Monday, June 20, 2011

Road Trip

Well, my friends, the time of year has come when my writing and blogging slow to a crawl. It's a bittersweet time: bitter because I adore writing, blogging and this on-line space we all inhabit. Sweet because it's summer and we have nothing but Time and we're preparing for a nice long, old-fashioned road trip. (I put those words like nice and old-fashioned in there to trick myself into believing that 23 hours in the car will be nice. And old-fashioned? Well, Will from Will & Grace once said something like, "Why is it that when you put the word old-fashioned in front of anything, it becomes wonderful?" )

I will miss our connections. So I'm hoping (fingers crossed tightly) that we'll reconnect where I drop off. And I'll still post occasionally. I know I won't be able to stay away for too long from this space that I love.

So happy trails to you (and to me--please, please let me have happy trails) and enjoy the summer solstice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Into Focus

I can't remember when I first visited Christine's blog, Coffees and Commutes. But I can tell you that now, I can't imagine a week when I don't seek out her words, rich with truth and insight.

Christine writes candidly about her life as a mother, her career and her life with depression. We both unfortunately walk this life of depression. But gratefully, after reading her posts, I feel human. Normal. Not alone. Her words are like a hand, stretching through my screen and into my soul.

Today's guest post is by Christine. Please read her powerful words and if you don't already, visit her wonderful blog. I'm sure you'll be so glad you did.

Into Focus

I felt a flash of optimism today. Actually it announced itself like a flash, but steadied itself quickly into a flickering light. There it was, dancing calmly in front of me, small, but resolute and strong. With it comes clarity, the kind of clarity that comes with a new set of glasses, my life finally vibrant and crisp.

Because I wasn’t expecting it, it felt delicious and wondrous.

When you start to come out of a dense fog, the glint of transparency seems to sparkle brilliantly. You reflect and realize how overcome your life was by sadness and despair. The new clarity stands completely juxtaposed to the more familiar grey oppression, tantalizing with the freshness of a sunny spring day. For a short time, I reveled in it and was reminded how good life could feel.

When I first fell into my personal abyss and realized that I would need medication to help me out of the sludge of my mind, it wasn’t long before I started to feel better. Within a week the haze started to life, my energy slowly rebounded, my heart’s cadence slowed to a more manageable rhythm.

Now, many weeks later, I believe I may actually be getting better. I’m more myself than I have been in a very long time. It feels like the return of an old friend who you didn’t even realize you had missed, the familiarity bringing a new sensation full of ripe possibilities.

It’s very difficult to describe how pervasive my depression was. Now with clarity, comes the benefit of hindsight and a feeling of sadness for the self who was lost for so long and all that was missed because of it. I feel like whole pockets of the past couple of years have been taken from me, particularly the last 5 or 6 months.

I’m told this is common, that when people begin to feel better they recognize that the struggle was there far longer than they ever knew. The slide was gradual of course, but it was deep. I think that’s the true horror of this illness—how it squeezes a person’s wellbeing in the most secretive way, so that it’s not obvious to the one who matters most—yourself.

But here’s what I now know. At the beginning of this year I set out to find myself. In the process I completely lost myself. Now I believe this is exactly what was supposed to happen.

Until recently I fought it, refusing to allow myself to be lost. That is precisely where the sadness and confusion came from. I was afraid to let go and just be. I thought self-understanding came like an achievement, something to reach. Like a place of souls. When all along it was inside me—right now—right here.

It seems cliché, but I really did need to lose myself before I could truly find myself.

I was so blind I almost missed itI floundered and sputtered and practically snuffed out my own breath in a desperate attempt to discover something that didn’t exist.

A self beyond myself.

So here I am, trying this realization on for size and reminding myself to breathe in the simplicity of a live lived each day. This very moment. Consciously reminding myself, as I do so often with my children—stop, breathe, focus. I feeling my thoughts and allow them without judgment. Testing it out, learning it.

Simple, and yet so hard. Practicing.

Acknowledging that what I feel is real and okay. And then moving on. Deeper. But within the self who I already am.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ties That Bind

We pulled into our driveway and parked. I got the grocery bags and made multiple trips into the house with them. In and out, up the stairs and down, open and close the door. I got back to the car and found Henry, still sitting in his car seat, staring into the air. I stood just outside the door of our blue minivan. I bit my tongue. My usual strings of sentences ached to pop out, Come on, Henry, get out of your car seat. Come on, hurry up. UNBUCKLE. Get your things. Come on, come on COME ON!


This time, my words stalled, dissolving on my tongue. I don't know why I was able to stop. Typically, when the mental list of To Dos swirls, I cannot stop its throbbing beat. Maybe, on this day, I was able because we had no pressing plans. Or maybe I just got lucky. Instead of issuing my usual litany of instructions, I surrendered and slowly lowered my head to rest it on top of his. Striations of dappled, warm sunlight danced around us, holding us in a sling of suspended time. A dry breeze blew, capturing Henry's boyish scent and distilling it around us. His blond hair tickled my forehead. I rested. He rested. Henry was still. We were still, together.
The light, stippled through the variegated cornucopia of green leaves, made silly designs on our bodies. The sun poured warmly around us. I felt the shift--the shift from mental minutia to this life, this now. I felt the swell of the sacred and its enormity caught in my throat. Our connectedness felt primal and familiar--like we'd been here before. And of course, we had.


Our very first connection was an umbilical cord which gave life and oxygen and nutrition. Just five years ago, the contractions racked my body, coursing in synchronicity with the Earth's pull. Just five years ago, Henry was born.
I planned to have an epidural--the anesthesiologists merely awaited the word from my doctor and nurses, and my doctors and nurses awaited the word from me. Hubby went to get a huge shot of caffeine and I lay in my hospital bed, contractions rushing me like tidal waves. As the pain ricocheted through my body, my finger sat poised to push the button to call them. But I waited. Something stopped me--a primal urge to connect with my body, the inherent power within me to grow and deliver a life. I hadn't been able to experience this when I delivered Abby so this time, I waited. My body coursed with the primitive synchronicity of life. I felt at that moment more connected to a bigger world than I ever had before. I was plugged into it all. There. Participating in his arrival.

I finally asked for (and gratefully received) my epidural.

When he arrived, time stopped. It was him and me. With the umbilical cord cut, we experienced the first severing of our first bond. A first of many partings and meetings. I didn't know then, on the day he arrived, that our relationship would morph and reconstitute so many times.

The shift from nursing to formula. From milk to solids. From my feeding him to him feeding himself. To now, when I'll be upstairs and hear him in the kitchen below, food bags crinkling, while he rummages for his own sustenance. I know one day, when he lives his own life, I will yearn for the crinkling of those bags.
The bonds of our physicality change and morph daily, coupled with conjugations of emotion to continually tether us. This evolution of the relationship between mother and child, particularly thismother and these children, forces me to ponder the future. I reflect on my adult relationship with my mother. The physical distance between us now makes my heart ache for that inexorable, future parting of my children.

I know that the shifting occurs, in small, almost transparent bits, daily. I live within these evolving parameters of our life. First nights in their rooms. First sleepovers. First weekends away. And then, firsts of their young-adult lives will barrel down upon us. I know that our future points of connection are unpredictable but when these blissful blips come--10, 20, 30 years from now--I will lean into them with a fierce gratitude and faith that they will continue.


The night before Henry's fifth birthday, I sat on my deck. I sipped my gin and tonic (double lime, please and thank you). The winds played their melodies on the leaves, each different green and shape yielding a rapturous, natural cacauphony. The sound was reminiscent of waves rolling onto the shore. And I'm reminded of the powerful waves that signaled the arrival of Henry. These waves of wind signaled the arrival of this now. On the undercurrent of those winds flew vestiges of time past, five days ago when Henry and I sat in the driveway, locked in our moment. And five years ago, when Henry joined me on this journey. Together.
On that evening, the world felt so big. Carbonated gratitude bubbled through my veins. I peered out into the western sky--the palest robin's-egg blue tinged with the silvery promise of twilight. The silhouettes of trees, leaves, pine needles and branches punctuated the horizon. The wind continued to roll, playing the symphonic hush of night. The decadent scent of a neighbor's bonfire hopped onto one of the wind streams.
Right above me, in a room on the second floor of my home, a still-four-year-old Henry slept. Almost five years after his birth, our physicality still continues to shift, to roll, to morph. On the eve of his birthday, bricks and wood separate us only physically. Our lasting ties permeate, radiate.

Far off in the west, an airplane heads east, glimmering in the last remaining rays of daylight. A soft hush of supplication leaves my lips. A whisper of contentment. A nod to the extraordinary union of all that is. Henry. Me. The world around us. I relaxed into the tapestry of it all.

The sky slowly lost its pigmentation and deepened in its simplicity. Charcoal swirls of night formed where the sun left its vacancies, giving billing to the delicate silver crescent moon, subtly glowing. I got up from my perch and walked through the night into my home.


Before I go to bed each night, I always check on my children. This night unfolded no differently. I padded down the hall in my socked feet, guided by faint strains of night lights spilling their glow onto the hardwood floors, groaning at my late-night intrusion.

The night arrived cool--in the 50s--and our windows were open to the night. First I kissed Abby, cozy and zonked in her hot pink bed. Then I opened Henry's door. I lay down in his bed next to him. For the thousandth time, I studied his blond-tousled hair. I cupped his round cheek, I stared at his long lashes.

An achy pit of not being able to remember this moment grew in my stomach. Maybe missing something before it is even gone is a good thing--a mark of reverence and insatiable gratitude. So I did what all mothers do--made myself an empty promise that I would remember it all. His scent. His quirky word choices. His heart.

I knew that now matter how I tried that these details would one day fade. I knew that despite my noble efforts I might not be able to conger the silkiness of his skin. They would escape my memory like fog. I awoke, an hour later, to Henry's face just inches from mine. He slept. My arm was flung over his chest, rising and falling with the cadence of his breathing. His knees were tucked into my stomach. Together. Connected.

I kissed my four-year-old one last time. Reluctantly, I got up and padded back down the hardwood hall to my cool, crisp white sheets. The memory of Henry at four already fraying at its edges. I slept.

The next morning, I awoke to Henry's beaming face inches from mine, proudly holding up five fingers.
I'm FIVE!, he smiled.

I reached over to him, and held his free hand. It was still silky. I breathed a sigh of relief. I know, I replied, I know! Happy Birthday, sweet boy. I brushed his hair from his eyes and returned his smile.

Monday, June 6, 2011


As the school year wraps, I'm keenly aware of the merging presence of both the end and the beginning. The end of the school year and the beginning of the summer, mingling in the same space.

Yesterday, I walked the halls of Abby's elementary school.

What is it about the palpable, tangible energy during those last school days? The students and teachers all wear a mix of exhaustion and anticipatory joy on their faces. As my feet moved me down the hall, I recalled organizing all the shiny, crisp school supplies into Abby's backpack for the first day of school. Now, I peeked into classrooms and saw children haphazardly shoving old, worn folders, well-loved crayons and papers into their packs.

I inhaled the school unique essence of school: tempera paint, paper reams, glue and sweaty gym shoes. The scent of freshly-cut grass wafted in through the open windows. Blank hall walls, which just last week proudly displayed students' work, now looked so stark, punctuated with the occasional ripped corner of some well-thought-out project, pierced with one stalwart thumbtack. I could almost hear the scuffed, well-traveled floors saying, I thought they'd never leave... while simultaneously trying to commit the kids' beloved footsteps and hum to memory. As if they could sense the impending, inevitable solemn quiet of summer and were already yearning for the freshness of fall. I know how they feel.

Endings end and beginnings really begin, meshing and paralleling each other. I suspect the edges are always gray, frayed and ambiguous. Like those hallowed halls, like those worn school supplies. Like me. Simultaneously yearning for quiet and embracing the noise.

A repost from June 2010.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Carry On

I'm so persnickety--a bag of contradictions and nuances. So many thoughts rush, stop and course through my head lately. Nothing too notable, nothing too monumental. Just idiosyncrasies and minutia rolling like waves through my brain.

And so, in no particular order, I give a partial list of Me:

1. I am a neat freak. Clutter and messes can actually paralyze me. And since Murphy's Law likes to prevail, I live with three, lovely, wonderful, lovable NON-neat-freaks. (This morning, hubby called and asked what I was doing. I told him I was cleaning so I could write. He was definitely not surprised.)

2. I compare myself to others too much. Wondering why they can get so much done in a day, or write so many blog posts (ahem) and I can't. Wondering how she manages life with four kids so effortlessly and calmly while I stumble and bumble with two. I know that in the comparison game, there is no winner, just a stressed-out, paralyzed me haggardly sitting on the side of someone else's life. But it seems I like to torture myself. I am trying to stop.

3. When I get too caught up in my own thoughts (which happens more than I'd like to admit), I try to stop and say to myself,

All is well.
Breathe in. Out.
Just be.

I become grounded in the now.

4. Sometimes I am as slow as a drip of molasses. Ideas and questions must be left to simmer in my brain before I can give answers or direction. I find this infuriating! I see my friends (again, with the comparisons) who make rapid-fire decisions and I flood with envy. Why can't I??

5. Often I have to do push-ups before I can write.

6. I still struggle with depression. When in a depressive episode, I feel like I'm in a well. Sounds and actions waft down into my small space. It takes awhile for my thoughts and responses to form--my words travel slowly back up the damp, dark well walls. Normal synapse activity slows to a low boil, trudging through viscosity of my brain.

6. My children's art work adorns many rooms in our home. Always makes me way-down-in-my-soul happy.

7. My idea of a heavenly afternoon: surrounding myself with boxes of old photos, sifting through them all. Laughing and crying as the moments hop out of the photos and into my memories. (When at my mom's house, sometimes I'll disappear. My mom will find me, in the basement, hunched over and pouring over old albums.)

8. I go to bed each night with a huge tumbler of ice water.

9. I adore old items with memories attached to them. For instance, my wedding band was created from my husband's great Aunt's wedding band. When I rub my finger over the small, pave diamonds, I love the feel of their unsymmetrical, imperfect topography. It seems like I can unlock years of lingering real history--the stories untold--which each pass of my finger tip. Fights. Hopes. Reconciliations. Sunscreen. Dinner. Tears. Sunlight.

10. Some random things that make my heart sing:

The melodic rustling of the wind over leaves
McDonald's French fries and magic diet coke
Just-out-of-the-tub hugs from my kids
A crisp flag on a slight breeze

A sunny perch to contemplate whatever begs for contemplation

12. I am an imperfect, average mother. Each day, I try to embrace this. Each day, I try to see the good in what I do. Each day I fail, and succeed. This gem greets and grounds me each time I leave my office:
So I'm off. Keeping calm and carrying on.