Inflating a pool, deflating my pride

You hear a lot of voices while you’re inflating the kiddie pool in the high noon sun. Most of them are saying,

You are a moron.

Why aren’t the kids helping you?

Was that a wasp?

You are still a moron.

 

You might even appreciate the irony for a moment, inflating the kiddie pool while standing on the surface of the burning sun, that you paid for a hot yoga class that morning, HAHAH, which is basically the same thing, HAHA, in terms of working out in a sauna and breathing hard. The only difference is that in hota yoga your outfit was cuter and at the end the instructor placed an ice cold towel on your head as she whispered, “Namaste….”

Then there’s always this one voice that seems to intone not in your head but in your heart and it says,

Don’t be mad about this. Don’t be mad about any of this. Don’t feel sorry for yourself for one second. This thing you’re doing for your kids–

That voice gets interrupted for a second because you just bumped your head on the beach umbrella you were trying to drill into the ground near the sad-looking kiddie pool so that the littles will have some shade.

I know you just hit your head, says the voice, and I know how that feels. But be tenderhearted anyway.

You go in the house and tell the kids you want to share something with them. They look slightly alarmed because you are all sweaty and, “Mom, we were watching Teen Titans–”

“You guys, so I got the pool all ready for you,”

“Yeah, thanks, Mama,” they pat my shoulder just to maybe tamp down the crazy I might unleash on them at any moment.

“So you know, as I was out there and I was sweating and getting injured just to do something nice for you guys, I was thinking about someone who suffered a lot doing nice things for me,

“Jesus?” they say.

“Yeah. And how I don’t always say thank you. So that was just a reminder of how even Mommy needs to say thank you to Jesus more.”

All I have is the Gospel. Again and again I’m fooled by pride that I’m the one making big things happen. But all I have is Jesus and the grace he floods me with, the air that he pours into my lungs each day, which I offer in trickles and spits and poorly inflated pools to the little ones who are on lease to me. All glory is his. Namaste, Peace be with you, and Amen.

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Wishes

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Little Man: The other day when I made a wish on the wishbone, I wished that–
Baby Girl: DON’T SAY WHAT IT IS IT WON’T COME TRUE!
Little Man: It already came true.
Baby Girl: Oh. What was it?
Little Man: I wished that I would snuggle with Mama.
Baby Girl: But you snuggle every day with Mama?!

***
Wishes are granted, prayers are answered; we look for stars colliding but often it’s the stardust settling into the cracks of our life that holds things together, that holds us in place to experience the good, the great, the snuggles under Blanket Mountain.
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Oh gosh. Not another crybaby with depression.

This is not a crybaby post about depression. Whatever that means.

Author Elizabeth Jolley and (younger) sister Madelaine Winifred in the garden, 1927

It is, rather, a very practical post about how I live with depression and generalized anxiety disorder, especially in the winter when it worsens. I’ve learned to make practical modifications so that suicide ideation is no longer a very real part of my every day and so that I am not an entirely miserable person with whom to share tubes of toothpaste and children and life.

I’ve been envisioning this post for awhile now. It’s been rattling around in my head, dancing with delusions about how I’m going to package it cute-like as if living with depression were a Betty Crocker recipe for making pineapple upside-down cake. But depression slows me down and drains me of motivation (when I am otherwise a fairly hyperactive person with a zeal for socializing and hobbies). I realized this post would never happen if I didn’t just aim low and crank out something, albeit not very fancy.

So here we go. Some things that have helped me stay afloat through especially hard months in Depression Town. I hope it helps someone. 

I learned a long time ago that taking a particular dose of a particular anti-depressant helped me to feel a certain way. It means I don’t laugh really hard like I used to. This also means I don’t cry at the drop of a hat like I used to. I take my pill every day and I may very well take it for the rest of my life. Oh no, aren’t you afraid of being dependent on a chemical? I am afraid of a heapton of things in this world. Many are beyond my control. Many exist as figments of my imagination. Many exist well beyond the horizon line of my lifetime. I can’t be preoccupied with them. I take each day as it comes. That’s what effectively living with depression looks like to me. Taking my prescribed dosage and being thankful for healthcare coverage and not worrying about how many more days I will need to keep doing the same–that’s my jam. 

The mascot pup after a bath 1943

I am not a morning person by nature. I often take hours to fall asleep at night and oftentimes I don’t stay asleep. Every semester, I teach an 8 a.m. class. When a colleague evaluated my teaching last semester, she said, “I can tell you’re not a morning person but you do a really good job of trying to pretend you are.” I laughed. Just because we have depression doesn’t mean we can all have a schedule that is favorable. Still, I have learned to fake only what is necessary. I wouldn’t recommend faking pleasure or friendship or happiness. I am willing to put a brave face forward in my early classes, though, because it only requires that I show up, prepared and ready to face the day, and I can tell that most of my students are trying to do the same. We are in the early morning struggle together.

Image from page 385 of "Abraham Lincoln and the battles of the Civil War" (1887)

I keep my life very simple, especially in the winters. I rarely say YES to things, and prefer a month of lame weekends to busy ones. I don’t like to dread activities that should otherwise be fun. I have learned which friends will take things personally and which friends are safe to tell that I really don’t feel up to things right now. Some friends will hold it against you and others will totally understand that you just feel overwhelmed by social expectations but look forward to seeing them when you’re feeling better.

The hardest thing I have found about living with depression is still being present for my hubby and kids. They may ask so little of me, e.g. to read a book to them or listen to a story and yet Depression, liar of liars, will trick my mind into thinking it’s a huge mountain to climb. The best way I have learned to be present is to be honest right out of the gate. To say to my kids almost immediately when I pick them up from school: Mommy is having a hard day. Do you ever feel like you just want to watch TV and not talk to anyone? That’s how Mommy feels today. My kids are remarkably accommodating when I let them know that I am wearing my grumpy pants and it’s not because of anything they have done. My husband is a living saint where depression is concerned and gets it and doesn’t hold it against me and makes me salads without asking. Praises be.

To that end, the final strategy I’ve learned to help immensely when I feel depression cloaking me is to practice radical self-care. I am uncompromising when it comes to eating healthfully and exercising just about every day. Depression will tell me that I deserve to eat a pan of Rice Krispie treats for dinner and be a wicked slob. Fast forward to when I am so much worse off and feeling all frumpalump and really? No, Depression. You may win the battle of the couch potatoes but this yoga mat is not your battleground. Move along.

Physical Culture Class, 1934

I am thankful for my faith and for my friends and family who have loved me through some rocky times. Depression can be a badge and a burden but it can also be the reason that blessings flood us when we need it most. Sending courage to all the depression warriors out there, and those who love them. <3

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