Sunday, February 28, 2010

Laundry, coffee, procrastination -- and Silence

Is it just me, or is the full moon in this newly downloaded image header actually flashing on and off, like a neon sign? Just to be on the safe sign, let me say that I found this image here. Not mine.

After a long day of church + loads and loads of laundry, mopping, sweeping, and cleaning... I have just made a pot of coffee and settled down in front of the computer, pursuant to putting off the kindergarten quilt project. Just for another hour or two... I suppose I'm also procrastinating on the Good Friday project, though I'm meeting with a dancer this week and that might kick-start things again. I am most certainly avoiding the Olympics, what's left of them.

In the interest of maintaining some sort of Lenten discipline, I took a break at around 2pm to find ten minutes of "quiet time." Having found it in bed, under the duvet, it was almost inevitable that I should fall asleep. But before the nap set in, I thought a little about church this morning -- about the quiet time we had after the sermon, during which all 80 or so people sat in near silence and I suppose relaxed into the space of the moment:
the sound of a newly-baptized infant burbling to itself, and kids playing upstairs in the nursery. Traffic occasionally rumbling past the front doors, and something else -- breath, I suppose. The silence of 80 people listening to silence is different in character from the sound of that same crowd listening to a sermon. We hear each other. And listening was the theme of the sermon (one that I had a tough time following today, and might try to catch again online, here. Apparently I wasn't listening very well.) At that time, during worship, I found myself thinking of the silence of Quakers -- the listening that is only broken when someone is genuinely moved by the Spirit, to speak or sing, or declaim. It's a reminder of collectivity, and I was really moved by it this morning -- church is my job, and I often forget how to relax into worship, on account of that. So the silence really was golden this morning.

80 people breathing together really is something. It's intimate, and I hunger for intimacy. Though perhaps not more than the next person. Are we aware of it? The effect of all our hurrying and freneticism is isolation. As someone said to me recently, just having time to do nothing if one chooses can result in a thawing -- of those layers of isolation, perhaps. 80 people breathing quietly together, and doing nothing else, free to think what they choose -- perhaps we thaw a little there too. Like when one holds hands with strangers for a few moments, to pray -- for just a few seconds, we're aware of each other in a new way. Maybe that's how we touched God today.

Day 17.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Going on day two of having my son in the office with me, which isn't nearly as difficult as it might seem -- when we aren't busy running the food shelf, he entertains himself pretty well. He's giggling over "Calvin and Hobbes" just now. But it's dull as ditchwater compared to any number of other things he could be doing, I suspect, and his dad will come for him pretty soon. I hope. Mid-afternoon, still time to catch some shows, maybe convince his dad to take him sledding. School holidays... I'm shaking off the last vestiges of a migraine as well, one that settled in the day before yesterday, and while the last of the pain seems resolved my eyes are still a little light-sensitive. Not surprisingly, I'm in a mood of low ebb. It's been a good week, but very busy -- three nights at meetings. I skipped my son's school conference this morning, I suspect (never did get confirmation of the appointment from his teacher.) Unless something magical happens this afternoon, I'll most likely work tomorrow as well, a thought that really doesn't appeal to me. And if the old man doesn't show up soon, I'll have to leave the office and find some food for my kid. He's late... BLAH. Sorry, that's all I got at the moment. Wow - "Lightning Crashes" by LIVE on Pandora. Haven't heard that in a while.

Evidently I'm the only one who thought "Break My Stride" was funny. Oh well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Break My Stride

Dumb, funny, low-tech and a little queer: the song that let me know everything was gonna be OH KAY this morning (as I stood there in the restroom at Lunds).

Monday, February 22, 2010

a little kvetching to the universe

Why is it so damned hard for certain people to know what it is they want from me, and to make that clear? Why is it so hard for them to understand what I need?

Of course, I'm not referring to all people -- just a few key types. I am so utterly fed up by feeling as though I am at the beck and call of a small number of people, who can almost always count on me to give them what they want (when they know what that is), but who can't be called upon to make themselves available, on terms better than random. As long as my ass is in a chair, or on the couch, or at the end of the phone line, that's apparently sufficient assurance that my needs are being met. After all, I'm where I belong, so what could be wrong? And if they can't define their needs, well, no matter -- they know I'm available for their purposes, whenever they should happen to figure out what those are.

They just want things to be OK, they don't want to think about why they are, or are not. And if they know what I want and just aren't willing or able to give it, then FINE. But SAY SO. Just say it, and deal with the results, and let's get on with our lives.

The thing is, people are generally content with the most abstract representations of connection and mutual undestanding. Very few know enough of their own minds to speak clearly about their thoughts and feelings. Very few have the time or the interest in really listening. Honesty is rare, and risky. People are content to tell the same stories over and over, to state the same manifestos again and again, and these demonstrations stand for who they are.

I'm sure I'm being unfair, maybe PMS besides. I'm sure that what I wish for is unreasonable. But right at the moment, I know what I want --
to have someone at my beck and call as well, who might even take a little pleasure in it (since in and of itself, there's nothing wrong with it, if it comes with some rewards.)
To be in love with the person I'm having sex with. (Off topic somewhat, I realize.)
Or, to at least enjoy some real intimacy with someone, somewhere, without the cost nullifying the benefits.
To get some clear, timely communication from the people in my life. Family, friends, coworkers. The people I depend on. I'm getting strung out a lot lately, in ways big and small.

I feel very alone.
And obviously, a little sorry for myself.
End of kvetch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

day 6

Better, and I'm starting tentatively to believe that this solution is workable. I'm still watchful. But, hopeful. I've had an intermittent sense of well-being in the past two days, a feeling I realize has been scarce of late.

Meanwhile, our three-pound kitten is making so much noise that twice I've left the room to go see who the hell was breaking into the house. She's just tearing around for the heck of it. She jumps up on everything, scales all the heights, she's unstoppable. And a damned nuisance.

It's Ash Wednesday today. I re-read t.s. eliot's poem and wondered, not for the first time, what sort of drugs the old man did in his day. I should endeavor to learn more about him. I designed and printed the worship bulletin, went to the service after work, had a meeting after the service, came home and looked at my cross of ashes in the mirror for a few moments before smearing it away with Vaseline. I rather wish I'd taken a photo first. Not to show anyone -- pray in secrecy after all -- but just to see it and meditate on it a little. I'll settle for the abstraction I suppose.

Repent and reflect.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

day 2

"Keep a journal of your feelings and responses," said Dr. Christine. Very well. Let me just say that I rather loathe having joined the ranks of the medicated; and while I know this is an irrational position, having never questioned the right of anyone else to seek whatever medical assistance is required in the pursuit of sanity, I am yet deeply conflicted.

I have been more tired-feeling than usual, which didn't prevent two hours of middle-of-the-night wakefulness last night. There was the added discomfort there of feeling as though genuine sleep was within reach, but just beyond my grasp, and I had to get out of bed and pace the house a bit in order to "un-stuck" myself. The day went fine, was enjoyable actually, spent in the company of husband and child after church. I had one glass of wine (and had a cider and a half last night at dinner), which caused no undue discomfort but there is a latent feeling of not wanting/needing to overdue it either. (Dr. said one was ok, but she cautioned me.) Was rather restless this evening. Fell asleep while putting my son to bed, nothing new there; woke up hungry and (strangely enough) kind of itchy. And here I am.

The depression seems (after a mere 36 or so hours) to have been aced by the Zoloft, though my anxiety appears in somewhat sharper focus by contrast, undiminished (though not increased.) There is still that slight fuzzy-headedness, that latent "slowness" I was told to expect and recognized on day 1. I forget the exact term Christine used to describe the effect -- perhaps it was "detachment," or something similar. There's that too. But I recognize the possibility that the anxiety could still blow it out of the water.

Things that concern me about the pill:

- The possibility of weight gain. From what I've read, this has at least as much to do with changes in eating habits as with changes in metabolism, and I know already how my caloric intake affects my weight stability. I suggested to my husband that he be prepared to see me, maybe both of us, cutting back on calories again. Today's yummy dinner notwithstanding. Restlessness probably translates into increased snacking for some people; I'm familiar with that pitfall regardless, so I'm hoping to apply the same old willpower to avoid problems with my weight.
- The possibility of decreased focus and/or creativity. This is a complaint aired to me some years ago by a friend who has long used Zoloft, off and on. I've never forgotten it. She is a different kind of depressed, the can't-get-out-of-bed, suicidal thoughts kind, so I'm hoping both she and I can get around the continued possibility of this side effect.
- The possibility of being "changed" in some substantive, identity-oriented way. This is the toughest fear to pin down. Ostensibly one takes anti-depressants to in fact change one's habits and responses. But I like myself just fine (except when the moods grip me and I don't.) I don't want to give up any part of myself, just treat the parts that don't cooperate -- but the doctor was very cautious around this subject in our conversation.

There may be more to add, but I've gone from itchy back to tired again, and tomorrow's lucidity may depend on tonight's bedtime. I'm nervous about the class I'm teaching tomorrow night -- not sure how much is being left up to me, versus the person who thought up the project in the first place, and I'm therefore unsure how much I need to prepare. I pray that comes off well. It's going to be a busy work week, and I pray too that I can handle it effectively.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

day 1 on Zoloft

So, after losing several hours of sleep last night in the usual manner, I started my Zoloft this morning. "The" Zoloft, I don't want to seem too attached to it. I'm worried about it -- I hate pills, hate the idea of dealing with all the side effects I've heard so much about over the years. I sincerely hope this phase won't last more than a year.

I was diagnosed first with generalized anxiety disorder, and then PTSD, years ago. I've learned a number of mostly-reliable coping mechanisms, and my condition is not nearly as intrusive as that of some people. I know what sets me off, and for the most part I'm able to manage my life so that anxiety only intrudes on my daily function in predictable and manageable ways.

The depression that has settled on me over the past year has been more difficult to handle -- I don't have a means of addressing it, apart from exercise during that part of the year when I like to be outdoors. (I'm not keen on winter activities, apart from shoveling, so November through March is low-activity for me. This year I lost my bike time a month or more early, due to my son starting kindergarten --- but I have a plan for dealing with that next school year.) Gradually every aspect of my life has been sucked into the void -- a growing sense of helplessness and confusion, and despair. I find myself in tears for no reason, in the middle of the night, or the middle of the afternoon. I just can't find my bearings.

I'm loath to talk with anyone about this, at any length, because while I completely accept the need of others to manage mood disorders with medications and therapy, I just hate the idea of doing it myself. And I fear all the stereotypes and assumptions that seem to apply. I was reluctant to explain the situation to my husband and did so only after getting the prescription filled -- and have asked him not to make any comment that are less than supportive. He has never fully accepted the legitimacy of depression as a disorder, and refuses to acknowledge his own emotional dysfunctions, so it has never been easy to discuss emotional realities.

The pill has I think made me feel heavy this morning -- more exhausted than I need to feel. The doctor warned me that the first two weeks would be like this. I'm an anxious depressed, rather than an unmotivated depressed -- getting out of bed hasn't been my problem, so much as staying in bed when I should be there.

Oops, in-laws are here. Gotta go.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who's Cryin' Now

Drinkin' wine! Listening to power ballads on YouTube! Hanging out in my flannel jammie pants and my rock n roll tshirts. I'm midlife-pathetic!

all good fiction, part 2

As with virtually everything else these days, I find myself asking "how do I feel about this?" (And if you're wondering what n hell I'm talking about, click here.)

How do I feel about this family...this exponential family...the sort of family that seems to keep expanding, like an engineer's folding ruler, the kind that clicks and clacks and pinches your fingers when you play with it. In a world of multiple marriages, half my aunts and uncles and all of my siblings are half-blood. Cousins sort themselves somewhere in the 60/40 range. It's like a chain of clothespins, the clippy kind, and the chain you make when you attach them one to the next isn't straight -- instead, it veers off in one direction or another, the symmetry of the connection always 50% off-true. It's not that there's anything unusual about this, anymore; though the sheer size of my family is a bit overwhelming, and I hardly get past the marriages and children by siblings and nearest cousins before I'm hopelessly lost. Thus my son spent his first five years in daycare run by my mother's youngest sister, who is the same age as my husband; and at least two of my boy's playmates were the offspring of cousins. Now another aunt has entered into the daycare business, with Aunt D, and consequently my grandmother's house (which Aunt D inherited) is as full of children and family as ever it was when she and Grandpa were alive.

Meanwhile, my sister has just married for the third time, a surprise JP wedding, to a fellow who has a little girl my niece's age from his previous marriage.

And I myself am struggling in my own marriage, my first and only, clinging simply to the idea that my husband needs me and my son needs a stable homelife. I come from a long line of female philanderers, in case you were wondering, and it's a thought that plagues me from time to time. I have one child, and still want another, though the official decision was that we would not. At some point you make so many accommodations that you begin to wonder who you are.

And I do wonder, almost continuously now. And so, having a new branch to the family makes me feel, in a way, somehow even more diluted than before.

And yet, Aunt D is really happy, and I'm so glad for her -- I'm grateful that she owns another piece of her story, that she has become perhaps more solid for it. I hope it continues to nourish her, that knowledge. It's remarkable really.

I miss my father -- I'm envious of Aunt D too, I think. Though I had in fact a GREAT deal more time with my biological parent than she with her own. I just wish I could talk to my father's children, share stories the way Aunt D's new siblings will hopefully share them with her.

What road is this? Where will this mood lead?

Monday, February 8, 2010

where all good fiction comes from, to which all fiction must eventually return...

So I'm on Facebook the other day, minding my own business, when I notice a recent posting by Aunt D, my mother's youngest sister. Attached is a photo of a pretty brunette, age 40 or so; the caption introducing the Facebook world to D's new sister, Nancy. And I struggle with this one for a moment. New sister -- new sister? Aunt D has 10 brothers and sisters already, including my mom, and the last time I checked I could in fact remember all their names. No Nancy among them. Odd.

Later in the day my mother calls, to ask me a physiological question (if you sleep on your hand in such a way as to cut off the circulation for a good while, how long should you wait for feeling to return to every part of the hand before you start worrying?) And after dealing with this, I ask her as casually as I can, "So...who is Nancy?" "Nancy who?" "Um, D's new sister." Mom pauses for a moment, and I can hear her breathing as she decides how much she'd like to tell me. As usual, she settles on what seems to be everything there is to tell. (Note, though, that she gives this impression effortlessly, when in fact she could be withholding quite a bit more information from you. Everything I know about sins of omission, I learned from my mother.)

She goes on to relate a story not wholly unfamiliar to me -- I'd heard snippets of it first not long after Grandma passed away -- but I did not at that time choose to accept the information as fact, for good reason. My mother's side of the family is large, as I said, with aunts and uncles the product of multiple marriages, and plenty of cousins likewise. Irish Catholic, long since divorced from the church, prone to drama and vindictive in-fighting. After Grandma Mary died the kids fell to squabbling amongst themselves, over the property, over the rights to certain versions of the truth. At one point it was said that Grandpa George (Grandma's second husband, not her last) was not the father of Aunt D or Uncle D, Mom's youngest siblings. At another point it was said that their father might not even have been white, which in this case was meant as a stab. The family fractured then, with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Pat gone, and no reason for the kids to try to get along. Years later, Aunt D has tried to make up to most of them, but she never forgot the story of how she might in fact have been conceived.

The story is a simple one. For a long time the family lived in southern MN, in a certain town, and Grandma Mary had by her early thirties born three boys in her first marriage, then three more boys and three girls in her second marriage to Grandpa George, who was an ex-Army man and a drinker. George didn't work regularly, and while they ostensibly farmed, the family was generally in need and so Mary worked. My mother, as oldest daughter, was often times the woman of the house. When Mom was about 13, Mary held a job at a cafe in town, where she met one of the town's cops; over coffee and pie, one imagines. It could be said that despite a hard life and nine kids Mary was still good looking. According to my mother, the man, we'll call him Danny, was of the same age and similar disposition -- nice looking, gainfully employed and a father of six. Before long, Danny and Mary became friends, and as my mother says they were good together. Occasionally Mary would ask my mother if she wanted to go for a drive, and they'd meet Danny somewhere for a visit. He took a paternal interest in my mother, who at 13 had something of a serious crush on him; but he encouraged her to be a "good girl." Could be Danny took Mom and Mary to the movies once or twice, and when they thought she slept there in the back seat some evening, Mary and Danny demonstrated their growing affection for each other. Not entirely out of earshot of my mother.

And in due time, Aunt D and Uncle D were born. It should be said that neither of them looks like the milkman's child; but neither resembles Grandpa George. Mary eventually asked Danny to leave his wife, and for reasons having to do with family and money, the insurmountable facts, he refused. Before long, Mary was angry at his lack of support (though he still loved her, he didn't give her any money), and she stopped allowing him to see the children. By the time they were old enough to understand, Mary was bitter enough to tell them simply that their father was a no-good who didn't love them. Uncle D chose to go on calling George his daddy, and forget the rest. Aunt D, to whom George was never a father, settled finally on Grandma's third husband, Grandpa Pat, as her paternal love. Pat did his best by the kids, and as Mary was already 45 when they were wed, Mary's children were his. Many years later, Danny's wife, who had known everything from the start, pushed him down a flight of stairs in his wheelchair and killed him. The death was ruled accidental, and Betty lives on in a nursing home in Alaska.

Betty and Danny had three boys, and three girls. The youngest girl is Aunt D's age, and her name is Nancy.

At the moment, this reunion of sorts seems to be going well. Aunt D has gradually found out everything there is to know, and since Danny and Mary's affair was no surprise to Danny's kids, there was apparently room in Nancy's life for the admission of another sibling. The two have embraced the relationship enthusiastically, and while Facebook holds no account of the story, I can assure you now that it's quite true. And now Aunt D will learn who her father really was, and how he was, through the eyes of someone whose eyes look like her own.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's impossible not to note, to myself at least, the myriad stories that cross my path every week -- or should I say, the myriad strands of others' lives I shuttle between and amongst with my own narrow, variegated thread.

Some stories writ in large themes and some less so.

Last week a church acquaintance came to a meeting, he's fussy and introverted yet kind and selectively gregarious, a world traveler, a serious fellow, a confirmed bachelor... He arrived as expected, and before removing his scarf made a few remarks and facial expressions to the effect that he was surprised he'd made it, since it had been quite a day. Unsure whether this introductory salvo required a response, I simply said "Oh? What happened today?" And heard (as did the rest of the room) an incredible tale -- worthy of film, really -- about immigration and love and paternal feeling, loss and murder, grief and heartbreak, and unexpected, wrenching reunions. It would take too long to type and would perhaps betray a confidence (though to be fair, at least a dozen people at church know about it) -- but the story itself reveals a few things. One, that a man can be known in intimate ways to people who are barely more than acquaintances, while a man's own family remains sadly in the dark about his loves and losses. Two, that homosexuality is such an over-magnified, misunderstood, dehumanized and shunned condition that it can prevent a man from ever feeling proud of his manhood as a father, as a friend, let alone as a lover; and three, that asking someone "what happened today?" is oftenest the best way of finding out more than you bargained for.

The whole thing makes me wonder why we humans are often so insufficient and unrealized when it comes to love -- why so much gets left out in the telling. Does the size of anyone's need ever exactly match the quantity that's available?

Other tales: I have met not one but two people in recent weeks who have been granted temporary custody of their grandchildren while their children do time. In both cases, these are senior citizens caring for preschoolers. I meet them because they have no money, and need food assistance. How does someone with no money, on social security or welfare, wind up with custody of a small child? By being family of course. Is this right or wrong? Neither. These grandparents are a little bewildered, though of course there is the distant memory of raising the children. They're sad, and angry, about their own child's mistakes, about incarceration. They give me pause, to consider how much (and how little) it takes to bring a child into the world and to ferry that child along.

I think about my sister, to whom I owe a phone call; who has very recently surprised me with a card announcing her third marriage, a wedding which took place privately, to a man I've never met, down in Texas. My sister is evidently the marrying kind -- she has had very very little luck with relationships to date, and I wonder how she has managed to maintain the belief that somehow the right one will come along, that somehow the marriage contract will finally make sense and apply to something tangible. She's seven years younger than I and has a young daughter. How will they fare? I confess, I haven't prayed for them. I don't know why. I will.

So it goes.