Hurricane Depletion

I had started the summer off feeling flat and dipping toward hopelessness. If you know me, hope is something I have in spades. I am generally optimistic about how things will play out, whether or not I am in control. I am a risk-taker. People ask me what I am worried about and I say, “Not enough.” I am not wired to fear that things will go terribly wrong; I am only wired to blithely make the first move and see if this batter I am whipping up makes a good enough birthday cake.

The strangest thing about my early summer hopelessness was that I couldn’t pinpoint the source. There were no health issues or looming bills we couldn’t pay; no one close to me had died and I didn’t even have to teach. This was summer, that rosy-cheeked girl that lives for poolside lemonade.

Still, I woke up every day thinking, This is all there is? Why even try? Why not just go back and take a nap.

***
I am at Nerd Camp now and it is on the campus of a Benedictine university. Last night we went to evening prayer with the monks. We have been assigned Brother John who will give us a tour of the Abbey afterward. Brother John  sits next to me and I can tell he is irritated that I don’t follow numbered pages well. I like Brother John, and I like that our group has its own monk. Our monk. Prayer begins and it is clear I am a poor candidate for the Benedictine monastery. The contemplative prayer, the reciting of verses slowly–I have to pull from my deep-think reserves to abide this. But as we sit, I start to invent pictures in my head of what is being said in the Psalms we are reciting. I start to welcome the silence less as a threat and more as a space to breathe.

***
I ask my colleague Andy to promise me he won’t keep sending me freelance work through his colleagues. I say, “You know I can’t say ‘no’ to these pastors! It’s like saying ‘no’ to Jesus!”

Andy says, “No. Jesus says, ‘Come and rest awhile.’ Also, I have no problem saying ‘no’ to them :)’”

***
I sit on the amazing couch and I tell the therapist that the hopelessness has been fading little by little and that I think I know what it was all about. It had blown in with the hurricane of finishing the semester and having to move and then having all kinds of new work to do. I was just tired. My faith was strong but my body was just.so.tired.

***

“Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard”

- Paul Simon, “You Can Call Me Al”

***
The therapist tells me I should give the end of the semester times a name, like we name hurricanes. That way, I can recognize the storm when it appears on my radar and I can anticipate it and batten down the hatches and know what is happening, because it’s about to flatten me and leave me scrounging for resources as I rebuild.

So I have named this time Hurricane Depletion. And right now, at Nerd Camp, I am glad to be out of its path.

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Exteriors/Interiors of Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Detroit

I don’t know if it’s the combination of having children who can self-manage better these days or if it’s the ache I’ve harbored to explore my hometown, but our visits to Cleveland and Ann Arbor flooded me with beautiful images that I do not want to soon forget.

Paying homage to Playhouse Square’s new chandelier of note
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New headquarters for Mitchell’s. Woop.
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Bandying about town
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Sure about that?
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Happy Dog. Go here. Order the nacho tots.
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Riding the carousel at Malley’s with Gigi.
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A2
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This was a minor bucket list checked for me. Been following this vintage clothier for quite a while. Visiting for real was ecstatic-making.
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In Detroit, we always go to Corktown. This time, we went with a true denizen of this great neighborhood, our friend Darcy.
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Recommended eats at the Mercury Burger Bar – particularly their outdoor patio.
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Michigan Central Railroad Station – emblem of the abandonment in Detroit. Totally worthwhile article on the hope of this city’s tomorrows, though.
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The dream is now.
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A new age of injustice: Chutes and Ladders

I know that Chutes and Ladders has had to make some serious reparations over the years. People (who enjoy counting) figured out that past iterations of the game rewarded the behaviors exhibited by boy characters on the board more than girls. I am sure we could stack a great many other racist, sexist, and ageist allegations against C&L, but for $5 at Tarjay, I was thinking this was just a really solid investment. Plus, if you lose the game pieces, you can just replace them with gummi bears, which does not appear to be the case with, say, Wii Disney Princess Enchanted Castle.

Little Man really took to C&L and we spent a good 30 minutes or so navigating the acts of service and moral falls of our two game pieces: Punk Rock Asian Girl and Toe-Head Crewcuts Boy. I was impressed that Little Man really got the concept of direct consequences for certain actions, because he kept landing on spaces where he was “just thinking” at the end of a chute. There are many ponderous faces on the playing board of C&L — I guess pre-schoolers these days are just emo, yo. We had several good chats about how one did not just land at the movies, one actually has to work to earn a living so she can pay for her movie ticket, and also for that of her son. This did not compel my 4 year-old counterpart to go get a job, so I guess I am still stuck with a high-maintenance movie buddy. Whatevs. It was good bonding time.

Then I really examined the actual crimes and punishments illustrated on the board and I have to say…the government of Chutes and Ladders Land is operating as one really wack meritocracy.

Take for example the longest chute on the board, demoting a game piece a good seven rows for the high crime of reaching for the oft-desired cookie jar.

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And yet, the shattered pottery seems to be the worst outcome of precariously perching oneself to get the illicit cookie. It’s not the consequence of possibly breaking a bone or being sneaky instead of asking. We’re taking chutes to our disgrace because the totally replaceable clay pot we bought on clearance Homegoods is in humpty dumpty pieces.

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Then there’s the happy-go-lucky lad who rides evil knevil on his two-wheeler, showing off sans helmet. He rides that bike down a measly little one-row chute, and lands with a busted looking eye and only a wheel for a souvenir. Hmm. I’m going to call bologna on the judge here, because if this brazen chap doesn’t have a concussion, he should really be doing some hard time. He could have caused a crash and nothing tears down pride of folly more than a long ride down a long chute.

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Then, here’s a juxtaposition of chute and ladder that seems to have turned the scales of justice upside-down. Yay for baking a cake for your birthday. Yay for eating it all by yourself. Yay for child obesity! As long as you’re not spending your idle time reading. Yeegads! Down with literacy. Take that chute on down to where the reader losers go. Only, how can you follow that cake recipe if you can’t read I wonder? Ah, that Justice, no wonder she’s a blind one.

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Oh, and finally we’re back with another blondie who also can’t seem to keep a steady step. She’s trying to balance too many plates at once. We once again revisit C&L’s fixation with shattering pottery because blondie rides another long chute to the punitive pit of plateware in pieces. I wish kids would just learn not to unload the dishwasher and not put dishes away, but rather just go eat some cake?

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