An Untitled Essay on Writing and Wickedness

I’m tired.

Exhausted, actually. Mentally, and physically tired.

I have seven essays drafted on writing, things that I am processing as I push through the TALKING about writing so I may actually get to the business of DOING the writing. But my brain is so mushified that all I can bring myself to do at this moment is stare at the wall and cry.

Writing is healing, and when I don’t have time to write I die a little inside.

I don’t know how to find the time to fit this into my life. I read blogs of other writers who have one day a week devoted to writing, or several afternoons a week. Of this I am jealous, as I have to squeeze my writing in during an episode or two of Dora the Explorer on most days.

I used to write in the evenings when the house is quiet, but lately I’ve been so behind on basic household chores I’ve found myself vacuuming, or folding laundry, or picking up clutter. And by the time I finish doing this I am too tired to think of anything to write that requires me to dig deep.

I’ve been contemplating routine again. I’ve said this before, but I phase in and out of the scheduled life. In the past, meal planning and scheduled shopping and cleaning days were empowering, but there came a point when even my basic hygienic duties were being neglected so I began doing just The Next Thing.

Today I was talking with a friend who also struggles with depression. She has come to the conviction that time can not stand still every time she is in a season of depression. She must find a way to push through and keep her household running. I understand this, but I do not understand how to execute.

In some ways I believe routine would remove the need to think so much. I would simply go to the grocery store on Monday, clean the house on Wednesday, etc. But in some ways I also find routine stressful. Time slots fill in quickly with Shoulds and Musts and I begin to see a dense forest rather than a peaceful meadow. Eventually I end up spending an entire day in my pajamas because I just can’t bear the thought of DOING something anymore.

But routine might open up the space to write. Wide open meadow-like space rather than disjointed and multitasking moments that make my brain feel like a fragmented hard drive. Perhaps that’s it: I need to defrag my life.

Bryan and I fight the most over this issue of planning. He prefers a schedule, written where we can both refer to it. I also value routine, but writing it down or printing it out creates in me an anxiety that darkens the soul. I fear the failure of more things that are undone, of lists unchecked, of schedules abandoned.

Tasks are measurable. One could look at my schedule, look at my living room, and see that I did not clean as it dictated on my list. But how do you measure the energy and brain power it takes to teach and train a strong willed child? To referee scuffles between siblings? To shepherd, rather than dictate? An entire scheduled day can be derailed by such things.

This week I have been feeling as if God is tearing back the scab of a wound, leaving it raw and vulnerable. My selfishness, my need to control, my unkindness toward Ruthie – it is nothing short of hideous to me. I am sickened by my behavior and the brooding in my heart. Yet, even in my repulsion, it seems I lash out even more.

I am fighting myself. I am fighting God. I know I will walk away with a limp.

(I’m not sure how I got from the beginning of this essay to the end. Clearly, a good free-write exercise can really clear my mind and flush out what’s hiding under the surface of my stress.)

500 Words about my bad mood.

I tried writing this weekend, but I just couldn’t make it happen. I stared for quite awhile at my empty computer screen, but nothing was coming to me. I even tried to think of something to write that I wouldn’t necessarily post on my blog, but still… nothing.

With Fall in the air I’ve entered into project mode. Most people get this cleaning bug in the Spring, but for me the Fall is the season for reorganization and deep cleaning. I think it’s because I do NOTHING all summer long and now that I’m forced to be inside I realize how great the Nast is around here.

Also, I feel like a low level cranky person these days. I’ve been the Sweden of mood swings – not particularly joyful, not particularly depressed. Just blah. It makes for less anger outbursts, but I also feel like I’m not very much fun. I’m capable of HAVING fun, if fun happens to land on my doorway, but it just seems like too much energy to go out and MAKE the fun happen.

Moods like this also make me prone to jealousy and lack of contentment because I see other happy, well adjusted people around me and it makes me want their friends or their stuff so I can be happy and well adjusted, too.

But The Marge is arriving tonight. That’s my mom, and she’s the cutest 72 year old I know. She’s a teacher, and for the last 20 years of her career she taught/administered at the preschool level so she is just a DARLING with my kids.

She also breaks out into song at random moments. Like when she suddenly remembers something she’ll say in a sing-song voice, “I forgot to call the deeeeeeeeentiiiiiiiiiiiist….” Or she’ll sing a song about taking out the trash, or she’ll just make up some sort of tweedle-dee-diddle-dee-doo to fill in the empty space.

And it’s hereditary, too. Only it skips a generation like the twins gene because I do not have the gift of song, but Ruthie does. She sings EVERYTHING she says now, and she sings it slow and dramatically so it takes FOREVER for her to follow through on something you’ve asked her to do because she first has to sing, “OOOOOHHHHHHHH KAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY, MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! IIIIIIIIIII WIIIIIIIIILLLLLL DOOOOOOOOOO THAAAAAAAAT!”

The other day I was with my girlfriends and one of them mentioned she had talked to her mom and we all gasped in sympathy. Then we just giggled about how, when some of us say we just talked to our mom, we have to go out for coffee to debrief. I’m happy to report that I do not have such a mom, and I hope all you locals will get a chance to see The Marge this week.

And look at that, even at the mere discussion of my mom I’m already in a better mood.

Progress

This was an interesting week: I think I’ve experienced every emotion that is humanly possible, and I think I did it all with great zeal and exaggeration.

Having transitioned from Zoloft to herbal supplements – which includes Omega 3, hydroxytriptophan, and a multi-vitamin rich in the B’s – I now have 13 pills I take throughout the day, emphasizing the point that going organic is not the easy way out. Ever. I think this is more pills than my grandmother took.

Thirteen pills is a lot for a girl who, up until more recently than she’d care to admit, refused to swallow even an Advil alone for fear she would begin choking and nobody would be present to Heimlich it out. As a result, my pill-swallowing regimen has not been consistent, which has caused me to feel very polarized in my emotions.

However, as I spent the day with my family yesterday, feeling myself becoming irritated with everything, feeling anxious, feeling tense, feeling exaggerated impatience, I found myself for the first time taking those thoughts captive, and not allowing them to well up and surface. I found myself acknowledging the crazy cycle, and making the decision to move past it rather than entertain it.

It was tough – I pursed my lips a lot. I pinched the space between my eyes. My brow furrowed. I swallowed back the tightness in my chest. I constantly felt I needed to be somewhere besides where I was. Bryan asked me several times if I was okay. But I held fast to my sanity, and trusted in God to smooth the rough spots. I am learning new ways to process my emotions, and I finally feel as if the tools I’ve been given are useful in my hands, though not perfected.

Despite the failures of the week – the raging, the emotional eating, the crazy space my head was in – I am understanding more and more that THIS IS MY RACE. As in, “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is the path I have been given, and I’d better quit wasting time trying to jump tracks (a fine use of mixed metaphors).

In church this morning, Pastor Mike defined Faith as trusting God to give us what we need the most – Himself. And Hebrews 12:2 says we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. As I submit to this, more and more I feel myself changing and making better choices.

But it is exhausting.

Yesterday was not a relaxing day for me because I was waging a war in my mind. Everything I felt, everything I thought, I put it through a rigorous checklist of sanity: is this real? Is this rational? Is this irrational? Is this under my control or out of my control? Can I do anything to change the situation? Could I have done anything differently? Was that comment meant to hurt me? Will he still love me if _____ ? Is this the way I really feel or am I feeling according to perceived expectations? Is it okay for me to feel this way?

I could go on and on, but you already think I’m crazy.

The point is, my weak mind requires that I think with endurance. It is when I become a lazy thinker that I fall into so many of my traps. Yesterday I flexed my muscles and thought with endurance.

May Christ continue to give me strength.

Music Share

Yesterday I took a long drive to an appointment and enjoyed an entire hour of listening to music in the car. I listened to a mix CD Bryan made, and it was the first opportunity I’d had to really listen to the words. I found myself gravitating toward four specific songs, and skipped through the CD to each of those songs over and over again. What can I say? It was a vibe.

What follows is not a review, but rather a collection of thoughts about how this music drew me in. I hope you will take the opportunity to listen by following the links, because I love to share music!

Braided Hair – Speech (from The Vagabond)
I like this song because it acknowledges that life is not a straight line between A and B, but rather our paths are twisting and intertwining – like braids of hair. It’s an allusion to embracing the pile I’m standing in, whether I created that pile in my own stupidity or whether it was dumped on me, because in the end it’s how we deal with life that dictates how we get through the piles. (The following lyrics may be a little sketchy – I couldn’t find them anywhere on the internet so these are from listening with my naked ear!)

We all got things that hang on our back
Things that make us cool
Things that make us wack
Things that make us bad
Things we wish we never had
But the jist of things that make us real
Are the maps to God where we go from here
The road twists and braids like hair
Until we all get there

Outrageous – Paul Simon (from Surprise)
This song starts out so cranky and cantankerous – very Ecclesiastical. I’m tired. I work hard. Does anyone care what I say? My hair is going gray. And the realization of, Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone? Then:

God will
like he waters the flowers on your window sill
Take me
I’m an ordinary player in the key of C
And my will
Was broken by my pride and vanity

Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (from St. Elswhere)
The tone of this song is like that of an older man reflecting on what he’s learned. He first says he remembers when he lost his mind, that there was something pleasant about that place. Then, in the second verse it’s like he’s schooling some punk kid who thinks he’s all that, only he does it was grace. Here’s the second verse:

C’mon now who do
Who do you
Who do you
Who do you think you are?
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Bless your soul!
You really think you’re in control?
Well, I think you’re crazy!
Just like me.

I love the chuckle. I love the straightforwardness of it. I love the confidence of knowing who you are now because of where you’ve been.

Pass Me Over – Anthony Hamilton (from Ain’t Nobody Worryin’)
This song has significant lyrics for me, but I’ll admit that it’s an emotional song. I literally play it over and over and over again in the car because its soulfulness leads me into a place of reflection. Plus I love love love music with choral elements to it, and there is a choir repeating the phrase ‘pass me over’ toward the end. In its repetition I have found myself reflecting on THE Passover in the Bible when the Angel of Death stole the breath of all first born sons except those whose doors were covered by the sign of the blood. I know this will sound cheesy to some, but when I listen to this song I feel immersed in the protection of God, and that is very comforting.

Don’t be afraid
He who knows will make a way
His word alone is what has kept me
Born a son, King of eternal peace
Lay your burdens down

I Am Going to Make It Through This Year, If It Kills Me.

Seeing Red

This line from my favorite Mountain Goats song (called ‘This Year’) has become my mantra. I play it in the car as loud as the kids can stand it, and I sing along with the band’s signature melodic shouting as I drive around running errands. The very nature of their music releases tension.

I’m obsessing over a million thoughts in my head, and as I’ve written them all down over the last few days it’s turned into one long, slightly crazed collage of thought – all related, yet still in incomplete pieces. So now I sit and wade my way through the free write – an edit, if you will.

This blog has become a place where I sort out my thoughts, where the irrationality can be seen in black and white, and therefore named. I find that if I deprive myself of the release of writing, my mind becomes wound tighter and tighter until I plunge into a depression, unable to escape the confusion. Here is my attempt to begin naming what has been plaguing me.

Thoughts On My Children

I’ve been realizing lately that I associate all things FUN as being anything that doesn’t involve my children, and anything OVERWHELMING as the definition of being a mother. I dredge through my days as if these little creatures hanging off me are weights drowning me in the water, and I look forward to each moment I have without them.

This devastates me because my children are so. much. fun. Yet, I act so inconvenienced by them. I pray that my heart changes, that it truly becomes transformed, because I never want my children to think they are unwanted or burdensome. I want them to feel loved and secure. But specifically, I want to enjoy my children, and I want my love to radiate from me and be known through my actions, just like it says in 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love in word or deed, but in actions and in truth.”

Thoughts on My Recovery from Rage

This weekend I have felt great conviction that I have not been listening to the voice of God, that I have not even been interested in what he has to say to me. This conviction has been brewing all month, actually, but in my spiritual laziness I have busied myself with noise.

Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.

I keep hearing this in my head, not as a guilt trip to kick me under the table, but as a loving God calling out for me to know him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I complain about my life, I feign action against my sin, I seek to conquer my rage through my own understanding, but I am still trying to control what is happening.

I have forgotten how to listen to God, and I pray that a miracle of faith will urge me to seek him out in prayer.

But It’s Not All Bad

Today in a training I attended for leading recovery groups, we talked about how we can turn a relapse into something positive. Instead of feeling defeated by failure, I can view it as a barometer of trust – what am I still holding onto in my own strength? What do I still need to release control of?

I feel a lot like I do when I clean out a closet – it always gets worse before it gets better, because you have to haul all the shit out of the closet before you can sort, purge, organize, and put everything back together. I’m totally at the overwhelming messy part where the crap is piled up all over my living room and dining table, and I can’t seem to get to anything useful because of all the clutter.

I am sorting and purging.

I know the Word is in me, written on my heart. Though it may be buried deep under a Pile, God will draw it out and dust it off. And he will make it new.

All is quiet on This Pile these days

Slumber Party

I’ve been super busy finishing up the painting in Bryan’s new office, so all my spare time has been devoted to that and the mounds of laundry that piled up after traveling for two weeks. With Bryan gone so much I’m left with little energy for things that re-create me, and spend most of my time lying on the couch or soaking in the bath. I’m not even watching t.v. or reading my blogs!

I’ve been feeling lethargic, weepy, impatient, and unmotivated again lately. I should probably mention that I weaned completely off my Zoloft while we were at the ocean (going into the week I had been taking 25mg every other day), so I’m probably feeling the effects of that. I’ve replaced my medication with Vitamin C and a B Complex, and Omega 3. At first I felt great on the vitamins – full of energy, and pretty stable emotionally. But now I’m back to sitting in the dark and taking long hot baths and losing it with my children.

But the good news is, I’ve scheduled an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor who will help my body get back into health again.

Bryan is still traveling a lot, but I’ve been keeping busy with play dates to break up the time alone. The other night my friend’s girls spent the night and we watched Meet the Fockers, and other friends have been coming over for dinner every night because they haven’t installed a stove in their new home yet. Frankly, I look forward to those dinners every night, because by the time they arrive I’m exhausted and they are the kind of friends who don’t take any shit from sassy three-year-olds. Paul said to Ruthie the other night, “I’m your mommy’s friend and I don’t like it when you talk to her that way.”

I may sneak into their house and cut the gas line to their stove to delay its installation another few days!

It’s interesting being on the other side of a bout of depression, feeling like I may be mildly depressed again. I don’t feel panicked or doomed. It just is what it is. I’m trying to do less, take care of myself more, and just be okay that things may not be getting done.

Blogging is Boring When Life is Good.

Enjoying

Life seems uninteresting these days from a blogging perspective, though it is FANTASTIC from the survival aspect. I’ve said this before, but it’s easier for me to write about things I’m complaining about or struggling with. Depression? Martial strife? This is the stuff great stories are born from – the setup, upset, reset. When was the last time you saw a movie about a really happy guy that led a really happy life and nothing tragic or embarrassing ever happened to him?

Without the torturous confusion swirling around in my head I have to shift gears – I don’t need the introspection so much anymore. Nice things happen to me every day. Funny things happen to me every day. I am surrounded by nice people and good vibes. And the beauty is, I can see that now.

In my recovery group (I have that anger thing, remember?) we were recently talking about things we were thankful for, and things we’ve been ungrateful for in the past, and for many of us the same things were on both lists. How messed up is that? My daughter is amazing, and smart, and tenacious, and I oppressed that in her because of my own selfishness and lack of patience.

When I started this blog my step-dad was dying, I was pregnant with a son that would carry on his name, I didn’t like my husband very much, and life looked a little bleak. Hence, The Pile I’m Standing In.

I still stand by the name and the reason behind it, because this life will always be a pile to trudge through. But lately I have been able to see more of the joy that comes with living this life.

Ruthie is expressing herself more these days. Whenever we leave a friend’s house, she is quick to announce, “I HAD FUN PLAYING WITH KIDS, MOM!” She has a thankful heart. She finds joy in everyday things.

She is a good mentor.

State of the Union in Zugland

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I owe a large part of my recent bout with sanity to Bryan. It was during our recent trip to Portland when I realized how much influence he has had on my level of peace during the last few months.

I think the biggest thing for me was his taking over the bulk of the finances. I lack the time and discipline to stay on top of everything, so now the only thing I maintain is updating the bank downloads and paying the regular bills. He takes care of all the budgeting and organizing, and just tells me what to do so I don’t have to think about anything.

Bad things happened when I controlled the finances. I have a tendency to avoid anything that cannot be done quickly or easily, but lacked the organization to make sure it didn’t slip through the cracks altogether. On more than one occasion a big ball was dropped, and instead of owning up to it to Bryan, I covered up the evidence CSI style and pretended nothing happened. Yeah, I really just said that out loud. Feel better, now, about all your fuck-ups?

That was a dark time in our marriage. Most of our fighting was over financial issues – how things should be done, how things were NOT getting done, expectations that were not being met, feeling that expectations were too high, etc. I think this has changed. For the better. For both of us. I’m learning more about what makes me hide things from the people I love. He’s learning how to be a safe person to confess fuck-ups to.

I also think he’s beginning to understand the overwhelming nature of my life: the constant interruptions whenever I do anything; the chaos of chatter and the disciplining of toddlers; the unpredictable arrival of depressive days that render me useless; the difficulty of catching up whenever I lose one step. He seems more compassionate, more patient, and takes more initiative to help out when he sees me falling behind. This alone makes me cry (the good kind) because I do enough to beat myself up for being a failure. When he shows his patience and compassion when I can’t seem to Get It Done, I feel loved and supported.

I, like many people, avoid the stuff of life that is not fun. If I have a choice between paying bills and reading my rss feeds? You guessed it, I would rather read your blog (but who wouldn’t? It’s so entertaining!). The challenge for me is sorting out the times when I am dropping into a black hole of depression or when I am just being lazy. I expect a lot of grace to be given me in the first scenario, but if I’m just being lazy that is not cool. The last thing I want to do is take advantage of Bryan’s generosity in helping out more at home, so I continue to work on being diligent when I have the mental faculties to do so.

It may be too early to really assess the effects of my new vitamin regimen as it relates to my depression, but I know I’m feeling more energy and focus all throughout the day, and I last longer into the evening. Because of this, I can let up on my schedule during the day and spend more time just Being with Ruthie and get my stuff done after she goes to bed. Just last night I caught up on a pile ‘o’ crap that needed to be filed while Bryan dismantled his labyrinth of computer equipment and moved it to its temporary location.

Despite this being a busy week of celebrating Ruthie’s birthday, preparing our basement for remodeling, and getting Bryan ready for his new position (more on that later), I have not been irritable with the kids nor have I felt overwhelmed. Bryan and I have even worked through disagreements quickly and rationally.

All this to say, I think the general state of Zugland is improving. I am continually being reminded that when dark circumstances overwhelm our lives – whether self-inflicted or thrust upon us – somewhere there is Hope to be found.

Depression Revisited

Yesterday a few cogs dropped into place and opened a door in my mind. It was like that episode of Lost when Claire begins to remember what happened to her during the two weeks she was kidnapped – the Ah-Ha! moments came throughout the day, each triggered by another thought or something I saw.

Since my struggle with post partum depression began last year I have maintained that I do not struggle with depression in general, that this has been an isolated incident that took me by surprise. But yesterday I re-interpreted two events from my past.

In the Spring of 1992 I struggled in my college classes. I had always struggled – I was not a brilliant student to start with – but at this point I became paralyzed. I remember lying in my dorm room, lethargic, overwhelmed, unmotivated, and pinned to my bed by something dark and mysterious that I couldn’t explain. My best friend, Sarah, peeled me up from the sheets and dragged me – nearly kicking and screaming – out into the beautiful sun for the mainstay Seattle event called Folklife Festival.

I don’t have any memory of what happened the rest of that day, only that in the days and weeks leading up to it I felt exactly like I do now, and I am positive now that it was depression.

The ramifications of this are huge, because it was this episode that led to me failing a class, having a breakdown in the Dean’s office, and ultimately dropping out of school. I had always attributed that event to a crisis of purpose, not know where my degree was taking me. But knowing what I know now, I am positive it was depression.

“That’s pretty significant,” Bryan said last night when I told him my thoughts. And it is, but in so many ways that he doesn’t even know. Education is important to me, and I want my children to finish college. Realizing that maybe I wasn’t such a fuckup after all, that it wasn’t just an issue of my failure or lack of initiative, but that I was drowning in undiagnosed depression… well, that is very significant to me.

My next epiphany involves an incident more recent. The winter after Bryan and I were married, 2001-2002, I gained 20 lbs and became lethargic, unmotivated, and overwhelmed. I sleep-walked through my job and spent my free time on the couch doing nothing.

During that time Bryan left a partnership and moved the contents of his office to our home, dumping it all in our living room to be sorted out. Normally such a thing would not have fazed me, but I froze. Again to the rescue, Sarah came and led the way through the sorting and unpacking. She thought for me and made decisions for me and I just did what she told me to and the mess was cleaned up. (Thank you, Sarah).

Knowing what I know now, and remembering how I felt then, I am positive it was an episode of depression. And again, I believe this attributed to my lack of performance at work which ultimately led to my being “laid off,” or whatever they choose to call it at the time (THAT’s another story).

Yesterday I was in a Funk. My house caved in on me, I was stinky, and the pajamas I wore were like a favorite blanket comforting me. I did nothing but lie on the couch while Ruthie and her friends played and watched t.v. It was during this time that I reflected back on these memories, and was able to see them in a new light: I, indeed, am a woman who has suffered waves of depression.

This changes everything. It does not push me further into my dark hole, but changes the tactic by which I fight this war. You see, I keep waiting for this Thing to go away, so I become confounded and discouraged by its lingering. Now I know it will not go away, but I must learn to embrace it and manage it, much like the realization I had in this post the other day.

After the kids woke from their naps, we walked to the health food store around the corner and I bought a strong, food-based B-Complex vitamin and some fish oil capsules. I remember the B-Vitamins helped dig me out back in 2002, and I’ve heard fish oil can be very beneficial for the brain, especially in conjunction with regular anti-depressants.

So, I guess we’ll see what happens.

No Longer Depressed; Still a Rage-er.

Yesterday afternoon I unleashed the Fiery Fury on Ruthie.

As I relayed the story to Bryan when he got home from work, we found ourselves laughing at the absurdity of the events – something I was not able to do in the heat of the moment. Not that my rage is funny, but that we have a cantankerous daughter who keeps us on our toes.

It started when I went upstairs to get Ruthie after her nap. I walked into her room and found her on top of her four-drawer dresser, unscrewing the light bulb to her lamp and unplugging the humidifier. Horrified, I scolded her for playing with things she knew were off limits (and that I thought she couldn’t reach), then took her downstairs.

At that point I was under control.

Once downstairs, I took her straight into the bathroom to go pee – a new tradition we started on this, the first week of potty training. As usual, she told me to ‘go away’ because she wanted to do it herself. Usually not a problem, so I went into the kitchen to thaw some hamburger. When I came back to check on her, she had unraveled almost an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet. Frustrated, I scolded her for playing with the toilet paper and marched her into the living room for a Time Out in the chair.

At that point I was still under control, but a little on the edge.

When her two-minute Time Out was over, I came in from the kitchen to find her unscrewing the entire top part of my floor lamp from its base.

At that point, I boiled a little over the edge.

I grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the kitchen where I was making dinner, yelling at her the whole time about God knows what, but I know it involved a few swear words. I dropped her not so gently into her booster seat, strapped her in, and faced her toward the wall, yelling at her that she needed a new Time Out and she obviously couldn’t be trusted to sit in the living room.

I turned around to the sink to catch my breath and calm down, knowing I had lost my temper (but Sweet Moses, wouldn’t YOU?), and I swear to Elmo that when I turned back around she was peeling paint off my kitchen walls.

And this is where I unleashed the Fiery Fury.

I never touched her this time, but I yelled and screamed about Why Can’t You Just Sit There For Once and spewed some more swear words for good measure. Her shoulders slumped and she sat still.

I, of course, felt terrible, but the tension of rage was still boiling in my chest. After a few minutes to calm down, I took Ruthie into the living room to snuggle. I told her it was wrong for Mommy to lose her temper, and that I was sorry for yelling at her and being mean to her. She gave me a kiss. I then told her that even though Mommy was wrong to be mean, Ruthie still disobeyed by getting up from the chair during her Time Out. She said, “I sorry,” and we kissed again.

We sat there for a few minutes, Ruthie sucking her thumb and playing with my ear, and I evaluated everything that had just happened.

Despite yesterday’s events, I still feel the same way I did when I wrote this post: energized, clear-headed, and determined. I don’t feel as if I built up a false sense of security, only to have it toppled by my failures – I never said my rage was gone, only that I was no longer feeling the depression.

On the contrary, I actually feel I am better able to work through the rage and not get muddled down by my hormones and irrational emotions, and I found myself analyzing my trigger points and looking for patterns in my behavior that are unhealthy.

I acknowledged to myself that I was doing too much multi-tasking, leaving Ruthie alone too much for her to NOT get into trouble. I acknowledged that, due to illnesses and 26 straight days of rain, we have all been stuck in the house for three weeks, sending my active and curious two-year-old up the walls. Literally.

The second thing I really can’t do anything about. It’s out of my control, and up until yesterday afternoon I had kept everyone busy with crafty things.

But the first thing, the fact that I take on too much and multitask through my day, I have complete control over. I wake up every morning with an agenda, and it usually involves housework, or projects, or personal time. Rarely do I schedule in time for Ruthie, but expect her to just tag along with my day and keep herself occupied. Then around lunchtime when she begins to get clingy for my attention, I become impatient with her neediness.

Poor thing. She just wants some of my time, and I often don’t think of that until it’s too late.

Recently I’ve taught her the phrase, “Mommy, I need you,” when she feels lonely for me, and this has worked really well. As she catches on to this, she does less whining and clinging and “Up! Up! Up!” and will just come to me and say, “I need you.” I try my best to acknowledge her need by giving her a hug, or picking her up for a minute, or if time allows, we snuggle. Just as I am learning how divert my rage and manage my day between tasks and relationships, I am trying to teach Ruthie how to communicate her needs effectively and age-appropriately.

At any rate, this is exactly why I had decided to join a recovery group for my anger management. I knew that one day my post partum depression would end, but that my anger would still remain. I am thankful for the program, for its reminder that God can and does heal and deliver us from ourselves, and for the friendships and accountability it has brought to my life.

It has, and continues to change me.

So much for fresh starts, but the week is not a total loss.

This was the week I was to start back up at the gym. I even worked it into my calendar so I wouldn’t be tempted to brush it off. But alas, my children both came down with congested, croup-y coughs last night making me unable to leave them in the gym’s childcare room.

But despite that disappointment we are having a fantastic day. I have alternated between busy-work and playing with Ruthie, a routine I cooked up last week that has been a winner for both of us. Now I can set her in a chair with a pile of books while I clean the kitchen, because she knows that when I am done we will play dress-up. After playing for a bit I sit her at the table to color while I sweep and mop, then we have a snack together. And so on.

I feel amazing these days. The old, fun, Jennifer seems to have returned. I am full of energy, emotional clarity, motivation, and determination. We watch a lot less t.v. There are aspects of my temper I will never overcome simply because I am not perfect, but these days when I find myself on the edge of an explosion I can somehow communicate to Ruthie in the moment that she needs to shush and just give mommy a minute, at which point I walk away and take a few breaths.

But even these explosions are coming fewer and farther between as I seem to be irritated by less. It used to be when Ruthie asked for a Band-Aid for her imaginary scrapes I scolded her for even asking. I don’t know why it bugged me so much, but I became ENRAGED at the mere INQUIRY of a Band-Aid. But just yesterday Ruthie and I were silly and put band-aids on all our fingers.

I can’t explain this change. Maybe it’s a God-thing, maybe the hormones shifted after weaning Thomas, maybe time has just settled and I am officially no longer Post Partum. Likely, it is all of the above. All I know is that I am now on a quest to get off this godforsaken medication that leaves me feeling like a ten year old girl – totally in love with Bryan, completely in favor of snuggling and hanging out at the movies, but oh so uninterested in the Marital Dance.

Yesterday I started talking half pills of the Zoloft, which Bryan is in full support of. He’d definitely like to ditch the ten year old and get his wife back.

I Feel As If History Is Repeating Itself, and Other Thoughts on the New Year.

Last year when New Year’s Eve fell on a Friday, and most businesses were closed that day, our furnace crapped out on us Thursday night around dinner time. We were left with no heat in our home over a long holiday weekend, which also happened to be the coldest weekend of the winter that year.

This year on Thursday night Bryan overshot a parking curb in the church parking lot and punctured a hole in the oil pan, which drained all the oil from the car. And, in keeping with tradition, by the time we had the car towed to a mechanic they were too busy to get to it before Monday.

And much like the coincidence of having no heat on the coldest day of the year, I was left with no car during a weekend in which Bryan attended a conference from 9am until after 10pm each night, leaving me alone with two small children and the voices in my head.

I often go days without leaving the house, but there is something about knowing I CAN’T leave the house EVEN IF I WANTED TO that makes me crazy. By the time Sunday rolled around and my kids were still hanging on to their pink-eye contagions, I voted myself Most Likely to Go Insane and went to church alone while Bryan stayed home with the kids.

However, aside from the morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and dropped the F-Bomb when Ruthie woke up at the same time I did (leaving me with no alone time for the coffee and Zoloft to kick in), I think I fared on the side of having a better attitude than in the past.

I think expensive therapy and reality checks from friends go a long way to put my life into perspective, and I take them both very seriously.

When a therapist informs you that you have a tendency to fall into Victim mode when things don’t go your way, and when a friend reminds you she NEVER has a car and she lives across the hall from drug dealers who run a meth lab out of their apartment, you could either become pissy and bitter, or you could pull your head out of your ass and recognize there is more to this universe than yourself.

I am learning to embrace Option B.

Options B doesn’t come easily to me. It’s much easier for me to complain about how bad I’ve got it and how unfair my life is. Sometimes I wonder why my friends even keep me around, I get so bitchy. They say it’s because I make them laugh, but I think it’s because I have cable t.v.

I read this great post by Finslippy over the weekend. It was a very well written post about the frustration of trying to get anything done while raising a preschooler, about how everything about you seems to get sucked into the vortex of toddler land, and about how easy it is to become bitter and resentful under those circumstances.

I could have written that post, yet in reading those words as expressed by someone outside of myself, I felt icky that I could have written that post.

At any rate, as I felt the stress coming on this weekend and was on the edge of grouching out at my kids, I did that praying thing Christians are supposed to do, and I tried to take myself less seriously. In this way I feel as if I’ve turned over a new leaf. Not like a new year’s resolution, but more like a shift in perspective.

The other day I woke up feeling different, less overwhelmed, more in control of my emotions. I weaned Thomas over our vacation, which came with a dose of regret and sadness, but I wonder if it ushered in a change in hormonal balance. I feel as if new and wonderful things are in store for me this year. I feel hope that my old self is still in here somewhere. I feel strong for the battle to attack my demons.

Happy New Year, friend and stranger. I wish you hope and peace.

Ode to Friendship

Please allow me to be a little sappy tonight.

I am awash with love for all things friendship right now. I’m lying in bed with a homemade warm, aromatic, herbal heating pad keeping my toes warm, listening to the ultimate friend gift – a mix ‘tape’ (a CD actually, but like just like I can’t say anything BUT ‘roll’ down the car window, I also can’t say anything BUT mix ‘tape.’). I also have in my possession a lovely reminder that in the midst of great depression I can still find JOY.

These are all gifts from friends who love, who listen, who pay attention.

These are gifts that are not only the perfect gift FOR me, but they also reflect the personality of the giver. Each one comes with its own special way of beckoning me to smile, to think about the giver, and to see myself the way others see me, which is usually better than how I see myself.

These are the women who stay after, like the friends of Sally Field in Steel Magnolias who follow her down the road after Julia Roberts’ funeral in anticipation of being needed. They don’t need to be asked, they are just there.

I have SO not been into Christmas this year. I unpacked all the decorations and they still sit on the table. I let the tree die and all its needles are falling off. I piled a bunch of clutter in front of the manger scene. I didn’t start thinking about Christmas presents until yesterday.

These gifts given to me, and the friendships they represent, bring me hope and joy during a time of great emotional weight and apathy – not because they are things to behold, but because the act of giving came from a love that reflects a Greater love.

Thank you, from the deepest part of my heart, thank you.

Reading: Crooked Wanderings

The church I attend places a high value on art, creativity, and congregational participation in the worship experience. There are many opportunities for our members to share original poetry, responsive readings, essays, and songs during the course of the service.

Our pastor has been preaching through the book of Hebrews, and yesterday’s passage was Hebrews 4:11-13. I read the following personal essay prior to the sermon, as a part of our worship service.

Crooked Wanderings (11/21/05)

I’ve been moving slow lately. My daughter, Ruthie, and I spend a lot of time in our pajamas.

It seems I’m becoming That Wife who lets herself go, wearing raggedy sweat pants, bed head, no make-up, and a spit-up stained shirt. I’m waiting for someone to turn me in to that TLC show “What Not to Wear.” Or worse, maybe I’ll end up on Oprah.

I’ve become listless and unmotivated again, and don’t even look forward to play dates with friends anymore. I just want to sit in my pajamas, alone, in front of the t.v. and eat chocolate chip cookies and drink lots of wine. I’m wondering if I’m depressed again, or maybe I’m just using depression as an excuse to be lazy.

How does one figure these things out?

A doctor once told me that I carry my stress in the muscles of my upper back, and that if the stress became too great the muscles would actually pull my spine out of alignment.

I’ve been to the chiropractor three days a week for the last two months, so you do the math.

What has me so stressed, you ask?

I could list it all out for you – my daily schedule, my personal struggles, the emotions weighing me down, the stories of my two-year-old’s antics – but what would be the point? To justify? To convince? Maybe even a little self-indulging drama about how bad I’ve got it?

No. That is not necessary. We all have stress, don’t we? What do you feel overwhelmed by right now? What is that stress doing to your body? Do you get headaches? Are you a teeth grinder? Do you quit eating?

I am convinced that my twisted spine of stress is a physical affliction I have brought on myself, that in my search for clarity in the midst of great confusion I have lost sight of the one who speaks the truth into my life.

I have searched for answers in the advice of my friends, in the written pages of books, in a bowl of cereal, and even in spending money.

In my deepest confusion and pain, I have searched for answers in things that turn to dust.

“But the word of God is living and active… and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

I have not been a people of history. I have fixed my eyes on false summits. And because of this I have not entered the rest Christ offers, and I have created a twisted spine of stress.

The Lord comforted Paul as he struggled with his own physical affliction, a condition he felt humbled his prideful ways. God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).

My heart is awakening to Christ’s sufficiency, and my spine is responding to treatment; though neither one is happening magically, nor at the rate of speed I would prefer.

But I realize now that for the last fifteen years my twisted spine of stress has been the thorn God has used to remind me of his sufficiency.

I pray I don’t forget this epiphany and wander around another 25 years trying to break the Israelites’ record.

Can Someone Please, Just Make It Stop.

Look at me go.

I just figured out how to change the font, making it easier to read. Plus I updated my Blog Pile list a little.

I needed something mundane and technical to focus on to calm the crazies in my head. It seems to have done the trick since the anxiety has left and I’m breathing normal again.

A doctor once told me that I carry my stress in the muscles in my upper back, and that if the stress became too great the muscles would actually pull my spine out of alignment.

I’ve been to the chiropractor three days a week lately, so you do the math.

Ah, what is depression by default vs. depression by choice… that seems to be the question of the hour. One implies a hormonal death spiral, the other a mood based on circumstance.

How does one know? How does one know when to just buck up, cheer up, and shut up?

Does a hormonal death spiral see a milestone? Does it see the light at the end of the tunnel? Will a good chuckle shake it off? I really want to know.

While I appreciate the IDEA behind this Recipe for Peace, does it work if you’re baking the Crazy Cake? Vining writes…

Worn down by each day’s responsibilities and worries, I longed to be enveloped in the “peace of God”—that deep serenity of soul where calm and joy grow. But I had to admit, in the many years I’d been a Christian, I couldn’t say that peace had characterized my life. Was this “peace” the Bible spoke of just some cold, distant theological doctrine, or something I could actually experience now?

I am overwhelmed and filled with chaos in my mind.

Scott Berkun best describes how I feel in this post about the Data Death Spiral. He says it begins like this…

The spiral begins with ignorance. Leaders confuse the collection of research with thought. People who throw more data (not better) at problems are rewarded and others follow. Soon no idea can be suggested without a data armory. Meetings are data battlegrounds. Or worse, data massacres. When someone says “Morale is low. People are crying in the halls. We must do something.” another says “but where is your data?” and the conversation ends.

I had a very cathartic experience reading both of these essays.

One gave me insight into where I might find Peace, and the other helped me understand myself and the struggle within my mind.