Broken Machinery

The floor is lined with well-oiled machines.

They are gleaming models,

producing perfect products.

They hum, whir, purr.

 

Smile.

 

They are lustrous, polished instruments

with safety valves releasing steam,

and automatic shut-offs.

They are controlled and efficient.

 

But one machine is not like the rest.

A single rusty clunker,

worn out, broken down, wearing thin.

It screeches, bangs, clanks.

 

Snarls.

 

Gauges tarnished, valves corroded, sealed stuck,

it is unreliable and dangerous.

It will cough out mangled wares

’til its inevitable collapse.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Image credit: Wikipedia

The Secret

She had to hide It somewhere. Somewhere safe. So, she cut herself open, quickly, before anyone could see It. It had to be hidden from view from prying eyes. From her own eyes.

The pain of the cut was nothing compared to the pain Exposure would bring. Or so she thought. She shoved it inside her chest cavity, wedged beneath her lung, impeding her breathing, but just a little. She could deal with it. Hopefully.

She cleaned up the blood and hastily stitched up the wound, much more concerned with the functionality of the stitches than the aesthetics.

She didn’t bury it as deep as it could go. It was a somewhat superficial burial, but an effective one, nonetheless. Too deep and It could do some serious damage to the internal organs. Too shallow and It could burst through the artificial seam, undoing all the work she had put into harboring It.

Because of Its relative proximity to the surface, sometimes It pressed against her wrinkled scar tissue, making it stretch… itch… ache. She ignored the nagging tension when she could, and tried to press the bulge down just a little deeper, with minimal success, when it became too much. Eventually It would subside on its own, even if only to resurface later. An internal iceberg she hoped wouldn’t sink her.

She covered up the slight bulge and occasional redness of her jagged scar with a polished wardrobe and a carefree attitude, so no one would suspect she was hiding something so ugly underneath. Inside.

If you liked this post you may also like The Monster’s Comforting Cloak.

Secret:  An internal iceberg she hoped wouldn't sink her.

Secret: An internal iceberg she hoped wouldn’t sink her.

The Monster’s Comforting Cloak

She had a monster inside her.

He was shadowy and spiny and ran he laps around his home, inside of her heart.  His talons took chunks out of her flesh as he stomped his feet on her. In her.  The bristles on his back scraped and poked and gouged her insides as he turned and twisted.  He dug in. He chomped at her flesh and took sips of her blood; he drained her. He wounded her heart, leaving it loose, saggy, shriveled.  As tiny as he was, that monstrous speck in her heart, he weighed her down.

On the day the woman became a mother, her body opened up and the child emerged. With the child came gristle, blood, and watery fluids.  And also the beast.  The dreadful speck got washed away, expelled for good.

But, while her body was open and vulnerable, a new monster crept in.

The new creature surreptitiously found its way inside and into her heart. It filled the void The Other had left.  Only this monster was not a speck. It was a giant.  It packed her heart full, and crouched inside, with its arms around its knees and its back squashed up against the sides, for lack of space. The woman felt  an intense tightness in her chest from the pressure.  But she did not complain.

Unlike The Other, this monster was not covered in bristles.  It was cushy and downy soft. The pressure from this monster comforted the woman.  It made her feel complete. Warmed.  Full. Even though her heart now held more weight, the woman felt lighter. Over time, the new monster fed on her happiness and it continued to grow fatter and fatter inside the woman’s heart, which stretched and stretched to accommodate it.  The intense fullness usually felt good.

But sometimes it didn’t.

Sometimes instead of filling her with happiness, the distention scared her. Terrified her. Paralyzed her. Because the tiniest notion that there could once again be emptiness where the fullness now was, was unimaginable. Unthinkable. Unbearable.

The woman came to realize that the new monster wasn’t new at all.  The Other had not actually disappeared.  The tiny, barbed monster had simply put on a thick, cushioned, cloak. He was hiding underneath the happiness, growing larger.  Stronger.  And if the soft veneer were to be shed, the stiff bristles, which would have once left only a scratch, would now impale her from the inside, killing her for sure. The monster chuckled menacingly as it leaned back, settled in, and kept feeding, growing more and more obese, stretching her heart even further and further.

monster2

Secondary Infertility: What I’ve Been Telling Myself

It’s no secret that Mr. Grouch and I have been trying for Baby Grouch #2.  We’ve been “not not trying” since she was only a few months old, and we started seeing our reproductive endocrinologist again back in May.  As we embarked on this journey for a second time, I told myself I’d maintain a positive attitude.  That I wouldn’t get sucked back into a self-pitying hole.

I’ve been telling myself  that I should be grateful for my family of three, when so many others are struggling to become parents for the first time.  I am grateful our process wasn’t as long, expensive, or invasive as what many others have endured. I am so very, very, lucky and I tell myself not to be greedy.

I’ve been telling myself that no matter what, I’ll be happy with the family that I end up with, whether we can ride as a group in a small sedan or if we require a van to haul us around.  I have a smart, interesting, silly, happy, curious and delightful one year old who amuses, thrills and amazes me each and every day.   She defines beauty, inside and out. And, if she’s the only child I am able to have, I couldn’t have been blessed with a better little human being.

Yet, a nagging whisper coming from inside me keeps saying But I want one more….If one is this good, two can only be better.

So, as we’ve begun the second round of fertility treatments, I’ve been telling myself that we got pregnant using this combination of meds the last time around, so it should work again this time, and that I just need to be patient.

I’ve been telling myself that I should relax, and if the upcoming blood draw turns out to be a big fat negative, that it will be okay, and we can always try again.

But, apparently it doesn’t matter how much I tell myself those things, however true they may be.

As the two week wait comes to a close and the blood draw date looms ahead, I can’t help but feel incredibly anxious.  I can hear my heartbeat and feel it in my throat.  My face is shiny, sticky, slick with sweat.  My hands are shaky, my knee won’t stop bobbing when I sit. My breath is labored, shallow, my lungs are tight.  My high pitched voice barks at those around me and while I try to rein it in, my responses are often short, brash, sharper sounding than I want them to be.  At first I couldn’t pinpoint my anxieties, but now I know why.

I don’t want the test to be negative.

And even though I have no control over the outcome, and my rational self knows “if not this month, maybe next month” the horrible dark little corner of my heart whispersmaybe never...  And it chews little holes inside me with those words, turning my insides to mush, and squeezes my juices out of the corners of my eyes.

I guess it isn’t just this test that I’m anxious about.  My overreactions, which at first glance appear to be over a relatively trivial event, are really projecting my true fear. Going through this process again (for how long?) with maybe nothing to show for it in the end, other than mountains of bills and valleys of disappointment.

But, just continuing to go through the treatments in an indication of hope, isn’t it? That I must think it’ll work out in the end, and that, in the not-to-far future, my heart will be doubly full and this will all be behind us.  So louder than the dark voice, I keep telling myself.Don’t give up

secondary-infertility-300x300

secondary-infertility – what i’ve been telling myself-300×300 (Photo credit: Argyropoulos)

If you liked this post you may also like: The New NormalTop 10 Things Infertiles Want You To Shut The Fuck Up About, and the other pieces in my Infertility/Pregnancy page.

Angry is Easier

In 8th or 9th grade, I remember a light switch going off.  Click.  I was no longer the goofy, somewhat naively happy teen who thought making silly faces was hilarious and who loved sports more than anything.  Suddenly I was angry.   I was angry with society and I was angry with my parents and I was angry with my friends.

I remember getting mad at a friend of mine over something stupid, and I hit her in the head with my notebook at school.  As hard as a spiral notebook full of lined paper could ever be hit at someone.  And I hurt her, probably more emotionally than physically, but either way, we didn’t talk much after that day.  I walked around like a husk of myself, hollow inside, feeling cold and empty and not knowing who the hell this person was who was such an asshole.  I’d like to say this was the only asshole move I’ve ever made, but that would be a lie.  I still feel badly about that day.

Usually my friends were left relatively unscathed, but my dad got the brunt of it. He was an easy target.  My pent-up emotions needed an outlet.  Teenagers tend not to choose healthy outlets and I was no exception.  Why actually deal with my emotions when it was SO EASY to just release them by starting a fight?  YELLING SCREAMING PUNCHING.  As a teacher now I see students do this to their parents and their other teachers.  I’ve even heard some of them tell me they do this on purpose, and I marvel at their self-awareness.  I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, because I was too busy screaming and yelling and punching.

But, every time I got angry with any of the people I loved, and lashed out at them, I got angry with myself.

Because I wasn’t even really angry to begin with.

I was sad.

Looking back, it is clear that I was clinically depressed, not at my all time lowest low, but my first lowest low and not too far off from the all time record.  But, who admits being sad?  Especially if there wasn’t a reason?  Sad is weak.  Angry is strong.  A strong voice.  A strong punch.

Many, many, years later, my husband’s best friend, who he had known practically since birth, died in a horrific motorcycle accident.  He was wearing his helmet, but wearing a helmet doesn’t save you when your wheels skid on some gravel and you end up sliding into oncoming traffic and get dragged to pieces by a semi-truck. Other than high school this was the most angry I’ve ever been at someone.

Yes, I was angry at my husband’s dead best friend. I was angry at him for dying.

“DIDN’T YOU KNOW WHAT THIS WOULD DO TO HIM?! YOU DID!  SO WHY THE FUCK WEREN’T YOU MORE CAREFUL?”  Why the fuck weren’t you more careful!  LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO HIM!   A broken record of yelling inside my head.  For a year.

At this point I was old enough to realize this wasn’t rational, but that didn’t change how I felt.  I was selfishly angry at this happy, carefree, kind, now-dead boy because I knew my husband would forever have a hole in his heart in the shape of his friend.

But bloody hell, I’m 34 years old.  I think I heard somewhere that I’m supposed to be an adult by now.  And adults don’t do that.  Well, okay, some do.  But not the adults I would like to be like someday, when I grow up.

And angry isn’t strong.  Angry is weak.  Angry is selfish.  Angry isn’t even ACCURATE.  It’s just there because it’s easier.  It’s lazy.  I know from experience that if I act angry enough, then I am sure to be left alone and can continue to avoid the real problem for as long as possible. It’s easier to be angry and mean and lash out and push away than it is to deal with my problems, my fears, my out of whack hormones.

So today, 7 years after the motorcycle accident, I’ll admit it.  I’m sad. And instead of yelling and punching, I’ll make silly faces and go to yoga and give those around me a hug.  7th grade me knew what life was all about.

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If you enjoyed this post you might also like The Accidental Marathoner and   Depression is Analogous to Treading Water

Bow To Your Thighness: 3 Guiding Principles For Physical and Mental Health

I’ve always hated my thighs.

In high school, jeans shopping was a complete nightmare.  I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t it always?” or “Wouldn’t we all rather stick our heads into the yawning mouths of lions or alligators or piranhas than shop for jeans?” To which the answer is a resounding YES.  Yes, we certainly would. Hell, wouldn’t we all rather stick our heads into the ASSES of these animals, if it meant we’d get out of jeans shopping ever again?  I’ll let you answer that last question on your own. 

I cringe when I think about the multitude of shopping trips needed, hours long, to find a single pair of jeans that I thought I looked not-like-a-lumbering-mastodon in. My mom patiently (or fake patiently) sat there while the sales lady brought me pair after pair after pair.  I didn’t want jeans that were too tight, because then people would see how big these thighs were, but jeans that were too baggy made them look even bigger.  The Flabby Flank Conundrum. 

It was also the mid 90’s and our entire generation was wearing everything ultra-baggy. When you only wear jeans and hoodies in a size XL, because, for some reason, THAT is what is cool, even though you really fit into a size S or M, you don’t really learn what kind of clothing is most flattering for your body.  I was essentially plucking random jeans off the shelves and hoping they magically fit. It was like trying to find a tactful and well informed politically inspired status update on Facebook. Highly unlikely no matter how hard you search. My thighs are still hard to squeeze into many normal-person sized pants, but now I can usually spot jeans with a size 10 thigh hole and a size 6 waist without shedding too many tears.  In high school I hyperfocused on the sheer bulk of my two trunks; I realize now that it doesn’t really matter how big my thighs are.

Except when it does.

Yesterday I went running, in shorts.  Cute little blue and yellow running shorts with a white stripe down each side.  And about 1/2 mile in, the ensuing chafing reminded me why I never run in these. You don’t have to deal with this crap when you’re primarily a winter runner, like I am.  Rub. Rub. Rub. Rub. Rub. Raw. Raw. Ouch.  I have a good friend who would get embarrassed when her thighs would “clap” (and cheer her on!) really loudly while she was running.  I was embarrassed that there was no way that would EVER  happen to me – since that would require them to be separate entities.  In the past I might have cursed the chafing and my thick thighs, but now I chalk it up to simply choosing the wrong garment.  I should have worn the ridiculous looking spandex. 

No matter how much you hate a body part, there becomes a point where you know it isn’t going to get that much better. No matter how toned I get or how much weight I lose, my thighs are always going to rub together.  So, I have to let it go and honor my physical and mental health by remembering to stick to my Three Guiding Principles.

1.  Work on Creating A Positive Self-Image

My thighness isn’t going away.  It’s genetics.  And, since I want to be happiest of happies, I’m going to work very hard on not caring about my damn thighs because I have approximately 93472 million more important things to care about.  I will look like a complete buffoon in spandex in order to think less (thus care less) about what I look like.  This is the runner’s paradox.  

2. Work on Fitness

These thighs look better the more toned they are. The stronger they are the better I feel.  These thighs have squatted me through stress-relieving yoga during my depressing battle with infertility,  squatted me through prenatal yoga, even with the additional pounds from Baby Grouch, and accidentally trained me for a marathon.  They’ve taken me from point A to point B my entire life and I need to appreciate them by taking care of them.  So, I will continue to run and squat and thoroughly tire them out.  This aging, post-baby body demands it.

3. Be Gluttonous

Just not every second of every day.  I will eat leafy greens, and fruity fruits, organic grains and beany beans, but I am not willing to give up on what makes me happy and balanced and fun.  I do not want to be the boob sipping soda water and munching on carrots at girls weekend. I do not want to be the one who can’t agree to go to a restaurant until I’ve ensured they offer grilled chicken and zucchini.  Bor-ing.  I will be as healthy and fit as I can be, whilst indulging, on a somewhat regular basis, in mounds of nachos.  And pizza. And most definitely, wine. 

How do you bow to your thighness?

English: Mannequins wearing jeans in Sânnicola...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zip. (A Mental Health Awareness Poem)

zip.

a blooming line.

red.

zip.

zip.

a rush of agonizing relief.

ziiiiiiiiiip.

torturous and comforting.

a dislocation of the pain.

zip.

it feels better.

to bleed.

It’s National Mental Health Awareness Month.  Make an effort to become more aware.

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paper Fetish

Everyone has something peculiar they enjoy.  Some hobby, some craft, some chore, some strange cuisine, some type of entertainment.  Something.  Weird.  At least I think they do.  Anyone who isn’t boring does, I guess.

I have a paper fetish.  I’m infatuated with paper.  I love combining colors and patterns into pleasing designs.  When I scrapbook I create paper art with the addition of the faces I love.  I always thought scrapbooking sounded so dorky, but then I tried it and couldn’t stop.

There is something about the physical cutting and physical placing of the paper that is intoxicating.  I do not get this same rush from using digital software (though to be fair, I haven’t tried much out yet, other than adding the border and name to my pics below, so maybe that’s an addiction waiting to happen).

I cut apart magazine pieces and put them together into silly collages. It’s unlike scrapping in that I just find a few pictures that go together and create something out of what I have in front of me, instead of specifically choosing pictures or memories.  I’m always on the lookout for books and magazines that contain pictures I can use for my art at garage sales.  I think about creating more than I have actual time for my hobby, but either way, I am addicted to it. Not sure why.

“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares”.  – Saul Bass

Here’s a small sampling of my collage art.

collage art 3

3 piece collage.

collage art 2

11 piece collage. This one was one my favorites to make. The penguins each found perfect placements.

collage art 7

14 piece collage. I want to make this larger and frame it. I like this one.

collage art 1

4 piece collage.

collage art 8

20 piece collage.

collage art 10

22 piece collage. The background is from a sewing book my grandmother gave me. Probably not what she expected me to do with it.

collage art 4

3 piece collage.

5 piece collage

5 piece collage

What oddball things do you love?

Depression is Analogous to Treading Water

Depression is hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it firsthand. People who are lucky enough to not understand it often brush it off, and expect the depressed to just, “snap out of it”.  There’s no limp, no rash, no wheezy cough.  It’s an invisible ailment.  The disease is misunderstood and has a negative stigma and it can be embarrassing to admit you have mental health condition.  It is also biologically based and indubitably real.

When I think about my own depression, I liken the experience to being out in the middle of an ocean, treading water.

Satellite image of Tropical Depression One-C i...

Satellite image of Tropical Depression One-C in the Central Pacific Ocean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are just trying to keep your head above water.  You are using all of your energy to stay afloat.  You do not have energy to attend events, enjoy your hobbies or cheer on your friends.  You might be focusing so hard on surviving that you forget dates or meetings or to pick up bread from the store, or even to take your own meds. Compared to sinking and drowning in the salty sea, those other items are quite trivial.  It’s Maslow’s hierarchy in action.

You feel alone.  Stranded, stuck. There’s no one to talk to, no one to listen, no one to understand.  In a crowded room, at a family holiday, you’re still staring out at an open ocean, feeling utterly isolated.

It’s physically exhausting.  Treading water takes energy.  Your legs hurt, your neck hurts, your head hurts.  Your eyes hurt, your stomach hurts.  You’re tired.  All the time.  Tired.  You are so tired, you could fall asleep at your desk, at the grocery stores, driving your car.  You’re so tired you’re not sure how long you can keep this jig up.

You think you might not make it. Sometimes not knowing which direction leads to shore, means you remain immobile.  People who do not understand depression might think you don’t WANT to help yourself, that’s you’re being lazy – when in reality you just don’t know where to go.  You don’t know how to fix it.  You don’t know if you CAN fix it.  Sometimes something that used to help, doesn’t help anymore. You feel hopeless.

You think it might be easier to just let go and be swallowed up by the sea.  You’re just so tired and you don’t think it’ll ever get better.  You sit in the garage with the car running, thinking about shutting the door, much more often than you would ever outwardly admit.  Usually you just go inside and say hi to your spouse and start making dinner.  Some people eventually decide to stop pumping their legs and shut the garage door.

You might not be able to get out of this situation by yourself. Remember when Rose, from the movie, Titanic, was stranded at open sea, half-frozen on the trunk?  If you recall, the rescuers came to help, but at first she just blends in with the rest of the dead.  Most people can’t see how depressed you really are.  Even when the help was right there, Rose barely had the energy to reach out to them to save her own life.  The only thing that saved her was the whistle.  If you don’t have a whistle, of sorts, a way to get the help that’s needed in terms of medicine, therapists or other supports, it’s very difficult to get yourself out of the blackness.  Sometimes you have a whistle and just can’t see the rescuers.

You’re not very cordial.  You might notice that saying hello and turning the corners of your mouth upwards takes significantly more energy than you have stored within your cells.  Can you imagine a rescue team approaching someone who is stranded in the ocean, and them berating the person they are plucking from the tide because he or she isn’t affable?  Is too unsociable?  That’s the message we receive when our friends and family get upset at us for looking or acting like we feel. Sometimes we push away the lifesavers around us with our poor dispositions.  Sometimes the people we need help from the most unknowingly hold our heads under water.

Some days are okay while others are a nightmare. Sometimes treading water is okay.  Like, if it’s sunny and there’s a nice breeze and you’ve only been treading water for 20 minutes.  But, it is a whole different story if you’ve been stranded for days, without food, and it’s thunderstorming.  People with depression have good days and bad days (or months or years) depending on what’s going on and how long they’ve been feeling this way.  Seeing someone smile does not mean they are not struggling with depression.

You have irrational fantasies of being saved.  Mirages appear, making you feel like you are saved.  You think the depression will never recur.  Perhaps you’re picked up by a boat, and you think, “Hooray!  I’ll never be in this situation again!”, But inevitably, the boat gets a hole and sinks and whoever rescued you drowns and you’re back in the same blackness you fantasized about never again having to experience.  And you think, “How did I get stuck out here, AGAIN?!”  As much as you feel like it won’t, it always comes back.  It always, always does.  Hint:  That’s how you know it’s a disease.

No one is ever really cured of depression.  If you struggle with depression, you’re always treading water.  Sometimes your legs are like lead and your head keeps going under.  Other times you’ve got your floaties on, bobbing in the Sun, with a clear view of land just over your shoulder.  You’re still always treading. It’s just a matter of how far offshore you are.

For those of you who have experienced depression, how do you explain it to other people?

If you liked this post you may also like:  A Bit of Gray Peeking Out

The Accidental Marathoner

I have two Mes.

Real me is caring and giving and kind.  Real me is never bored, because there is always someone to love or something to create or something to enjoy.  Real Me relishes weekends, family, friends and manically pursuing hobbies.  Real Me even loves horribly gray days and days when the basement floods and days when a baking dish explodes in the kitchen because there is always so much more to be grateful for.

Monster Me is angry and fearful and inadequate.  Monster Me is so depleted of energy that  the effort required to attempt to enjoy a hobby or a person or even myself is insurmountable.  Monster Me wants to cut and punch and scream.  Monster Me feels completely hopeless.  Monster Me thinks leaving the car running and shutting the garage door might not be unreasonable.

Real Me sometimes thinks Monster Me is gone for good.  But Monster Me is sneaky and always creeps back around, eventually.

When the two Mes got pregnant, Real Me decided that Monster Me was finally getting the boot.  That it was not okay for Baby Grouch to meet Monster Me.  That Baby Grouch deserved a better Mama.

Real Me started running right after Baby Grouch was born in an effort to prevent Monster Me from emerging.  Real Me set a post-baby goal of being able to run 10 miles, which had been achieved about 2 years before, though Real Me hadn’t run much since.

Exhausted, weak, tired.  Running.

Hormonal, irrational, cranky.  Running.

Back achy, pelvic achy, feet achy.  Running.

Sneezy, wheezy, coughing, congested.  Running.

Real Me carved out the time and made me go.  Even if that meant going to sleep by 8.00 to wake up for a 4.30 am run, or squeezing in a run with no time to shower before attending another function, or skipping activities with friends.  Real Me would not accept any excuses, because Monster Me needs to be continuously squelched.

After only a month, the goal was attained.  Perhaps this was because of strong(er) quads from squatting and lunging at yoga while pregnant with Baby Grouch (and the glorious weight gain that goes along with that whole process).  Perhaps this was because Real Me was pushing me as hard as was physically possible in order to keep Monster Me at bay.

A new goal of 20 miles was set, and at this point a training plan was utilized to schedule  runs in a feasible way, to attain the updated goal.  This is how Real Me ended up accidentally training for a marathon.

Every marathon runner has their reason for pushing their bodies to the limit, for sacrificing their sleep, and their time.  The level of commitment is so high that there HAS to be a deep-seated reason for someone to subject themselves to such an extreme dedication.  Completing a marathon is not about the race itself, but what the training has come to represent.  The race is simply a culmination and a celebration of that individual’s responsibility to themselves.

This is why the running community is so impacted by the Boston Marathon attack.  Even those of us who weren’t there know how much the race meant to those runners, because it’s not just a race It wasn’t just the activity of running that was abruptly stopped.  It was the activity of those runners proving something to themselves, that was so disturbingly interrupted.

The good news is, that the running community is a strong one.  One full of once-broken people who have chosen to heal, and refuse to let anyone or anything stop their healing process.  One full of people who, with every step, gain strength in character just as much as they gain strength in musculature.  One full of people who have an immediate bond with each other because of the mutual respect for each other’s promise to work on becoming better people.  The attempt to invoke fear, to alarm or to bring down this group of people was misguided – was directed at the wrong group.  We have already decided to gain strength from our weaknesses, and to not remain frozen in fear.  The Boston Marathon attack is just one more motivator for us to keep moving forward, step by step by step.

Update:  Real Me finished my first marathon with a time of 5:05.  How much did Baby Grouch weigh when she was born 7 months ago?  5 lbs 5 oz.  I love my marathon time 🙂

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Photo from Life in the Day of a Runner:  https://www.facebook.com/lifeinthedayofarunner  Quote from Mighty Brighties: https://www.facebook.com/MightyBrighties?group_id=0