“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

“Everything is as it is means this: We undergo all kinds of difficult and painful practices. We travel to all kinds of places and discover that we didn’t have to do a thing, that things are as they are. Everything is as it is after we’ve broken our bones trying everything.” ~ Ichitaro

Follow the Wisteria Line, by Marisa DL at pbase.com

                   

“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

Vines on Yellow by Greg Hefner (FCC)

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid. Thunderstorms predicted.

I slept fitfully last night. At first I couldn’t fall asleep (I’ve been out of my Seroquel for about a week), and then when I finally fell asleep, I woke up every few minutes scratching myself. I had broken out into some kind of rash/hives thingy. I tried everything: lotion, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, baby powder . . . Finally, around 8 a.m. I got up and took a shower. Thankfully, I still had a bit of Aveeno calming body scrub. After the shower, I felt marginally better, but I was still itching.

Four Benadryl later . . . I finally fell asleep for two consecutive hours around 11:30. Needless to say, I am wiped out and still a bit itchy, especially on my back (of course).

The only thing that I can think of that may have caused all of the itching is the fish stew that Corey made for dinner last night. It had clam juice in it. I have never had a reaction to shellfish before, and I love steamed and fried clams, but maybe the concentrated clam juice was just too much. I haven’t eaten anything else out of the ordinary, am not using new detergent or body wash, so that only leaves the stew, which is too bad as it was quite tasty.

So I thought that I would try to write a bit before going back to bed. Corey has gone to TCC campus to fill out more paperwork for a Pell Grant for summer classes. We’re keeping our collective fingers crossed that he can get some funds for summer. We’ve already done the FAFSA for the 2011-2012 academic year.

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.” ~ Anna Quindlen, from A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Cottage with Vines in Grimaud, France, by mhodl (FCC)

I spent most of yesterday catching up on my paperwork. I needed to fill out an IRS form claiming “Injured Spouse” status to see if we can get back some of the money that the IRS took from our refund. Apparently, if the debt for which the money was taken is not a joint debt, the other person can claim this status and appeal the seizure of funds. We’ll see what happens. It would be nice to get some of that refund money back so that we can buy a new back door. Of course, we have to wait eight to twelve weeks . . .

I also wrote a very long letter to the owner/president of the local Ford dealership that has been giving us the run around on the Windstar buy-back. I thought that I would try one more avenue before contacting the local media station that has a special consumer help department. No business wants to end up featured on that spot.

Then there was all of the tuition assistance/special circumstances paperwork for the males in the family: Corey, Eamonn, and Brett. I had to fill out forms and complete worksheets to show that we qualify for more grant money if it is available. Of course, all kinds of attachments were required, and I had to do some hunting to get everything together. Being able to apply for special circumstances because I am on total disability is one of the few positive things about being disabled.

I rescheduled a doctor’s appointment that I missed last Monday and finally made an appointment to have my breasts smashed with my requisite mammogram. This Thursday, I have an appointment with the neurologist to get a lumbar puncture. I am really not looking forward to this, but she feels that it’s a necessary test to determine if I have a fungus which might be causing headaches.

I also had to process a return to Avon. The whole Avon thing is not really working out, so I’ll probably give it up soon. The only people who are ordering are me and me and me. But other than that, I must say that I felt a real sense of accomplishment by last night, which is sad really, as I would have been able to do all of those things in an hour at one point in my life.

“I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more  than
to be in the moment—but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one.” ~ Billy Collins

Wisteria on Arbor

Corey and I watched a truly terrible movie last night: The Tomb. The preview looked promising, and the movie was from Australia, so I thought that it might be a good scary movie for us. Turns out, not so much. By the end of it, I was yelling at the television, which is never a good sign. You know when the characters are just so blatantly stupid, when they simply cannot get a clue? Yep. That kind of plot.

In other news . . . Corey’s garden is growing like gangbusters. We’re going to have huge sunflowers again this year, and with luck, the tomatoes and other vegetables will hang in for a good harvest. Of course, it’s getting hotter than blazes here, and even though it looks like it might rain, it usually does not.

The living room is quite stuffy as the big air conditioning unit died at the end of last year, and we have yet to replace it. The bedrooms stay fairly comfortable, though. I find that I am very much like the dogs: I either want to be in the pool (which is not yet ready for people, only Tillie), or in the cool dark of the bedrooms. Shakes, in particular, hates the heat as it exacerbates his canine dermatitis.

Oh well . . .

“Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Hampton Court Palace Gardens, Richmond Upon Thames, England

I have a bit of a confession: I am leaving the house less and less. Now that Brett’s school year is over, I really don’t have any reason to go out, other than doctors’ appointments. I know that being this housebound is not healthy for me, but truthfully, it doesn’t really bother me. What does bother me if going out in public in my current state, which is my highest weight ever.

For someone who doesn’t eat that much (and I really don’t), I just cannot seem to lose weight. A typical day usually includes two cups of coffee (half decaf/half caff), one glass of Pepsi (decaf), a bottle of diet green tea, a cup of herbal tea after dinner, a fiber bar or a sandwich thin (100 calories) with peanut butter, no jelly, dinner, and maybe some gummi bears or a couple of Riesen, and an orange if we have any. I use Splenda in place of sugar almost exclusively.

Does that seem like a lot? It doesn’t to me, but my metabolism is so warped that I just don’t seem to burn calories. I know—I’m not getting any exercise, but it’s that whole vicious circle thing in that I would feel better if I exercised, but I don’t feel well enough to exercise.

Being overweight preys on my mind far too much, but I simply cannot help it. I have such a warped body image, and I stand in front of the mirror and notice only flaws: flabby arms, a big belly, my double chins. I am dreading going to Chad’s wedding as I don’t want anyone to see me like this. Corey’s mom once told me that from the way I talk, I make it seem that I am huge. I’m not huge comparatively, and I know that, but I am huge for me.

Therein lies the rub.

So I stay at home and depress myself. Perhaps I’ll go cut my hair. That always seems to distract me. Thunderstorm is here, so I should probably stop so that the computer doesn’t get fried.

More later. Peace.

Music by A Fine Frenzy, “Whisper”

                   

To This May

They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

~ W. S. Merwin

                   

All quotes taken from Whiskey River

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

                   

“Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Wednesday night. Day 9 of the headache from hell.

Reboot Universe

Bonne Année! Buon Anno! Happy New Year . . . five days late.

As I said above, I am now on day nine of this particular migraine, and quite frankly, it’s driving me to distraction. I had wanted to do my new year’s post, well, on new year’s day, but stabbing pain in one’s eye coupled with extreme light sensitivity make approaching the computer for more than a few minutes impossible. At the moment, I seem to be in a lull from the pain; I wouldn’t dare say that it’s over as that would just reignite the curse; nevertheless, I thought that I would write while I am able.

I have chicken cacciatore simmering on the stove, something that I haven’t made in years. The idea popped into my head, and since I had chicken in the freezer, I thought, ‘why not?’ I’m using boneless chicken breasts, but thighs are better as they give the dish more flavor. Some of you may know the dish as Hunter’s Chicken—same dish, different name. Essentially, it’s an Italian chicken stew with wine, onions, garlic, and preferably, fresh herbs and tomatoes. The only fresh herb that I have is Rosemary, but I made do. From the aromas wafting from the kitchen, I think that I may have just nailed it even though I couldn’t find my recipe and had to cobble together something from a few different recipes on the Internet.

Why such excitement over a dinner? Well if you know me at all, you know that I don’t cook often any more, mostly because the standing for prep work really gets to my back, so when I am able to put together a meal, I add it to the victory column, a column that reads mostly empty.

(Aside: Have you ever fed a dog a spaghetti noodle? Too funny.)

Oh well. Small steps.

“Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.” ~ Louise Erdrich, “Advice to Myself”

Word Art

Corey is working tonight until 11. Yesterday he had to fly to D.C. for a medical transport. Luckily, he didn’t get snowed in like last time, and he was up and back within a day. I know that he’s tired—physically and mentally. Now that the holidays are over, he’s hoping that something will happen on the shipping front. It’s so hard not to place too much stock in what he has been told, not to pin our hopes on assertions and predictions by people who have not idea as to just how much they hold our future in their hands.

Yesterday Brett had his IB ceremony at Granby. Kind of strange since the graduates have finished one semester of college, but it has to be this way since the IB grades aren’t calculated until after graduation. IB diplomas and certificates are awarded to those who graduated from the program in the preceding academic year. It was a nice, short ceremony, fairly informal, and Brett was able to catch up with some people, which was nice for him.

He’s had a good Christmas break, seeing some friends, relaxing, and wreaking havoc on “Call of Duty.” Haven’t seen much of Eamonn since Christmas Day, and Alexis hasn’t been around since losing her car. I have no idea as to what she is going to do; every time I call her she’s asleep.

Not even going to go there . . . My mother does enough fretting over the situation for the both of us.

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.” Jalal al-Din Rumi

"Someday this pain will be useful to you"

Having really strange dreams of late. Only vague memories of people from my past, and of course, the ongoing work dreams in which I have returned to work, but in recent dreams, I keep getting fired from whatever job I’m doing.

I have a fairly good idea as to why my dreams are moving in this direction: Up until a few weeks ago, I had been feeling much better in the pain department. Then the migraine hit, and about five days ago, my back really began to act up again, so much so that I spent two straight days in bed. The retreat to my bed for consecutive days hasn’t happened in a few months, and I had forgotten how much I really, really detest it.

I mean, in trying to recapture somewhat of a normal (whatever that is) life, I am trying to do more, not overdo, just do. So when my body rebels, I take it quite personally: a betrayal, a direct assault on my sensibilities.

Let me explain: The two months during which I took care of my mother I had to shunt aside my own health concerns to focus on her needs. Admittedly, there were days in which I was exhausted—physically and emotionally—but I had no choice but to do what was necessary, and in so doing, I found that I felt more necessary, not just to my mother, but in this world as a whole. Then, when faced with the reality of my own physical limitations, I find that I highly resent it.

Does that make sense? Resent myself, or rather, my physicality?

“I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.” ~ Mary Oliver, from “Starlings in Winter”

Plato Word Art

I suppose that I still cling to the idea that one day I will be my old self again—the self who could work 12 hours a day, get by just fine on five hours of sleep, take yoga classes, clean my own house, wash my car, plant flowers—that person. It’s hard to settle for less when you know exactly what you used to be capable of accomplishing in your own.

I don’t want that person to be gone completely from this world as that is a reality that would sadden me and make me feel useless.

Another oh well . . .

So instead of resolutions for 2011 (since I never keep resolutions), I am going to list just a few things that I would like to see as being within the realm of possibility in my life at some time in the near future (in no particular order):

  • Visit the Humpback Mountain in western Virginia and trying to walk/hike the basic trail
  • Get back into yoga
  • Plant flowers this spring
  • Paint the living room
  • Treat myself to a good haircut and a massage
  • Contact a few people from the publishing program at GW just to catch up
  • See Mari again
  • Put new batteries in my watches that have died (I know, pitiful huh?)
  • Get away for a weekend with Corey, just the two of us, anywhere
  • Write a few poems
  • Watch less television
  • Take Tillie for walks around the neighborhood

I don’t see this as an impossible list, and I’m not even saying that I’ll do all of this in 2011, but damn. If I don’t put some ideas out there, then I’ll never focus. It’s not that I lack motivation, or at least I don’t think that’s what it is. I could be kidding myself. I mean, I had to really think to come up with 12 separate items.

This is by no means my bucket list. This is my memento vivere list, my reminder to myself to live, that I still live, that life is truly still mine for the taking. Perhaps it’s sad that I must remind myself of this, but at least I am self-aware enough to know that I need to be reminded.

Understand?

Headache is returning. Time to retreat.

More later. Peace.

Music by Greg Laswell, “And Then You”