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.

 

5 Reasons Your Thirties Are Your Best Decade

My little sister turns thirty today.  THIRTY!  I’m pretty sure that even though we used to be seven years apart, she’s catching up to me and we’re getting closer and closer to converging at the same age.  That’s possible, right?

I remember waking up on my 30th birthday and startling myself by starting to cry.  I wasn’t even sure why, but for some reason turning thirty hit me much harder than I thought it would.  Maybe it was because I didn’t know what the next decade would bring and the unknown can be scary.  Maybe it was because I wasn’t measuring up to the expectations I had set for myself by this milestone.  Maybe I was panicking about the fact that I could no longer deny that I was actually an adult, so I knew I had to start acting like one.

Little sister, if you’re having any of those anxieties, don’t fret.  Your thirties are going to be the best decade.  Here’s why:

1. The panicky “What am I going to do with my life?” self-questioning ends. At least sort of.  Resume creation turns into resume updating and job interviews become easier because you actually have relevant experience you can expound upon (much better than having to make up bullshit about how your job waiting tables has prepared you to be an excellent project manager). After your first “real” job or two you have a trajectory to follow, a sense of where your current job could lead to, something you couldn’t fathom when you first graduated from college.  Each piece of training, each gain in proficiency is a unique little snowflake, and you continue to build your repertoire of involvement and competencies, creating a gusty little success storm.  Before you know it, your self-assurance and your expertise snowball into an avalanche of amazingness.

2. You stop renting with roommates.  Finally you escape the financial need for roommates and you get out on your own, or you start living with someone because you actually like them and you want to, not because you found them through a desperate newspaper ad because you had to.  Now you only have to deal with your own dust, your own dishes, your own pile of hair stuck in the drain at the bottom of the tub.  (Why is your own pile of hair so much less disgusting than your roommate’s?)  It’s true that home ownership can be a huge pain in the ass at times, but it’s worth not having to split the cable bill with a potential psychopath.

3. You decide whether or not you want to have kids. For some of us that decision can be hard, agonizing even, trying to weigh the pros and cons of maintaining freedoms like endless traveling, drinking margaritas at the bar until 11:00 pm every Thursday night, and comfortably retiring at an early age, versus bearing the great responsibility of having little mini-yous running around the house, ruining your furniture and obliterating any chance you might have had at staying up past 9 pm (even on the weekend) or buying that yacht when you’re in your fifties.  It’s an important decision.  A defining one.  So, it’s a relief when you figure out where you stand.

4. You become comfortable in your own skin.  You’re in good shape (quite possibly the best shape of your life) and you finally figure out what kind of clothes flatter your figure, which is no longer changing as wildly as it did in your teens and early twenties. You’re fit and you’re cute, and to top that off you begin to understand that looks don’t actually matter all that much, so you stop wasting time meticulously anointing yourself with eyeliner and foundation, or applying, taking off and reapplying mascara, or trying on a million outfits before deciding what to wear when you go out.  You free up a lot of valuable time and you master the art of the messy bun. This combination of physical strength and mental confidence make you the sexiest you’ve ever been.

5. You figure out how to prioritize your time. This is the decade when you acknowledge that having a steady paycheck and a job with benefits is important.  But you’re also beginning to notice how nutrition affects your energy levels, how good friends and work-life balance affect your well-being, how spending time with loved ones and how exercise and books and yoga (or whatever your hobbies of choice may be) are what enable you to fully inhale. And after you notice, you start planning and scheduling those things in. In other words, you finally figure out how to take care of yourself. This is the decade where you begin mastering the art of adulting.

The Thirties might be intimidating to the youngins who are worried about being over the hill, but those of us who have already crossed that hump know how awesome this decade really is.

Happy 30th, little sees.  Welcome to your best decade yet.

5 Reasons Your Thirties Are Your Best Decade

5 Reasons Your Thirties Are Your Best Decade