Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Depression is a fat liar. Also, it has bad hair.

I got into a fight with my husband the other day. One of those stupid fights everyone gets into sometimes, where it starts out about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher and the next thing you know, you're maligning one another's cultural upbringing. It was stupid and unwarranted and is sure to be repeated at least once in our life, because that's the way it is when you share your life with someone. You piss each other off sometimes.

But while we were in the midst of all this, he stormed off, and I sobbed, suddenly confronted with a terrible realization: There is no one in this world who loves me unconditionally. There is no one who would love me no matter what. I sat there for a while, thinking through the people in my life and realizing, as I considered them one by one, that one of the reasons I don't stand up for myself is because if I don't keep them happy, they'll leave. Sure, my kids love me pretty much unconditionally, but that doesn't count. They will (as they are supposed to) grow up and move on to a more complicated relationship with me, one more like the (I now realized conditional) relationships I have with my parents.

It was the kind of moment that just shatters you, when you realize that you are, fundamentally, alone. I couldn't believe that this was true, at the same time that I couldn't believe I'd taken so long to see it. And now I was faced with the choice of whether to keep everyone in my life happy and keep them around, or whether I ought to try to make the tough choices, taking the chance that they--my husband, my sister, my mom--would decide they'd just had enough and leave.

That was my evening.

Then a few hours later, when things had calmed down and we'd done all the "I'm sorry I was such an ass" and the "I'm sorry I was such a jerk" and everyone loved one another again, I couldn't help but poke at that wound, like sticking my tongue in the hole left by a lost tooth. You know it's going to hurt like the devil, but you can't help exploring in there. And you know what? There was no hole. That realization, so obvious at the time, was completely gone. Yes, we piss each other off. Yes, we have hard times, all of us, in all our relationships. And sure, there are some relationships that I know wouldn't make it through a test. But that's not true of my most important relationships. When we say we love one another unconditionally, we mean it. And instead of feeling sorry for myself, I ought to be grateful that I have so many people who do love me.

That's one of the lousy things about having depression. It makes me feel like a loser sometimes, like someone who just couldn't hack life and went running to get the diagnosis du jour and some pills. When that happens, I sometimes quit taking those pills, because, hey, I'm better than that. But inevitably, something happens that reminds me why I have that diagnosis. Because when depression gets ahold of me, I lose all perspective. I'm just so glad that I got it back. And now, instead of feeling like melting into a puddle of self-pity, I feel like calling Depression on the phone and telling it that no one loves it, and hey, how does that feel? And also, it has a big butt. And it's not as smart as it thinks it is.

There will be more bad times, because there always are, whether or not we have depression to deal with. But I'm grateful, today, for the ability to see that Depression tells you lies, and you don't have to believe them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It Don't Mean a Thing...

I was in college in the late '90s, and among other things, that was an era when swing music was just coming back. It was just post-grunge, and we were going from sullen and flanneled to peppy (in a campy kind of way) and dolled up. It was surprisingly exciting, to feel like we were doing something new, in doing something old. I had been wanting to try it for a long time, but if you've been swing dancing, you've seen those girls--red lipstick, high heels, swinging dresses, and feet that move faster than I could ever possibly manage without falling on my face. But one night, my friend Elizabeth and I decided to try it.

Though there were a lot of places one could go swing dancing in the Twin Cities, many were populated by people who'd been around when it was popular the first time--which was cool, but not really the kind of people we were looking for. So we opted for this strange little bar on the edge of the city. This was not the kind of place I would have expected to go swing dancing. It was the kind of place I would expect to get stuck to the floor in some sort of unidentified goo and end up leaving in terror as more and more unsavory men decided I was the girl of their dreams. But once a week, they had a swing band there, and the entire atmosphere changed.

I had never actually tried swing dancing, though the dance scene in "It's A Wonderful Life" had convinced me at about the age of 7 that this was something I had to try, and that I would automatically be wonderful at it. We didn't have dates, so we spent a few minutes standing off to the side while she taught me the steps, and then we sort of hovered and watched the couples. It was amazing to watch these couples move in such tight rhythms, their bodies so precisely timed and yet so, so free. And one man in particular stood out. He moved from one female dancer to another, always asking politely if he could dance with her, staying for one song, then moving on. He wasn't tall, slender, or wearing an impeccable suit. He was short, stocky, and sporting a white T-shirt. But the way he danced was amazing.

Eventually, as he made his way around the room, he asked if I would like to dance. Not accustomed to anything I was seeing in this strange place, I wasn't sure what to do, but I said yes, and he led me onto the floor.

To say he danced well would be a tragic understatement. I, who had learned these steps a mere half hour before, spun around on the floor with him like I'd been doing this forever. He held my hand and my waist just tight enough, as though promising that he wouldn't let me fall. Back and forth we danced as the music bounced and swung. He spun me, turned me, dipped me. I, in my black-and white polka-dotted Donna Reed dress, felt invincible, as though that feeling I had been searching for my entire life was actually within reach. He smiled and made me feel beautiful, not as though I were uniquely special to him in all the world, but as though he was able to see the thing that makes us all beautiful and bring it out of us so we could see it too.

When the song ended, he walked me back to my table and my friend and moved on. I never saw him again after that night and never danced with him again after that one time. Perhaps if I had, he would have turned out to be kind of a creep, and I wouldn't have actually been that good a dancer, and the whole experience would have become another run-of-the-mill life experience. But I didn't, and none of those things happened.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. My life has seemed sort of out of-sorts. Nothing in particular, just a general sense of being out of step with the rest of the world. My brain and my body and the rest of the world all seem to be on different timetables, and I never feel entirely right. But then I think about that night, about that one dance, and there was a time when I felt as though I was moving perfectly, as though every moved I made was filled with purpose and beauty, perfectly in step with everyone else. And I think, if I felt that way once, even if only for a moment, perhaps I can find it again. It's certainly worth trying for.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This Evil Future Brough to You By

I am going insane, and more quickly than usual. First of all, thank you so much to those of you who have stopped by to see whether I have dropped off the map, and no, I haven't, though it kind of seems that way. And I'm sorry you haven't heard anything from me recently, but not only have I been unable to write here, but at last count, I had 59 unread items in my Google Reader. So to all you lovely folks whose blogs I read and enjoy, soon you will be getting pages and pages of comments from me as I attempt to catch up.

It started, I suppose, around Christmas, when we got a Wii. You see, my brother is getting married in May, and I have been asked to be in the wedding. Though I am very flattered and honored, I am also terrified of being "the fat bridesmaid." So during nap times (the only free time I have in any given 24 hours), I've been trying to get in a solid hour of Wii tennis. Now, say what you will, I know that you can play a perfectly respectable game of Wii tennis sitting on the couch and flicking your wrist, but I've been trying to run around the room as much as possible (and hiss "shit!" as little as possible). It may not be as good as the real thing, but it's a good deal better than sitting on my ass, which is what I've been doing up until now. I don't own a scale, so I don't know if it's doing any good, so I'm just hitting the hell out of an imaginary ball until my dress comes in the mail and I know just how much I'm going to have to do in order not to actually look like a granny smith apple at the wedding.

Then last week, we got a computer virus, which I then spent--seriously--ten hours trying to remove. Now, I am a child care provider, not a rocket scientist. I think I'm pretty smart, but you can tell me just about anything about a computer and I will believe it, including that they will someday rise up and take over the world. And I got really emotionally invested in proving that I could do this. I eventually got the worst of the virus off, so that it was usable again, but it still redirects almost all Google searches (How else can I find anything out? What do you mean, books? Wait, there are other search engines? Who would dare to mess with my Google?) and periodically pops open random Internet Explorer windows to places like We've been fighting and fighting with the damn thing and finally just said screw it, it was $300 five years ago, it had a good run, and we're getting a new one.

Matilda's birthday is coming up, so since I like to think I'm all cute and helpful, I decided to make Evites, instead of my usual approach, which is emailing everyone I know the day before the party and frantically trying to convince them they want to come. But our computer it, as I may have mentioned, of the devil. So I spent a good 20 minutes registering with the damn site, trying to choose and fill out an invitation, and then trying to import addresses, which of course did not work because, yes, our computer is of the devil. So I manually entered all the addresses, several of them wrong, and hit "send." The computer then froze up for the next 20 minutes, time I spent shouting nonsense at the frozen screen and listening to Zachary try to read me his latest chapter book, Matilda request "up please" for the bazillionth time so that she could sit on the desk and bang on the keys, and trying to reassure Ezra that I wasn't entirely going crazy. But of course I was, because in the midst of all this, I kept glancing at the (still frozen) screen and seeing the words "This Evite feature is brought to you by..." But in my insanity, it kept looking like "This evil feature is brought to you by..." This struck me as funny, but not nearly as much the kids. Ezra enjoyed repeating it over and over again, but it always came out as "This evil future," which actually seemed more accurate as they kept asking me to repeat it and tell them more things that are "of the devil."

Eventually I was able to confirm that the invitations had been sent, I fixed the email addresses I had entered wrong, and everybody got a bath. A new computer is on the way, and eventually I will get that dress and find out just how many pounds I have to lose by May. And to all the lovely people who have stopped by to check on me and ask where I've been, thank you, thank you, thank you. As my mind slowly slips away, it's nice to know there are people wondering for me where it is. And I promise I'll get it back just as soon as I can.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Deep Thoughts

When trying to describe something that is completely futile, why don't people ever say "It's like trying to sweep up macaroni and cheese"? Because have you tried that? It's horrible, spending a full minute trying to catch each noodle and whisk it in the general direction of the others, all the while watching it get more and more covered with the dog hair and sand that perhaps will unstick it from the floor enough to make it mobile. I finally end up on my hands and knees, manually picking up each and every piece of macaroni, every time. Don't even ask what it looks like when we have couscous.

No matter how much we are intellectually aware that the human experience is essentially the same for all of us, we can't help but feel that we are the first one ever to experience the things that are truly profound. Clearly I am the first person ever to fall in love, ever to lose someone I cared about, ever to watch her toddler dance in the kitchen and be overwhelmed by the urge to call everyone I've ever met and tell them, "You'll never believe what she's doing right now!" Never mind that kitchen dancing is a pretty common toddler activity. There has never been a little girl with soft curls down her back, pushing the button on the Leap Frog farm again and again, so proud that she's mastered this way of making music, twirling around in front of the refrigerator, whispering to herself, "Dance. Dance. Dance. Dance..." Or if there has, I don't want to hear about it, because I want to tell you about mine.

Sometimes there simply are no words. The other day, Zachary and Ezra were in their room doing something they weren't supposed to be doing, maybe wrestling after I'd told them for the thousandth time that they were going to get hurt and that game was done for today. So I walked in and, I admit, raised my voice a little. Ezra turned to me and said, "Mommy, will you leave the room now? I want to tell Zachary that you're a yelling machine."

And finally, just because he didn't get featured here and his siblings did, I would like to announce to the world my pride that my oldest son, my first-grader, is the best reader I have ever met. (Or if there's a better one, I don't want to hear about. See the reasons cited above.) It hasn't been a struggle exactly, but it hasn't come easy. I was one of those who was reading by kindergarten, but with a November birthday, I was almost 6 when I started, so I had nearly a year advantage over the rest of the students. And I don't remember whether it came easy or was a struggle. Zachary was barely 5 when he started kindergarten, and I've worried so much that he's at a disadvantage because he's younger than his classmates. But last week, he read--all by himself--an entire "Captain Underpants" book. If you're not familiar with them, and I wasn't, they're chapter books, but with a lot of graphic novel components thrown in. And he didn't just flip through the pages; he read it. He happily answered all my questions and then filled me in on the plot. Then he read another one. I've ordered numbers 3 and 4 from PaperBack Swap and he's asking every day if they're here yet. There are so many wonderful books in his future and such pride to be gained from learning to read them, and I'm delighted that a superhero in his undies is getting us so far.