Rapid Acceleration

The Music Express.

My favorite ride at Rocky Point, a sprawling amusement park in my hometown that got its start in the nineteenth century as a seaside retreat for the overworked and overheated city folk.

Colorful piano keys rippling over the metal supports that tethered the cars to the central motor like spokes on a wheel.  The cars themselves with shimmering metallic paint jobs.  The track, an undulating up and down dropping and rising like the craziest country road.

As the music started and the cars wound up, you had no choice but to hold on tight.  No matter how hard you gripped the cool metal bar on the far end of the car, however, you would inevitably slide down to the outer corner of the car, crushing whichever friend got that lucky seat.  You’d laugh and try to scootch yourself up in between the dips and rolls, but then give up to the inevitable and sing along at the top of your lungs with the music blaring through the loudspeakers.

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Giving yourself over to the centrifugal force was easy.  It was stronger than you.  It was outside of you, pushing you out and down.  It strained every muscle in your skinny little arms to grasp that metal bar and float a few inches off the seat.

But what about those first few minutes when the ride hadn’t reached full speed, or the last few as it wound down?  Were you in control then?  Was it as enjoyable to hear the music on that part of the ride?  Or was it a letdown because it wasn’t full throttle?

I think when life moves as fast as The Music Express it’s easy for everything to crush together, all aspects of life compressed, no one able to be picked out individually and examined.  Sure, there’s good music, but everything’s moving at such a frenetic pace, it sometimes becomes just background noise.  And your friends are there, but you’re all just mashed up next to each other, trying to survive the same thing in close proximity.

I need to get off the ride from time to time.  Even though it’s my favorite.  Even though I love the song.

I need quiet.  Time to sit.  Stare.  Think.  And then to stop thinking so that my subconscious, the universe, God can speak to me.

Now if only I could get the attention of that guy flicking the switches.  Oh wait, that’s me.

 

Retreat

When the world got to be too much, including my little corner of it, I used to retreat to the bathroom.  It was usually just as supper was about to start, food laid out on the table, cups of milk poured, husband home from work – Mom sitting on the toilet sobbing soundlessly with an unnamed sadness and inability to cope.

My husband would give me a few minutes, then call softly through the door to see if I was all right.

You would think that would be the easiest part of the day, having made it through ten or more hours of sole care giving, dressing, feeding, getting out the door-ing.  A time to sit with my family and enjoy the shared responsibility of parenting with my spouse.  But just like a toddler who does not do well with a change in caregivers, so I was not transitioning well.  We were all getting hungry and tired and my head couldn’t take one more shrill scream or pop of sound.

At first, a friend didn’t recognize this scenario as one resulting from my postpartum depression.  She got angry, she said, irritable, wanting to lash out when she couldn’t abide the situation at hand.  She wanted to fight vs. my flight.  Both natural responses to elevated levels of stress; to the wooly mammoth of parenting postpartum.

The word retreat itself is an interesting choice.  It has wartime connotations, as in run away from the enemy, give up the fight, fall back to a place of safety, behind that line that should not have been crossed.

When the bathroom won’t do anymore; when they’ve figured out your hiding spot; when you can’t while away your tortured existence on a germ-infested throne anymore – what then?

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At first, I turned to my midwife, then a licensed social worker, then lifestyle and diet changes, then medication.  I don’t want to lock myself in the bathroom as much any more, but I still need a respite to get my wits about me.

As a teenager, it was a requirement to attend a retreat as preparation for Confirmation.  In college, I attended many enriching weekend retreats as part of peer ministry.  In preparation for marriage, my husband and I went on an “Engaged Encounter”.

Where are the programs for mothers who love their children but want to retreat?  Who have lost themselves and their faith amidst the everyday beat-down of the job?  Who know what a blessing their children are but just can’t feel it for the pressure pushing down on them?  Who found their depression only now because they must function, they have no choice to go sit in a corner and listen to The Cure until life seems better.

Children bring us out of ourselves.  As they say, it’s the only way you can feel your heart beat outside yourself.  They teach us selflessness and caring for others.  They give us a view of the future, of possibility.  But in giving our all to them, it sometimes feels as if it’s the end of our possibility.  It doesn’t seem like there’s room for anything else.  A feeling that often makes me want to retreat.

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