Think Suicide is Selfish? Here’s Why You’ve Got it Wrong.

This has been a pretty fucking horrible week. On Wednesday, a suicide hit way too close to home and it’s been awful.  No, it wasn’t Chris Cornell, it was someone much closer to my inner circle, but both events on the same day evoked an overwhelming amount of emotional commentary – both on social media and in person.

Unfortunately, when suicides occur there are some people who blame the victim. There are many who lash out in anger at the one who caused others pain by taking their own life. It’s understandable to be angry about a loss, but when anger is directed at the person who took their own life it shows a significant lack of understanding of how depression works.

I don’t know what was going through our friend’s mind because I was not in it. I just know how depression manifests and how destructive thoughts can flit through the brain and how depression is able to justify them.

Here are some answers to things like:

1. Don’t they love their family? Don’t they understand what impact this will have on them? OF COURSE THEY DO. They know it well. They hate the thought and they’re sick about it. The fucked up part is that their brain is telling them that not being here is the better option to that horrific outcome – that living without them is helping their family live a better life than living with them. DEPRESSION LIES and it says things like, “You’re a burden” and “You’re dragging those around you down” and “You’re making everything worse.” I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to not believe your brain, but it’s pretty much impossible to not listen to what your own mind is telling you.

2. How could they do this? How could they leave their loved ones forever? Depressives feel like they are already gone inside, so they don’t see leaving as leaving because they’re already gone. They might not look that way, they might not act that way, but they feel that way. And they’ve been feeling that way for quite a long time at this point. DEPRESSION LIES and tells them they are gone for good, even though therapies and medications can often bring them back. Depression is a convincing liar. It is a seasoned actor that masquerades as truth. It’s a macabre magician’s act that makes someone think they’re already gone even when they are standing right there.

3. Why weren’t they more grateful? They should have been more thankful for what they had. As irony would have it, practicing gratitude makes severe depression worse, not better. This is contrary to popular belief because for people without mental illness, their emotional state depends on REASONS. So, focusing on all the good you have around you helps your mood. But, depression doesn’t give a shit about reasons. It doesn’t give a shit if you are poor or rich, weak or strong, ugly or beautiful. It doesn’t need ungratefulness. It doesn’t need back stories or traumatic experience to exist. Depression is like a parasitic worm swimming around in your brain but you never once visited the tropics. And that’s the kicker – when there is no “why” depressives often feel guilty. After all, they have everything to be grateful for, right? Nothing to complain about. Because of this, their feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness increase. They don’t feel worthy of your love, their friend’s love, their kid’s love. How could they be, when they don’t even feel worthy of their own depression? They know how good they have it and yet they still find themselves in a state of intense internal turmoil and emotional distress. DEPRESSION LIES and the more grateful the person is, the more monstrous depression makes them feel. No one in a remotely normal state of mind can understand how this is possible, so if you fall in that camp, consider yourself privileged.

4. Every problem can be fixed, how didn’t they see that? Whoever wrote the whole “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” bullshit clearly never suffered from depression. You don’t need REASONS to be depressed. Neurochemicals don’t tend to care about your problems or your social life. Most depressives are not sad about a particular event. They might not even feel SAD. They often feel things like hopeless, or worthless, or nothingness. They often feel empty for absolutely no reason at all, other than their own chemical imbalance. When the problem is your own self, you don’t have a “temporary problem”. You just have YOU. DEPRESSION LIES and tells you that you cannot be fixed.

DEPRESSION LIES. It’s a horrible asshole bitch that breaks people – it breaks good people, strong people, loving people, grateful people. It does not discriminate. It’s an equal opportunity fucker.

Dark Days

I come with the hardest form of artillery. One is two and the other is four and they have small, smooth feet and cute tiny noses. They have the loudest of voices and the most beautiful of spirits. They bring giggles and hugs and peanut butter crackers.

When I can juggle it all, I bring my strongest ammunition, but even when I do I know we cannot beat the beast that we encounter. Sometimes though we can soothe it. Temper it. Entertain it.

At the very least, we can be there with it.

I know which wars I’m likely to win and which ones I’m not. Since I refuse to surrender, all I can do is show up to every battle and keep on fighting and take any gains I can get. Any small moments of victory.

I know I can’t win them all.

I can tell it is a good day by her gaze. She looks alert, she looks at me, she follows the conversation with her eyes. She smiles – more with the crinkles around her eyes than with the movement of her mouth, but still. On those days, I talk. I talk and I talk and I try to think of interesting or clever things to say. If I’m lucky I get a chuckle, a nod, a smile.

A win.

On bad days, her eyes are glazed. She is not able to be fully present. It’s hard to describe but easy to observe. She doesn’t have the energy for much in the way of eye contact, conversation, or responsiveness.

“Bad day?” I ask.

I am not really asking, I just want her to know that I see it.

“Bad day.” She confirms. She shuts her eyes and squeezes them tight for several seconds before opening them slowly as she exhales and shakes her head, as in disbelief at the shit she’s dealing with.

I’m glad she can tell me. She doesn’t need to explain.

I do not need her to justify her pain to me. Or her reaction to her pain. I just need her to know I’m there.

In many ways, I get it.

Life is hard. It is sometimes too much.

On those days, I’m quiet. I massage her arms. They are frail and bird-like and her skin is softer than any other skin I’ve touched. It is smooth and supple and if it is a little bit dry, a small bit of lotion revives it immediately. I rub her back, her shoulders, her neck. I brush her hair. I hold up her insulated mug of ice water to her lips so she can drink it through the bendy straw. When she gulps it down I think of the 34 ounce jugs she used to keep on her counter, refilling them throughout the day to ensure her hydration. I wonder now how many ounces she consumes when I’m not there to hold the jug to her lips.

Every once in a while I bring in a single serving of pink moscato and hold it to her mouth after she’s had her water. She gulps down as fast as her weak lips and her weak throat and her weak stomach will allow.

Parts of her body are weak – too weak to move a whole lot – her arms, her legs. But other parts are hearty and strong. Her heart, her lungs.

Her depression.

She hates her weakness and she hates her strength.

When I leave her, I give the others the update.

“She’s having a bad day.” I say.

“Why?”

“What?”

“Did something happen?”

At first, I’m confused. I thought I already explained when I said “she’s having a bad day.” It takes me a minute, but then I realize.

Some people only have bad days for reasons. Because of things that happen externally. And certainly she has some external reason, but for the most part it’s her insides that are broken.

People who aren’t broken on the inside don’t understand that bad days are just a given for depressives. Some days are just harder than others for no reason at all.

“I wish I were dead.” She can articulate this on the good days. Because sometimes that is what a good day looks like for a depressive.

And her “good days” aren’t really good days. They’re not full twenty-four hour periods. They are more like flashes of light in her darkness. Brief cracklings of lightning that illuminate a pitch black sky for a quarter of a second at a time. Sometimes maybe a half-second.

All I am is a spark. A brief bit of lightening. Powerful, yet fleeting. There and gone, in an instant.

 

Stay With Me – Ignoring That Pile of Dishes In My Sink

Last week I felt like I was constantly rushing. Rushing downstairs when I woke up to make the coffee and get myself ready. Rushing to rouse the girls and help them get dressed and brush their hair. Rushing out the door and heading to daycare drop-off – making sure I pulled into the parking lot precisely at 7:15. I knew I had a one minute buffer but if I arrived at 7:17 I would pull out of the neighborhood later than I should and I would get stuck behind the bus  – which would make me panic throughout the rest of my drive about being late to work. After work, I rushed to get a quick workout in and then rushed to pick up the girls. I headed home to tidy the house a bit and make dinner and before I knew it the whole process started again. It wasn’t very pretty.

Thankfully, there were moments when my children reminded me I needed to slow down.

“Mama!” she called from upstairs.

I was unloading the dishwasher so I could load it again with the dirty dishes that were overflowing in the sink and I hadn’t yet started prepping dinner.

“Come down, babe!” I yelled up the steps. If she came down, I could talk to her while I got some work done.

She didn’t come down.

“Sweetie, come down!” I yelled again.

She still didn’t emerge.

Annoyed at being disrupted from my list of chores I wanted to check off my list, I went upstairs and saw her sitting on her blanket, leaning her head against a pillow in her “fort” (which is really her closet). She looked up at me and let out a muffled sigh.

I took a deep breath and ducked down beneath her hanging dresses and sat next to her. She leaned into me.

“What’s up, kiddo?” I asked.

“Sister doesn’t want to play with me.” she replied.

I put my arm around her little shoulders. “Sometimes sister wants to do other things. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, it just means she wants to do her own thing right now.”

“I’m sad,” she said.

“I’m sorry you’re sad.” I sat with her for a couple of minutes and then kissed her on the head and started to get up to head back downstairs.To where my work was.

She put her hand on my shoulder. “Stay with me.” she insisted.

I looked at her small shoulders hunched over and the downturned corners of her mouth and I took a deep breath and sat back down. To where my work really was. We sat next to each other in silence. I tried not to count in my head how many minutes we were sitting, and how many dishes I could put away in that same timeframe. I reminded myself that I enjoyed sitting next to my child.and feeling her warmth and her weight pressed against me. I reminded myself that sometimes the dishes really can wait. I leaned my head against hers and rubbed her back.

After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Thanks for helping me. I feel better now,” and she popped up and walked out of the “fort” ready to head back downstairs.

The anxiety I had felt about taking the time to head upstairs had been totally unfounded. In reality, it had taken only five to seven minutes of total time, starting from when I yelled up the steps from the kitchen. Five to seven minutes to help my daughter to feel loved and secure and able to regroup. Five to seven minutes are so important when you think about it that way.

The pile of overflowing dishes will get done, eventually. They won’t sit there forever.  My kids won’t need me for that long.

A Fading Heart

Baby Grouch is still small but she isn’t really a baby anymore. She pretends she is a waitress and asks, “What would you like today?” and she says, “This is my coffee.” as she takes a swig of milk from her sippy cup. She “reads” her favorite books – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Baby Giggles and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She’s heard them so many times she’s memorized every word.

Currently, one of her favorite movies is Tarzan. Her favorite part is when Tarzan presses his hand against Jane’s and notices that their fingers align perfectly. She holds her own hand up, palm facing out and fingers pointing to the sky and says, “Go like this.” I press my hand into hers and I hold it there until she pulls away. It always surprises me how long this sustains her attention and how her tiny hand is able to push against mine with a firmness many adult-sized hands don’t possess. Tarzan leans his head into Jane’s chest and his eyes widen as he listens to her heartbeat. Baby Grouch puts her head against me and smiles when she hears mine. She pulls me close to her and I hear her rapid whumpa-whumpa-whumpa in return.

I get transported to the 12-week appointment where we waited anxiously to hear that sound. Just a week before, we stopped hearing the rapid beating from Baby A and Baby B so we were very nervous about whether or not we’d still hear Baby C. It took forever for the nurse to find that sound and when she finally did I pretty much lost it in the office.

She’s always been the fighter.

When she’s not playing Tarzan, she sings at the top of her lungs and she bangs loudly on her drum set. She presses so hard when she colors that waxy smears of crayon obliterate the image printed on the page. She deftly snips with tiny scissors and cuts a single sheet of paper into a million pieces that litter the art room floor. She screams when she’s happy. She screams when she’s not. She screams so loudly it hurts my eardrums. She demands that I pick her up and then put her down. She yells “Help!” and when I ask her to try again and “I can do it!” when I offer assistance. She tears off her shirts and her pants so they don’t encumber her as she leaps off of the sofa. She giggles when she lands on the floor with a thud.

She is tough.

When she takes off her shirt and tosses it aside, I can’t help but notice that the heart-shaped birthmark on her back – once blood-red – is almost imperceptible now. The doctors told me it would probably fade away but I wasn’t so sure. It was so bold before. For me, it’s always been a stark reminder that there were others with her for a brief time.

Sometimes I watch her with amazement and feel the odd sensation of deeply missing something I never really had in the first place. Sometimes I stare at her in awe and think that what I’m missing is what allows me to retain a small shred of sanity.

Lately, one of her favorite songs is a Phil Collins number from the Tarzan soundtrack. Like her favorite books and videos, she likes to hear it over and over and over again. I sing it with her, I sing it to her, I catch myself singing it even when I’m by myself.

“You’ll be in my heart. You’ll be in my heart….allllllwaaaaays.”

How Parenting and Being in a Gang Are Basically the Same

They sport their affiliation with their clothing or jewelry. Is their necklace hand-crafted from organic seed beads? Does it boast a little silver Tiffany tag? Or is it made from the macaroni noodles a toddler strung together? It’s a little more subtle, but it’s similar to spying a colored bandana or a tattooed area code on a forearm.

They’ve got territory that’s theirs and territory that isn’t. Elite preschools vs. in-home daycares vs.baby-wearing to work through the toddler years. Janie and Jack vs. Old Navy vs.Thrift Stores. Twistars vs. swim class at the Y vs. catching frogs and jumping in mud puddles on nature preserves. Whole foods vs. fast foods vs. Neighborhood Sustainability Gardens. There is not much crossing paths between groups.

They’re part of a family. Not a family they came from, but a family they chose. They count on their crew for survival – to keep them sane, to keep them grounded, to keep them feeling like they’re doing things right. They’re following the rules of the group, even if the rules are stupid. It feels good to pretend they know what they’re doing.

They’ve got intimidation tactics. They’re posting photos of their homemade baby food and organic veggies. They’re writing angry forum posts about how your child is going to have life-long hip injuries from that baby carrier you’re using or listing all the reasons their child is safer than yours in the car. Or, they walk past you in in the store flaunting their children’s goldfish, chicken nugget, and oreo cookie diet.

They fight over stupid shit that feels worthy of a life or death altercation. Things like breastfeeding and sleep training and when to introduce what kind of solids. Things like time-outs, t.v. time and, and the best way to throw a birthday party. Their “family” honor is at stake.

Someone’s bound to get hurt – whether it’s gang wars or mom wars –  if someone messes with one of their family members. Parents might not always walk down the street in packs, but they most definitely appear in swarms online.

Rat-a-tat-tat.

Parenting cliques. Which tribe are you a part of?

 

Here are some common gangs in your area and tips about how they can be identified:

 

GANG: 

MOTTO: “Feed them farro”.

GANG SIGN: The Gyan Mudra.  Alternate: Connecting fingers with thumb to form a circle, which symbolizes a multitude of things such as, the Sun and Moon, a whole (as in Whole 30) and a “zero” (as in zero preservatives or artificial ingredients).

TERRITORY: Yoga studios, local natural food stores, baby-wearing meetings, the great outdoors (particularly in non-landscaped settings).

ATTIRE:  Rainbow colored (as found naturally in the real rainbow, not as in artificially colored rainbows), earthy green, tans and ochre colors required.  Paisley pattern allowed. Second-hand preferred. Beaded bracelets and crystal amulets as accessories.

PRIZE ITEMS: Organic, all-natural, baby carrier (the kind that doesn’t ruin delicate baby hips), crystal body deodorant, nutritional yeast, essential oils (especially frankincense), heirloom tomatoes, any book by Dr. Sears, crocheted teacup coozies.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Eating chocolate that is not at least 60% cacao or that is not fair trade. Letting their child cry it out.

KEY LINGO: Sustainable, Free-range, Antioxidant, Breath, Spiritual, Attachment.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to crops.

 

GANG:

MOTTO: Go Get ‘Em!

GANG SIGN: A loose hug where no one actually touches accompanied with a fake smile and a slow, subtlety judgmental sweep of the eyes down, then back up.

TERRITORY: The pool at the high-priced gym, the benches in the high school football stadium, all-inclusive resorts on the right beaches in Mexico.

ATTIRE: Color coordinated outfits showcasing this year’s name-brand fashions.  Preferably fashions not available in stores but purchased from an in-home hosted party.  Perfectly coiffed hair, well-applied makeup, groomed brows.

PRIZE ITEMS: Ceramic Starbucks thermos, Current Books Focusing on Achievement and Success (such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or The 80/20 Principle), Beta Brand Yoga Pants.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Pinteresting incorrectly, not enrolling children in a minimum of 37 activities per year, kids attending less than elite preschools, overall not being good enough at everything.

KEY LINGO: Cost, Achievement, Production, Accomplish, Meta-cognition.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to clothing.

 

GANG:

They’re even too lazy to capitalize

MOTTO: Cheers!

GANG SIGN: A straight up middle finger accompanied with a wry grin. Because this crew does not give a fuck.

TERRITORY: At the bar (with kids in tow), or at home (formula feeding, or kids running amok since they are not enrolled in activities).

ATTIRE: The same jeans you saw them in last year and a t-shirt from a 5k they ran in 2008. Most likely also wearing the resting bitchface expression.

PRIZE ITEMS: Books (any kind), Beer, Coffee, Large bags of popcorn, Ball jar filled with ice and moonshine.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES:  Formula feeding.  Oversharing.  Going out in public after not bathing kids for over 7 days, and/or not showering self for over 3 days.

KEY LINGO: Damn, Shit, Ass.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to seasonal brews on tap.

 

 

Which gang do you affiliate with? Share if you dare, just watch out for the rat-a-tat-tats that might come in response.

 

Please Don’t Move to Canada

Please. I know you’re feeling shocked, hurt, angry, fearful, devastated and disgusted. Or maybe you’re just feeling numb right now, but you know those raw emotions are there, lurking beneath the outer shell that seems to have solidified around your skin, protecting you the way a spore protects itself when it finds itself in an uninhabitable environment.

Please. I know you’ve been on that Canadian immigration site researching how to emigrate from a country you think is imploding. Or maybe you got there too late and received an error message instead of immigration information because everyone that wanted to drive North and set up camp drove up internet traffic instead and crashed the whole damn site.

Please. I know you care about people. About women, about people with disabilities, about people of color, about the LBCTQ+ community, about people who share your religion and those who don’t. I know you even care about those people who voted for Trump who you feel like shaking some sense into right now. Trust me, you feel that way. Deep down. Maybe at a depth far deeper than you knew existed inside of you. Even if those feelings can only be found lower than the floor of the Mariana’s Trench, they’re there (just trust me on this for now, okay?)

And that’s why I need you here. WE need you here. We’ve got a lot of work to do as a country and believe it or not, those of us who are feeling utterly devastated and sick to our stomachs right now are actually feeling the best out of the bunch. We weren’t feeling disenfranchised and demoralized LONG BEFORE today, like so many of the Trump supporters have been. As my sister-in-law put it, “Trump’s rhetoric of fear and anger represent how they feel,” and she’s right. I’m thankful she was able to formulate sentences this morning when my brain still could not. I encourage you to seek out those wise souls among you and listen to their reason. Please.

Please recognize that the intolerance and outrage that might be boiling beneath your skin, that has maybe already erupted in a hot, fiery, destructive, blast, is the same vitriol a lot of us claimed to despise and maybe even looked down our noses at, just yesterday.

I have faith that you can help make our country better than it is in this moment. You’re a worker, an advocate, a leader, a fighter for love and light.  We really need you here. Don’t leave me, okay? Please.

 

 

I’m Ten Pounds Overweight and I Cannot Be Bothered to Even Try to Lose Those Stupid Extra Pounds

I used to care, you guys. I used to REALLY care about my thighs. And sometimes my arms. If they weren’t as toned or as thin as I thought they ought to be, it really ruined my mood. I wasted a lot of good years being moody about a lot of stupid things, one of the biggies being my body. I’ve reached the point where I am working actively on being happy and I’ve crossed off my stupid thighs from the list of things that determine my happiness. Here are some reasons why:

Stretchy work pants exist. Seriously, these things are the champion of all chaps. You know how clown cars can hold a ridiculous number of people in their teeny-tiny automotive space? These pants are kind of like the that – you can fit a ridiculous amount of your stout self into a seemingly tiny leg hole. I will forever own pants made of “super stretch” material, whatever the hell that is. They are comfy and cozy and don’t overly embellish my flaws with weird curves or creases. Plus, I can run, skip, hop, or do a reverse roundhouse kick if I ever needed to, without splitting a seam.

Some foods really do taste better than being skinny feels. Anyone who tells you otherwise has some sort of deep-seated psychological turmoil going on. I mean, come on. Bacon, pizza, nachos, chocolate…wine…need I say more? Every time I am on a restrictive diet I am CRANKY as hell. Or at least not nearly as pleasant and boisterous as I am when I’m eating what tastes good. And in case you didn’t realize, SO ARE THE REST OF YOU. Trust me. People who want to hang out with other fun people generally do not choose to surround themselves with the ones who refuse to eat anything other than kale and baked chicken breast. There’s a reason for that and it’s called being laid-back and happy. I’m quite sure there’s some research-based study waiting to happen out there that could prove this. (If you’re running the study and looking for participants, I want in as a control subject. Can I get paid to eat nachos and report my mood?)

Being overweight doesn’t equate to mushy and out of shape. Not only does skinny not equate to happy, it also doesn’t equate to healthy. Even though most of my pants are a bit snug these days, I actually am more fit than I’ve been in a while. I’ve been focusing on working out some previously neglected muscle groups and have been pleasantly surprised at the results. My hips are stronger, my ass is stronger, my arms are stronger, my core is stronger. I am physically more capable than I’ve been in a while. I’m so much stronger than I was in the past, though not nearly as svelte.

My body is just a shell. My extra ten pounds are not ME.They just give my passions, my ideas, my insights (and okay, yes, my organs and definitely my ass) a little extra cushion. When I’m doing something that gets me excited, makes me feel alive, makes me feel strong, or smart, or ridiculously silly, I forget to notice my body. I need to fill up my life with more of those things. No matter how big or small they seem, and no matter if anyone else around me understands why they make me feel so good, THOSE ARE THE THINGS.

I know I won’t give a shit about those ten pounds years from now. Years from now, I’ll look back and think how great I looked, because I will be old and wrinkled and lumpy. Do you ever notice how old people who are too skinny look kind of like gross crepey-skinned skeletons, but those who have a bit of chub look a lot healthier? So really I could just be giving myself a little boost for looking my best as a senior. That could be my prime, who the hell knows? Or maybe I’ll go just be a real disaster and I’ll have bunions and skin tags and a bladder that is sitting precariously perched, far too close to the outside of my body. I could have dementia, or cancer, or a degenerative disease that makes it difficult to open jars or go for a walk or maybe even to just comfortably sit. Or maybe I won’t even be here at all. It seems rather prudent to get over my physical self now and move on with more important things in my life.

I’m over caring about those last ten pounds. I Can. Not. Be. Bothered.

Hooray.

 

Marriage Isn’t Always Fun (And That’s Okay)

Dating my husband was fun, especially when things started to get serious. We used to talk on the phone for hours, sharing our thoughts and our fears and our pasts with one another. We met early for breakfast and we gave each other loving glances over our coffee cups, soaking up each other’s good looks. We stayed up late watching movies in bed, cuddling close, even on 80 degree summer nights. We were always happy to see each other. Nothing beat those butterflies in my stomach and the excited feeling that accompanied the thought, This is the ONE.

When I hear people talk about marrying their best friend, I internally shake my head at their naivety. Do they really think it’ll stay that way? Dating and best friends are always fun. Marriage and spouses are not.

The thing about spouses, compared to best friends, is that they’re always there. My husband is not just there when I say, Yes, now’s a great time to get together! He’s there when I’m exhausted and need some peace and quiet. He’s there when I’m stressed and anxious and need an (hour/day/week) moment to myself. He’s there to witness each and every time I screw something up (and there to point it out, in case I didn’t notice). He’s there when I have unkempt hair and morning breath. He’s there, asking me to get him a glass of ice water when I just sat down on the couch. Once you get married, the butterflies in your stomach get replaced with a stomping elephant at your side.

After marriage, the constant togetherness melds with all of the crap that just needs to get done. It’s not all breakfasts out and movies in anymore. It’s figuring out how to deal with the woodchuck family that lives in your backyard, together. One of you wants to shoot it with a gun and the other wants to keep it as a pet. It’s installing cabinets in the bathroom, together. One of you loves to hammer and level and cut and the other cries tears of frustration after inserting ten screws because they’re so uncoordinated they can hardly rotate the screwdriver. It’s stocking the fridge and the pantry, together. One of you wants to buy loads of bacon and Fruit Loops and the other wants only organic lettuce and raw pumpkin seeds.

Dating is about getting what you want, but marriage is about getting what you both can deal with without either one of you completely losing your mind. Marriage means constantly teetering on the edge of madness due to the never-ending compromises that have to be made. It’s one of you not being able to sleep unless it’s dark and silent and the other not being able to sleep without the television on. ‘Til death do you part.

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For a lot of people, discovering that spouses and marriages are not always fun doesn’t go over very well. Once they realize marriage is far more work than play, they want out. They give up.

But, not us.

Over time, our hours-long conversations have whittled down to ones that last an average of three minutes, but that’s okay. It’s not that we aren’t interested in each other’s stories, it’s just that we already know them inside and out. At breakfast, we don’t always give each other lovey-eyes over our coffee cups anymore, but that’s okay. It’s not that we don’t still view each other as lovely, it’s just that we already have each other’s faces etched into our brains. Our activities together often involve boring house stuff instead of exquisite dates, but that’s okay. It’s not as exciting, but at least we don’t have to do all of that crap on our own.

I love my husband to pieces. So even though marriage isn’t always fun, even though marriage is work, and, let’s be honest, even though marriage is downright infuriating at times, it’s okay.  That’s just how marriage is. And it’s fine, it’s better than fine, it’s grand, if you just know that going into it.

Marriage is not only full of annoying bits, it’s also filled with laughter and love, giving and gratitude, truth and trust. It’s made of, ‘Thank you for shaving my back’, and, ‘Do you want to have sex?’ ‘I smell.’ ‘I don’t care.’ ‘Okay, let’s do it’, and, ‘Oh my goodness, can you believe what so-and-so’s spouse is like? I’m so glad you’re not like that’ and ‘Honey, I need a hug.’ And most of the time we don’t even need to speak those words aloud, we know each other well enough to say them without speaking.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine snapped a photo of me and my husband when we weren’t paying attention. She looked at it and told me, “I think I just captured a picture that perfectly epitomizes your marriage.”  In the photo, I’m giving my husband an annoyed look and he’s looking pissed off, his head turned away from mine. What makes the picture great is that even though our body language said, irritated spouse, it also said there was more to that story because both of us were smirking. Neither of us knew the other was smiling since we weren’t facing one another.

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I laughed when I saw the picture because it really DID epitomize our marriage. The love and adoration we have for each other is always there, even if we don’t always let the other one see it.

Insides

There was no horrific event, no jarring trauma.  But one day during her teenage years she woke up and discovered she was a totally different her.  The new her was no longer full of light, or love. She no longer housed any cheer or warmth or joy. For a while, she thought her old self had been replaced and she had been filled with hate and gloom and darkness but eventually she realized that her old self had just disappeared and now she was actually just full of nothing.  Her insides were empty.  She was a void occupying the skin that the old her used to live in.

emptyinsides

No one knew she wasn’t in there anymore.  For a long time, she couldn’t believe nobody noticed.  After all, almost all of her volume, her substance, was gone.  She was hollow in the places where she used to be solid.  I suppose she can’t blame them for not noticing. After all, people typically only notice each other’s outlines.  Our innards beneath the surface are pretty well hidden.

She certainly noticed, even if no one else did.  It’s pretty worrisome when your insides have disappeared.  She kept patting herself, pressing gently to see if there was some resistance underneath.  Some sign that herself had miraculously returned.  But every time she pressed, her fingers just sank in.  There was nothing of substance that pushed back. She was an empty shell.  Every once in a while, she worried about someone poking her too hard, or tripping and tumbling onto something sharp, either of which could have ruptured her completely.  

For the most part, though, she stopped caring if she ruptured completely since she knew there was nothing inside to save anyway.  She wasn’t even in there.  She was gone.

Sometimes she thought of just gashing her skin to bits, allowing any minuscule flecks of herself that were left inside to escape.  Maybe there’d be a bit of release in that feeling, or if not release at least a reduction of strain.  It was exhausting to stand up straight and walk and talk and give the general impression that she was still a whole person, when she didn’t even have any bones or muscles or thoughts or feelings.

Somehow, she existed like this for twenty years.

Every single day, for twenty years in a row, she thought about ending it all.  And she used the word “all” lightly, because she knew she was nothing more than a sack of skin.  It would mean nothing to this world to lose the nothing that she was.

Sometimes the Horrible Thought was a fleeting one that came after a thought about what to eat for dinner or before a thought about what was on her calendar the next day. Sometimes the thought was lengthier, and she contemplated the Horrible Thought as she sat in the garage with the car on, but the door still open.

Once she became a mother she knew she couldn’t be a good one with no insides.  A good mama needs working parts.  Or at least needs parts.  Vacuous sacks of skin cannot raise children. Even though she hadn’t ever given up on finding the internal her that used to exist, she now searched for it harder than ever.  She was able to locate a small fraction of herself through yoga and running and diet changes, but that still left mostly emptiness inside where her old self used to be.

Sometimes she felt confused and frustrated about this.  To herself she asked, Why am I so empty?  Where the hell did the rest of me go?  Why can’t I find me? Am I gone forever?  Mostly though, she figured that her confusion and frustrations weren’t really valid. She figured, I’m just being dramatic. I’m sure everyone feels like this, they just don’t admit it.  I just need to suck it up.

Finally.  Begrudgingly.  She told a doctor how she felt. She didn’t think it would help, but she knew she owed it to her children to at least give it a shot. She initially resisted filling herself up with the meds that she had been prescribed.  She wanted to fill herself up with her, after all, She belonged inside her skin, not some pharmaceutically manufactured impostor.

Truth be told, she was a bit afraid of taking the meds. She was afraid they’d turn her into more of a zombie than she already was, afraid they’d make her feel dizzy or sick. That’s what she told the doctor, anyway.  Way deep down, she was afraid that they wouldn’t work. That maybe everything really was fine and she just really did just need to suck it up.  She was also afraid that they would work, but then someday stop working.  She’d read somewhere that meds for depression can lose their effect after taking them for a while. Then what would she do?  After all of these years of lacking a substantive center, the thought of finding her core and then having it go missing again was almost too much to contemplate dealing with.

In the end, she decided that she had already been missing for quite a long time, so even if she only found herself for a short amount of time, it would be wise to take what she could get. She started filling herself up with her meds.

The other day she leaned over the kitchen counter to reach something and she noticed that the counter didn’t threaten to push through her skin and out the other side.  She felt something inside her push back.  She leaned back and then slowly leaned forward again, paying attention to the way the counter felt as she applied more pressure.  She felt it again. Resistance.  

She thought about it and realized that she hadn’t had the Horrible Thought in a long time. Long enough ago that she couldn’t remember when.

She thinks, after all this time, she might be back inside her old skin again.  

8 Ways I’m Aging That Totally Snuck Up On Me

I’m no longer young.
This awareness didn’t hit me all at once, it occurred gradually over an extended period of time. You know how old-school glass windows flow downward, but the flow happens so slowly you can’t see it happening, it just eventually becomes obvious that the bottom of the window is much thicker than the top? The accumulation of evidence that proved I am passed my prime happened sort of like that.These are the types of things that have been slowing increasing in frequency and intensity:
 
Explanations.Younger people have started explaining simple things to me because they assume I’m too old to have an understanding of them on my own. I’m a high school teacher so I’m surrounded by teenagers. The other day, one of my students looked at me and said, “Your haircut is fresh!” before sitting down at his desk and flipping through the pages of a book. After a moment, he paused, looked up and added, “That means it looks good”. If I overhear a group of students talking about something they saw on Instagram or Vine, inevitably one of them will turn to me and give me a simplified synopsis of what Instagram or Vine is. They’re shocked if they find out that I know how Group Me works, or that I use Snapchat. Similarly, I find myself explaining what it was like back in the day when we used encyclopedias and didn’t have Google.
Fears. Things I never thought twice about when I was younger I now have to purposefully push out of my mind to keep from losing it. Having an aneurysm. Getting murdered while out on a jog. Anything related to my children getting hurt. Most of my fears seem to be health-related. I now even view the equipment at the playground as dangerous. I often catch myself holding my breath when my kids go down the slide by themselves, even though my rational self understands that the damage would be minimal. Me, though? The last time I went down a slide I tweaked my hamstring badly enough to make me terrified of getting seriously wounded if I were to ever try that again. Which I won’t.
Wrinkles. I remember waking up in the morning several years ago and noticing a couple of deep horizontal creases across the entire width of my forehead. I thought it was because I had slept particularly poorly the night before. Now, the horizontal creases are in no way correlated to the quality of my sleep. That’s just how my forehead looks now. It’s not just my face, it’s my entire body. I work out regularly but no matter how fit I become I’ve got an undeniable sagging situation going on. Under my belly button. Above my knees. My skin’s elasticity used to be as snappy as a rubber band, but now its resiliency is more on par with silly putty.
Aging: WRINKLES and GRAYS! Oh my.

Aging: WRINKLES and GRAYS! Oh my.

Ouchies. I have a few bodily injuries that have been progressively getting worse. These afflictions can not be explained by any sort of trauma, they’re just happening because my body is starting to wear out. I can no longer sleep on my side in bed because my shoulders begin to ache. The joint on my right foot has been bugging me; I think I might be developing a bunion. I’m not even entirely sure what a bunion is, but I can’t deny that I am aging when I start using the word “bunion” in any sentence referencing myself.
I.D.s. I’ve stopped getting carded. If I am asked to remove my license from my wallet, it is due to a strict policy rather than a legitimate query. When this transition began, it shocked me more than it should have. I must’ve been in denial that others could see the gray hairs and crow’s-feet. I’ve crossed over into acceptance and now I’m comfortable being referred to as, “Ma’am” instead of, “Miss” by the bartender. I find myself getting annoyed on the rare occasions when I do get carded because it means I have to wait 30 seconds longer for my server to get my beer.
Hangovers. While I certainly still enjoy having a drink or two, I can’t drink all night long anymore. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. My stomach gets too full or I end up with a headache or I stay up way too late, and then I get pissed off because I end up wasting the next morning not feeling well or sleeping in. Two nights in a row of staying up late and drinking is pretty much out of the question. It’s a good thing I’m okay with that because my metabolism is no longer capable of keeping up with all of those extra calories.
Aging: Hangovers are the worst and metabolism is SLOOOWWWING DOWN.

Aging: Hangovers are the worst and metabolism is SLOOOWWWING DOWN.

Confidence. I’m comfortable in my own (saggy) skin. I do not care if other people think I’m good-looking. In fact, I hardly even care if I think I’m good-looking.  I haven’t dyed my hair in a decade and it is not uncommon for me to go an entire day without brushing it. I don’t have time to care that much about looks because I’m busy focusing on things that actually matter. Not being fixated on the mirror allows me to target what is truly invigorating and important to me. This is incredibly liberating.
Happiness. I’ve settled down. I have an occupation, a home, a family. I’m passed the stage of figuring out what I’m going to do with my life and I’m able to focus on how I’m going to live it. I’m beyond self-consciousness and self-doubt. I okay with who I am, flaws and all, and that allows me to focus on fostering happiness. As a result, I’ve never been more content than I am now.
It’s no longer a sneaking suspicion, it’s been confirmed that I’m no longer young.  And I’m okay with that