It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling— that really hollowed-out feeling. ~ J.K. Rowling


“Strange how we decorate pain.
These ribbons, for instance,
and the small hard teardrops of blood.
Who are they for?
Do we think the dead care?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Morning in the Burned House”

Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cooler, 76 degrees.

Last night I had a very melancholy dream: I was working for the government contractor again, preparing a major proposal, but for some reason I was doing the writing/editing at home. At one point during the dream, I’m in a coffee bar, and I’m waiting for a male friend of mine to finish his conversation with his lover. While I am waiting, I begin to draw with colored chalk on one of the walls. I don’t askI just do. The image that I create is incredible, swooping colors and forms emerging from my fingertips, and I wonder where this talent came from.

While I’m drawing, my friend leaves, so I sit down on a bench and just stare at what I’ve created. I ask for a glass of wine . . .

Daniel Vasquez-Diaz Window in Bidasoa, Fuenterrabia 1918

“Window in Bidasoa, Fuenterrabia” (1918)
by Daniel Vasquez-Diaz

Return to home and the proposal . . . for some reason, I’m trying to take a shower so that I can go in to work before the deadline, but I can’t quite get the shower to work, and it’s because i have too much on my mind. This idea of being late for work frequently appears in my dreams. I’ve run into a man with whom I used to share a very deep love, and he tells me that he has remarried and has a child, and this is the last thing I am expecting. I ask him why he didn’t tell me before, and he says that he didn’t know how.

I tell him that I still have to finish one whole section of the proposal, and that I cannot deal with what he has said right now. I turn my back on him so that he cannot see how much he has hurt me, and then I get in the shower with all of my clothes on. By the time I get out, he has gone, and I know that I will never see him again. My mother comes in and asks me why I am taking so long.

When I awake, I’m trying to remember the name of the person in the company who prepared the budgets for the proposals. I can only remember his first name: William. He wasn’t in the dream at all, but somehow my mind has carried on with the proposal theme into waking. I begin the day with a heavy heart.

“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” ~ Miranda July, from It Chooses You

I won’t pretend that I’m doing better. I mean, I was, for a few days at least. But at this moment, the dining room table is covered with everything that I removed from the small, antique bookcase that sits in the corner of the living room. You see, the other day I decided to try to touch up some scratches on the dining room table . . . hours later, and I had touched up the finish on the coffee table, two end tables, the Bentwood rocker, another rocking chair, and the bookcase. I have no idea how any of this came about. I only know that I worked myself into a state of great pain.

Pierre Bonnard Landscape through a Window c1918

“Landscape through a Window” (c1918)
by Pierre Bonnard

So two days later, everything remains off the shelves and on the table, and I am no closer to having the house clean for Corey’s homecoming on Saturday. So here I sit, tired and depressed and completely unable to muster even a scintilla of energy. At least I have two more days . . .

At the moment, it’s raining, and thankfully, the temperature has dropped. But my mind is still on the dreams, on the chalk image and the heartbreaking words. I haven’t seen this man in decades. I have no idea as to where he is or what his life is like, so that he makes an appearance in my dreams and leaves me feeling devastated is, shall we say, unwelcome? But more, I am wishing that I actually had the artistic talent that I had in the dream, the ability to blend colors, create shapes, all without hesitation or thought.

I don’t know which part of the dream hurts more, and I wonder if other people dream this way: complete scenarios, emotions, colors, smells, tastes . . .

“But I won’t go there again.
We are all and only our distances
And when we touch that is what we touch.
Our messy shelves. Our sullen privations
And overabundance of lemons.
Our grief, our mountains and fields
And rivers of grief.” ~ Dan Chelotti, from “My Sparrow”

Other things: The air is so heavy, and while there is no mist, it feels that there should be one. Does that make sense? I don’t know . . .

Lately my nights are taking on a strange hue: the color of loneliness and ennui. I sit in bed and watch television. The dogs follow me from room to room, looking at me with anticipation as if I am going to do something incredibly exciting, and then sitting rather resolutely when I do not. Do you know how it feels to know that you have disappointed even your dogs? I am thankful for the company, but this loneliness will not lessen. This small house now has too many rooms.

My mother has been much on my mind, of late, and she pops up in my dreams constantly, even when she doesn’t fit the narrative, and that’s how it was in life as well. There is so much my mother never knew about me because at some point I stopped sharing, feeling that I would only receive scorn and negativity, as in, “why in god’s name would you do that?”—a comment I heard more than once in my life.

(c) Henrietta Garnett; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“A Venetian Window” (1926)
by Vanessa Bell

My mother would call and ask what I was doing, and I would tell her that I was on the computer. She would ask what I was doing on the computer, and I would use that catch-all word: writing, because to explain blogging would have been just too damned hard, and perhaps I didn’t give her credit, and perhaps she didn’t earn that credit, and perhaps I was too hard on her, and perhaps I learned hardness from her.

I only know that this year will be full of firsts, and I am not looking forward to any more of them: Olivia’s first birthday without her, my kids’ first birthdays without their Oma, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, and truly, I would like nothing more than to be far far away when those dates roll around, having no desire to meet them head on.

“Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.” ~ Christian Wiman, from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

And it’s funny, but when my father appears in my dreams, he is just the same: quiet, unassuming, and I can deal with this visage of my father because it is so like the reality that was. But now, when my mother appears I do nothing but question. Why was she in that dream? What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Because, you see, she is different in the dreams, somehow. It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly. All I know is that sometimes she is so much more caring in my dreams, more concerned about my welfare, and it makes me wonder, really wonder, if she was this way in real life, and I just didn’t see it.

Too much . . . . . . . too much . . . . I am reminded of the Wordsworth poem, “The world is too much with us”:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .

East Coast Window exhibited 1959 by Mary Potter 1900-1981

“East Coast Window” ()
by Mary Potter

My life is on a loop replay of literary quotes from things I read and studied so very many years ago. Funnily enough, I came across an older profile of myself in which I called myself a “Virginia poet,” and that really took me aback. How very pretentious of me. I write poetry so seldom now, having little to no faith in my abilities where verse is concerned. Needless to say, I changed the profile, but coming up with even the barest of descriptions for myself was taxing. I mean . . . . . . what am I?

Gah! I am too old to be doing this who am I crap.

“Some begin to talk,
to themselves, as do the mad;
some give their hearts to silence.” ~ Stephanie Strickland, from “The Red Virgin:  A Poem of Simone Weil”

I have said many times—in jest and not—that this world is purgatory, this here and now—this is the realm in which we are destined/doomed to work through our sins, resolve our issues. Again and again and again and again.

I feel as if I have spent my whole adult life to this point just waiting, waiting for life to begin. I will be able to do x once I have done y. I will be able to leave this area once my mother is no longer alive. I will be able to do to do . . . what??? It’s maddening, I tell you. How have I lived this long, done this much, and still have absolutely no idea as to who or what I am?

Konstantin Adreevich Somov View through a Window 1934

“View through a Window” (1934)
by Konstantin Andreevish Somov

I am (was?) a daughter, a mother, a spouse, an ex-spouse. For so many years I wanted to be someone’s sister, but that’s another story . . . I have been an editor, a staff writer for a weekly news insert, a newsroom supervisor, a proposal development specialist, a marketing director, a publications manager, and a sales manager. I have taught college, and I have taught middle school. I have managed staffs of 45, and staffs of 2. I have worked in a steak house and in a donut shop. I have been a nanny, a housekeeper, and a restaurant server. I have coordinated special events and memberships.

I have dated navy pilots, a devout catholic boy, a sociopathic liar, lawyers, and others. I married and divorced my best friend, and I married the man who has tried to make my dreams come true.

I have lost a daughter, a father, a mother, a woman who was like a mother, an uncle who was like a father, and many more.

What is the point of this litany? Well, you would think, wouldn’t you, that after all of this I might have a better idea of who and what I am, but I don’t. I really don’t, and part of me, a small part, envies those people who do one job their entire lives; I mean, for them, it seems that everything is clear cut. You work in factory x or business y. You get up, go to work, come home. You get raises and promotions along the way, and when someone asks you what you do, you have an answer.

“Wherever I turn, the black wave rushes down on me.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Diaries”

Look. If I am to be honest, and that is what I am attempting to do, I would have to say that I have never been satisfied, even in my dream job of teaching English at ODU. While I was doing that, I kept thinking that I really needed to be in a doctoral program, and perhaps if I had followed through with that, I would still be teaching English at some college somewhere.

Richard Edward Miller Woman by a Window

“Woman by a Window” ()
by Richard Edward Miller

Follow through. Key words, those. I’m great at starting, at doing, but continuing? Going all the way to the end? As my dad used to say, “Shee-yit.” (I really miss hearing my dad say that. It was his one- word exclamation for just about anything, good and bad.)

Anyway, the point is . . . there is no point. I have reached and passed that milestone birthday, that one that signifies you are now definitely on the downswing of life, and I used to point out to Mari when we were adrift that May Sarton didn’t publish her first novel until she was in her 50s. Somehow, when you are in your 30s, that seems like all of the time in the world, that you have plenty of time to write your own verse.

When I presented Dead Poets Society to my literature classes, I was so finely attuned to Mr. Keating’s words, his query of the young boys: “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” I thought, then, that I did, indeed, have a verse.

Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .

It is very late, and it is too soon, and I am no closer to any answers than when I typed the first word of this post. I am doing nothing more than decorating my pain. Atwood and Wordsworth, two worthy wordsmiths. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Lucius, “Go Home”

                   

Sailing on Lake Superior

Before us now the edge of the earth,
below us the nearly endless cold.
Around us nothing but shimmering
water,
the miles of empty and sparkling blue.

For a few hours, the sail fills on
toward infinity. Shadows of
our delicate bodies ebb and flow
across the deck of our delicate boat.

What if the beautiful days, the good
and pacific temperate moments,
weren’t just lovely, but everything?
What if I could let it fall away
in the wake, that ache to extract
meaning from vastness?

Let this suffice; the ease of thinking
it all goes on, whether we’re here
to see it or not. The splashing waves,
the suntipped gulls arcing across
the radiant world.

~ Kirsten Dierking

“I’m a ghost that everyone can see;” ~ Franz Wright, from “Empty Stage”


“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Beautiful and Damned

 Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Still incredibly hot and humid, 91 degrees.

I’m going to try to do this again. No distractions. With any luck, I’ll get past the first few sentences.

This is my immediate problem: my children. As you know, I have three grown children, but their stages of grown do not match their calendar status of grown. My eldest child, my daughter, will be having one of those major milestone birthdays on the 7th of this month, but the reality is that I think she is probably the youngest of my children. And for the moment, I choose to focus on my eldest/youngest child.

Max Beckmann Beach Landscape 1904 oil on cardboard

“Beach Landscape” (1904, oil on cardboard)
by Max Beckmann

To be fair, Alexis has gone through a lot in her short life, and the loss of her sister, something her brothers do not share as an immediate memory, affected her greatly. Alexis has never been full of self-confidence; in fact, the exact opposite is true: If one person could be so completely uncertain of her selfhood, I would have to say that it is my daughter. Please understand, I’m not criticizing, only commenting; after all, I, too, am very insecure about certain aspects of my self.

I don’t know how much of my daughter’s problems are a result of nurturing, but I do know that I have been the primary nurturer in her life, which is why I probably have a tendency to blame myself for so many of her woes. But at what point do I draw the line and acknowledge that she has very real problems that are completely separate from my relationship with my daughter?

You see, while I love my daughter beyond words, I am not entirely sure that I like certain key aspects of her personality. Does that make sense?

“there is something else that drives us, some
rage or hunger, some absence smoldering
like a childhood fever vaguely remembered
or half-perceived, some unprotected desire,
greed that is both wound and knife,
a failed grief, a lost radiance.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “Mergers and Acquisitions”

Again, let me say that I probably should not be writing this, but I need to work through some of this tonight as it is pressing on me much too acutely, and I know that I will have no peace unless I do something. I had to cancel my therapy appointment this week because of the chest cold that I have. Too much talking makes me cough, and coughing is, well, painful. Hence, the writing my way through . . .

I so wish that I had the ability to make things right for my children all of the time, but then again, don’t most parents? But I don’t have this ability, and talking to Alexis is futile, at best, and an invitation to a verbal fray, at worst. My daughter, like my sons, unfortunately inherited the family predisposition to clinical depression and anxiety. We all suffer in our own various ways, to lesser and greater extents, depending upon, well upon a lot of things. But Alexis is alone in one thing: she sleeps far too much for any human being. She can go to bed on Friday night and not wake fully until Monday morning.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“Summer Sea” (1961, oil on paperboard)
by Joan Eardley

When she was a teenager, she would sleep forever, but I really didn’t worry about it because I did the same thing as a teenager. However, she is an adult with her own child, and this sleeping sickness, for lack of a better term, has not abated. Corey and I have had several conversations in which we have tossed about this problem, mostly in relation to Olivia, as in, does my daughter’s sleeping sickness impede/impair her ability to care for her own daughter?

I can’t tell you how guilty I feel just for giving this concern words, but there. It’s been said. Now what?

I mean, this is more than my concern that she has absolutely no ambition, that she doesn’t seem to have any sort of life goals, which granted, is a real concern. But this particular issue has such larger implications as it affects everyone.

“I sat in the dark and thought: There’s no big apocalypse. Just an endless procession of little ones.” ~ Neil Gaiman, from Signal to Noise

I’m so conflicted.

If you were to ask me if my daughter is a good mother, I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Yes. Absolutely.”

Copyright York Museums Trust / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“The Wave” (1898)
by Roderick O’Conor

But then, I must pause. Does she love her daughter? Without question. Does she want what is best for her daughter? Again, yes.

But what makes a good mother? Love, concern, respect, patience, empathy, sympathy . . . cobbled together with a willingness to teach, to share, to laugh, to cry . . . Like it or not, motherhood is an endless procession of decisions, and if we are lucky, most of them are right, and if we are smart, we learn from the wrong ones, but first, we must be able to identify the wrong ones.

Look, being a mother is a thankless job. Your children resent you a lot of the time. They don’t like you some of the time. They wish you would be quiet a lot of the time. They appreciate you only some of the time, and to them, you are never a person with feelings and wants and needs. And no one can teach you how to be a mother; it’s purely on-the-job training, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get good advice along the way, and if you’re smart, you’ll realize which advice is good and which is bad.

So what’s my point?

Damned if I know . . .

“Life must be back there. You hid it
So no one would find it
And now you can’t remember where.” ~ John Ashbery, from “Vaucanson”

You know shaken baby syndrome? Well obviously that’s something that must never be done, but what about shaken adult child syndrome? Is it acceptable to want to grasp said child by the shoulders and shake him/her until the eyes come into focus and you think that perhaps some semblance of sense has entered said child’s brain?

William Henry Johnson Untitled c1930-35

Untitled Seascape (c1930-35)
by William Henry Johnson

I know that I’m making light, but trust me, I am so close to tears much of the time that to laugh would be nothing short of achieving a state of grace.

But back to the problem. Did you know that there is an actual illness called Sleeping Beauty Syndrome? It’s actually called Klein-Levin Syndrome:

Klein-Levin Syndrome (KLS) is a rare and complex neurological disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep, altered behavior, and a reduced understanding of the world. The disorder strikes adolescents primarily but can occur in younger children and adults. At the onset of an episode the patient becomes progressively drowsy and sleeps for most of the day and night (hypersomnolence), sometimes waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. Each episode lasts days, weeks or months during which time all normal daily activities stop. Individuals are not able to care for themselves or attend school and work. In between episodes, those with KLS appear to be in perfect health with no evidence of behavioral or physical dysfunction. KLS episodes may continue for 10 years or more. KLS is sometimes referred to in the media as “Sleeping Beauty” syndrome.

Seriously, I think my daughter has this. Some people think that Alexis is just lazy. I honestly don’t think that’s it. If I did, I would say so. Laziness can be fixed; well, at least, I think it can be fixed. Alexis is too OCD to be lazy. I just don’t know if she has any control over these sleep episodes. And the brutal reality is that it’s gotten to the point that it is having a serious impact on every single relationship she has.

“But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.” ~ Umberto Eco, from Foucault’s Pendulum

So what to do, what to do? I can do nothing. Not yet. And even if the time were right for me to do something, I have absolutely no idea as to what course of action I should take, if any.

Wassily Kandinsky Stormy Day 1906

“Stormy Day” (1906)
by Wassily Kandinsky

Familial relationships are so damned draining. Awash in a sea of eggshells, and trying to find just the right way to cross without breaking anything, without breaking any . . . one.

You know when you are young, in your early 20’s, and you think about life, think about the future as I always did, I would bet that most of the realities of later life never enter the realm of possibility. I mean, how could they, really? Real life is so far from what you think will happen to you when you’re young and trying to decide whether or not to drop a huge chunk of change on some toy or the other. Real life is so filled with pitfalls and trenches so deep that few of us would ever contemplate that such horrible things might actually happen.

Nothing in my 20’s prepared me for real life, even though I was so certain at the time that I had all of the answers. I was so sure of my certainty then. It takes being slapped in the face by fate to make you realize just how little you actually know.

So here I am, finally able to admit how little I know and knowing how little I am able to effect any kind of meaningful change in the lives of my children. Is it any wonder I walk around in a constant state of pain-filled angst?

Probably shouldn’t have written any of this . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by I Will, I Swear, “Long Days”


                   

Mind

The slow overture of rain,
each drop breaking
without breaking into
the next, describes
the unrelenting, syncopated
mind. Not unlike
the hummingbirds
imagining their wings
to be their heart, and swallows
believing the horizon
to be a line they lift
and drop. What is it
they cast for? The poplars,
advancing or retreating,
lose their stature
equally, and yet stand firm,
making arrangements
in order to become
imaginary. The city
draws the mind in streets,
and streets compel it
from their intersections
where a little
belongs to no one. It is
what is driven through
all stationary portions
of the world, gravity’s
stake in things, the leaves,
pressed against the dank
window of November
soil, remain unwelcome
till transformed, parts
of a puzzle unsolvable
till the edges give a bit
and soften. See how
then the picture becomes clear,
the mind entering the ground
more easily in pieces,
and all the richer for it.

~ Jorie Graham