Monday, November 24, 2008

Thinking Inside the Boxes

I think one of the perils of reading about bipolar disorder is that I start to wonder if I have it.  I think my brother and I both worry about this, that we somehow have it running in our blood, because there seems to be a long family history of undiagnosed "problems" that for most of our lives were chalked up to personality quirks but that now, in this age of diagnosis, seem to form some sort of disturbing pattern.  I'm trying to take comfort in the fact that I may have some of the symptoms of bipolar but that my coping mechanisms and levels of functioning are pretty high.  I mean, I'm doing okay, as my Grandpa Homer would remind me.  Still, one wonders...

And things are going okay, as long as they remain organized in the boxes in my head.  If I can keep the Idaho crisis in the Idaho crisis box, and my home life in its box, and my work life in its box, and spirit in its box, then I do okay.  But if I'm at unchurch and I find myself praying for my mom and dad:  weepsville.  If a co-worker/friend asks about them or about "how I'm doing":  weepsville.  If Addie asks about her Nana:  weepsville.

That's a lot of weepsville, because of course nothing stays in its box the way it's supposed to.  Sometimes the crying is cathartic, but most of the time it's painful and exhausting.  My throat feels raw from choking back sobs, and after an episode I feel like I could sleep for days.  A bit of depression, I'd say.  See paragraph #1.  Worry, worry, guilt, guilt.  Worry, worry, guilt, guilt.  The rhythm of things.

The biggest trigger, though, is when I tell myself about what I'm going through:  mom doing x, dad feeling y, Eric saying z.  My life is one big, dramatic after-school special.  All of this just feels too, too big when looked at all at once.  If I can focus on one thing at a time, allow in moments of grace and peace, I'm okay.  If I try to make sense of it all together, collapse.

But there's lots holding me up.  Eric.  My kids.  My friends.  My family.  Work.  Spirit.  Routine.  There's lots holding me up.  One step at a time, as they say.  One box at a time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

E to the Rescue

I just had such an urge to subscribe to a parenting magazine.  Wondertime, to be exact, because one of my favorite mama writers, Catherine Newman, writes for them and recommends it.  So it must be good.  But subscribing to too many magazines stresses me out.  I don't like how they pile up, waiting to be read.  And (speaking of mental illness) I'm the kind who must read one from cover to cover, so the pressure is excruciating.  Right now, we have subscriptions to Rolling Stone, Orion, and my new-agey unchurch mag Science of Mind.  One of my bestest, loveliest friends also gave us a sub to Paste last year, but it is too stressful to be believed.  Every page has a short article on it, so reading it from cover to cover is truly daunting.  I need long narrative threads.  Paste is not long narrative threads.  I also get the feeling, like with Bust, that I really am not cool enough or young enough to be reading that shit.

Eric gets Scientific American, but I do not believe he reads it.  I could be wrong.

Speaking of Eric, here is something you should know about him:  he performs heroic deeds on an almost daily basis, including putting up with yours truly.  Here's an example:

The night before I left for the Idaho debacle, the weather report suggested it was going to get freezy and breezy, as Addie might say, with a chance for snow.  E had a migraine and had gone to bed at 8:30.  Actually, he always goes to bed at 8:30, but that's beside the point.  I also had tried to tuck in early so I could get up for the early morning flight.

Anyhoo, at about 10:30, I hear a big old thump right outside our sliding glass door, and the tinkling of kitty-collar bells.  Turns out Mei-Mei, the family serial-killer, had escaped to the great outdoors, no doubt to catch and kill as many birds and small rodents as she possibly could in a two-hour period.  Being an extraordinary climber, she managed to vault herself from one of our trees onto the master balcony.  I got up to let her in, and when I did, I heard other kitty cries, way off in the distance.  I recognized them instantly as the nails-on-chalkboard meowhines of Sadie, our fat, slightly-retarded old cat.

For some reason, I started to call her to come, Sadie, Sadie.  Of course, Sadie is not an extraordinary climber, so who knows why I was calling her to come in from the balcony.  I finally figured this out and headed downstairs in my jammies to open the back door.  It was freeeeeeezing outside and I forgot to put my glasses on and so could see nothing and was so cold.  Calling Sadie, Sadie.  Still she wouldn't come.

Finally I ventured into the blurry night calling Sadie, Sadie, and she's still going with that awful meow of hers and I get all the way to the back fence and notice, oddly enough, that the meowing is now coming from above me.

Sadie, the cat who has trouble climbing the freaking stairs, had actually climbed to the near-top of a fifty-foot tree.  My guess is she got scared up there by our friend's dog, who had paid us a visit earlier in the evening.  Either that, or she got air-lifted up there by a giant crane.  Either one.

I still didn't have glasses on, so all I could see was a giant mewing blob up there in that tree.  Still calling Sadie, Sadie.  Bitch WILL NOT come down.  Tramp back inside, cursing, cursing, wake up poor Eric with the migraine, tell him you're not going to believe this.  Poor Eric gets out gigantic extension ladder, cursing, cursing, climbs to the top of that ladder, stands on tippy-toe, wrests Sadie from the tree (she had completely sunk her claws into the branch) and brings her back down to safety.

"You owe me big-time," he says. 

He hates that cat.

He is my hero.

But I still don't think he reads Scientific American.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The King of All Bad Ideas

Well, in the history of bad ideas, my idea of going to Idaho last weekend ranks up there.  Waaaay up there.

It seems that simply the mere specter of my arrival in Idaho triggered mom into manic behavior for the past few weeks, behavior I think I had picked up on over the phone but which wasn't completely clear to me until I arrived.  In fact, dad and my brother had been telling me she was doing better.  And, in some respects, she has been doing better.  Very active, engaged in projects around the house, lost a bunch of weight, even being pleasant at times.

But then I entered the picture, and for a number of reasons that are really hard to explain, she reacted strongly to me, and in a bad way, and I ended up coming back to Denver early after some very nasty scenes at the house that I won't detail here because they're terrifying and shameful and pitiful and sad for everyone in my family.

I guess the gist is that I don't think she ever really got better since August.  I think she was able to maintain enough to resume a normal-looking life, and is incredibly skilled at acting her way through certain situations (especially in doctors' offices), but on the whole I don't think she's well.  Maybe not even remotely well.

And the fact that I seem to make her worse does not bode well for our relationship.  It doesn't bode well for my kids' relationship with their grandparents.  And I can't even begin to think about what this means for my dad, who is dealing with a pretty serious diagnosis of cancer, which he is entering into with lots of optimism and fight but which is made a lot tougher by the other fight, the one with/by/for my mom.

I'm pretty much in a daze, having crazy flashbacks of the surreal and violent moments of the weekend, having trouble concentrating, wondering what the hell happened, what will happen.  It's so overwhelming.  I feel guilty, sad, angry, you name it.  I'm having trouble accessing compassion, wisdom, and perspective, and I feel like I desperately need all three right now.  But maybe I'm just not ready.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Locating your wherewithal

Maybe part of the reason I've had a hard time writing lately is because there's just so much psychic space bound up in all this stuff with my mom, and it feels especially hard to write about being a mom when all of that's going on. 

But here we are, at the day.  Tomorrow I get on the plane to head to Idaho, and to experience some new family dynamics.  Do I even need to write that I'm scared?  That part of me doesn't want to go?  That another part of me does, and knows I must?  You know the drill.

And still life goes on.  Addie is now 44 inches tall, but still only forty pounds, an absolute string bean, like her old man.  She is going through a completely snotty phase right now, one where she answers "I know!" exasperatedly to everything we say.  I didn't expect that at 4 1/2.  It helps that it's mixed in with moments of complete tenderness, and with watching her absolutely blossom--having rich friendships, expressing herself through extraordinary artwork.

Oh, and she's reading!  Full-fledged reading.  She takes a book to school everyday--usually of the Dr. Seuss variety, her favorites--and her teachers tell me she practices the book to herself a few times, smooths out the rough patches, and then organizes impromptu storytimes with her classmates.  Lord.

And Nolie--what's to say about Nolie?  She is roly-poly delicious.  She is huggy and kissy and full of "mama-I-love-you-SO-much" every other minute.  When she's not "I can do it myself," that is.  She is exuberant and smart and sassy and resilient, and still has just enough baby fat that we fool ourselves into thinking maybe, just maybe, she's not growing up too fast.

She's also having ear infections like Addie did, so next week when I get back, it's a call to the ENT for tubes.

I miss them.  I can't wait to come back and take some days off for the holidays.

That means the end is in sight with this crazy, loop-the-loop semester.  I got nominated "Outstanding Faculty" by some student group on campus--cool, huh?  And then I was also a teacher in a class that dive-bombed like the Hindenberg.  What can you do?  You win some, you lose some.  They love you, they hate you.  Some days you're on, some you're not.  Still you get up in the morning, take your big deep breath, suck down the coffee, and off you go again.

Or maybe not.  Maybe you take some time to look at the light reflecting off the gray branches of the trees out your window, wiggle your toes.  You breathe in and out a few more times, sat-nam, sat-nam, and you remember that there is something to you other than what you do and look like and say and accomplish.  Some days you find the wherewithal to do that instead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Objects in MIrror

I was pulling out of the garage yesterday, taking Nolie to the doctor for what turned out to be a wicked ear infection, and happened to completely remove the passenger side mirror from the subaru by driving too close to the garage door opening.

I'm choosing to interpret this as a small sign from the universe, a tap on the shoulder, that this whole walking around semi-conscious thing is no good.  I can't go around shearing safety equipment off of automobiles all willy-nilly, right?  And I've been feeling depleted and sad and angry, right?  So something has to change.

I'm thinking meditation.  I haven't been to unchurch in weeks.  I've been having a ton of insomnia, busy-busy thoughts cranked up to full-throttle.  Battling the urges to control and be responsible for every little thing.  Ego in over-drive.

Things got crazy at work and with my family and so I think I figured I didn't have time for meditation, for the spirit.  It was more important to canvass for Obama or grade papers.  But that's a straight path to burnout, clearly, and the take-away is that the rest of my life doesn't work without spirit at the center.

More small changes.  I'm going to start blogging again, and doing yoga at night.  And letting some thing not get done, and trusting that other things will get done, and just re-centering.

I'm glad this happened before leaving for Idaho Friday.  I think I will need to be my centered self then, for sure.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm here

I'm here
I'm here

I've been contemplating what to do with this blog.  Keep up with it?  Let it just slowly fade away?  Start a new one?  I'm stalled out.

Today, I'm sleepy and emotional after last night.  Like everyone else I talked to today, I spent  hours sobbing and sobbing in front of the t.v. screen, watching "that one" deliver the speech, feeling freed from eight years of anger and frustration and shame.  Today I feel wobbly and unsure, hardly daring to believe things might be different, but deeply and profoundly grateful that they are. 

But, to be honest, I'm also dealing with the fact that not everything is different.  My mom is still sick, my dad is still sick.  I'm sitting here wolfing down soup in front of my monitor, trying to rally enough enthusiasm to teach a class tonight that has been nothing but draining and frustrating for most of the semester.  Dealing with the fact that I work in an organization dominated by aging men who are charming and smart and also manipulative and power-hungry.  I'm tired of fighting them and defending myself, and wondering if I'm the one who is nuts.  I'm trying to make sense of twelve-hour days, and of leaving Addie crying in her preschool classroom because she's worn out and misses me, too.  Wondering--not a lot, maybe not in a real way, but wondering--if there isn't something wrong with the choices I've made in life.  And then, I'm worried it doesn't make that much of a difference.

Basically, I've got the its-almost-the-end-of-the-semester-but-got-five-more-weeks-of-slogging-through blues.  I'm tired, and I'm cranky.  And I'm not supposed to be either on a day such as this.

So, there you have it.  Now I bet you're wishing I hadn't posted.