Joy over Drudgery

The three of us stared at the idling bus like zombies.

We’d managed to get our children onto it in time, but that – and being upright – were about our only accomplishments this morning.

One didn’t feel well.  One was loopy from the stress of final exams.  I was feeling the effects of a 4:45 wake-up call from my churning stomach.

My husband had already told me to take a nap given my chipper demeanor, but seeing that I wasn’t the only mother not feeling it this morning made me feel a little better.

We all have our reasons, right?

We all walk around on any given day with shit in our eyes, chips on our shoulders, hearts on our sleeves.  The stench of puke in our nostrils.  The laundry pile that threatens to overtake our youngest.  The dirty dishes that make any amount of counter space seem minuscule.  The pile of outgoing Thanksgiving decorations next to the tote of incoming Christmas decorations.

Our worries, our fears, our subconscious thoughts that come out in biting words and bouts of disconnectedness.

We’re all too freaking busy.

And why?

Could we do with less stuff?  Own less clothing?  Schedule less things?

All those must-dos are not things we must have to live – at least not enjoyably.

I think in this season of quiet pinpricks of light amidst a world of darkness, it’s time to take stock of what we really value in our lives – and make time for those people, traditions, ways of being.  We must fan the flames of our hearts and exude joy among the drudgery.

flame-candlelight-burn-candles-christmas-advent

pd4pic.com

And if you’ve got any tips on how to do that, let me know 😉

Driving Blind But in the Moment

[Writing is] like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
– E.L. Doctorow

A few summers ago, I sat in a writing workshop with the inimitable Kelly Easton that unexpectedly turned into a therapy session – perhaps most unexpectedly for her.

We’d been given an exercise to write a scene from our work in progress from the point of view of a secondary character rather than our protagonist. I love Ant. He’s so fun to write. His humorous and outrageous comments flow from a place that’s cheesy and cathartic at the same time. So he was my target voice.

When I read back my piece to Kelly and the others for feedback, she said she loved the energy and spontaneity of the beginning, but that lessened as it went on. It was, she said, as if I didn’t trust his voice, myself; that rather than letting the story go where it would, I clicked on that control switch, molding the plot to the overall plan I had in mind. That I was afraid to relinquish control.

The critique hit me like a ton of bricks. Not because she was wrong. Not because I can’t take criticism (at least from a trusted source 😉 ). But because Kelly’s critique applied to my entire life – not just my work in progress.

How often do we follow some preordained plan rather than functioning within and through the essence of our being? How often do we tick off the to-dos to achieve a goal rather than burning and glowing with the initial desire for it? How often do we rein ourselves in rather than galloping exuberantly forward?

For what?

Unless we’re acting recklessly, we will not crash. There’s a fair distance between joy and mania. Why are we so afraid to inhabit our joy? Are we afraid to feel it in advance of our perceived loss of it?

What’s the worst that could have happened in my story? Anthony would’ve surprised me? Would’ve taken the plot in a new and exciting direction? The writer me could’ve certainly looped him back around to my original story – or marvelled at an even-better blossoming of the plot.

The same applies to life. Long ago, a wise friend reminded me that when your dreams haven’t come true or prayers answered, perhaps it is because God has something even better in store for you. We need not see further than our headlights illuminate. Stubborn human nature makes us want to, but it’s not necessary to survival and success – and certainly not to our happiness.

Happy Mother’s Day?

images

I’m trying really hard to make today’s post about mental health; something full of knowledge, experience, resources. But I also feel that, in chronicling my journey toward mental health – that is, out of depression – many of my posts have been depressing themselves. On this banner day of Mother’s Day, I feel like I should be all full of flowers and fairy dust.

I’m laying in bed, exhausted, freezing from the night sweat my hormones gifted me, snorking from an allergy attack that will most likely turn into a sinus infection, listening to the rain steadily thrum the window above my head.

And yet, I returned from the bathroom earlier to find two of my daughters lined up, positively vibrating with the creative joy they couldn’t wait to unleash in the form of scrolls and paintings and cards. The best gift, though, was my five year-old shaking and giggling, burying her head in my lap when I told her how much I liked her portrait of me. Her pride, her modesty, her shyness, her beatitude. My eyes welled up – and I realized Mother’s Day could end right there and I’d be whole.

It is the unexpected joy that is the best – especially in the midst of struggle. It is most certainly unexpected then, and therefore, even sweeter. As acute as the suffering is, the joy is crystalline clear.

I realize that life continues on a parallel, sometimes intersecting, track with depression. It cannot be separated out. But it also cannot crowd out all positive experience. Life happens despite it. Even happiness and poignant moments can happen in spite of it.

So Happy Mother’s Day. May you have a bright spot in the midst of your trials.

Paradox

Snow on lilac blooms
Snowflakes on lilac buds

Melting on the green back of the sandbox

Sunshine shower

Birds chirping, snow falling

Springtime in New England

spring snow

My daughter wanted to set up the sandbox today.  She’s been asking to hang the birdhouses outside for a month now.  She and her older sister roller skated in the sand lining the edge of the road.  She finally gave up when it started snowing.  It’s springtime now, but the scene outside the window doesn’t look like it.

With an early release from school, I declared it a day to run around the backyard like nuts.  My three year-old was the only one with me.  I don’t waannnnnna go outside, said the eight year-old.  Can I have a snack first, asked the five year-old.  Belly full, she’s the one that hatched all those vernal equinox-inspired plans.  She has a very real sense of injustice.  When she awoke the first day of winter and saw no snow on the ground, she was pissed.  And now?  No Easter decorations up even though there’s snow on the ground?  What’s up, Mom?basket of snow

The snow today actually had my back, though.  The first flakes floated to the ground mere minutes after her latest protestation about an empty sandbox.  One good thing about a schizophrenic mood change on Mother Nature’s part.  And one that I should be able to appreciate given my latest post!

There really should be nothing bizarre about snow showers two days into spring, though.  Just because the calendar says it’s spring, doesn’t mean that we should wake up one morning to instantly green grass and gardens abloom.  Two days ago it was winter.  Two days ago snow was de rigeur.  The passing of seasons is a gradual progression.  Leave it to humans to expect instant results.  Leave it to us to restrict the moving of the days in tiny boxes on a calendar and expect the weather to follow suit.

It was bizarre, though, to hear the symphony of birds gearing up for spring as the snow fell.  They were a twitter with nest-building, bug-hunting, flit-flying from tree to tree.  They seemingly paid no mind to the fat, wet flakes flying around them.  Maybe I should take a page from their book – rejoicing in the expectation of spring, knowing it’s coming, instead of lamenting the fact that it’s not here yet.  There is beauty amidst the cold and dark.  And there is the promise of warmth and light at the other end of it.

%d bloggers like this: