that could be lame

April 17, 2016

If you hardly ever say anything, do people listen more closely when you do?

I used to say a lot here.

My dad is one of those people that doesn’t talk that much. He is also the kind of person that, because he waits to speak, ya best listen when he does. It’s going to be worth listening to, truly. (No pressure, dad.)

My friend Jean had a stroke several years ago. It took a toll on her body and makes it so that her words come out slowly. Her brain will have it all lined up nice, words flowing to sentences and then paragraphs and pages, but it comes out like the dripping of a slow-leak faucet, or sometimes simply like a person who has had a stroke. This can be terribly frustrating for her.

It is one of the things I adore about her.

Well…that’s…lame…she said recently. And that was it. After quite a rant from me. Well, that’s lame.

She will say something like that, after I have given her a five minute ramble about whatever ridiculously irrational thoughts and feelings I am having. I will shoot words at her all rapid-fire like, and she will listen intently and then…

Well…that’s lame…

or, GOOD. See? You are not a victim.

or, STOP. Just stop.

and that sums it up. She’s right. She isn’t going to waste her energy on wrong. No people-pleasing. No beating around the bush. No manipulating. No polite and carefully crafted rambles to caress my ego.

She was right, you know. That day. When I talked about how I went about dealing with something painful. How I was over-thinking myself into a tizzy. She was right. It was lame and I needed to just stop.

Brevity is good. Saying very little can be very good, too.

I know someone else who says, Show up, shut up and shine.

I like that. I want to do it more often.

In the last couple of years, with more silence here in this space, I have probably said more out loud than in the ten years before that. In meetings, with friends and loved ones, to my children. I have been more present. Sometimes painfully present. When I get those notices on Facebook to look back at memories from years past, I see links to this blog, from 2013, 2011…and sometimes I click over to see what I was talking about back then, right here.

I will think, Hm, that’s odd. I don’t know…where did I go? 

Why did the writing stop?

Well, I could go on and on to explain that, and I mean, I really could go on and on to explain that. But we’ve just discussed how not doing that can be a better idea; how good it can be to say less, so I won’t.

I have not forgotten how to write, but I may have lost the ability to trust myself with words.

That could be lame.

I miss writing.

For today, besides all of that up there, I will tell you just this one small thing:

My two oldest, the boys, they were babies (BABIES!) when I started this blog. Now they are lanky long things, thin and electric, floppy-haired and good. They will soon be eleven and nine years old. They could not speak when I started writing here. Well, I suppose Miles was toddler talking. And now they read and write and have friends over and they are trying to figure out really big life questions and they play Minecraft.

With them, and with their spitfire suddenly almost five year old sister, I have changed just as much.

We are here living so many lives, I don’t even know what to say. In the midst of the movement from one life to another, I have lost clarity. You don’t really know how badly you need that until you don’t have it and then people remind you that you need it.

showup

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This is for the suffering mother.
This morning my little Elsie Jane alarm clock woke me up whispering “Mommy…Mommy…” you know, how they do. And I groggily came to and whispered back, “huh?” or something lovely like that. Then she started in, like she’d been waiting for so long to talk about something very important…
 
It went like this: Why is there a thing that goes way inside the tennis shoe and comes out and you can pull on it, it’s a tongue…and we have one in our mouth too and then there is gum that we can chew and also the gums where our teeth come out, why are they both gum and tongues?
 
So we talked about that.
 
I was there to talk about that.
 
This is my truth: Part of the reason I can strive for a perspective that sustains my spirit and attitude is because I’m on Zoloft. There was a time when I was brought to the doctor in a zombie-like state, shaking, nauseated. I was about three months postpartum with Elsie. I had experienced this before, but not so severely.
 
Recently Marianne Williamson, a revered author and speaker made some statements on her Facebook page. Marianne’s clearly very strong feelings are focused on “Big Pharma” and the idea that doctors hand out antidepressants (and other medications) like candy and that the system is broken. She isn’t wrong about that. And she isn’t totally wrong about medical doctors not always knowing what the best course of action is for mental illness. This is what she said:
CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be “screened for depression” during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to “find the right medication.” And how many on the “Task Force” are on big pharma’s payroll? Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps. – from Marianne Williamson’s Facebook page (emphasis mine)
This quote in and of itself is not wrong (bear with me), but it caused a huge backlash by those of us who have struggled, or who work in the mental illness field, or are any kind of mental health advocate at all, which should be all of us. The problem with these statements is what was left out.
I am a woman who suffered severe anxiety and depression after each childbirth, with increasing intensity, one at a time. Three times. I am also a woman who worked in the mental health field for ten years as a social worker supporting people with mental illness. I continue this work through Postpartum Progress today, assisting mothers through a terribly traumatic illness (illnesses), answering their questions and cheering them on when they feel as if life is not worth living and that it is because they are doing something wrong, or thinking wrong, or were never meant to be mothers. If you have not experienced severe PPD or other perinatal mood disorders, trust me. Being a mother while whole-heartedly believing you should not be a mother is horrific.
I have yet to meet a suffering mother who does not feel shame and grief and guilt. This makes us so vulnerable. The backlash to Marianne’s comments is because of the valid concern that these mothers, many who have not sought any kind of treatment, are avid followers of this public figure with influence and power. The outrage from advocates is due to what was left out, and what was left out leaves mothers with only one message–medications are bad. What was left out is that we are all different and taking medication is not a failure. Some mothers respond well to other treatment options, besides medications, like prayer and meditation and a good diet and love. Yes, as Marianne said in a follow-up comment, some find the reasons why they are hurting so much to be due to hard truths in their lives they are fighting, and then they work through that and get better. Yes, you can honor the root of your pain and get better. BUT. Some mothers absolutely DO NOT. CANNOT. I was one of those women.
I love God. God loves me. I face down my painful truths almost to a fault. I am insightful and introspective. I fought so hard for that to be enough. I talked to my unconditional friends and family. I begged and screamed and could not stand up. I stood frozen with fear in the middle of my living room, clutching a newborn to my chest while trying to figure out how to take myself out of the picture because I believed my family would be better off without a sad, crying, angry, anxious and uptight ME in their lives. Sitting on the train tracks in my little silver car seemed like the best option most days.
I was biochemically, hormonally and situationally screwed. Or so it seemed. I knew full well that time for myself and eating healthy and prayer were supposed to fix this, but honestly, the racing thoughts and fatigue, the sadness and hopelessness, were barriers to any kind of health. My body was a barrier to my spirituality.
Medication cleared my mind and gave me hope, plain and simple. I could work on the other things that we all need to work on to be whole humans only after medication took the terror from my insides long enough for me to stand up, to walk, to head to therapy and to go for walks outside with strollers.
No, medication should not be handed out like candy and it isn’t the answer to everything always. No way. I love natural remedies as much as the next hippie spirituality-focused woman. But medication never felt like a cop out to me. It never felt wrong. The message Marianne sent with her facebook post is that medication is wrong. That is not just my perception. I think of the mothers suffering in silence, reading her post and how it influences them to see medications as only a Big Pharma Thing. I sit with them in spirit and imagine how they are perceiving her message. This is not something to be flippant about, and each individual mama should be regarded before any influential platform is used for opinions.
Yesterday Marianne said she had nothing to apologize for, but wait wait wait…don’t we all? After this sort of (intentional or not) soapbox rant blows up, there must be some reason for the response, other than people putting their own sensitivity on it. It begs the instigator to take a deeper look–to honor the pain of others
This is not that,
I cannot apologize for what I never said, and i cannot be responsible for someone’s projections onto my words, finding meaning there that simply doesn’t exist. More than anything, I find it sad that women cannot disagree with each other greater respect. – Marianne Williamson, Facebook
No, you can’t apologize for what you never said. But maybe apologize for what you did not say, and certainly should have said.
This sensitive issue was not treated with compassion on either side. Here is why: It is life or death, no matter the projection. That’s not dramatic. It is not irrational. Severe PPD and other perinatal mood disorders are killing mothers. If medication is the first and often temporary vehicle to holistic health, take the medications.
Mama, if you are suffering in this dark hole to the extent that you cannot possibly imagine surviving, if you are so sleep deprived and hormonal and hopeless that you cannot lift your head, I hope your doctor–whatever kind of doctor– hands out medication like candy.
Yeah, okay. Fine, Skittles saved my life. So be it.
It is well with my soul.
I am here to listen to my kids, to feed them, laugh with them, teach them. Because love does help. But not if you cannot feel it without interventions you may have never desired but absolutely need.
I simply wish Marianne would have added something, anything, that would take the shame away for the moms who certainly do need medication. No, not every mother managing hormones and moods in the postpartum period needs meds. And sure, I also wish that every mother who is sick had access to psychiatrists who specialize in maternal mental health, and thankfully many do. But if it is their family doctor (as was my case) or an OB/GYN who prescribes Big Pharma’s meds, so be it. If they do that too often, it is better than never.
Mamas, we are all different, suffering to different degrees. If you need medication, you are not just a pawn in Big Pharma’s schemes, being tricked. I promise. You are not alone. You are not weak. Do not listen to the voices that don’t align with YOUR personal truth. If your gut is screaming that you will not survive, medication most certainly may be an answer for you and there is NO shame in that. I promise.
 #meditateonthis

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come back home

November 17, 2015

When we blame an entire religion, or its people, for something terrifying, it makes it easier. It makes it all feel far away, over there, by Them. Those People. The Evil Ones. This is born of fear and insecurity and those are natural things to feel, but we have to work through them and come back home. And if we claim to be Christians, home is where we keep the fatherless and the widow. Home is where we pick up the man who is opposite of us but still us, on the side of the road, bleeding. (Syria photo credit – Amnesty International) Do you see how we are all connected? We once were anyway and I can’t remember it and neither can you and most of us are fine with that. Terrorism, war, carnage…results of isolation and separation and disconnection and fear. We all did that. Not just politicians or religious fanatics, both […]

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the buzz of guilt

November 12, 2015

The other day she barged into the bathroom while I was finishing my shower. MOMMY. What, Elsie? I have to go the bathroom. Go for it. Then I turned off the water and reached for my towel, stayed in the shower more to avoid the chill in the air than to avoid the usual, Your tummy is funny and, I can see your butt! From her throne, she suddenly blurted, “I love you, Mommy.” So I told her I love her too, of course. And then I added, “You’re my best girl.” And she said, “You’re my best mommy.” There has always been this sneaking suspicion (or often it’s a very clear, not sneaky, thought) I have that I’m not the best mommy at all, not even close. From my first pregnancy through today, I’ve battled over ten years of self-doubt and guilt. Sometimes it is LOUD and sometimes it’s quiet–a hunch, a […]

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