world over breaks my heart and angers me. If I can bear and nurture a child, without which the world would cease to exist, I am invaluable. My ideas are not inferior, just feminine. My body is not weaker, just feminine.

My husband and I are both strong, type A personalities and trust me, we have had to WORK REALLY HARD to compromise and be cohesive and not step all over each other. But it’s beautifully worth it.

So, there, nothing like a complicated mess who ambles through life with a bit of baggage. (Don’t we all?) But it is this very stuff that has woven the complicated pattern of who I am today and what makes me tick as a person. To use the cliché’: God isn’t finished with me yet and he won’t be until my last breath is drawn.

If you had to use only 3 words to define yourself, what would they be?

 

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.

Summer Surmising

Dear Readers,

It would seem I’ve lost my mojo.

Hundreds of blog worthy thoughts have been bobbling around in my head, but it’s been a season of no traction for me. I want to say it (whatever “it” is), but it never sticks. I open my Word doc and nada… Epiphanies, confessions, encouragement- it’s all “right there” and then flatlines.

Outside it’s been summer- (and a blazingly hot one at that) when you’re supposed to take it easy and bbq with friends or family, maybe take a vacation or two. That is at least what middle-class Americans expect from their summer- give or take a trip or two. My summer has reinforced one of my many mantras: expect the unexpected. For good and for bad.

The summer kicked off (no pun intended) with my skater hubby in the ER, followed by a total hip replacement surgery. I spent the next five weeks toggling between being his home care nurse to keeping my bottom glued to our couch enraptured with the glories of an online astronomy course (slowly chipping away at my GE requirements).

Then came a small reprieve, when I did kinda chill for a few days.

Mid-summer, I was off to Indonesia, which I could write about for days. I went prepared- armed with English teaching skills and an open heart for embracing the culture and people. They embraced me instead and I felt enveloped by their admiration and respect (figuratively) and by the stifling moist heat (literally). I hold dear memories of each face I met. I long for another dip in the warm Java Sea. I could pass on white rice for quite some time.

As summer proper spiraled down and I dragged myself through days of jet lag towards 8th grade supply lists and senior transcripts, something (or maybe some things) were overcoming a part of me. It was welling up and running over. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

(to be continued)

Breathless

There are moments in life that take your breath away: some for good, some for bad.

When it happens in a bad way, nothing can prepare you for that, neither strength of character nor faith. Neither mental preparedness nor emotional stability.

I had that kind of moment just a few weeks ago when my husband called to tell me he’d been fired from his job of two months. (It only helped a little knowing that it happened because he had stood up against injustice and unethical behavior.)

No, it’s not like a family member announcing they have stage 4 cancer. It’s not even like living through a stomach churning 6 point earthquake. It is more like a kick in the stomach or somebody yanking the rug right out from under you. At which moment, you’d like to yell some choice profanity!

Just like dental work, the numbness of bad news wears off slowly and pain is left in its place. But instead of feeling better over time, this pain often creeps over your heart like thorny tendrils of bitterness. I knew this from experience. They would have to be clipped quickly!

Some days, I was unwilling. The injustice of it all set in. My husband’s reputation was called to question and maligned. I was angry and rightfully so. I love him. He’s a hard worker and labors with fastidious ethics.

It was all so disturbing, confusing, maddening, unjust.

As I shared the story with friends near and far, they were just as baffled as I was. Yet, in the days and weeks that followed, an incredible series of snapshots began to unfurl into a bigger, grander picture- one so wholly unexpected and complex, even I was left speechless.

The picture became clearer and so did my faith.

What man meant for evil, God truly meant for good. What we cling to as security in this life is often nothing more than a vaporous bauble. We feel safe in a title or an income bracket when, really, we should only ever feel safe in the arms of Jesus.

Yeah, I could feel happy because the ending is good (my husband has a new job, four miles from home in a much more peaceful environment). I could feel happy that his name was cleared a little and we can breathe easier now. But I don’t.

I feel happy that my breath was taken away. I feel glad that God stripped away false securities. I am thrilled that our struggle has brought such encouragement and joy to others.

Am I ready for the next breathless moment, either good or bad? No, probably not. But I know God has my back and I know He acts in His good will because I have a lot to learn. My Potter sits faithfully at His wheel, molding this hard headed and hearted piece of clay until He makes something beautiful. For that, I am truly thankful!

earthquake thoughts

As I stood waiting, for what seemed an extraordinarily long time, at Starbucks this week, I listened. I was privy to several personal exchanges between not only friends, but total strangers as well.

Everyone had a story to tell.

Each one was unique, yet the common theme was obvious: we had all experienced the trauma of the earth giving way beneath us. (Admittedly, I grew up in LA, so I’ve lived through worse earthquakes.)

Glass broke. Furniture splintered. TVs toppled.

The ear splitting sound was overwhelming. The unpleasant bouncing and jolting actually caused me to become motion sick. Each person searched for their loved ones in a frantic dash, urgent text or middle of the night phone call.

Most of us some how were safe- at least bodily. Yet our minds and emotions were far from “safe”.

We were numb, stressed, hysterical, frazzled, shocked, jolted, overwhelmed, distraught, grieved.

I’d say, the vast majority are still coming out of a “post afternoon nap” type haze.My recurring ambivalent thoughts are like: “I want to run away from this chaos” then, “I want to stay home, close to my family”. The world feels a bit scary. I keep imagining phantom aftershocks that I know are not really happening.

Then, last evening after my first venture out to the local banged up Target, I rounded my street corner to five police cars, an ambulance and a fire truck. Two doors down a young man took his life. I stood at the window and stared, not in a nosy gawking kind of way, but in an incredulous “why did he do this” kind of way.… I did not know the family. But as I watched the coroner enter the house, I was reminded of the power of human emotion.

What a paramount, driving force our fears or sadness can have over our bodies. Our heart and mind truly are command central for what motivates us or holds us captive in this life.

I am humbled as I look across the street at their house, wondering what they must be going through today- pain unutterable, vacuous loss, unanswerable confusion.

I remember the earth revolting under me six days ago, my broken dishes and table, my raw and shattered nerves. Those are nothing compared to the searing loss of a child.

My stuff can be replaced this week. This week, they will lay their son to rest.

 

not-so-manic-monday

Welp, it’s Monday. I start back to work full time next week and I’m plowing ahead with school. It’s about to get loco up en mi casa.

I woke up with a headache today- splitting from the sides of my temples. I had a meeting to go to and a prego friend to help…. Not a good day for a headache. AND I was out of my coffee beans this morning. ay caramba!

A Starbucks grande latte later, my headache vanished. So I rolled the windows down and turned the music up. The wind was in my hair and life was good- for a Monday.

You just gotta live sometimes. I suppose I looked dorky blasting a song and singing along in my uber mom minivan. One thing I’ve realized- do stuff that makes me happy- sometimes just a little thing. But do something everyday.

Yesterday it was this– my twelve year old and I riding along in the car, belting out these lyrics. Takes me back to the good ol’ days of the 80’s. That hair. THOSE PANTS.

 

Live life. Never fear being dorky. Have fun. Be fun. Happy Monday, ya’ll!

i am ALIVE again!

It’s been far too long.

I’ve missed this.

You know how when you don’t do something for a really long time, you feel a sense of paralysis to tackle it again?!

That’s been me.

Why is that? We shy away from the very thing that helps make a better us.

For me, it’s been fear- fear that I have nothing valuable or clever to say, fear that I will present a post that is boring or grammatically incorrect (for shame, you know), fear that the FEARS I am currently facing in my life would bleed through to my writing and readers would play on their tiny violin when reading my failures. I am so often constrained by expectations still (need to work on this more)!

But then it hit me: I write because I love it. I write because it frees my mind. I write because if one person can resonate with my thoughts or feelings and it encourages or helps them, my heart is HAPPY!

My blog means something to me and I have neglected it. I intend to change that starting today. You may find an occasional syntax error and I might just type some offensively strong language at times, but I am OK with that.

I strive towards integrity in all things and this can be done only through candor and without fear.

To that end I will write. Hang on. It might be crazy!

 

Plainly,

Jane

 

 

 

 

 

 

why?

You know how toddlers cutely, inquisitively and annoyingly ask, “Why?” one hundred fifty times everyday? Yeah. Well, sometimes my inner toddler just won’t quit. It queries all day long like a song on repeat.

Fortunately for you, dear readers, these questions have a bit more depth than a 3 year-old but can be equally perplexing (if not even unanswerable).

Here’s what’s been bobbling around my head (and this is just today)! {Do you ever wonder these things? Or am I the only one with this intense toddler like curiosity?}

– Why is it that when a celebrity succumbs to reckless or naughty behavior, we fiendishly mock, ridicule and scoff at their downfall? Stupid people do stupid arrest worthy things everyday. Shame on us for delighting in it. It shows what man worshippers we can be.

– Why do those over shared “you’re gonna bawl your eyes out”, “watch this with a box of tissues”, “I dare you to get through this without crying” videos NEVER even make me tear up? Am I some cold hearted, non-emotional creature that feels no connection to cute babies, animals or sappy love stories? My heart strings are not easily tugged apparently.

– Why do some of my friends continue to have Mount Everest amounts of crap happening in their lives right now? Again and again. Over and over, dealing with pain, suffering, sadness, disappointment. I wish I could take a Mount McKinley sized piece of it from them. Lighten their load. Make them breathe easier. Find an easy cure or magical potion to make it all better.

– Why do things really break in triplicate? Or why do car repair places always find additional repairs to recommend while fixing the original issue- as if the costs were not already making you bleed out?

– Why are teenagers walking oxymorons whose ideas wax and wane more than the phases of the moon; whose emotions yin and yang more than all the 80’s surf shirts still in existence? And WHY oh why do do they eat so strangely, have such filthy mouths and sleep either like a hibernating bear or like an always prowling cat?

– Why are some days just ethereal in nature and I find myself subconsciously saying: La Vita y Bella, smiling at the silliness of my children’s antics, fondly recalling the dashing bravery of my husband to go out and face the world for us everyday? When, why on other days (and for no apparent reason at’all), I feel a dark force hanging like a rain cloud around me, weighing down the very core of my being and making me mope around like Eeyore?

– Why do people seem to weave in and out of my life for different seasons? Or why does it seem so hard to make lasting friendships at this age, when as a kid, you could make a best friend in 5 minutes?

What bobbles around your head? Do tell.

Bits and Bobs

So, forgive me. I’ve taken a weeeee bit of a break. The respite offered was truly needed this year. Besides a lovely family vacation, I have taken some time to inventory- my life, my house, my priorites.

Back in December, I wrote a little ditty called, “Meet Grinchetta” about the stresses of Christmas (maybe I’ll post that NEXT year).  It was during the midst of my own personal Grinchmas that it happened.  The street was perfectly quiet and still as I walked the dog. Despite my mad rushing mind, I suddenly became acutely cognizant of the carefully laid lawn décor and colored twinkling lights. Instead of my knee-jerk response of a possible eye-roll or disdain over the gaudiness, I smiled a genuine smile. I paused- this was pleasant, a sight to take in, appreciate and remember- a season fleeting. From that moment on, I vowed to let Christmas enrapture me.

I would stop the madness, stop worrying about my Amazon orders or wondering how to strategize my next Costco trip without feeling like I was in a stampede.

I made batches of my favorite candy, a recipe handed down from my great grandmother. I lingered over the recipe card written in my mom’s impeccable penmanship and shrugged at the vanilla extract stains on it. I didn’t bake a single cookie though, which is a first.

I played the shmultzy Christmas music and sung along out loud to the likes of Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. I REALLY listened to the rather steamy lyrics of: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (Who knew it was so scandalous?)

Then a new year snuck up on me. Maybe I was enjoying myself a little too much. 🙂

It came anyways. 2014. And I didn’t make any resolutions. Oh the bliss! But that’s a story for another post…