Happy Belated …

This is my very late “happy birthday USA” post. I only missed the Fourth by 7 or 8 days, so I’m within the window of birthday-ness. Right? Eh. Considering the mess that is this year and the mess that is my country right now, I think 8 days late isn’t too bad.

I’ve thought about this post a lot. I’ve thought about a lot of posts a lot. Basically, COVID, self-isolating, and the ongoing racial injustice in the United States has led to lots and lots and lots of thinking. Along with some worrying and some crying and some feeling hopeless. It’s been sort of a cycle for me. Right up until the actual fourth of July, I didn’t feel much like celebrating. In all honesty, life in general and life in this country, in particular, has begun to bear down with all the weight of despair and hopelessness it could possibly possess.

It didn’t help my mood that everything was canceled. No public fireworks. No getting together with friends. I had hoped for my parents to come visit this Summer or to visit them, but that couldn’t happen, either. Of course, people in our neighborhood set off fireworks on their own. Until the extremely wee hours of the morning. I hate neighborhood fireworks. I know I sound like the grouchiest, grumpiest grump that ever grouched. But the noise scares my dogs and makes it impossible to sleep, especially when fireworks are going off until 2 or 3AM. And I always worry about my roof catching on fire. Anxiety is not your friend, folks!

So, by necessity, it was a quiet Fourth of July for me and my family. My daughter has a friend whose family has practiced the same level of self-isolation as us, and that friend came over to spend the night. My husband grilled. And we all watched Crazy Rich Asians together. Was it the type of Fourth I would have wanted? Probably not. But it wasn’t a bad holiday. The long weekend was peaceful. My family is all safe and, so far, healthy. We are really fortunate in many ways.

That evening, I sat on my computer and read through articles about the protests happening all over the United States. I read about statues coming down and about brands changing their names. And … I don’t know … somehow, my mood improved.

I love my country. I love it very much. But I do not love all the things about it. I do not love all the things that happen in this country. In particular, I don’t love the way so many of us in this country are complacent and casual about the racism that is bone-deep here. We grow up with it, and it permeates so much of our everyday life that we get to the point where we “just don’t see it”. As a country … as a people … we have lived with and profited from this callousness and cruelty for far too long. By “we”, I mean white people like me. “Just don’t see it” just doesn’t cut it any longer. And you know what? It never should have. “Just don’t see it” was NEVER good enough. We should have seen it, all along. We should have looked for it. We should have fought to root it out and expose it to the light of day.

But now, changes are happening. Black and POC voices are being heard more than ever before. It seems like more than ever before to me, a person looking from the outside. I hope this is the truth. Because these voices need to be heard. We need to listen to these stories and face the uncomfortable truths contained within them. Protests are in the news, people are talking, and people are listening. People are learning. I hope we are all learning.

I know the changes that have happened so far are small. In the grand scheme of things and to Black and POC people who have struggled their entire lives to feel valued and respected, I imagine these changes are minuscule. But they are changes and a sign that our future has a chance of looking different than our past. Each small change … each protest … each instance of a Black or POC person feeling empowered to tell their story and speak their truth … Every one of these things gives me hope that we, as a country, can be better and do better. I have hope that the momentum will keep going. I have hope that voices will continue being heard. I have hope that we will ferret out the stink and dirt of racism at every level in this country.

Because that’s what we have to do. We HAVE to be better than we have been. We HAVE to do better than we have ever done. This country is a dream. It is a dream of a place where all are equal, all have justice, and all can live without fear. I know this sounds naive and idealistic of me, but I love that dream. I want to live in that place, where Black and POC mothers can send their children to the store without being afraid for their lives. Where Black and POC people are respected for who they are, and where Black and POC achievements are celebrated by everyone. Where Black and POC people can find justice — not justice in name only, but real and true justice. I want this dream for myself because I am a selfish person. But mostly, I want it for my daughter and for all the children of every race who are coming behind us. We owe it to them. We owe them more than what we have given.

I often think there’s nothing I can do. I feel powerless in the face of the injustice and unfairness running rampant all around me. I feel sad and hopeless. I am just one voice, and I am not the kind of voice that should be heard right now — that NEEDS to be heard right now. So I fall into the trap of thinking I should stay out of it or just stay quiet or whatever. But you know what? That’s bullshit. It’s the same thing as living with all of this my whole life and “just not seeing it”. Because I was naive and stupid as a child and a teenager and, even, as a young adult. I didn’t see it because I didn’t know what to look for. And, much as I hate to admit it, I never even thought to look for it.

I know better now. I have seen it. I know it is out there. And I know I can do something. I can listen. I can continue to learn. I can think about my own thoughts, my own actions, and my own words, and I can take care that those things reflect the true feelings and beliefs in my heart. I can — and will! — continue to have hard and uncomfortable conversations with others I encounter. In many instances, I am sorry to say I have those conversations with my own family. In the past, I might have backed down or let it go. But no more. It’s a small thing, but I can stand up each and every day. I can do better. I can be better.

My one corner of the United States is small. My reach is small. But maybe — just maybe — I can change one heart. Maybe — just maybe — I can change one person’s way of thinking. Maybe I won’t change anything, but I don’t care. I am going to hold myself accountable to continue working in whatever small way I can. Because I owe it to every Black and POC person in this country who has ever felt fear because of the way they were treated by white people … who has ever felt anger because of the way they were treated by white people … who has ever been made to feel less than human because of the color of their skin … who has ever lost a beautiful son or daughter or mother or father or anyone to the systemic racism that pervades our country.

Guarded Optimism

I have never been a fan of the month of January. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were always big “family times” for us, with everyone gathering together to eat, play games, laugh, and make memories. New Year’s has never been much of a holiday for me. After all the build-up and anticipation and excitement of Christmas, New Year’s feels “blah”. It’s not that I hate it or anything. It’s just that it has never mattered to me one way or the other. Instead of a holiday to be celebrated and anticipated, New Year’s Day more or less felt like any other ordinary day.

But January … Oh, January! You have never been the month for me. Even as a teenager, I hated January. It was a long month of gray skies and chilly weather and short days and long nights. It all seemed to go on forever. And ever. And ever. I think it was the idea that I had nothing to look forward to. There was so much excitement and pageantry and joy around Christmas, but it was like life was supposed to go back to hum-drum normal on the 26th. Or by Dec. 28th, at the very least! January sees me into the doldrums every year.

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As you know if you’ve bebopped through my blog at all over the past few months, 2018 was not a great year for me or my family. The year ended in a big, fat pile of SUCK. I struggled through Thanksgiving. I dreaded Christmas. I didn’t feel joy in any of it. I spent most of December experiencing the lowest of lows. I had trouble dragging myself out of bed most mornings. It was like I walked through my own life holding my breath all the time, afraid of the next email or phone call or text. Because every time one of those things came our way, it brought yet another bit of bad news.

You know that old saying about waiting for the other shoe to drop? I felt like I was sitting under a pile of old, battered shoes that Fate had tossed on top of me. There didn’t seem to be any end to those tough times in sight for me or for my family. No matter how hard I tried to stay optimistic and faithful, I felt sad and hopeless.

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So you can imagine I awaited the coming of the New Year and the month of January with even more trepidation than usual. Given that it’s never been a good month for me even in the best of times, I was trying mentally to prepare myself for the worst. After all, things are not exactly peachy-keen for us. My husband is still out of a job. He is still no closer to a new job than he was in December. Or November. Things look promising, but they continue to dry up or die on the vine. None of this is my husband’s fault, of course. He is doing all he can! And then some!

It remains hard to know I can do nothing to pull us out of this slump. I have no job. I have no income. The likelihood of me getting a job within a couple of months is pretty low, considering I haven’t worked outside my home in the last 15 years! It’s hard to see someone you love struggle and suffer, and it’s even harder to know you can’t help them in any meaningful way.

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But a weird thing happened with the dawning of the New Year. Instead of waking up on January 1 feeling sad, disgruntled, and locked in my own mental doldrums, I woke up feeling … different.

We flew home from Texas on January 1 on an early morning flight. As we traveled across the sky and I watched the sun rise, I realized I didn’t feel sad. Or depressed. Or hopeless. I didn’t feel any of the things I had been feeling all through November and December. Instead, I felt at peace and hopeful and less worried. And … shall I say it? Optimistic.

It makes no sense at all. Nothing has changed. We are still where we were last month and the month before that. We still don’t know what is going to happen to us or where we are going to end up. There is nothing but uncertainty ahead of us and uncertainty behind us, too. There’s no reason for me to feel this way. And yet …

I dunno. I can’t explain it. Against all odds and evidence to the contrary, I feel good about the new year. I feel like 2019 is going to be a year of renewal and change for me and for my family. And I think they will be changes for the better. Maybe it’s silly of me. But optimism, no matter how guarded, is much nicer than my usual January “bleh”. It’s only a little thing, but you know what? I’ll take it.

The Waiting Game

Is there anything as painful and as wonderful as waiting for something you really want? I don’t think so. It’s a constant internal struggle of ups and downs. It’s a constant stream of private drama and whispered conversations with oneself. “Could this really happen?” your mind asks, “Could it really come true? It would be like a dream — an actual, real-life dream — if it did. I want to think about it all the time. And yet, I don’t want to think about it at all. Because … what if?”

It’s delicious and horrible and wonderful and oh-so painful, all at the same time. It’s kind of like being in love, this type of waiting. It tugs and pulls your heart one way and, then, the next, all within the space of moments. And this happens again and again and again. It’s a delicate dance between hope and fear. The prospect of a private dream coming true is so beautiful and thrilling that it takes your breath away. And yet … The fear of “what if” is always lurking there, in the background.

What if nothing happens? What if the dream remains unfulfilled? The hope of something new and exciting spreads out before your mind, filled with joy and laughter and golden light. But the what if lurks in the shadows. You’re not sure you can cope with the “what if” part of things. Because it means nothing will change. That pathway into the future seems desolate and dark, devoid of hope and happiness.

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I’m in the midst of my own waiting game. The suspense is wonderful, because I feel so full of hope. For the first time in several years, I can feel hope creeping in around the edges of my thoughts. It practically bubbles over inside of me, until I want to giggle like a loon. It’s strange, really, because this is the hope of something unknown. And yet, if it works out, it will, in some strange way, bring many things full-circle for me and for my little family.

I feel anxious and excited and terrified, all at the same time. I want to laugh at the possibilities of it all. And then, I want to cry with the fear that it might not happen. Because, if it doesn’t happen … Well, I’m not sure how I will manage to soldier on. I know that sounds terribly drama-queen of me, but there is a slice of my being that knows I will be despondent if this doesn’t happen. I don’t even want to think about that. I don’t want to think about any of it. And yet, it’s nearly all I can think about. My brain is full of hamster wheels, and they are constantly in motion. Turning, turning, turning.

I don’t have any control over it. I can’t do anything to make this thing happen. All I can do is sit, and wait, and pray. I think I have been talking God’s ear off with my little hopes and dreams. Sometimes, I feel very peaceful about it all. But then, anxiety creeps in because this is something I want so, so much. I’m not naive enough to believe it will be the answer to all my problems. In some ways, it could create more problems, at least in the short run. But, even so, my heart sings with the possibility. And trembles with the fear.

And the waiting continues.

Forty Days

A tiny disclaimer: Today, I am going to write about my faith. You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to believe the same thing as me. You definitely don’t have to stop and take the time to read this, although I would be happy if you did. If you do stop and read, please, before posting something hurtful or unkind, consider this: It is always OK to walk away without saying anything at all.

 

I’m having a hard Lent this year. It hurts me to type those words, as if putting them out there on the page (even a virtual page) where I can read them out loud makes them more real. It makes the feeling more real. And, the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s not a good feeling.

This is my (I think) third year celebrating Lent. I say, “I think” because, although I have always been Christian, I haven’t always been Catholic. I was raised Baptist, which is a far different way of worshipping than where I am now. And yet, somehow, in my heart, being Catholic is such a beautiful and comfortable fit for me that it almost feels like this has been my faith and my life for always. Going through RCIA and getting confirmed were, hands-down, two of the BEST things I have ever done in my life. The hardest: yes, as my extended family and, in particular, my parents, weren’t at all happy with my decision. But, even so, the best and most beautiful. These words don’t seem like enough to encompass all the feelings of love and happiness that surge through me when I think about it, but words are all I have to put on this virtual page. And so, they will have to do their best to suffice.

In that first year, when I was still going through RCIA, everything was new and exciting to me. And so, I approached Lent with the same exuberance and thrill with which I approached everything about my new faith journey. In many ways, that first Lent wasn’t even hard. It didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice to me because I was getting so much back in return. So many feelings of anxious excitement and wide-eyed wonder at all the new experiences. So much love and support. In many ways, it felt like the whole Church had opened her heart and arms to me, drawing me close in a comforting hug. The entire experience was fresh and new and exciting, and I approached all of it with a sense of wide-eyed wonder, which was made even stronger by the fact that my daughter had decided to go through RCIA at the same time. So I got to experience all of these “firsts” right along with her.

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Last year, I remember looking forward to Lent’s arrival. Not in the same wide-eyed, eager way I had anticipated that first Lenten Season. Things didn’t feel so new. It felt more like I was where I belonged, living my faith in a way that made my heart happy. That part of it was exciting, but that part is always exciting. I’m sure I struggled with things last year. I mean, we all struggle with things. And, if you’re like me, you have things you struggle and wrestle with on a daily (if not hourly!) basis. But, overall, I remember feeling optimistic and positive all throughout Lent last year. It was a wonderfully healing time of reflection for me, and I felt like Lent kind of flew by. It was like I got to the end of the 40 days, and I was all, “Wait? That’s it? We’re done?”

This year … This year … This year …

What can I even say about it in my mind, other than, “Ugh. I just don’t know.” I went into the month of February not really looking forward to Lent all that much. I wasn’t dreading it or anything like that, but it was more that I struggled to muster the energy to think about it or deal with it at all.

I am wrestling with many things in my life right now. My writing life has been pretty abysmal for months. My daughter has hit her pre-teens running, and, as a result, is often not much fun to be around. (I know this will pass, and I know she is the same sweet and wonderful child/person she always has been. But, for now, her attitude often hands my life a big extra helping of “not fun”.) My husband is dissatisfied and stressed out with his work and career. I feel alternately frustrated and sad and guilty and angry and sad and … well, not appreciated. And sad. Did I mention sad? And I have this impending sense of doom kind of floating over my life. I feel like the next few years are going to bring some big changes for my family and me. I could be wrong about this, but there is this tingling sort of crackle in the air that makes me suspect change is afoot in our little corner of the universe. This doesn’t mean these changes will be bad. But, right now, the world feels ominous and uncertain and, I don’t know … like a very dark gray color, where the light struggles to find cracks to get through.

And then, there are the outside forces with which we all contend. The whole “politics thing” is a huge one for me. It seems that all anyone around me wants to talk about is politics. This is not a topic I ever care to discuss, but I can’t get away from it. It is, literally, in my face every time I turn around. This seems to be such a polarizing topic that most people can’t find it within themselves to discuss anything related to it with compassion, kindness, empathy, or even just basic politeness. There are so many hypocritical statements, jeering remarks, or just plain mean comments that it becomes hard for me to turn away from them and continue having compassion, empathy, and love within my heart for the people who say them. It becomes doubly hard when the comments cut even deeper because they come from those I considered friends.

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So, basically, as we head into Holy Week, I feel like I dragged myself through every second of every minute of every hour of every day of Lent. I feel like I made most of the journey this year on my hands and knees. I have bumps and bruises and scrapes and burns all over my soul from the journey. I feel used up and beaten down and discouraged. I feel sad, and my cross feels heavy, as if it is dragging through the dirt behind me. I’m spiritually exhausted, and I can’t help but question whether or not I even have the energy to make it over the finish line to the glory and celebration that is Easter. Right now, I’m not even looking forward to Easter at all. I can’t even see that ending light through the foggy haze of my own spiritual fatigue.

I wonder if this is how Jesus felt. And I know, even if I feel completely isolated and alone from moment to moment, that I am not. I have never carried my cross alone. And I wonder if, maybe, there is also beauty in the darker times of our lives, because those are the times that force us to turn toward our truest beliefs. Those are the times that force us to seek out our truest faith and strength and love. Next year, maybe I will look back on this Lent and think to myself, “You know, it really was a good Lent, after all.”

Connections

I live in an area of the country that is stuffed full of people. If the region in which I live were a person, it would perpetually be pushing away from some huge buffet table with a burp and a whispered, “Ugh. Shouldn’t have had that last whats-it.” Everywhere I look, there are people. The streets are full of traffic and potholes — not because there’s no money to fix them, but because there is just too much traffic. Crews come out and fix the holes … they stay fixed for about a week … and then, there is a newer, much bigger hole. There are lines for everything. And noise. There is so much chaotic, crazy noise. People shouting over each other, just wanting to be heard. Cars honking — the mobile version of shouting, I guess — because they want to be the first to race to that next stop light or get around that next turn in the road. Most of the people around here are permanently stressed, frazzled, and grouchy. Not to put too fine a point on it, but people tend to be downright rude. Everyone has their own agenda, and they don’t care who they have to run over on the way to fulfilling their plans.

I think I’ve mentioned this in my blog before, but it wears on me. I’m not sure it wears on everyone to this extent, although I’m certain I can’t be alone in feeling chewed up and spit out by the big-city machine. I think I am particularly ill-suited for life here. I’m an introvert, which means I require a certain amount of quiet introspection and civility. Both of those are in short supply where I live. I’m also originally from S. Texas, which — at least from my experiences — tends to be a friendly sort of place. I grew up in a place where people chatted in the grocery line or held the door for each other or gave a friendly smile and wave. These things pretty much DO NOT happen where I live now.

Sometimes, I find myself struggling to see past my annoyance and anger to find the humanity and innate goodness in the people around me. Inevitably, this makes me feel isolated and sad. It makes me feel less than human, too — like I’m, somehow, not real, or like I’m just going through the motions of my life. There’s no real connection.

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This past week has been a particularly tough one. The Black Dog has been following closely at my heels. Let’s face it: he’s always there. Depression isn’t one of those things that goes away — ever. I know this. But I have become better at dealing with things, so that I might feel my Black Dog ghosting me, but I don’t have to see him. This past week, I not only saw him every time I turned around, but I heard the clink of his collar and the click of his nails on the floorboards of my mind. It was just … bad.

Yesterday, I was out and about (reluctantly) running some errands after seeing a movie. As I was leaving Target, I looked up, and I saw a stunningly beautiful woman. She had such pretty skin and hair, and her jewelry was amazing. She was one of these people who just seem to glow from the inside. What is that? Is it happiness? Self confidence? True inner beauty? I have no idea. I don’t think I have this quality, but I can sure spot it in others.

It’s so completely unlike me, but I felt I had to reach out. I had to say … something. I had to, somehow, acknowledge the truth of this woman’s beauty. No matter how much I wanted to keep walking toward my car, with my head down and not daring to look to either side, I just could not do it. And so, I stopped and waited for her to catch up to me. And I said, “Excuse me, I hope you don’t think me rude, but I just had to tell you that you are a beautiful lady.”

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She stopped, surprised, and looked at me for a moment. And in that small space of time, I felt I could see everything expressed in her eyes and in the smile on her face. She thanked me, told me I had made her whole day with my kind words, and we parted ways.

Probably, I will never see that woman again. I know nothing about her or her life or the challenges she faces every day. But, in that moment, I felt connected to the universe around me through her sincere smile and the happiness I saw in her eyes. Her smile stayed with me for the rest of the day. And you know what? I felt a little bit beautiful, too — on the inside.

The Sweetest Thing

Although it seems like eons ago, I remember being pregnant with my daughter. I remember those months of waiting, anticipating, worrying, and wondering. What would she look like? What would she be like? Would she have my laugh and her father’s head for math and directions? No, seriously … It seems like a silly thing, but a good sense of direction is important in life. I have been known to get completely turned around in the city in which I lived for a number of years. My father always told me I could get lost in a wet paper bag.

We all want the best of everything for our children. We probably wouldn’t ever admit this out loud, but we want them to be more beautiful than we ever were. We want then to be smarter. We want them to feel they can dangle the world at the end of their own, personal bit of string, like a giant yo-yo. I wanted these things, too. I dreamed and planned and worried and wondered my way through every moment of every day of every month of my pregnancy. Life is so much scarier when you let go of the illusion that you have any form of control over anything that happens to you. I think this goes double — or maybe quadruple — when it comes to your child. Or even the thought of having children. Let’s face it: just the thought of having a child, of bringing an innocent life into this crap-fest of a world that seems to surround us these days, is downright panic-inducing.

In the end, I was lucky and blessed. My child is smart. And beautiful. And funny. And seems to make friends easily — a feat I never managed to accomplish. Whenever I get lost, she can usually tell me how to get back home, so I feel we scored one from the universe on that count, too. What more could a parent want?

my parents and daughter, as a toddlerToday, my kiddo and I went for a walk after school. This is a fun activity, which usually involves lots of sweating and huffing-puffing on my part and lots of excited chatter on hers as she tells me about her day at school. I love it. But today, my daughter was quieter than usual. Several times, she fell behind as I continued to forge ahead, intent on getting in my exercise time.

“Wait for me, Mama!” I heard her call after the second or third time.

Impatiently, I rolled my eyes and turned around to see her kneeling in the middle of the sun-baked sidewalk, her attention focused on something in front of her. I whispered under my breath for her to hurry the heck up as I paced back and forth in an attempt to stave off the hordes of gnats that had swarmed me as soon as I stopped moving. Didn’t she realize I was exercising here? Didn’t she know I couldn’t stop? That my time was valuable?

As I watched, she picked up a teeny twig and prodded at something on the sidewalk. I guess she sensed me looking at her, because she glanced up with an apologetic little smile on her face. “I’m sorry it’s taking so long,” she said. “I just feel sorry for them when they get stuck out in the hot or get stepped on.”

And that’s when I realized: She had been stopping for the earthworms. They had been forced out of the grass by a recent rain and then gotten stuck in the middle of the sidewalk when the sun came back out. Much like the grinch, I felt my heart grow about three sizes bigger in that instant. Did it really matter if I got my entire walk in today? Did it really matter if I finished quickly or took a bit more time? Did I really need to be so impatient?

“It’s all right, sweetie,” I told her. “Use this piece of bark. It’ll be easier for him to crawl onto it.”

I watched as she angled the piece of bark “just right”. She held it steady, holding her breath, as she waited for the worm to find his way onto it. And then, once she had her precious cargo in place, she gently moved him over to a shady spot on the nearest patch of grass.

It was such a little thing. It was just a worm. But, sometimes, the smallest acts of compassion seem to be beautiful and larger than life. Physical beauty will fade in time. Maybe intelligence will, too. Friends will come and go along the way. But compassion … If that stays with my girl, I think she will be all right. And, perhaps, the world will be a better place, too. I know my corner of it is. That’s the sweetest gift of all.

 

Hopeful

sunflowerFeeling quite hopeful and don’t know why
For there’s no blue up in the sky
Everything is dreary and gray
Is it odd to feel this way?

Could it be a touch of Spring
Borne upon the Robin’s wing?
Bossy bird, push back the snow
Tell Old Man Winter: It’s time to go.

There’s something out there, in the air
It whispers to me and tugs my hair
The hope of things yet left undone
Playful promise, a day full of fun.

Don’t want to stumble or to fall
But it’s okay … my dreams are small
Laughter and family and peace of mind
Spring sunshine and a breeze that’s kind.

I’m feeling hopeful, and wonder why
Could that be some blue, up in the sky?
The Robin nods in his knowing way
Promising good things on a Springtime day.

 

Trudging Through the Gray

I feel like I need to bring a duster with me today. Maybe one of those fluffy feather ones that are so big you wonder what bird could have possibly “donated” the building blocks for it. Or just a good, old, trusty Dust Buster. Love those guys. They get into all the corners and manage to give my dogs an excuse for an exhilarating round of excited barking, all at the same time. Gotta love a household appliance that multi-tasks. Anyhow, I can see the dust has piled up in my absence … and the “cobs” have begun to string their webs from the corners once more.

So … Where have I been? And what have I been doing? It has to be something big and wonderful and ginormously be-awesome to keep me away from this place, right? Something just short of miraculous, perhaps?

Oh, how I wish that were true. How I wish I could pop back in and say, “Hey, you guys!! I’ve been writing and writing and writing like a mad woman! And I’ve gotten SO DARN MUCH done on my book! And it’s almost finished!!!” And then I would get up out of my chair and do a little dance in front of my desk. The dogs would join in, even though they would have no idea why we were happy and dancing. They’re dogs; they’re happy all the time. And we would all dance and bark and laugh and be happy until I realized the cat was glaring at me in disapproval, which would immediately remind me to employ proper decorum. “Proper decorum”, in this instance, of course, consists mainly of planting one’s hiney firmly in one’s desk chair. No hopping or whooping or dancing about. It’s … unseemly.

Two Dogs. Both Furry. Both Silly. Both Fun.The truth, as often happens, isn’t nearly so bright. And it’s a lot less fun. As is typically the case when I am absent for an extended period of time, I’ve been struggling with some stuff. Winter has been hard, and my depression has not been kind. I’ve spent a lot of time just sitting around, staring at my computer … staring at the wall above my computer … staring out the window at my snow-covered yard … before sighing and giving in to that little voice that keeps whispering to me that a “Diagnosis Murder” power marathon is a fantastic idea. Just to give you an idea how many times my inner “I can’t do this” voice has won out, I’ve managed to watch all eight seasons of “Diagnosis Murder” in the last month. Yep. It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.

I had it all planned out to crawl back over to WordPress and dust off my blog over the weekend. It was time — not that I felt I had anything much to say, and not that I felt any more like being “present” in the world around me. But I got sick this weekend. I have a kidney infection, so I’ve probably been sick for some time without realizing it. These things don’t happen overnight — even though that feels exactly like how it happened. Anyhow, there’s something about feeling too weak and crappy to get out of bed and feeling entirely too nauseous to stay in bed that really takes away all one’s creative impulses. Even looking at text in a book or on the computer screen made me sick to my stomach. It was neither pretty nor fun. There was much whining involved.

dead rose with snow. because i'm feeling fatalistic

This most recent foray into the Depression-verse hasn’t all been bad or a complete waste of time. I’ve figured out some stuff about my book and about my writing and about myself. Not small things, either. Big things that feel important and weighty. I still don’t quite know what to do with these things, but they feel … real, somehow. I don’t know how else to explain it. I feel I need to write about these things. Ideally, to blog about them, but, failing that, at least to make journal entries about them. But, somehow, I can’t seem to make this happen. As real and important as these things feel to me, they also feel new and raw — a scab picked away from a healing wound. And I don’t know what to do about that or how to say it or how to make it all matter.

Still, there is hope in learning something new. It lurks at the bottom of the gray — that little, prickly feeling along my spine that tells me these things matter and reminds me I’m alive. There is hope in being able to sit quietly and stare at the wall. Maybe one day, there will be new thoughts and ideas, instead of this blank canvas of nothingness inside my head. There is hope in figuring out who I am, what I want, and where I want to be. There is hope in trudging through the gray.

 

The Ice Cometh …

So, how does that Christmas carol go? Something about, “Gone away is the bluebird … Here to stay is a new bird …”

One of my Well, I can tell you one thing, for sure: If the bluebird had been around yesterday, she would have been coated in ice.

So the snow from my last post faded away into oblivion. Did it, as expected, leave behind mud? Or grungy-gray slush? Oh no! Not this snow. This little snowstorm, apparently, had its “big girl pants” on, because our minuscule bit of snow melted away into ice. Not only that, but it brought along wind and freezing rain in order to put on one glorious show.

faded rose blossom covered in ice. dec 2013Yesterday morning, my hubby told me I should get up early-ish (if left to my own devices, I will choose to sleep in, every time), because there was “some ice out there”. He thought I might enjoy the photo opportunities. I have to admit I was more than a little bit grumbly about having to roust myself out of my warm and snuggly bed at the inhumanely awful time of 8:30 in the AM. (Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic there. This is an early time for me, but I realize it is not for most of the normal people out there in the world.) I thought to myself, “Why the heck am I bothering with this? It’s just a little bit of ice. What’s the big deal?”

icy trees and sidewalk in my neighborhood. dec 2013I was not mentally prepared for what I would see once I stepped outside my house. “Awe” seems so cliche and silly, but it is an apt description. Nearly every surface within view was coated in a thin sheet of ice. The early(ish) morning sunlight, although weak from filtering through heavy cloud cover, hit the high spots and seemed to sparkle and twinkle off the glassy coating. Each tree branch looked as if it had been dipped right into the stuff. They hung low and heavy toward the ground, burdened by the extra weight of their beauty. The last of the fall roses hadn’t escaped. Each one wore a new, shining decoration, as if Mother Nature had decided to  preserve each delicate blossom for us to enjoy through winter months that tend to be filled with brown and gray.

brown leaves in ice. dec 2013There is something eerie and unsettling about an ice-bound landscape. There is no noise. The birds and the squirrels are all hiding away, tucked in safe and warm, so the familiar, lilting songs and the rustle of the leaves are missing. It’s funny how familiar noises seem to make a hole in the world when they are no longer there. I hear the squirrels chasing each other through the leaves pretty much every single day; I get to the point where I almost don’t notice it at all. But then, when it’s not there … Well, the world is no longer complete. There might be a breeze, but the trees don’t bend and sway to its rhythm. They are too heavy and brittle. And so, everything seems still — but not a peaceful kind of stillness. This is more tense, as if the world all around me is waiting for something to happen. As if everything has paused to watch and wait for whatever comes next, and none of us know what that thing might be. It’s only when the breeze kicks up into a genuine wind that the trees move. Then, there is sound: the clicking of ice-bound branches as they strike against each other. It’s a small kind of music.

my mums in ice. dec 2013Today, there was more snow. It settled on the ground in fluffy drifts, softening the glistening, unforgiving brilliance of the ice. As the temperatures rose, it began to melt. Of course, the ice melted, too. Our streets are clear now, and this second round of snow has already turned to slushy mud in my yard and at the corners of the curbs.

All of which, of course, means that I have to return to the real world tomorrow. There will be muddy dog prints in the entry way and muddy boot prints on the carpet. There will be worries over how I will accomplish all the things I must do within the stingy amount of time allotted for them. I will wonder what to make for dinner. I will wish I didn’t have to cook dinner at all. I will go to the grocery store and on a field trip with my daughter. I will have to tackle cleaning out my over-stuffed office, because, apparently, the house-cleaning fairies are on strike this month. I will hate every second of it. I will put gas in my car. Everything will return to the comforting mundanity in which I live on a daily basis — in which we all live on a daily basis.

red berries in ice. dec 2013But, underneath all of that, I will remember that, for one magical moment, I stepped outside my house and walked through an entire world made of glass. When the boring reality of my life eats away at me and I want to scream out of frustration, I can close my eyes and see all of it there, right in my mind. I can remember the clicking of the tree branches and the way all the colors seemed brighter and more real than ever before. And I will know that, if we look hard enough, even “normal” can be something pretty special.