Thursday, October 24, 2013


So, here's (one of) the thing(s) that's been bugging me ever since I officially got my "Depressive disorder not otherwise specified" diagnosis.

How will I know when I'm better?

"Oh, you'll know.  One day you'll know," people tell me.  Y'know, just like they said I'd definitely know when I was in labor with BG.  Ahem.

"You'll feel like you again."

But which me will I be exactly?

Will I be the me that wore penguin socks and a fluffy pink tiara to teach Antigone to tenth graders and made everyone do spirit fingers every time they saw a tragic flaw?  Who pretended to be so sick I had to leave school when I had to meet with my principal to discuss an observation during which my eighth graders had been bouncing off the walls?  Who ate lunch in my classroom with crying students almost every day?  Who was overwhelmed by papers and ducked emails from parents wanting to know why that essay from January wasn't graded yet?  Who went to happy hour and talked about nothing but my students because I didn't know what else adults talked to each other about?

Will I be the me who lived in the tiny apartment with my grad student fiance, substituting to keep the bills paid, going to the library every week to get a new book to keep me busy?   Who made my own bread and salad dressing and ketchup and read The Tightwad Gazette cover to cover?  Who went to the gym and got a CSA vegetable basket and planned a wedding and didn't have any friends in the whole state of Indiana?

Will I be the me who read a book on the bus on my way back to my campus apartment so I didn't have to make eye contact with anyone?  Who made excuses and gracefully demurred when invited out for drinks by classmates and then regretted it?  Who stole a wet floor sign and ate too many chicken nuggets while watching Star Wars with her roommates on Valentines Day?  Who loved words and college and getting A's and wondered all the time if maybe she wasn't doing it right?

Will I be the me who stayed up way past when her parents thought she was asleep, scribbling bad poems with convoluted and paradoxical lines like "I can't see because of the light" which I thought were both fresh and deep?  Who did my friend's algebra homework in the cafeteria because I knew her mom had had chemo the night before?  Whose friends threw me a thank you party just for being me, and pitched in and paid for my yearbook when I didn't realize I needed cash?  Who skipped breakfast and lunch every day for years just because no one was telling me not to?

And the me who is sitting here right now, with my laptop in my lap, Daniel Tiger on the TV, a baby on my boob, a three year old wearing a candy necklace laying on my shoulder wonders what exactly it would even look like to be me again, knows that none of those things are things I could even go back to if I wanted to.  I just don't know who exactly I'll be.

Maybe I'll be someone better.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I am sitting on the floor with the baby.  She is holding on to the coffee table and cruising, but when she seems me sit down, she lets go, reaches for me and falls on her bottom.  She crawls over to me, climbs in my lap and pats my face.  Then she crawls back to the table, pulls herself up, lets go, and falls again, smiling.

My Big Girl is sitting at the kitchen table with a box of water colors and a sheet of scratch paper, patiently waiting for me to open the box and get her a cup of water.  "Please I paint, mommy,"  she says again and again, with a shorter pause and an increase in volume after each iteration.

We are all still in our pajamas at 10 in the morning on a Tuesday.  The two small ones have chest rattling coughs which seem to bother me far more than they bother them.

I kiss the baby, who has moved on to shaking a maraca with her entire body, and walk into the kitchen to help my artist.  I get her the water.  I open the box.  She sets to work.

There is a complete un self consciousness with which she creates, and yet it is not an effortless.  She is studiously bent over her painting, choosing her colors and her brush strokes carefully.  "It needs more orange.  It's not done yet."

I watch the colors swirl together, without any need to "be" anything to mean anything.

In the living room, my baby is both coughing and waving a drum stick like a conductor's baton, just for herself.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The truth is

Last night, BG and I rolled out homemade pizza dough.  BG stood on a chair in front of me, with my arms around her (and baby sister in the Ergo snuggled against my chest) our four hands on the rolling pin together.

"Roll, roll, roll your pizza, gently roll your pizza!  If you see a pizza, don't forget to roll it," she sang loudly.  My heart was practically overflowing with joy, laughter and pride.

The truth is, I'm kind of a rockstar.

In the morning, we'd gone to the Lego lab play center.  We'd played with her friends for an hour and I'd chatted with other moms.  I showed up and was really present.  I was vulnerable.  I told one of my friends about my doctor's appointment last week.  I admitted to the hard and celebrated the good, and we all had a good time.

We went to Chik Fil A for lunch and then to pick up prescriptions and groceries.  The girls fell asleep in the car on the way home.

The truth is, my kids are doing great.  The truth is I am getting the hang of this mom thing.  The truth is it felt really good to do things right.  The truth is I'm a little embarrassed to admit that such small things feel so big, but they do.

I went online while they were sleeping to catch up with my friends.  I found out some news that I didn't think would bother me but it did. I cried a little.  I vented.  I was immediately embarrassed about venting.  I wanted to disappear.

The truth is, I'm sensitive.  I'm easily hurt.    I cry easily.  I get left out.  The truth is, I've been feeling invisible and small and not good enough and like my words and my work don't matter.  The truth is I feel stupid for feeling this way, that I know that things like this don't define me, that I feel like I SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD know better, but the truth is it hurt.  The truth is I'm kind of a mess.

We ate the pizza off paper plates because I didn't want to unload the dishwasher.  I had beer with dinner because I forgot that I'm a weepy drunk.  I had a great time, laughed with my family and was present.  After dinner I cried some more and my husband raised his eyebrows at me and asked if I was sick.

The truth is I am.  And I'm not.  The truth is, I'm trying and it's scary and sometimes I get hurt.  The truth is that some of the feelings aren't real and that some of them are.  The truth is that none of this is simple, none of it is easy, and there's no reason to believe I'm supposed to get it all right or understand it all.  The truth is I like to analyze it, to think about it, to understand things and I'm not really interested in giving that up.

My kids are playing together with a laundry basket right now.  I'm drinking a second cup of coffee, and I'm writing and publishing even though I kinda feel like keeping all my writing on small slips of paper in a trunk in my attic and never leaving my house (and wearing a lot of white).    I don't want to care if anyone reads it or if it matters to anyone, but I do.  And I'm dark and I'm light and I'm good at this and I'm not, and my thoughts and feelings are what they are.

And that's the truth.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


By 3 in the afternoon, the best I can manage is lying on the floor with both kids with the computer off and one eye open.

The baby climbs on her big sister, and I hear my beautiful three year old cry out "I saaiiiiiiiid, NO BABY."   I don't remember "said" being three syllables before.

I pull both my children into my arms and onto my face, wondering briefly if I am in danger of being smothered.   My older girl giggles and says "Mommy, you have all the bears!"

I smile.  I hug.  I soften.  But I don't get off the floor.

Today Some days Most days I am tired.  Tired all the way to the core of me.  To my bones.  To my soul.  I want to lie on the floor, slump on the couch, take a nap that starts at 1 in the afternoon and ends some time around December.

I feel like I want to justify, to explain, to validate why I'm so tired.

Well, the baby woke up last night.

Well, we were out on the nature trail this morning.

Well, I did have company this weekend.

But you know what?  That's hogwash.  Poppycock.  Hooey.

I'm tired.  Because, well, I'm tired.  I'm a person who really likes sleep.  And rest.  And breaks.  Always have been.  And I'm tired.

And that urge to apologize for it, to say why I'm worthy of the tired is just me kicking the stuffing out of myself again.  Doubting.  Comparing.  Shenanigans.

So, you know what?

Dear, sweet working/stay at home/work at home mom of a newborn/toddler/teenager, I see you.  You're tired.  And I don't mean that in the way my MIL does when she tells me I look tired every time we Skype and it makes me want to reevaluate my establish a skincare regime.  I mean, hand on heart that I see you.  And you aren't whining.  You are tired.

And who the flipping freak cares why.

So let's all sit together at the same table and raise a huge glass of wine mug of Irish coffee and laugh together.  Cheers.  May we all get some rest.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The lens

Yesterday, my three year old napped.  Really napped.  I put her in her room, expecting singing and yelling and screaming for me, but after 5 minutes of chatting there was silence.

I peeked in, pushed her hair out of her sweet face, and kissed her on the forehead.

Then I went downstairs and did a little dance.  Then felt guilty about doing a little dance about being away from my charming little girl.  Then did another little dance.

While my mild mannered baby played by herself, I cleaned the kitchen.  Made a lasagna.  Tweeted a little.  Generally enjoyed the quiet.

Then I closed my computer and sat down on the floor.  The baby's tiny face lit up as she crawled onto me and nommed on my face a little.   She sat back on her knees and bounced three times, giggling, before reaching out and grabbing my arm.

She tugged on my arm and flipped my hand over, palm facing up.  She grabbed her Minnie Mouse doll and put it in my hand, grinning ear to ear.

"Thank you!" I cooed and signed, and she bounced up on her knees again, waiting for me to hand it back.


When I try to talk about it, it loses something.  The words don't capture the moment; there's no way to explain how joyful and sad and scary and important that tiny moment was.  It's impossible to write the palpability of the quiet, the way my older girl's absence was so tangible, the relief and guilt and longing that came with it.

I wonder how long I've been looking at my life through the lens of how to talk about it and finding it lacking.  My life feels boring, feels empty, feels devoid of meaning and purpose.

But it only feels that way *after.*

I wish I could save the world.  I want to do something important that matters.  I want to help people.  Sometimes when I hear about all the good things the people around me are doing, I feel jealous.  I feel sad.  I feel defensive and self conscious and embarrassed of my little life.

But my life right now isn't less for wanting those things.  I can be filled with longing and striving AND believe that I am doing what I'm supposed to do.  I can be filled with self doubt and want to do a better job at parenting AND know in my heart that I'm the perfect mom for my kids.  I can be smart and self aware and good at a lot of things AND be a total mess.  I can be brave and willing to keep putting myself out there AND be totally crushed and sulky about criticism (or worse about silence).

Both/And.  Always both/and.

But when I see my life through this lens of how to explain it to someone else, when I see it through trying to figure out what everyone else will think, it always loses something.  Loses layers.  By looking for the meaning, I lose truth.


This morning, I went to my doctor for my two month med check.  After the bro nurse weighed me in ("Don't worry, I'll take off three pounds for your shoes.  Trying to help you out.  I wrestled in high school."  ... What?)  and put notes on my chart ("So, is the Prozac helping you?  What I mean is, is it like making you less down?"  Ummm.  Sure.), I waited an hour in the quiet for my doctor to come in.  I waited without a phone or my laptop or even a book.  I waited while my husband was home with both kids and I didn't know what was happening, and I couldn't help or control or fix or take care of anything.  I waited.  And I laid back and stared at the ceiling.

Finally, she came in and we talked.  "I think if it's helping, but you aren't where you want to be, we should up the dose.  I know you don't want to.  But I think it will be okay."

And I know it will be okay.  And I know it's not okay.  And I know it's okay for it to not be okay.

There are always layers.  And even in my simple, boring life where there isn't much to say, there are always a lot of truths.  And I won't always get them all right.  And I don't need to defend or explain or apologize for or be congratulated for either of them.  It just is what is.

Sometimes I feel like I need to start over.  I need a new lens.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In which I babble about twitter

I had originally intended to write a really wise post today about how I focus too much on being productive and on everything I do - both with my kids and for myself - has to have an objective, purpose, tangible outcome.

But 1) I don't feel especially wise today and 2) Deciding to write *about* something always seems to be the death knell of that particular idea.  Just me?

So instead I'm just going to babble.  And call it "embracing my own imperfection."

Cool?  Cool.

I've been trying to be quiet on twitter lately.  This is not an all or nothing proposition for me.  I just need some boundaries and some space.  I think, for me, there are a few big dangers of being on twitter all the time.  First, I get needy and desperate to please.  I mean, I do that without twitter, but I can do it faster and more publicly with the extra platform.  Second, I get sucked in and waste all the time I could be using to bake cookies, play with my kids, or lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling.  (What?  It's productive.)  But third, and this is what I've been grappling with maybe the most, is that sometimes I feel like I use up all my words.

Deep down inside, I have a fundamental fear that I don't have anything to say.  That I don't have anything worth saying that anyone would want to hear.  It stops me from talking, it stops me from writing. But somehow, it doesn't usually stop me from tweeting.

Something about the 140 character limit makes me wittier.  Gives me snark that's not really mine.  Makes it so easy to condense my entire day into an extremely charming one-liner.  One that people like.  One that gets me pats on the head, giggles and retweets.

But I shouldn't be condensing.  I should be expanding.  I want to be taking the little things and fleshing them out into big things, seeing the nuances, sharing the meaning that emerges from the tiny details.  Instead I am squeezing it all into a tiny package, albeit a cute one, and then there is nothing left.

When I write in my journal or on my blog, I don't get used up.  I don't run out of things to say.  I get replenished, fed, built up.  I have more words, not less.

I need to say less to say more.  I think.

But I do really love twitter.  You think I'm cute and funny there.  And I'm not ready to give up being cute and funny.

So I guess it's all about balance in the middle ground.  As usual.  Dang it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Magic from within the chaos

I sit down on the couch, with my feet on the edge of the coffee table, my red marble notebook against my pen.  Slits of morning sunlight come in through the mostly closed blinds, which is good because BG is climbing on the glider to turn off the light so her dolls can sleep.

Baby sister is cruising around the coffee table with a smile on her face, grabbing everything that doesn't belong to her, ignoring the huge pile of baby toys around her feet.  I glance up from my book nervously, waiting for her to grab the toy that her sister is currently playing with.

I manage three more words before the screaming starts.  "No!  No, baby!  You can't play because you're a baby!"

And then my oldest daughter is repeatedly hitting my youngest daughter in the head with a wooden magnetic Melissa and Doug dress up doll.

"BG!" I yell without getting up from the couch.  "STOP!"

Everyone freezes.  The baby turns and looks at me as if to say "What the heck??"  before she starts to wail.

"It's mine, it's mine, it's not fair," trills my three year old, and I wonder for the millionth time how she got the exact wrong message from that Llama Llama book as I set down my pen so I can parent.  Again.

There was a time in my life when I used to write in coffee shops.  When I would bring a notebook and buy a latte and sit at a  table and just write for no reason. No goal.  No project.  Just me and the notebook and the pen, spiraling deeper and deeper into the idea the longer I sat with it.

That was before leaving the house meant pumping, prepping snacks, and coming home to a huge mess, two cranky children, and a crankier husband.

It was longer ago than that really.  It was before there was a kitchen to clean, work lunches to make, papers to grade.  Before there was a husband to snuggle with and watch TV at night.  Before there was anyone else who depended on me, who shared this life with me, who craved my presence.

It's not a time I wish I could go back to.  Really.

But sometimes, as I sip my reheated coffee, turn on Thomas, and try to position my notebook around my sleep nursing baby, I wish there was a way to reclaim that magic from within the chaos.

Linking up with Just Write

Monday, October 7, 2013

This is me showing up

So, lately I've, uh, been a little vulnerable up in here (up in here).

I'm not ashamed of it.  I know that it's courage.  I know that it's a good thing.  But for goodness sake, if I lived in that vulnerable place all the time, I'd lose my mind (up in here).

This is a problem for me.  Because I've decided that writing is Important.  Really important.  And I want to keep showing up and doing the work, even when it doesn't feel good.  I want to keep writing as if I don't care whether anyone is reading.  (Except I do care.  And I'm okay with caring.  So, uh, read it please.)

So.  In the interest of showing up and writing and being real and authentic, and also of keeping us all out of the pit of despair, here's some truth.

I'm having a cup of tea right now.

My baby can sign "more" and "all done," although the latter looks more like she's just raising the roof.

My big girl can spell and type her first name.   I didn't even think I taught her that.

I'm wearing jeans that I bought at Target without trying on, and they're really too big.

I mopped my kitchen floor today.

There are already strawberries on it again.

I brushed my hair and put on BB cream and lip gloss and mascara three days in a row.

Rutgers has a 4-1 record.  What?

Life has been happening and is pretty okay really.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Shhhh mama

It's 9 AM on a Sunday.  I am sitting on my couch with a blanket on my legs, a baby propped up on one shoulder, and my three year old nestled into my other armpit, her elbow occasionally jabbing me in the ribcage.  We are watching SuperWhy.

"Mommy, do I have bones in my wrist?  I have bones in my wrist.  They make me wiggle.  Wiggle wiggle wiggle!"

Wiggle wiggle wiggle.  Jab.

"Shhhh.   Watch the show honey."  Snuggle snuggle snuggle.

We've been up since 6:30.  Thank God for the TV amiright?


The monologue in my head goes kind of like this.

You watch too much TV.  

You should be reading to her, playing with her.  You're breaking her, you're letting her down.

You should be cleaning the house.  You should be folding laundry.  You've been up for 2.5 hours and you haven't accomplished a damn thing.  How can you complain that you don't have enough time and then sit on the couch with the TV on and the computer in your lap for 2.5 hours?

You should be changing the world.  Your friends are changing the world.  You need to do something that matters.  You don't matter.

You should be saying witty and charming and funny things online.  You should be coming up with wise and tender solutions to other people's problems.  You need to make people love you because otherwise, why on earth would they?

You shouldn't be online at all.  You should be able to unplug.  You shouldn't care what anyone thinks of you.  You are shallow and empty and needy and superlame and maybe addicted to the Internet.

The baby starts nestling into my tank top and I left my shirt to let her nurse again.  BG bumps her head against her sister's, and the little one starts giggling and unlatches.  I spray everywhere.

"Mommy, Baby Sister has milk on her head.  Why does she have milk on her head?"

It's 9:20 on a Sunday morning.  I've made milk and fed a person from my body.  I've changed diapers, poured cereal, cleaned up spilled juice.  I've watched Sesame Street and read three Olivia books.  I've put my feet up and been silent and sat with discomfort, both from the self doubt and the elbow in my ribs.

Shh, mama.  Just watch the show.  Snuggle snuggle snuggle.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The problem with

So the problem with pouring your heart out to strangers is that at some point they stop being strangers.  And they become People Who Really Matter.

And then suddenly instead of being really safe, every word you write is terrifying.  Is vulnerable.  Is going straight to the ears of people whose opinions of you are important, who you care about more than you're brave enough to readily admit.

And the day after you send those poor little words out into the world on their own, without being able to follow them and hold their hands and explain them and shield them from judgment, you have to look your friends in their virtual faces.  And you know that they've read it all, and you aren't sure if you're hoping that nothing has changed or that everything has.

Or maybe that's the best thing about it.

I haven't decided yet.

Friday, October 4, 2013

There you are

My dear sweet self,

So.  I've kind of been beating the crap out of you lately.  And I'm sorry about that.

I know you want to hurry up and be better already.  To just be at the end.  I know it's discouraging and frustrating and defeating.  You want to be smart, to be successful, to have fun.

That's valid.  All of it.  You're allowed to want that.

But here's the thing.

None of that is a prerequisite for your worthiness.

You are already okay.  You are already safe.  You are already enough.  In every. Single. Way.

I know you want to find yourself again.  I know that what you're most afraid of, deep down inside, is that you're disappearing.  That the part of you at your very core, the part that makes you special and unique, the part of you that is a real person and not "just a mommy" is gone.  I know that you're afraid that you aren't special, that you - the real and true you - doesn't matter.

It isn't true.

You've been looking for you in the wrong places.  You've been looking for you in the bottom of a bag of yarn, in a glass of wine, in a tube of lipstick, in games and jokes and manicures and playdates.  You've been looking in other people's places.

You just needed to look in the quiet.

Which is a scary place.   I know.

You are still there, where you always were.  And in your own words,
Part of you is still dark, and really always has been, and may always be a little bit, but really that’s okay.  What makes you dark is also deep and gentle and beautiful.  It makes you the person you are.
You saw it there once before.  And you believed it before.

I know you want to be better.  You want to be healed.  You want to be happy.

But the truth is, you need to love the you that is.   You don't need to fit into anyone else's mold of what it means to be okay.

You don't need to find you really because, at the core of you, you've never for a single moment been lost.

You've been so overwhelmed lately by the noise and the quiet.  You've been starving for validation.  You've been dancing and hustling and panicking, desperate to be seen.

I see you now.  I hear you.  You are enough.

With all the love in the world,


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Funkity funk

I'm kind of in a pit.

It starts with the darkness creeping in around the edges, with the sense that I can stay in control as long as I can, y'know, stay in control.

Except I can't.  Ever.

I'll have one day where I have a meticulously organized to do list, and I get to everything on it.  Where I have things for the kids to do at every moment of the day, an idea of what to redirect them to every time things start to falter.  My house will be clean.  My dinner will be super healthy.   I'll laugh at myself, but it will be the nervous laugh of someone who knows that things falling apart is the norm, that being successful is the anomaly.   I'll overperform and please and perfect my ass off, believing that if I can just keep it together I can, y'know, keep it together.

And invariably the next day will be a bust.

I will wake up and not want to get dressed.  Not want to get off the couch.  Leave the TV on for too long.  Stare at twitter for too long, waiting for someone to see me and validate me and fix me.  I will sink and spiral and feel totally overwhelmed and defeated and ashamed that I've been defeated, ashamed that I am unable to do anything, unable to do anything because I am ashamed.

I am on the outside of all of this looking in.  I see what I am dong.  I see it and I feel the darkness creeping in and I am pissed about it.  I am afraid.  I feel like a dumbass for doing this.

I feel bored.  I feel discouraged.  I feel tired.  I feel unfulfilled.  I need a break.  I need a hobby.  I need some intellectual stimulation.  I need a win or two.  I need to feel like I'm special, like I matter, like I'm appreciated, like I belong.

I don't want to hear that it's just my brain chemistry, that it's just the disease, that it's not real.  That's an oversimplification and it doesn't really get the facts right.  The truth is, we live, we sense, we interpret, and we process, and there are a million places that can break down before we get to the chemicals.  There are a million places I could be broken or wrong or completely right and that could be making me sad.  So to say "oh, all of that is just depression" reduces my entire world to a disease, and that kind of labeling is very shaming.

But what I know to be true is this.  I feel sad and overwhelmed.  I don't feel like that's right.  I don't believe I have a real reason to be overwhelmed by my very easy life.  I"m mad about this.  Mad at myself.  Mad at the world.  Mad at my imagined perceptions of other people's perceptions of me.

I'm in a pit, in a funk.  And I just want to find my way out.