Portal

It is the opening that calls to us:

the doorway,

the gap in the stonewall,

the bend in the road that beckons.

The possibility, the new chance

For discovery, excitement, beauty,

the unknown –

but in a wholly rosy glow on the horizon

And we step through

A Change in Me

I was totally on my game last night.  I mention it because it is so not me.  I was laughing, telling jokes, comfortable, making comments without much worrying about what people would think of me.  In other words, I was my authentic self.  Not insecure, not worried, not painfully self-aware.  And there were times throughout the night when I realized this and took note; not quite like an out-of-body experience watching it from afar, but my insecure or irrational or timid mouse inner self noticed and was pleasantly surprised.  And then I tried to tell her to go away, to enjoy it for what it was worth, to follow this relaxed, uninhibited self however far she would go.  Not to jinx it, second-guess it, scare her away with too many self-checks and ruminations.  And now I think of the Halloween party we went to last Saturday.  My kindergartener was invited to a classmate’s family party.  Their neighbors were there, family members, other classmates and their families.  Walking in to a crowd of ‘strangers’ was a bit daunting, but surprisingly only a little.  A playmate’s mom soon walked up and introduced herself.  I found the host’s mom and introduced myself.  I sought out other classmates’ parents.  I told jokes.  I talked to strangers.  I initiated conversations.  I was so not me.  But then, I said to my husband, I was on my game.  Because that is me – part of me, anyway.  The part that is uninhibited, comfortable in her own skin, totally inhabiting the spacious self that is she.  My authentic self.

Is it this place?  Is it the excuse, the opportunity of a change in place to make things happen, to reinvent myself?   Because I could’ve done all these things in my former home.  But I didn’t.  Was it the memory and residual trauma of postpartum?  Was it the repression of people who knew me from way back when, when I was a certain way?  Was it the familiar that I began to blend into?  I was scared.  I was stuck.  Now I’m free.  I don’t know if it’s the physical space that now surrounds us that is freeing us; the mental space that in turn affords (if you believe if in the elements of Feng Shui); the need to ground ourselves and make connections since we don’t have any.  But life seems to be shaping up.  And me right along with it.


Liminal and Beyond

“The Waiting Place . . . [a most useless place]

for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to come or go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

 

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.”

As I was waiting for the will to write a positive blog entry today, these lines from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go rang through my head.

I’m waiting.  For the end of PMS.  For the washing machine to finish its cycle.  For an expected tradesperson to show up.  My husband to come home from work.  My children to stream up the stairs and into the corner in which I’m hiding (which took one more line of typing, by the way).  For this new place in life to feel ‘normal’, to reach some sort of stasis.

Well into On Moving by Louise DeSalvo now, I’ve read about “liminal life – the life that is neither here nor there . . . These difficult-to-live-through interstices, I’ve read, are necessary for growth: the psychic spaces where the old self is shed and the new one begins to develop (DeSalvo 72).

A few weeks ago, I said that I felt I could become my authentic self in this house.  I didn’t realize how much the move would shake things up though – both our physical possessions and my own psychological foundations.  Everything can’t feel just as it did in the other house, though, because then I’d fall into familiar routines and frustrating ways of being.  Now’s the chance to fix things that are broken.  Discard things that are hindrances.  Create new ways of living and doing and being that improve our life, not just get us through it.  I wouldn’t have done that in the comfortable nest of my other home.

On the flip side, I cannot ignore the pieces of myself that will remain no matter where I am, those rituals that will follow and sustain me wherever I go.  DeSalvo said, “I’ve been waiting to ‘settle in’ before I start writing.  But writing will help me ‘settle in’.” (DeSalvo 88)  Just as there are certain beloved objects that will travel from home to home and comfort with their mere presence, so must I make time to practice these rituals that will soothe me.

I cannot wait for everything in my home to be set up perfectly before I roll out the yoga mat.  I cannot avoid writing until the perfectly appointed writing desk sits in its nook.  I cannot avoid ‘living’ while I run through my unpacking/set-up list.  If I ignore those foundational elements of myself that will indeed make anywhere I live a home, the window of liminal time will close and this chaos will become my life.

No more waiting.

This is not ‘the waiting place’.  These are the living rooms.  This is home.  It’s time to start feeling it.

No Salt in this Wound

There really is no point to a saltine – except for the salt, of course.

For some reason, as many other kids, I loved them when I was little.  I think it had more to do with trying to stand it upright in between my top and bottom teeth or shoving it in my mouth in one bite rather than any great gastronomic pleasure.  I didn’t return to them until I carried whole sleeves of them around with me during my bouts of morning sickness three times over.  That’s the telltale sign of a pregnancy, isn’t it?  The white, crinkly cellophane pulled open at the seam, the stack of perfectly pointed squares cascading out into the open, and hopefully, into your belly to quell the ravaging beast that threatens to ruin every waking moment – not just those in the morning.  A friend’s mother says that she hasn’t touched a saltine since her pregnancy over thirty years ago.  I can’t say I blame her.  It is not a pleasant connotation when that’s your last memory.

So, imagine my surprise, when I found myself chowing down on them as I rushed to an appointment in the car.  So light and insubstantial, I was flying through the sleeve with reckless abandon – actually just savoring the salt and waiting for some sort of gratification from the mush that the enriched flour had turned to in my mouth.  I had bought them for the kids, but running late and low on fuel, I needed a quick and easy – if not satisfying – snack.

After I’d downed a quarter of the sleeve, the sharp bite of the salt searing into my tongue, I realized what I was doing.  I was eating saltines!  After a miserable last pregnancy, I avoided at any costs anything that reminded me of those memories that made me shudder.  I gave away all my maternity clothes with great aplomb.  I threw out the sitz baths and lanolin left in the house.  A wicked pack rat, I even sorted through and shredded all paperwork from the hospital.  Saltines fell into this category.  I didn’t fling them out my window, a crazed cracker hail sending birds flying, I just didn’t even think of pulling a box off the grocery store shelf.

In one conversation with my therapist in that first year of recovery, I explained how I felt as if I were grieving a death.  I marked each familiar date, each holiday, each anniversary of some hard memory – noting it, like the rung of a ladder I had to climb to get up and out of this hole.  ‘Okay, I’ve made it past that one,’ I’d say.  I’d survive one set of negative memories at a time and start to wipe them away with new ones.

It wasn’t easy and I knew I wasn’t suffering the same grief as someone who had actually lost a loved one, but, as my therapist so astutely pointed out, I was suffering a loss – the death of my life as I had known it.  Things were totally – in some ways, irrevocably – different.  It was time to move forward with the positive and with this new knowledge and see what would happen.  Life certainly wasn’t over – it was just different.

As was the action of eating a saltine.  I wasn’t a kid crushing one into my mouth as I cavorted on the beach with my parents.  I wasn’t a desperately nauseous woman at the mercy of her upset stomach (and those damn hormones).  I was an adaptable survivor who could do simple tasks again without the crippling connotations once associated with them.

Saltines have never tasted so good.

The Next Step

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  – Lao Tzu

My first step was recognition.  Recognizing the fact that something was not right.  Then stepping through the door of my therapist, nearly two years ago to the day.  Accepting the fact that I suffered from postpartum depression.  Asking for help to make things right.

And with her help, I did begin to make things right.  I began to relish those Tuesday evenings when I would give Angela her nighttime feeding and hand her off to Daddy, kiss the other two on top of their heads, and head out the door.  In the waiting room, sometimes I’d get fifteen minutes to myself to collect my thoughts, jot down ideas in the notebook I’d all but deserted in the bottom of my bag, or – gasp – read a mindless magazine.  She even joked with me once about how early I’d arrived: “Need some quiet time?”  I told my mom that it was nice to just have someone to listen.  “How sad is it that I have to pay someone to do that?” I quipped.

But my mother completely understood.  I’d put her in the selfsame shoes thirty years earlier.  A mother, a woman, most times comes last on her list of obligations.  Doing laundry, changing diapers, wiping noses, reading stories, making lunches, making love – there is no time to even think about what would please you, let alone do it.  So an hour of sitting still and talking someone’s ear off about my problems – that was well worth the $35 co-pay.

And unlike other pursuits outside the home, say ladies’ night or a yoga class, there was no guilt attached to this.  I was not choosing time away from my children.  I had to do this or I would go out of my head.  I needed healing and she was my practitioner.  So for someone who was already feeling like a bad mother, this was the perfect escape.

In fact, I even called my car the escape vehicle.  When I had an appointment, I got to drive my sedan, not the RV-like vehicle that fit all the kids.  The car I used to commute in to work each day.  The first new car I ever owned.  The car that, when it sat idle in the driveway, represented all about my old way of life that was dead.

Then the most miraculous thing happened.  As I became a less stressed woman, I became a better mother.  And as I began to achieve some sort of equilibrium, I actually began to think about what would make me happy.  Let me rephrase that.  I began to formulate ways to make me happy.  Because as a depressed person, all I thought about was why I wasn’t happy.  Why was this happening to me?

I do not believe God is vengeful.  Or spiteful.  So even though I was by no means a saint, I figured there was no way He would wish something like postpartum on me.  And so I searched for a ray of light in the darkness.  I had a recurring thought.  There had to be some way to help other women realize that the horrible, terrible feelings of worthlessness that come with postpartum are not theirs to bear alone.

That thought led into a brainstorm that still has me swirling.  Its development has led to a change in course for my career, even my life’s calling.  And right alongside it has developed a better and stronger me.  Through it all, my therapist has been right beside me.

So on a January night not unlike the first that I walked through her door, I was heading to my therapist’s office.  And not unlike that first night, I was nervous.  In fact, I almost dreaded going.  Because, not unlike other things she’d waited patiently for me to figure out, I suspected this might be my last visit.  On some level, I’d known on my most recent visit that I was becoming strong enough to continue on my own, but like any human who is her own worst enemy, I ignored the niggling sensation of knowing and scheduled my next appointment.  In the back of my head, I heard my friend say that she’d stopped going to see her therapist regularly when they’d run out of things to talk about.  Not yet, I thought.

At the appointment, I updated her on all the items ticked off my to-do list and how I planned to accomplish the others.  I shared successes; the resolution of sticky situations I’d been dealing with.  As the clock wore down on our hour, it sounded very much like a debrief.  An after-report.  The niggling knowledge bubbled just below the surface.

“What do you want to do?” she asked at the end of the session.

I knew what she meant.  “I don’t think I need to schedule,” I said hesitantly.

“No, you don’t,” she agreed.  “But that doesn’t mean you can’t call whenever you need to come in.”

I knew she meant this, too.  But I couldn’t help feeling a little like the kid whose Dad says he’ll hang onto the bike seat, but lets go as soon as the pedals start spinning down the street for the first time without training wheels.

She was not deserting me.  She was giving me a more literal translation of Lao Tzu’s quote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”

She helped me find my feet again, but now it’s time I stood on my own.

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