Tag Archives: depression

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Depression

Newton’s First Law of Motion: “A body in motion will stay in motion, and a body at rest will stay at rest, unless acted upon by an external force.”

Once you’re up and moving, it’s easier to stay moving. But you’re not going to get moving without a good shove.

Once you’re at rest, it’s so easy to stay at rest. This is what we call “inertia.”

And this is what’s so hard to remember when depression pulls me down. It’s so easy to stay stuck. So easy to sit down on the couch after the kids are in bed and stare at my phone until midnight, then wake up tired the next day.

Newton's 1st Law of Motion, also known as Galileo's Law

Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, also known as Galileo’s Law

This morning, after I took Carlos to school in the rain, I pulled into my garage and turned off the car. The sadness wasn’t too close to me at that moment–I didn’t feel like crying. I wanted to be still. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the seat. The quiet of solitude settled around me. It only took a few seconds for my monkey mind to start jumping around. Need to fill out benefits forms. Carlos left his jacket at school. I should take the dog for a walk, get the deck refinished, call a tree guy, check on my neighbor. I should quit saying should. I wrote about that..right? I gotta learn how to do SEO. It’s time for breakfast. What’s for breakfast? How many Diet Cokes are left in the fridge? Oh wait, I’m supposed to be meditating. What was that meditation app that Casey mentioned? What’s my data limit? I need a new phone. Well, I don’t need one, I want one. I wrote about that too a while back. And this car needs power steering fluid. On and on and on.

I tried to nod to each thought with loving kindness then lead it off to the side. Focused on breathing until I couldn’t get a deep breath. Two minutes, sitting there in my car. I couldn’t quiet my mind for two minutes, even as my ass became one with the warmed leather seat.

That’s when I realized the vast difference between stillness and inertia. Inertia is being stuck. I’ve mastered inertia and the couch has the ass-groove to prove it. My body is at rest and it will stay at rest until I give it an equal and opposite shove in the direction I want to go. But my mind is in motion and will stay in motion.

Stillness isn’t just sitting on the couch staring at my phone. Stillness is a generative state, a place to grow. When I am still–if I ever reach that place again–I will be fully present in my stillness, with quiet mind and some space to just BE.

So I gave my body a shove today. More stairs, no elevator. More steps, less sitting. Use the incline on the treadmill…shoot, even use the treadmill. At the same time I’m focusing on moving my body, I’m also learning to quiet my mind. I stared out the window some instead of surfing websites. I put on headphones to listen to the hum. I went for a massage and made a point of not talking. I let the therapist work on my ears, my neck, my face. I sat still and breathing came easy.

Thus ends today’s lesson in Newtonian physics. Move your body; quiet your mind. And here’s a puppy to recap:



Actin’ a Fool


After the kids were in bed, G came into the den and found me standing in the middle of the floor, watching “Godzilla” and writhing about.

“WHAT are you doing?”

I continued to flap my arms from side to side and wriggle my hips to the song inside my head. I squatted…rhythmically.

“I’m dancing.”

He kept walking.

Honestly, this is what February has reduced me to. Actin’ a fool is the only solution I have left to escape the depressive gloom that has been sitting on my chest for a month. So I have been actin’ a fool all day.

I have Bruno Mars to thank. While driving in to work in the pouring rain, already feeling like I had done everything wrong before 9 a.m., “Uptown Funk” came on the radio. I turned it up a tad then thought, “Fuck it, why not?” and turned it up so loud that my eyes were throbbing. I sang as loud and flat as I could, because nothing makes me giggle like singing loud and flat. Flat is FUNNY. (Take a second…try it…try singing “Blue Moon” like a foghorn) I danced in my seat, even at four-way stops where other people could see me. I tickled myself and it felt so so good to laugh at my own silliness.

charlie-chaplin-actor-failure-is-unimportant-it-takes-courage-to-makeActing a fool is different from cutting up, showing out, showing up, showing your ass, turning up, etc. I act a fool intentionally. I act a fool when the limits of reason have been reached and I need to jumpstart myself. I’m working on a couple of big creative things and find myself shutting down in the face of all that fear of failure.

I wore a garishly colored velvet scarf today with six inches of fringe. I bought myself an evil eye charm for my bracelet. I said “yes” to the lunch invite when I really wanted to curl up in a ball under my desk. I made jokes about holding a coworker’s taco. I danced like Elaine Bennis every time I passed Nicole’s office on the way to the kitchen for water. I squatted down by the road to take a picture of some daffodils in the rain. I changed my Pandora station from 10,000 Maniacs to Missy Elliott. I wiggled. I bought flowers for myself. I played with Carlos for half an hour instead of starting dinner. I watched Godzilla, for godsakes.

And I danced in the den to a song in my head. All too many pounds of me, shaking it like my rent was due. Instead of cleaning milk out of the carpet, or walking on the treadmill, or filling out those forms for the developmental pediatrician, or writing the RSVP (I’m coming to the wedding, Mandy!), or paying the $401 gas bill, or doing the taxes, or writing a better post than this, or working on that talk I’m doing at Missouri State in a few weeks, or finishing that quilt I started when I was pregnant with Vivi, or getting all those socks matched up once and for all, or writing a thank you note (I love the painting, Little Gay!), or cleaning out the freezer, or plucking these Sasquatch brows, or making plans for spring break next week, or planning our meals for the week, or or or or.

I danced. And I felt some better.

Don’t believe me? Just watch.



Life is Sweet

Let’s have a moment of music appreciation today. This song got me out of a dark place today. Natalie Merchant, “Life Is Sweet”:

natalie merchant

It’s a pity
it’s a crying shame
who pulled you down again?
how painful it must be
to bruise so easily inside

It’s a pity
it’s a downright crime
but it happens all the time
you wanna stay little daddy’s girl
wanna hide from the vicious world outside

Call it seasonal depression. Or emotional fatigue. Or denial. I call it “dragging the wagon.” Today I was dragging the wagon behind me and in that wagon is every brave thing I’ve ever wanted to do and left short, every pound I’ve failed to lose, every person I ever disappointed, every dream I had that didn’t come true.

So who pulled me down again? The bruise inside, the one I work on and sometimes think I’m getting past. The fear of putting my heart into the vicious world and getting it shredded. The fear of running back for comfort to my daddy and him not being there.

Three friends have lost their daddies in the past week. And the story I haven’t been telling for a couple of months now is that I almost lost mine. It scares me so much that I can’t look at it straight on. My dad was very close to dying. He’s back now. He called me the other day to thank me for the orchid I brought when he was in the rehab place. We’ll eat turkey next week and be grateful.

I’m sad for Heather and Jonathan and Laura who are trying to find words to say goodbye and thank you and good job, Dad.

But don’t cry
know the tears’ll do no good
so dry your eyes

They told you life is hard
it’s misery from the start
it’s dull and slow and painful

I tell you life is sweet
in spite of the misery
there’s so much more
be grateful

10700549_10204326604998278_6333280427733818279_oThis weekend, I took the kids down to the playfort in the backyard and got choked up when I saw that the cherry tree had dropped all of its leaves overnight. One day, a globe of golden whispering leaves and the next day, a silent carpet over the frosty ground. Some trees, like my neighbor’s sugar maple, take weeks to shed their leaves, so long that we get kind of used the change. Others–whoosh and they’re gone in the first hard freeze.

That cherry tree was a wedding gift from my coworkers when Richard and I married. It stayed in a pot for months, waiting on the soil to soften up with spring. I got around to planting it after Richard died. It’s been especially precious to me now that my babies play in its shade. Time and sunlight and being grounded–that’s all it needed to grow.

For almost ten years, I’ve grown used to the miracle of that tree. Pink pom poms in spring, pale green leaves through the summer, then the golden show of fall. And every year, the shock of the day when it’s just gone. Bare and spare. Reminding me how suddenly everything can change.

Who do you believe?
who will you listen to
who will it be?
it’s high time that you decide
in your own mind

Dragging the wagon. Carrying all this fear and sadness around and not writing it out. Afraid to write it wrong or write it right. Trying to speak my truth but the hand over my mouth is my own. That’s why I found myself crying at my desk at lunchtime. “Life Is Sweet” came on Pandora and it took me back all those years to when I first loved this song and had no earthly idea how true it is. I sat there and cried because I’m so tired of wanting things to be different but not making them different. Time to make up my own mind.

mapleThere’s a red maple outside my office window, and as it’s been losing its scarlet leaves this week, more sunshine gets through. I sat there today next to the window, half of my tired body warmed in the light and half of it shivering. Natalie’s words calling out to me from my phone.

They told you life is hard

it’s misery from the start
it’s dull and slow and painful

I tell you life is sweet
in spite of the misery
there’s so much more
be grateful

Who do you believe?
who will you listen to
who will it be?

I closed my eyes. In the dark quiet there behind my eyelids, the left eye caught a reddish glow from the sun shining through. The right eye looked out into the darkness.

It’s high time you decide
it’s time you make up your own sweet little mind

With my eyes still closed, I turned towards the sun. I sat still and let it warm me. Just like my cherry tree, “Time and sunlight and being grounded–that’s all I need to grow.”

They told you life is long
be thankful when it’s done
don’t ask for more
you should be grateful

But I tell you life is short
be thankful because before you know
it will be over

Cause life is sweet
and life is also very short
your life is sweet

If you are the praying type, say a peaceful one for Ted and Heather, Stephen and Jonathan, Gary and Laura. And say a thankful one for Sam and Ashley.

Daddy, I’m glad you’re back. I love you and I’m grateful for you. Save me some turkey.

A Life Made From Crumbs


Image courtesy Pixabay

In this story, I will attempt to weave together a stale Nutrigrain bar, a trip to Bermuda, the loneliness of mothering, two sparrows, and an Anglo-Saxon parable from the Venerable Bede.  Hold on to your butts, kids, because THIS is where a liberal arts degree can take you…

Last week, I took the two littles to the beach for a week.  And you know how–even on vacation–you’re still The Mom?  Butt wiping, breakfast fixing, tantrum abiding, sunscreen applying Mom.  I hit a point on Wednesday when the black cloud of sadness that nips at my heels caught up with me, all because of a stale Nutrigrain bar. When I asked Carlos if he wanted Cheeries for breakfast, he said “Yes!”…but he didn’t eat them.  So I gave him some grapes, which he stomped into the carpet.  So I asked him if he would eat a cereal bar and he said, “YES!”  He didn’t.  He smeared it into the rented yellow couch and giggled.

It broke me.  My motherator locked up.

I retreated to my bedroom where, in the space of two minutes, my frustrating morning escalated into a sobbing fit.  “I will die alone. No one gives a shit about me.  Why should they? I can’t even feed my kids.  I suck at taking care of them.  No one takes care of ME. I am so tired and lonely and tired of being lonely and this is just the way life is and you might as well suck it up.  This is as good as it gets. You are born alone, you die alone, with some yammering and distraction in between. Oh, and you’re overweight, you haven’t written in a week and that spot on your belly is probably ringworm.”

At that moment, in that despair, I saw my life as this long string of me waiting to be handed whatever was left over, whatever was unwanted, whatever was not quite good enough.

I was still holding the remains of the Nutrigrain bar.  Instead of wiping it into the wastebasket, I slid open the glass door and stepped out onto the balcony.  I crumbled the apple filling onto the glass-topped cafe table then stepped back inside.  I took a deep breath and sank into the rented yellow chair to stare listlessly out the window from the air-conditioned comfort of my room.  Because when you’re going to have a snot-slinging fit about how miserable your life is, it’s best to do it while enjoying the view from a beachfront condo while your two healthy kids watch PBSKids in the other room.

Within a few minutes, a sparrow hopped onto the balcony railing then down to the table.  She pecked at the crumbs before flitting away.  She came back with a companion and the two of them made a feast from my leftovers.  The smashed cereal bar that had broken my spirit–to them it was a banquet beyond imagining.

As I watched them reveling in their treasure, I remembered a little sparrow from Bermuda, when Richard and I went there for the first time in about 2002, maybe 2003.  We stayed at a fantastic resort called The Reefs in a cliffside room.  One morning, a sparrow perched on our balcony.  It hopped down to the terra cotta tile floor to search for crumbs.  I noticed that one of its legs was misshapen.  It stuck out to the side at a painful angle, but it didn’t seem to slow the little bird down.  That leg was the leg the bird had been given–what choice did it have?  We named the little bird “Gimpy” and we adopted him as our own pet project.

For the rest of the week, I smuggled scones, dinner rolls, breadsticks, tea sandwiches and biscuits back to our room to feed Gimpy.  There was a German waitress at the dinner service who saw me wrapping rolls in a linen napkin.  When I told her why I was doing it, she brought a basket of rolls from the kitchen and whispered, “For your leetle buhd.”

I was sad to leave Gimpy, but it’s not like we could take him with us. He had to live his life, a life of crumbs, but a life of crumbs in Berumda. We had to leave him to that, to love him as best we could, while we could, then we had to go our way.

Now, you Christians are probably humming, “I sing because I’m happy!  I sing because I’m free!  His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me!”  I love that song.  But here’s another thought on sparrows and eternity and whether or not we matter.

The Venerable Bede, a monk from Anglo-Saxon England, wrote this story in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (circa 627, so he’s not on Twitter @VenerableBede):

“When we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your lords and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing.”

All we get is this swift flight through a warm hall, picking up the crumbs from a great feast. It can be enough.  We make joy for ourselves by feeding frail birds on stolen bread.  We make a life from crumbs. We keep flying.

Imagine the delight Richard and I felt when we returned to The Reefs six months later and found Gimpy alive and kicking on the terrace.  That was a good day, a sweet day.  We stood there on the edge of a cliff, in the middle of a vast ocean, in the last year of our life together, and we laughed into the wind because our little bird lived.

That’s the story that came to me last week.  I flew out of that dark place on sparrow’s wings.

Wordless Wednesday–Astonishing Light

For today, a quote from Hafiz:  

your light

Black Box Warnings

Black Box Warnings BlogHi, bad muthas!  Today I am the guest blogger on Black Box Warnings and I’d love it if you would click on over to read my essay.  Black Box Warnings is a collective of bloggers who share their personal stories about mental and physical health, parenting, daily tribulations, and life’s little moments. There, you will find an on-line community built around support, respect, and compassion.  

My contribution took me weeks to write.  It’s called “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be.”  I write about my experience with depression and anxiety during pregnancy–one of the darkest moments of my life.  I got through that time with the help of drugs, therapy, support and compassion.  It’s tough to talk about these things on the wide-open internet, but more good comes from telling the truth than from keeping up a facade.