Wednesday, May 27, 2009

sad and sadder

The door clicks, followed by the soft footfalls of six-year-old bare feet on the hardwood floor in the hall. There is a pause, then more shuffling. Another click. The quiet clamor back up the ladder to the top bunk. All is quiet. I can return to my book in peace.

I no sooner reconnect with the words on the page when a soft wail rises from my son's room. As my niece and nephew are spending the might, I get up immediately to both see who it is and to keep that one from waking the other. Another wail rises as I make my way into the darkness, trusting my ears, not my eyes, to lead me. They lead me to the top bunk.

It is, as I expected, my son who is quietly sobbing atop his loft. "Whatsa matter, Buddy?" I ask. "I don't know, I'm just sad," he sobs. I sweep him down out of his bunk so as to not awaken the one I know I will be less easily able to comfort, and I take him out into the hallway. We sit, his head in my neck, and I ask him why he's sad. He sniffles, wiping tears from his big, brown eyes. "I dunno," he chokes out. "I'm just sad. I'm really sad."

This is what I'm talking about.

So, why does this innocent, cheerful, albeit slightly sensitive child's tiny bright red apple fall so close to his mother's tree? Is it genetics? Learned behavior? Generational cursing? Self-pity? Lack of contentment? Poor nutrition?

I don't know, but I sure wish I did. For him. For me. For others.

What causes a child who has everything—loving (albeit imperfect) parents, a room full of toys, food in his belly, friends who seek him out, a roof over his head, a knowledge and certainty that he is loved—to go to bed, night after night, feeling sad to the point of tears?

What causes his mother to do the same?

Friday, May 22, 2009

quote of the day, take two

From my son, in exasperation, as he explains to me the necessity of sleeping in the basement tonight because Hope, a six-year-old meteorological expert, informed him there will be tornadoes tonight:

"Momma, you don't know everything."

quote of the day

"Momma, Miracle Whip is not really a miracle."


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

yearning: in response

Some good friends have had some insightful thoughts about my previous post, but my thoughts are too extensive to post within the comments, so I will reflect upon them here.

I still stand in agreement with the quote, albeit taken out of its proper context, and with KP, who states, "some parts of our society are trying to vilify any mood state or behavior that is outside of 'normal' and 'happy'." We are taught, repetitively, that happiness is our ultimate goal in life, and anything short of that is both short-coming and short-sighted. I don't know a single person who would tell you his or her life is completely happy. Not a one. What is wrong with those people?

Nothing. Nothing is wrong with a one of us. Other than not measuring up to an unattainable goal. I do not believe, rightly or wrongly, that perpetual happiness is our intended state on this earth. Now, joy, perhaps. Peace, possibly. Contentment, I'm not so sure. But these are not qualities that are naturally occurring. They are fruit that is cultivated.

I'm not saying the opposite, either. I'm not saying that our sole purpose on this earth is merely to suffer. I don't buy that line of bull, either. I'm simply saying that I do believe, wholeheartedly, that we are living every moment in the tension between the now and the not yet. We were meant to live life one way, and we are living it another. That tension is uncomfortable at best, unbearable at its worst. But we don't want to be uncomfortable, not indefinitely, at any rate.

I know there is contextual and circumstantial depression. I know there is chemical depression. I know there is spiritual depression, strongholds and the like. I preach this message several times a week. I know full well that all of the above and more weave together in a delicate, intricate web that is not always easy to untangle. And I know that all strings leading to the center must be considered, not just one.

But I believe that, even as Christians, we are quick to ignore or even disdain this spiritual component. Why is that? I believe it is, in part, because we believe we can control the other parts, but the God part we know we cannot. And that frustrates us. Or, it frustrates me, at least. (And "frustrate" is a mild term, believe me.) I don't want to consider where God fits in to the picture, because there is no formula to follow or pill to take that guarantees an outcome. But, quite frankly, none of those things have provided an overwhelmingly beneficial, sustainable outcome, either, so where does that leave me, and others like me?

KP points to the year I've had, which I've moaned about repeatedly here, as just cause for feeling depressed. I agree. And I also agree wholeheartedly that better self-care and stewardship of my time and energy would certainly help the situation. But it doesn't explain the melancholia that has rested heavily upon my shoulders for as long as I can remember, not ever giving up its roost even in the face of medication, nutrition, exercise, strong relationships, and all the self-care I could possibly muster at various given points in my life.

The past year doesn't explain waking up nearly every morning, from the time I was a child through to the present, feeling as if I could cry for truly no good reason. It doesn't explain the ache in my heart when things end, when moments pass, when life slips through my fingers. It doesn't explain the persistent numbness in my spirit, the quickness to cry at certain things, the inability to cry at others. There is more to it than my overextended schedule. But you know this.

There is more to it than biochemistry. Than my blood sugar. Than not getting enough sleep. There is more to it than feeling occasionally distant from my husband, feeling inadequate as a parent, expecting too much of myself in nearly everything I do. There is more to it than what we want to naturally equate it to. Personally, I believe that this "more to it" has something to do with God. No Christianese bullshit about it.

So, I retract my ending statement from the last post, in which I question whether or not the depression I feel is just my heart longing for its true home. Is it just that? No. And that's not what I intended to imply. But is it part of the equation? Is it one of the strings entwined among the others? Is it something I must consider and move toward in order to move toward joy? I believe the answer is resoundingly yes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


In our society, we have come to believe that discomfort always means something is wrong. We are conditioned to believe that feelings of distress, pain, deprivation, yearning and longing mean something is wrong with the way we live our lives.

Conversely, we are convinced that a rightly lived life must give us serenity, completion and fultillment. Comfort means "right" and distress means "wrong." The influence of such convictions is stifling to the human spirit. Individually and collectively, we must somehow recover the truth. The truth is, we were never meant to be completely satisfied.

Gerald May, Addiction and Grace

Hmm... going to be chewing on that one for a while. Within the context this is written, it begs the question: is what I consider depression really just the yearning of a heart that knows this is not its home?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

excuthe me, you theem to be mithing thomething...

Buddy, after Poppa knocked out his two front teeth last night! (In his defense, they were hanging by a thread anyway...)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

i love to tell the story

To be a person is to have a story to tell.

Karen Blixen

Love this quote. This is why I read memoir rather than fiction--our real-life stories are so much more interesting to me than the made-up ones. This is also why I keep this blog--I find that I have stories to tell, and stories beg for an audience. "...a story to tell..." she states. We must tell our stories, or we lose something of ourselves, I think.

I've discovered this truth Ms. Blixen shares is partially behind my love of counseling, as well--people's stories are compelling to me. There is healing in their telling. There is healing in my hearing. And it is an amazing thing to enter someone's story and help them rewrite it for the better. There is no greater honor, I believe.

And so I write and read and talk and listen and share and counsel and pray and live all within this love of story and its power to create, to recreate, to name, to rename, to heal, to give life. If you are alive, you have a story to tell. We will all be richer for the hearing of it--won't you share it?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

a war story of her own

The car was quiet, save for the patter of rain on the windshield and the swooshing of wet tires speeding over wet roads. Quiet is not a normal occurrence in my life, especially not with both children in the car, and one having been caffeinated on an afternoon play date to boot. But today, it was eerily quiet, and it didn't take much to determine why. Bub was getting her pins out this afternoon, and both children were more than a little apprehensive.

For as brave as my daughter is in some areas, she is as proportionately a spaz in others. When people ask me why we've still not pierced her ears, I tell them the story of getting her five-year shots prior to entering kindergarten. I describe how the nurse put numbing cream on both arms, assuring her she wouldn't feel a thing. I tell them about how this same nurse (who, I might add, should be fired, or better yet, shot), gave her the worst shot first, which, coincidentally, cannot be administered through said numbing cream. Then, I describe how it took three nurses and forty-five minutes to get the last three shots into my daughter's arms. No, we'll not be piercing her ears anytime soon.

So, this same child went today to have her pins removed, after hearing war stories from every child in her fourth grade class about what it feels like to have pins pulled out. "It feels like someone twisting a door knob," Chloe explained. Domenic warned her, "There will be a lot of blood." Every child had a story, and each story was worse than the one before. I began to think perhaps I should have kept her home for a month.

When we were at the hospital, at the beginning of this little adventure, I chalked her hysterics and irrationality up to adrenaline and shock, mixed with a little morphine and the lack of anything to eat for the last several hours. I didn't expect to see that response from her again. I don't know what I was thinking.

As soon as the nurse began unknotting the sling, my daughter began to tremble, shaking from head to toe. They hadn't even touched her yet. When the nurse began to take off the bandages in order to take her back for x-rays, Bub began rocking and crying, telling her she didn't want to see it or take it out. Worried this trembling child was going to throw up on her, the nurse kicked the caretaking up a notch, talking her through each step and checking how she was doing with every new movement. Once assured that my daughter was not nauseous, just panicked, she began moving her toward the x-rays. "What are they gonna do, Momma? Is it going to hurt? What is it going to feel like? I don't want them to touch it, Momma." And then there was my Buddy, right behind me, reminding me, "Momma, I think we should pray…"

How my daughter managed to be so like me yet so unlike me is completely beyond my comprehension. I wouldn't have been caught dead at the top of a rope ladder, let alone climbing down it head first. That is her father's gene pool, through and through. Adventurous, athletic, and a little bit of a dare devil—they are two peas in the same pod. Fear doesn't really enter the equation, or at least it hasn't up until this point. But then there is my genetic contribution—the active imagination, the rapid-cycling what-ifs, the quiet, pent-up worry that is unable to be silenced with logic or rational thought, not to mention the powerful, insurmountable instinct to avoid pain at all possible costs. This is where my influence can be found.

My mom will readily tell you, nodding her head in my direction, "She was the same way." And she will tell you with an amused, slightly condescending smirk on her face, because I don't get it from my mother. My father is the worrier of the two, and she teases us both, though he gets the worst of it. And so it goes that my daughter, in this predicament because of the Rees genes, freaks out about it as a result of the Kaufman genes.

When it was all said and done, she confessed, over sundaes at Max and Erma's, "I don't know what I got so upset about. That really wasn't that big of a deal."

"You let your worried thoughts get the best of you," I responded, thumping her forehead, and she nodded, embarrassed and slightly amused with herself.

We will continue to work, in the days and months and years to come, on pushing back these thoughts. Fighting back with truth. Staying present in the moment. But for today, we're just glad it's over. I tucked her in to bed with the same prayer I've prayed every night since Palm Sunday—that the lessons learned here will stick. Obedience. Good judgment. Taking our thoughts captive. Trusting those who are caring for you. May they guide her actions in the years to come.

She's sleeping soundly now, spent after our two hour ordeal. She's propped the pillows back around her unsplinted arm, feeling vulnerable and uncertain. Her breath is full and deep, and her face is peaceful, all traces of worry erased. We've come full circle, and now, finally, all is quiet again.

a matter of trust

Therein lies the problem. I do not believe this for a moment. I do not believe that my body is a benevolent force intent upon my health and emotional well-being. I have chronic pain. I have IBS. I have a life-long weight issue. What, exactly, am I supposed to find trustworthy about these things and my inability to rectify them?

(read more at more)

shame on you

Whether I've managed to hide it from you or not, it is there, though I've yet to fully figure out why. Much has been written about glorifying thinness and vilifying fatness—I'm sure there are judgments I've made along the line, both of myself and others. I'm also sure our culture deserves a lion's share of the blame that is to be taken. After all, if I lived in the Elizabethan era, I'd likely be the subject of an oil painting. But I don't, and I'm not, and I digress.

(read more at more)

Monday, May 04, 2009


I have fought this battle in my head, hidden in darkness, for far too long. I must bring it out into the open, into the light of truth, for the lies within to be exposed. But this openness, this fully exposing how wide and long and high and deep these issues run within me, is not something that comes easily. It is one thing to do it once I'm through it and on the other side, back "together" again. It is another to do it from the trenches—muddy and messy and up to my waist in the mire…

(read more at more)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

things that last

She is not my oldest, longest friend, but she is perhaps my dearest. Ours was a friendship forged out of coming of age together—struggling together (as we still do now, come to think of it) to discover who we are, what is important, and where we fit into God's greater plan.

Hol and I met the weekend of freshman orientation, as did my husband and I, and we have all been friends ever since. We schlepped through the valley together, ate smuggled-in homemade meals by candlelight in the Haven, sang in the Chorale, toilet papered upper classmen. We took long, meandering walks, stayed up 'till all hours of the night rearranging our dorm room (again), suffered through mandatory chapel (made more interesting by my creation of the "official" chapel poll), created "Primal Whine Therapy."

I carried her books when she burnt her foot with the hot pot, she listened to hours of debate over whether or not I wanted to date that geeky tenor with the big glasses and annoying sense of humor. I helped her pick out the dress for her senior recital, she suffered through my daily alarm clock ritual and still continues to speak to me, twenty-some years later. (Though she still knows better than to expect much out of me in the morning.)

We have been key players in "the best days of our lives." We went through all four years of college together, lived together for two of them. We weighed in on each others' prospective husbands. We stood up in each others weddings. We sang trios and duets at each other's churches. Our six-year-olds were born four days apart (funny how neither one of us could figure out why we didn't feel well that weekend we hiked Clifton Gorge). Despite three hours and a world of difference between our lives (but not our hearts), there is always a sense when we get together, whether here or there, of finally coming home. We had an all too brief time of homecoming this weekend, and now, as I make my way across I-70 toward the east, toward the place I call "home," I find myself desperately and heartbreakingly homesick.

There is a joy in the visiting, but always a sadness that lingers in the leaving. Would that I could coral all the people I love into a tight, tidy little area within arm's reach and keep them there forever. I know this is part of life. Sometimes we get to love people up close, sometimes we have to love them from afar. We take the moments we can steal and we savor them, hoping the flavor will linger on our tongue for a good, long while. Those moments are sometimes few and far between, but the commitment to maintain them remains. And should I ever be so fortunate as to have all the people I love all in the same place, you'll know where to find Holly. She'll be right next door, and I'll be in her kitchen watching her knead dough.

Friday, May 01, 2009

six more words

another set of six-word autobiographies:

one foot in, one foot out.

not who you think i am.

not to do, but to be.

loud. quiet. bold. timid. internally conflicted.

threatens selling her children to gypsies.

they told me there'd be chocolate...