Hiding places

I wish I could buy one acre of timber where I could just flop on the ground and look up at the trees and then I could stop skulking around the back of the Catholic cemetery to stare off into its woods.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think that’s how real estate sales work.

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Drowning on dry land

A couple of months ago the antidepressant I take started to quit working for me. My prescriber upped the dose once and then, a few weeks later, a second time. A few weeks after that, it became clear that it wasn’t just the dose that wasn’t working, but the medication itself.

Depression, in my case, is a nonstop inner dialogue about how awful and worthless I am and how much better my family and friends would be without me and hey, why don’t we cry about it for about eight hours a day and just sleep the other sixteen? And also, wouldn’t it be fun to obsess about regular everyday things that are not at all scary but have them ruin my every waking hour? No? Let’s do it anyway.

Fortunately, for people like me, there are a lot of medicines that help. Unfortunately, they take a while to work so increasingly, for the last few weeks, depression has been kicking my ass. Everything I do takes great effort even — or maybe especially — breathing. More than once, I have thought to myself, “If I could just stop breathing and close my eyes, it would all be so much better.” What helps is telling myself that the new medicine might work if I just give it time, if I just keep breathing.

So, I breathe and I move through life because I have kids who need me to keep moving. I cry, but not in front of them. I ask Eric constantly if he wants a divorce because I just know he’s stayed married to me out of duty and not because he loves me because he’s a good guy like that. Later, he assures me he’s not that good of a guy which makes me laugh a little and makes the next breath easier.

And then tonight, there was a breakthrough. While I was lying in my sleeping bag at family camp searching Reddit for “depression,” (not the best idea) someone who didn’t know any of this reached out to say impossibly kind things to me, among them how proud my mom would be of me and a part of me believed him. For a moment, I didn’t feel like an imposter.

All this is to say, if you’re suffering, you’re not alone. Please don’t give up, just keep breathing. Find a person or a medicine or something. There is help.

And if you have something kind to say, do it. You have no idea what a difference it might make to someone. (But not to me, because I will know you’re just trying to make me feel better, but for sure you should say nice things to other people.)

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Camp thoughts

When I was a kid, I went to camp every year and every year I spent the entire week thinking about if one of the boy campers would kiss me.

I was not a very deep kid.

Anyway, no boy at camp ever kissed me. In fact, no one kissed me until I was almost 16 so I wasted A LOT of time at camp thinking about things that were YEARS off.

But now, in my forties, I’m at family camp with Eric and the kids and there is a guy that will kiss me and it turns out he’s way cuter than any of those other boys from way back when.

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I don’t cry.

I mean I cry all the time at commercials and viral videos and meaningless stuff like that. But the big, real stuff doesn’t usually make me cry. Last week, I met with my oncologist to discuss beginning chemo. There was blood work, a somewhat nauseating talk with the chemo pharmacist about the side effects, and MRI scans set up for today. None of that, including talking about losing my hair (or my lunch on a regular basis) made me cry.

But this morning, I am crying.

My kids, Claudia especially, are having a hard time lately. At nine, she is grappling with what it might be like to lose a parent (not that I plan to be lost). She lies in bed suddenly feeling that she is “really here” and imagining what death will feel like. She is teary all the time and wants to fall asleep next to us like she did as a toddler.

So we talk. A lot.

We talk about fears and medicine and statistics and death. We talk about all the people who love her and our plans for the summer. We run fast trying to fill our time with cones on “free ice cream day” and family movie nights in hopes that the good things will crowd out the bad stuff. We make calls to teachers and therapists and we hug. We hug a lot.

And then, after they’ve all gone to school for the day, I sit on the couch, bring up some internet video, and cry for a minute because I can’t fix this for them and because later, when I’m in the MRI, and tomorrow, when I head to oncology, I will be brave. I will push through. And I will not cry.

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One short sleep past

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Mommy,

Twenty-four years.

You’re gone and I almost can’t remember what it felt like to have you here. I miss you often, although less the further I get from seventeen and the more my life becomes totally unrecognizable from the time we were last together.

I am sorry to say that I miss you most when I am sick or scared because that seems selfishly about me. But when I am lying in a hospital bed in the dark I imagine you crawling in bed beside me and brushing the hair from my forehead. I imagine hiding my face in your chest and closing my eyes. I imagine feeling safe and not having to be the one who makes unwinnable decisions. I see you in me as I lie in bed with my own, sweet littles when they are sick or scared, when I brush the hair away from their foreheads and snuggle them in close. Someone once loved me with the same fierceness that I love these three, and knowing that makes all the ways in which I am not loved less sharp.

Other times, I imagine you all around me. When I am having frank discussions with the kids about growing up I see my own uncomfortable face as you talked with me, but I also see how those conversations have served me well. When the house is full of laughter I think how happy I am that they are having happy childhoods like I did because the humor will serve them as well as the talks.

I daydream sometimes about you showing up at my door suddenly. How would I introduce you to everything: my marriage, your grandchildren, smartphones? Ugh, smartphones. You wouldn’t believe how things have changed.

Today, on the anniversary of your death, I remember what it felt like to lose you. I remember the fear that you would go and how hard it was to dare take a breath because each moment seemed closer to the end. I worry that I will do that to my children. I have set them up to love me so and I will leave them someday, probably before they are ready. With guilt, I remember that there was some relief that mixed with the pain, and I imagine that they will feel that too.

I have tried to piece together the very best of who you were –and you were wonderful– into the puzzle of who I am. There are kind, compassionate pieces, funny and irreverent ones along with my own good and bad pieces. There are the huge pieces of unconditional love which I felt growing up, but didn’t really understand until I was a mama myself.

I don’t believe in Heaven or reincarnation, but I like the idea that each generation moves toward something better. You worked to give me what you didn’t have. We talked endlessly with no subject off limits and I have passed that on. Maybe in the way that I no longer have to worry about Polio, future generations of “us” won’t have to worry about being caught off guard by growing up the way you did because no one talked about such things. Maybe my descendants won’t need the approval of their spouse or others quite as painfully as I do. Maybe someday the puzzle will come together perfectly, the good pieces from previous generations carried along, the bad ones discarded. Maybe within the borders of that frame will be you holding me close, my boundless optimism, your mother’s strength, my childrens’ humor. Maybe.

I have worked hard to live a good life. I have tried to be kind, to be happy, to enjoy the time as I have it because I knew that you didn’t have as long as you would have liked. In the end, I might not get much more than your forty-three years, or maybe I’ll live to one hundred. Either way, I know it was a good life. I enjoyed almost all of it and I deeply loved the people I shared it with.

I hope you felt that way too.

k.

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Super hero

Will is playing a game where he is a superhero. He said his particular super power is putting food in the ovens of people who don’t have any.

He said it’s really hard because he had to be fast. “If they don’t like what I put in there, I have to go super quick to change it into something they do like.”

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The time before us

This song just came on the radio from the summer I was 17. That summer I was newly orphaned and newly with Eric and I spent a great deal of time worrying: Would we work out? Would life workout? Would I work out?

So, the song comes on the radio, and I can feel it in my chest, how terrible it felt to not know how things were going to turn out. And I want to go back there and tell 17-year-old me, “You’re not gonna believe how great things will be. Enjoy this moment, it will be gone before you know it. Relax more. Breathe more. It’s all going to be okay.”

Which made me wish that a 20-something-year older me would come back in time when I am asking Eric, “Will I walk again? Will I? Will I?” and tell me, “You’re not gonna believe how great things will be. Enjoy this moment, it will be gone before you know it. Relax more. Breathe more. It’s all going to be okay.”

Oh, maybe she just did.

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