“You will be identified as thin-skinned and moody; in reaction you will identify yourself as civilized and sensitive. You will barricade yourself in that preposterous condition known as self-respect.” ~ Alphonso Lingis, Dangerous Emotions

"Purple Heather," by Boris Lovet-Lorski (ND, watercolor on paper)*

                   

“We construct a narrative for ourselves, and that’s the thread that we follow from one day to the next. People who disintegrate as personalities are the ones who lose that thread.” ~  Paul Auster

Thursday afternoon. Cloudy and warm, possible evening thunder showers.

Alexis and I had talked about going with my mother to Babies r Us today  just to look around, but mom isn’t feeling great, and my back is killing me today, so we’ll be putting that off for now. I wasn’t going to purchase anything, not yet. I’m waiting to see what she doesn’t get from other people, and then we’ll try to fill in the gaps. We were going with my mother since mom has a tendency not to shop from gift lists, and since Lex registered at both Target and Babies r Us, it would be kind of nice if mom would shop from the registry.

"Tropical Sunset," by Boris Lovet-Lorski (1960, watercolor on paper)

Anyway, I took Brett to school, and Corey went to work this afternoon. He was originally supposed to work this morning, but that shift was called off; then they asked him to work this afternoon because someone called in, which is good as he only had two shifts for this week.

He’s really beating himself up over the whole MMD thing, and is convinced that everyone is really disappointed with him and secretly upset with him. It’s called a mistake, and they happen, and yes, they seem to happen overabundantly to us, but what are you going to do? Of course, I have no room to talk about carrying around guilt all the time, but it’s so hard to see in Corey, especially since no one really feels the way that he thinks they do. I mean, it’s just as much my fault as it is his that he left the house without his credentials packed. We both knew that he needed them, both knew that they were essential, but neither of us remembered, in spite of checking, rechecking, and checking again.

I think that we were so concerned about the weight of the suitcase, not going over the 50-pound limit, that we got distracted by that. It doesn’t matter, though. He’s still beating himself up. Just for good measure, I’m back to thinking that if I could just go back to work, it would end this damned cycle that we’re in. I don’t know what to think, to be honest.

“The madness of depression is . . . a storm indeed, but a storm of murk. Soon evident are the slowed-down responses, near paralysis, psychic energy throttled back close to zero. Ultimately, the body is affected and feels sapped, drained.” ~ William Styron in Darkness Visible

I know that I’ve mentioned it before, but I read Styron’s Darkness Visible years ago while sitting in the coffee shop at Barnes & Noble. It’s not a very long book, but it’s an incredible read, especially for those of us who suffer from clinical depression. The way in which Styron describes all of the things that I’ve felt at times is spot on, perfect. I highly recommend this short memoir for any of you who are clinically depressed.

"Light through the Trees," by Boris Lovet-Lorski (ca 1960, watercolor on paper)

Anyway, this quote from the book showed up on my Tumblr dash, which brought to mind the book and the way that I was feeling when I first read it. My spirals downward used to be so extreme; I would fall far very quickly, and then sometimes I stayed there for days and days, until the days seeped into weeks, and then months. I don’t do that now, at least, not the way that I used to, and I have pharmaceuticals to thank for that. I know that some people are reluctant to take medicine for their depression, thinking that they can will themselves out of it, or snap out of it with a healthier diet.

And if they can do that, then good for them. I have no problems with alternatives to traditional medicine. I only know that it was a long road for me to find just the right medicine, that I tried at least five or six other kinds before finding one that did not leave me feeling like a zombie, or did not have terrible physical side effects. I just know that I never ever want to feel that way again.

Obviously, I still wrestle with my mood swings, and I know that this is something that will be with me until the day I die. And yes, I still have those moments in which the despair threatens to consume me, but for the most part, I stumble along in life, and sometimes I even remember to notice the beauty around me, and when I do that, it’s a small, silent victory. Some of you may not be able to understand that, and some of you will.

“Solitude has soft, silky hands, but with strong fingers it grasps the heart and makes it ache with sorrow.” ~ Kahlil Gibran, Broken Wings

So on the way home from dropping off Brett at school I took a route that I don’t usually take. I went down a road that goes right past the street on which I lived for a brief time as an undergrad, in the old white house that had been turned into four apartments. I loved that apartment as it was on a dead-end street that abutted the water. Unfortunately, I lived there during a time in which my depression was still not being treated, and living there alone turned out not to be so good for me.

"The Waterfall," by Boris Lovet-Lorski (1950, watercolor on paper)

I do have some good memories, though. I remember opening all of the windows and letting the breeze come through, smelling the slightly brackish water outside. The family who owned the house lived on a houseboat, which I always thought was so cool. In fact, it was what first gave me the idea of living on a boat myself.

My unit had a tiny back porch and a door that lead to a back stairway that I never used. If I remember, it was a bit unsafe. I hung a curtain of wooden beads across the door, and one night, I remember dreaming about this constant knocking sound, and then I awakened to find that it was storming outside, and the old windows, which were not airtight, were letting in a draft that was causing the beads to bang loudly against the door. I stumbled to the door and ripped the beads from the door. It’s a wonder that my neighbors didn’t complain, but I never heard anything.

So that memory flitted through my mind as I was driving home, down a street lined with Bradford Pear trees, all of which are heavy with blooms. I had the sunroof open and all of the windows of the Rodeo open, and the air smelled of spring.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ~ Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

I only stayed in that apartment for six months. My rent was $125, and that included heat and water. I had roommates for a few months, but that didn’t work out. I moved from there to move in with a woman with whom I worked at the newspaper—it was not a good move on my part, but hindsight . . . We moved into a new townhouse in Virginia Beach, which was owned by the man she was dating; it was within a community that was full of Navy pilots, right out of the academy. I had so many pilot friends and spent a lot of time at the officer’s club on base. Two pilots lived four units down from us, and I became very good friends with one of them. He actually rescued me one night after my roommate and I had a huge fight, and I walked out into the night with nothing but my dog and my keys.

"Tropical Sunrise," by Boris Lovet-Lorski (1960, watercolor on paper)

I actually still remember his name. Over the years, I wonder what happened to all of them, him especially. For a long time, I would see a Tomcat flying overhead and wonder if the person in the cockpit was someone I knew. Those were heady days, but the roommate turned into a nightmare too impossible to deal with, and I ended up moving back home with my parents. But I left my mark on the townhouse, unintentionally: I spilled dark red nail polish on the off-white carpet in my bedroom. Oops . . .

It was my sophomore year in college, and I cut off all my hair and gained about 20 pounds. I was juggling two boyfriends, both of whom worked at the newspaper, one of whom was dumber than a box of rocks. Why? The things that we remember . . .

“Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence.” ~ Léon Bloy

Not really sure what has me journeying into the past, unless it was all triggered by driving past that street. Then again, it may have been triggered by the remembrance of the anxiety attacks. Who knows.

"Reflections," by Boris Lovet-Lorski (1940, watercolor on paper)

What I do know is that I do revisit the past probably more frequently than most people, and I find that a bit odd, as so much of my past is rooted in pain and sorrow. Even the good memories are bittersweet. The past is not necessarily a good place for me, yet I go there again and again. In search of what, exactly? Answers? Questions? Both?

Has this been triggered by my daughter’s pregnancy, the fact that she is due to deliver right around the same time that she was born, the same time that Brett was born? Remembering my own pregnancies, July in northern Virginia with no air conditioning in my car. Pregnant with Brett in July during a heat wave with temperatures above 100° for seven days in a row.

Here’s something I may have never told you, probably from embarrassment: My ex and I had two cars while we were in northern Virginia, my old Sunbird, which was a three-speed manual with no air conditioning (the first car that I bought with my own money), and we also had a Mazda 626 LX, fully decked out. I drove the Sunbird even though I was pregnant, hot, and uncomfortable, even though it was so low to the ground that getting in and out was well-nigh impossible. Do you know why I drove that damned car? Because my ex said that he should have the air conditioning because he had a longer commute . . . and I went along with that.

I would arrive at work wet from sweating in the car and on the way from the parking lot, which was about half a mile from my building. I went along with that. What the hell was wrong with me?

So Alexis is having her baby in July, but at least she has a new Accord that is cool and comfortable. Her little apartment only has a small window unit, and she’s already complaining about being hot even though it’s still mild outside.

So am I maudlin because of her? Because of Corey? Because of a drive down a street? Everything? Nothing?

Enough. Laundry and dishes await. Be still my heart.

More later. Peace.

*Images by Boris Lovet-Lorski  (1894–1973), Lithuanian sculptor, lithographer, and painter

Music by Peter Bradley Adams (yes, another, love this guy), “From the Sky”

                   

I Would Like to Describe

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water

to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin

but apparently this is not possible

and just to say—I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face
and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me
what white-haired gentlemen
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object

we fall asleep
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

~ Zbigniew Herbert

“Remembrance and reflection how allied. What thin partitions divides sense from thought.” ~ Alexander Pope

Antique Grandfather’s Clock Face

    

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Remembrance, reflection, recrimination, and finally, regret. 

Once upon a time, I had four coffee mugs, each with a different quote by Shakespeare. My favorite mug, the one that I used at work for several different jobs, was the one inscribed with the quote above. That mug is gone now, and I have never been able to find another set of mugs like the first one. 

Odd the things you remember when you least expect it. 

“People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” ~ St. Augustine
Antique Clock Face

I’m in a melancholy place. I realize that this state is due in part to Jennifer’s situation and my inability to separate completely what is happening to her from what happened to Caitlin. Last night when Alexis called me to give me an update, she said that she was afraid to call me because I always seemed to get upset. I told her that I wanted her to call, that I needed to know what was going on. 

Jennifer isn’t Caitlin. I know that. I also know that I harbor knowledge that no one should have to have imprinted on memory but unfortunately, too many people do: the names and categories of brain tumors, what a shunt is and how it works, the questions to ask a neurosurgeon and an oncologist. It’s the kind of knowledge that I wish I did not own, never had to incorporate into my life. 

I also know fear, real, palpable fear, the kind of fear that takes over life and makes every second a study in emotional torture: Fear of the unknown and the known, fear of the uncontrollable, fear of that which is in our control, fear of time passing too quickly, and fear of not having enough time. It is the kind of fear that you can know intimately but be unable to articulate, and it certainly cannot be described adequately to inform someone who is in the midst of it. 

“There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.” ~ Léon Bloy
Antique Grandfather's Clock in Antique Store

So many decisions still need to be made, decisions about who will care for Reilly permanently should Jennifer not recover. I remember being Jennifer’s age, remember my own fallibilities at that time, and cannot imagine having to make these decisions with my younger sense of self. 

This is part of the unfairness of fate: only having the knowledge to face the worst when the need for that knowledge no longer exists. I do not believe in that saying that a person is never given more to bear than he or she can handle. These onerous loads are almost always placed upon the people who are most unprepared. That is because most people live life forwards, hoping for the best and guarding against the worst. 

Only people who have touched the face of relentless pain and despair realize that the future is dependent upon the past, that normalcy is a myth. When the impossible becomes reality, it is almost always more than any individual is prepared or able to bear.  Survivors, those left behind, almost always wish not to be. Those who survive are forever changed and not necessarily for the better. Survivors muddle along after the life-cleaving event, never again complacent, some small part always thinking about the worst that can happen. 

The truth is that two kinds of people exist in this world: the whole and the broken. And the whole become broken after sharing intimacy with tragedy. 

“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” ~ Pearl S. Buck
Late 19th Century Pocket Watch (Swiss)

As sentient beings we make thousands of choices during our lifetimes. Sometimes the choices are easy, requiring little thought or reflection. Other times, the choices that we make ultimately change the courses of our lives. 

I have made too many choices that I regret, choices about Caitlin, choices about my father, but the decision that I made 12 years ago is the one haunting me today. When I found out that Alan had cancer, I called his sister and asked if I could visit him. I set a date, but on that day, I stayed at school late; I don’t remember why. By the time I was supposed to drive to Alan’s house, I was exhausted. I did not go. 

Alan died before I saw him. At his funeral, his sister told me that he had gotten dressed and had come downstairs on the day that I was supposed to visit. He waited for me. It was one of his lucid days. I know that she did not tell me this to shame me; she was trying to let me know how much Alan still cared about our friendship. 

My reasons for not going that day are worthless. Some of you may wonder why I still think about something I did not do 12 years ago. I can only tell you that I am haunted by my bad decisions, particularly those that directly affected someone else important to me. 

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” ~ C. S. Lewis
Old Watches

I’m really not certain as to why this post took this turn. I can only say that after talking with Alexis last night, I was overcome with feelings of regret—the insufferable what-if of life. 

And then last night I did sleep, but it was fitful and filled with disturbing dreams: I had a baby, a girl, and I was amazed that she was talking so soon. Then the girl child turned into a boy child. I was sitting in a waiting room while Corey was in a class. Someone said, “Does anyone know whose baby this is?” 

I said that he belonged to me, but he was supposed to be with his father. The boy came running to me, and I swooped him into my arms. Throughout the dream, my ex kept appearing, and I thought it odd that he would want to spend time with me now that he is living with his girlfriend. Corey was not happy to see him. 

Brett, Alexis and Eamonn were helping their father to drag bags of empty cans into a place for recycling. My ex asked if we would help. The baby disappeared. Corey and I turned away and began walking down a sidewalk. 

I woke up with another headache. 

“In each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real.” ~ Libba Bray
Time with Shadows and Light

Chiaroscuro ((k-är-skr): The practice of using the contrast of light and dark pictorially; also called clair-obscur. What a great word and also the perfect description of my life. 

Sometimes I think of life in photographic terms: light and dark, what is seen versus what is shadowed. The images that are crystal clear from a distance can become unfathomable when looked at too closely. And some images that are easily interpreted upon first glance later morph into something that cannot be comprehended when revisited. 

Perhaps this accounts for my preoccupation with the sky: my love for blue skies is matched only by my love for night skies. I am a study in contradictions:  I am comforted by the mountains as well as the sea. What wounds me also nourishes me.

Would that I could be the kind of person who accepts things at face value, who moves through life unfettered by the need to question, to analyze, to disseminate, to cull. Would that allow me to move past the past, to bury all of the speculation and regret? Or perhaps it is just as Oscar Wilde once said: “One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.” 

More later. Peace. 

Music by One Eskimo, “Kandi” 

                                                                                                                                         

Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint 

Never let me lose the marvel
of your statue-like eyes, or the accent
the solitary rose of your breath
places on my cheek at night. 

I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair. 

If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am a dog, and you alone my master, 

never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

~ Federico Garcia Lorca