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

“Follow the tugs in your heart. I think that everyone gets these gentle urges and should listen to them. Even if they sound absolutely insane, they may be worth going for.” ~ Victoria Moran

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1990, oil on photograph
“Untitled, 1990” (oil on photograph)
by Gerhard Richter

                   

“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.” ~ Simone Weil

Friday, late afternoon. Sunny and quite windy, 61 degrees.

I’m hoping that I”ll be able to write an actual post today. I mean, I have my quotes, and I have chosen an artist for my images. Let’s just see if the brain can manufacture some cogent thoughts, string them together well enough that I actually have something to say.

Gerhard Richter, Abstrakt 1989, oil on paper
“Abstrakt 1989” (oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

I just came in from playing a rousing game of stick with Tillie. She has been so neglected lately (she says), especially because I keep bringing that new puppy around and paying so much attention to her, holding her, talking to her, playing with her. Tillie just doesn’t understand what the attraction is and quite frankly, she’s very perturbed with me that I am choosing the new puppy over her. I try to explain that Olivia will be leaving to go to her own home soon, but Tillie isn’t having any of it.

Hence, the undivided attention this afternoon. Dogs are funny, as I’ve said many times before, but dogs are also quite possessive and jealous, which I know from experience, but every time I have the baby for more than a few hours, both Tillie and Alfie start doing things to make me pay more attention to them. All of this makes me wonder if Tillie would actually want us to get another lab for her to play with . . . hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

“We have only fragments—but even this seems fitting, for what is the moment but a fragment of greater time?” ~ Mary Ruefle, from Madness, Rack, and Honey

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1984, oil on paper
“Untitled 1984” (oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

So I have a real treat for Corey when he gets home: the History Channel show “Vikings.” I’ve recorded all of the episodes for him. I know that he’ll really like it. I’ve watched a couple of episodes, but I’ve decided to wait until Corey is back so that we can watch the rest together.

I have always been intrigued by Vikings, how their clans worked, the loyalties and the familial lineage. I have also always found it very unfair that Vikings were not given the proper credit for finding North America. Oh well, at least they are recognized more in recent history for their successes. Anyway, the show is very well done, and I’m so glad that I stumbled upon it late one night while I was channel surfing.

My other recent television obsession has been HLN’s coverage of the Jodi Arias trial. I have never really watched anything on HLN that has anything to do with current trials, and I find Nancy Grace to be so damned annoying. My mother used to watch the Casey Anthony trial coverage on Nancy Grace, and she would call me up and want to talk about it. Not so much. But I happened upon the Dr. Drew show, and it’s not him that I like so much as the women he has on his panels, criminal psychologists and lawyers. They are a funny group of women, biting wit, and they tell it as they see it. I probably won’t continue to watch after this trial is over, but for now, it’s pretty entertaining.

“Vitrac called chance a ‘lyric force.’  He’s absolutely right.  There’s a kind of dreamy exhilaration in not knowing where one is going.” ~ Charles Simic, from section III of The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks

Yes, my life does seem pretty boring most of the time, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I had a very nice afternoon yesterday. After Olivia went home, my friend Rebecca and I had lunch/dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I used to work with her at the realty company. Now, she runs her own wedding photography business and is quite successful at it. She’s really come so far from being the marketing assistant I met ten years ago.

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1985, watercolour and oil on paper
“Untitled 1985” (watercolour and oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

Anyway, we/I decided that it’s really unfortunate that we don’t see each other on a regular basis. She was living in Suffolk, and now she lives outside of Richmond in a suburb with her new husband and her son. I’m making a promise to myself that I’m going to make a real effort to see her at least once a month. Friendship has to be maintained, just like a hairstyle or a diet, and frankly, you get a lot more out of a friendship than a workout.

Don’t ask me. I was going somewhere with the metaphor, but it wandered off in the middle, which is happening more lately. I’m really worried that one of my new medicines is beginning to wreak havoc with my cognitive abilities, kind of like the Topamax did. I know that my mind goes all over the place, but it’s really a pain when I’m looking at something on tumblr, and it causes me to think about something else, and then I blink my eyes, and the thought is gone.

I can’t really figure out any other way of explaining it. Simic (above) says that there is a dreamy exhilaration in not knowing where you’re going, and that can be true, but lately, it’s just plain irritating to get lost in the middle over and over again.

“For we are all bound in stories, and as the years pile up they turn to stone, layer upon layer, building our lives.” ~ Steven Erikson, from The Crippled God

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1994, oil on photograph
“Untitled 1994” (oil on photograph)
by Gerhard Richter

Along those same lines, I’m wondering if I am actually physically and mentally capable of going back to get my doctorate. I can’t string together coherent thoughts beyond the first couple of levels. Perhaps it’s a temporary thing, tied in with my inability to write, my inability to concentrate. Hell, I wish I knew what was going on. It’s little things, like not being able to find my download file any more.

Here’s a really stupid example of what I mean: I’ve been trying to remember for over a week something minor that I wanted to mention here, nothing of importance, just one of those “oh, by the way” kind of things, and for the life of me, it won’t come, and then I remember what I’ve forgotten at odd times, like at 3 in the morning when Tillie decides that she really needs to go out.

What is it? Nothing really other than I’ve discovered that centipedes can fly. Those nasty little critters of which I am terrified are back with the warm weather. I saw my first one on the bathroom wall, and as I was watching it—I swear this is true—the bugger jumped off the wall, flew towards me, landed at my feet and started scuttling across the floor at me.

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1991, oil on photograph
“Untitled 1991” (oil on photograph)
by Gerhard Richter

Our bathroom is small, which means I didn’t really have anywhere to go, and I was trying not to scream out loud because the boys would laugh at me. I stood on the side of the bathtub until it went under the cabinet.

So………………that’s what I’ve been trying to remember to tell you, and now that it’s out there, I kind of wish I had forgotten it.

Speaking of the bathroom, Corey gets to work on it when he gets home, and I know that he’s really excited about it . . . not. The floor is buckling. I think that we’re going to have to go ahead and gut it, even though we don’t have a secondary bath yet. Too much is falling apart in there, directly tied in to water damage, and it’s the kind of thing that can cause mold, dry rot in the wood, all things we can’t let go without dire consequences.

“Her life—that was the only chance she had—the short season between two silences.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1985, watercolour and oil on paper2
“Untitled 1985” (watercolour and oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

So I was looking for a file, of course I don’t remember which one now, but in searching I came across a paper I had written for one of my publishing classes. I opened it and gave it a quick read, and this is what I have deduced: I can write one heck of an academic paper if I want to. I’m not bragging—really—because I’m actually astonished. This has happened to me before: reading something I wrote years ago and being kind of surprised that I was the one who wrote it.

Example—I wrote a paper on Algernon Charles Swinburne in graduate school on his poem “Hertha.” When I ran across that paper many years later I was astounded to see that I had tied the poem’s lyric style to a particular symphony (of course, I can’t remember which one, at the moment), and I had brought in Norse mythology as a back story to Swinburne’s meaning. Who does that? I did, I guess, but be damned if I see that academic in me now.

Gerhard Richter, Untitled 1994, oil on paper
“Untitled 1994” (oil on paper)
by Gerhard Richter

Was I just faking it? Really, was I just playing the game?

I am so lost sometimes when it comes to understanding myself, my abilities, my strengths and my weaknesses. I hate to say this, but I think that I really am the kind of person who needs external validation for just about everything aspect of my self, or rather, the self that I know is created by others, or something like that.

What do I know, anyway.

More later. Peace.

All images are by German visual artist Gerhard Richter (b. 1932). I was particularly intrigued by his overpainted photographs. To see more of his work and to read about his history, click here.

Music by Night Beds, “22”

                   

Waking

Waking, I look at you sleeping beside me.
It is early and the baby in her crib
has begun her conversation with the gods
that direct her, cooing and making small hoots.
Watching you, I see how your face bears the signs
of our time together—for each objective
description, there is the romantic; for each
scientific fact, there’s the subjective truth—
this line was caused by days at a microscope,
this from when you thought I no longer loved you.
Last night a friend called to say that he intends
to move out; so simple, he and his wife splitting
like a cell into two separate creatures.
What would happen if we divided ourselves?
As two colors blend on a white pad, so we
have become a third color; or better,
as a wire bites into the tree it surrounds,
so we have grown together. Can you believe
how frightening I find this, to know I have
no life except with you? It’s almost enough
to make me destroy it just to protest it.
Always we seemed perched on the brink of chaos.
But today there’s just sunlight and the baby’s
chatter, her wonder at the way light dances
on the wall. How lucky to be ignorant,
to greet joy without a trace of suspicion,
to take that first step without worrying what
comes trailing after, as night trails after day,
or winter summer, or confusion where all
seemed clear and each moment was its own reward.

~ Stephen Dobyns