Feb 042012
 

I felt myself slipping this morning. Those of you who understand will understand – and to those of you who don’t understand, please  take a moment to say, “Thank You, God.”  Anyway- I thought re-posting this one might help keep me from slipping  into The Hole. Actually, I think it’s already working.  Love You, G

Since I find it impossible to understand what’s going on in my own head, I would never try to describe what goes on in yours. But lately I’ve been considering the differences between navigating the normal highs and lows of motherhood and real depression. Since, over time, I have suffered through the effects of both an extremely dramatic personality and true depression, I thought I should try to describe the difference between the two. For me.

I come from a long line of dramatic Irish personalities. We are an emotional bunch – my family. Our highs are high and our lows are low. We love easily, but we cry and yell easily, too. We are quick to hug and quick to anger. Now I know that you won’t believe me, because I am so sweet and calm on this here blog. But that is because no one in my house is awake yet. After people wake up, I tend to get dramatic. I often struggle through the day. Trudge through the day. I have to take a lot of deep breaths. I experience joy, too, everyday. But I am not the type to roll with things. I get very down – for reasons that I can never identify. I decide, thirty times a day, that no one in the history of the world has ever had a harder life than I do. When I say this to God and He brings homeless people to mind, I actually think, well – at least they don’t have to SWEEP.

I also worry. Worry, worry, worry. Obsess might actually be a better word. Not about the plight of the Sudanese…I TRY to worry about things like that, but I ACTUALLY worry about whether I chose the wrong throw pillow for my new couch. I snap at my kids for acting like kids. I resent them for getting hungry three times a day. And even though I don’t believe in mommy guilt, I feel guilty all the time. If I could choose a phrase to describe the polar opposite of my personality, it would be “easy-breezy.” As a matter of fact, I call Sister daily crying and whining and I CANT DO IT ANYMOR-ING and I always end the conversation with “Whatever. I’m easy-breezy, Sister.” And she says, “I know you are, Sister. I know you are. Me too.”

Sometimes I get so upset that I become debilitated…I’m talking crumble to the ground, tears, head in hands… the whole she-bang. My break downs appear to be brought on by one little thing… like a grocery bag breaking in the driveway – and so Craig will say, “It’s okay honey, it’s just a grocery bag,” and I’ll say: “IT”S NOT A GROCERY BAG! IT’S EVERYTHING! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE IT’S EVERYTHING???” And I don’t want anyone to try to fix it or fix me – I just want to be upset. I just need to be upset for awhile. Because life is upsetting, obviously.

I’m just A LOT to deal with on a daily basis. And I know this. I do not cruise through life. I sort of crash through life. But I also “WOW” through life, too. And so it’s okay. I’ll take the lows with the highs. Basically, I really like myself. And I think I’m an awesome mom. God chose ME for these kiddos and He knows me better than anyone, so I’m gonna be myself. My kids don’t need some fake idea of a perfect mom, they need me -Glennon, the real person. I get that.

But every once in awhile – something scary happens to me. A black, heavy, murky fog sets in over my heart and my head. When this happens, I do not alternate between super high and super low. During these awful times I alternate between super low and super numb. The fog is so thick that even when I get still and try to find my way home to myself – I can’t. During these times, none of my usual tricks….quiet time, sunshine, exercise, friends, prayer . . .none of them help me find my way through the fog. I can go through the motions of the day . . . I remember what to do – pack the lunches, smile at the kids, sweep the floor, hug my husband….repeat. I just can’t remember why any of these things matter. The love, the life that usually infuses each of these tasks with meaning is gone. I become like a robot. I have completely lost myself. All I want is to disappear into a dark room. Gone is the joy, the drama, even the suffering that makes me, me. This state of mind has nothing to do with my dramatic personality. It is more like a complete loss of my personality. I’ve suffered this loss three times in my life. Once when I was much younger and suffering from bulimia and alcoholism. Once after my second child was born, and again about a month ago. I have come to believe that this loss of myself is what is commonly accepted as depression.

This past month, when I realized that I had lost myself again, I called my doctor who told me it was time for some help. She prescribed a pill for me and I brought the bottle home and told Craig that I was going to start taking the pills immediately. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. I said, “Be patient though, husband. They take two weeks to kick in.” Craig’s face fell and he said frantically, “What? Well then maybe you could just take a whole bunch at once. Or snort it. Maybe that would work faster.” Clearly, the preceding months had been as hard on him as they were on me. He loves me. He loves his high and low wife. He wanted her back. He didn’t want to medicate me away. He wanted to medicate me back.

Last year I was having a hard time dealing with my usual anxiety about life and love. I emailed my friend Josie and said, “I can’t take the intensity in my head anymore. I need to relax. I’m gonna medicate myself. What do you think?” I hadn’t talked to Josie for years, so I don’t know why I emailed her. I guess if you listen hard enough, God will always point you towards the right person. Josie wrote back and said, “A friend once told me that if medicine allows you to be more yourself, take it. If it doesn’t, don’t.” I really liked that. And that advice helped me decide NOT to take medicine back then. Because the truth is that myself is dramatic and anxious and obsessive and ridiculously intense and you know, a little WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

But myself is not numb. When I get numb, I take my own hand and help myself find my way of the fog, back home. And medicine helped me this time around. I’m grateful.

I’m also hesitant about taking medicine. Not for the reasons that many others are. I’m not embarrassed. Ever, really. It’s a gift, my shamelessness. I know that I’m only gonna get one go ‘round on this beautiful Earth and I want it to be a good ride. I figured out a while back that there is no award for she who suffers most. No way, Jose. Not my bag. I think it’s a strong and brave and inspiring thing to find out who you are and then find a way to be it.

No, I’m hesitant to medicate away my depression because I worry that my depression fuels my writing. What medicine does for me is help me to relax into life a bit. Craig’s perspective is that when I’m on it, I am the same Glennon, I just “struggle a little less.” I agree. I struggle a little less. And I also lose the feeling that if I don’t write I will die. This is how I feel when I’m depressed. Since I lose my joy and meaning, I come to the blank page to create meaning and joy, to get it back. Because I become desperate to make sense of things. And that desperation, I’m afraid, is what makes my writing good. So it scares me, I guess, not to be depressed. A lot of really good writers are depressed. But, as Craig says – “Honey, don’t a lot of good writers also kill themselves?”

True, dat.

Anyway, even if my medicine dulls my creativity a little, I think that at this point in my life, I’m willing to risk it. I think I’d rather be a good friend to myself and Craig than a good writer. Yep, I would. How nice of me. I really do like myself.

Love You,
GDo

Feb 062012
 

 

Monks…I have so many things to say and I really wanted to write a new post today. But it turns out that I am tired to death. So please accept a BOM today: Birthdays. One of my favorites.

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Let’s head back to the morning of March 20th, 2003 for a moment, shall we?

Craig and I have been married for six months. Chase, our firstborn, is five months old. Skip the math and stay with me. I’m home on maternity leave and spending my days alternating between the ecstasy and despair that accompany caring for an infant. I’m a little worn out.

But on March 20th, I wake up renewed and refreshed and tingling with excitement. Because as soon as I open my eyes, I remember: It’s my birthday. MY BIRTHDAY! I lie in bed and wait for the surprises and festivities and celebration of me to begin.

I wait. Then I wait a little longer. I look at Craig sleeping soundly and think, Ooooh- this is gonna be good. He’s still asleep! He must’ve been up all night preparing for my big day. Can’t wait.

Still waiting. Staring at Craig.

Craig opens his eyes, turns to me and smiles. Happy birthday, honey. I bat my eyes and smile back.

Craig gets up and stumbles to the shower.

I stay in bed. Still waiting. Waiting  patiently.

He comes back twenty minutes later and says, “Can I make you some coffee?”

Um. Yeah.

I climb out of bed. I put my hair up and throw on some make-up so I’ll look nice in the pictures Craig’s sure to snap of me when I emerge from the bedroom and see all my balloons and flowers and perhaps the string quartet he’s hired to play while I eat the fancy breakfast he’s prepared.

I take a deep breath and fling open the bedroom door with much birthday gusto. I prepare my most surprised face.

Turns out there was no need to prepare. I am surprised. Because there are no balloons. No quartet. No nothing. Just Craig. Smiling, hugging me. Happy Birthday, Honey. Gotta go. See you for dinner tonight?

Craig leaves. I sit on the kitchen floor of our teeny apartment wondering if perhaps this is a practical joke. I repeatedly open and close the front door in case he’s hiding there with all of my friends whom he’s flown in from the ends of the earth to yell SURPRISE! at me. No friends. Nothing.

I sit on the couch, shocked. I am misunderstood.  I am unappreciated.

Please understand. Growing up with Bubba and Tisha, birthdays were a big deal. They made the world stop on my birthday. I never knew what would happen, but I knew it was going to be good. Tisha served breakfast in bed with flowers and gifts and out-of-the-ordinary things happened all day. In high school Bubba and Tisha sent roses to my fourth period history class with a card that said “from your secret admirer.” Nobody was allowed to get flowers delivered to class, but Bubba knew people. He also knew that those flowers would make me the most popular girl in school for the day. And they did. I walked around shrugging my shoulders when people asked me who they were from- glancing nonchalantly in the direction of the captain of the football team. He didn’t know my name. But still, anything was possible on my birthday.

Let’s just say that the morning of March 20th, 2003, I did not feel like the most popular girl in school. I did not feel like anything could happen. I felt like nothing could happen. Defeated, I sat down on the couch with my crying baby and turned on the TV.

The news anchor announced that America had officially declared some sort of war.

WHAT??? I yelled at the TV. ON MY BIRTHDAY?????

And that was IT.

I called Craig at work. He didn’t answer, so I hung up and called back immediately, which is our bat signal for it’s an emergency. He answered on the first ring, “Hi, What’s wrong? Is everything okay? Another fire???”

So, I had set the apartment on fire the week before. Twice. Firefighters had come both times. Blaring their sirens and holding their big hoses and wearing their big masks and costumes and everything, which I thought was a little dramatic of them. I mean the fires weren’t even that big. C’mon. But Craig was still a little jumpy. Anyway -I don’t want to talk about that right now. For the love of God, try to focus on MY BIRTHDAY.

Me: “No, husband. There is no fire. It is much worse than that. You should know that I have cancelled my birthday. Today is no longer my birthday.”

Craig: “What? Why?”

Me: “Because it is already eleven am and nothing extraordinary has happened to me yet. Except, apparently, some sort of war. I hate this day. And so it is not my birthday. Cancel it in your brain. Tomorrow is my birthday.”

Craig: “Okay. Ooooookay. Should I cancel our reservations and the sitter for tonight?”

Me: “No. No you shouldn’t, Husband. We will still go out to dinner tonight. But it will be a working dinner. Bring a pencil and paper, Husband. Because tonight I will be holding a seminar for you about my birthday expectations. They are many and they are specific, so you will want to wear your thinking cap. Also, find a sitter and make reservations for tomorrow night, too. Tomorrow night will be my birthday dinner. My birthday is tomorrow. Consider it a second chance. You are welcome. See you tonight, Husband. For the seminar. “

So we went to dinner that night. I explained to Craig how growing up, my parents showed their love by really celebrating special days. I told him that they paid attention to what I really wanted and cared about, offered thoughtful gifts, and created meaningful traditions. And I explained that this is how I learned to accept love. And so when he didn’t do that, it made me feel panicked and unloved somewhere down really deep.

Craig explained that he loved me very much. And because he loved me, he wanted me to feel loved. But he said that sometimes it’s hard to know what makes a person feel loved best. So he thought it was kind and wise that I figured out what made me feel loved and shared it with him. He said he was grateful. It made him feel safe, like I would help him through this marriage thing instead of being secretly resentful.

The Love Seminar worked for us. It lasted for four hours. There was some crying and lots of laughing and talking about how hard it is to come from two different families and try to make a new one. And how impossible it is to read minds and hearts. How wonderful it is to just hear what the person you love needs and learn how to give it. To set each other up for success rather than failure.

The next morning, on March 21, 2003, my temporary birthday, Craig walked into our bedroom with hot coffee and bagels covered with pink candles. He sang to me and asked me to make a wish.

When I peeked out of the bedroom I saw posters covering the walls of our apartment. They said, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HONEY! I LOVE MY AMAZING WIFE! The posters had balloons and hearts drawn all over them. Boys can’t really draw balloons and hearts. Ridiculously cute.

I squealed and Craig beamed. I kissed him goodbye and he said he’d call soon. Every hour, in fact.

I peeked into Chase’s room and saw that his crib was decorated with blue streamers.

I went pee, unrolled some toilet paper and little sticky notes fell out of the roll, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY!”

Teamwork. Love takes teamwork, I think.

These days, Craig is known for his skill at celebrating special family days. He takes pride in it. He is a master. Legendary. I can’t tell you how many times a friend has said to me, “You are so lucky. He is amazing.”

And part of me wants to say, “Lucky? Whadyathink he fell out of the sky like that?”

But instead I say, “I know. He is. He’s amazing.”

He is.

 

 

Happy Wife, Happy Life. It’s true. For me, at least.

 

Love,

G

 

 

Feb 072012
 

MONKEES . . . Meet Junia.

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Dear Monkees,

Hello, my friends! I feel so privileged to share this story and to have heard some of yours. Momastery is such an inspiring thing to be a part of. You all (we all!) are incredible. Here is my Monkee Love Project Story . . .

I met the beautiful family in July and didn’t know they were all brothers and sisters. Slowly the pieces began to fit, the recognition of the smile on another’s face. Six kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years old.

 

 

 

They blended in with all the other children, except for Jairus. Something was different about him. You could tell he was carrying some burdens, but when he laughed, you could hear the birds.

 

When school started, the family troop would come to the after school program I run, whooping and hollering. Natalie, the only girl, began to shine once her teacher encouraged her incredible intelligence. I met the youngest, the 6th, in October when the kids started coming to church with me. All the while Jairus seemed to be getting harder and harder to reach.

And that’s when we started hearing about what home was like for these beautiful children. Home was a house without furniture except for two mattresses that the six of them shared, where clothes piled up because there was no money to pay for water to wash them. The fridge was mostly empty except for a couple of leftover items from a fast food place. In Bankhead, grocery stores don’t exist unless you count the corner gas station. I talked to their mom, who was braiding hair on the side without anything full time, trying desperately to make ends meet for her children.

 

 

 

When you meet heartbreak, sometimes you kick and scream. Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you give up. I have been learning for the past few years that the only thing to do with a broken heart is to share the pieces in hopes the seeds will grow. Mary Oliver says,

“I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.”

It seems like hearts are broken  in order to invite others in, which to me sounds dreadful and completely unsafe. I, of course, would rather find myself a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a glass of wine with which to commiserate. Or I could watch a sad movie. Or I could just sit and cry about the injustice in the world. And I’ve done all of that.

Most all of the families I work with live below the poverty line. Many of them are living in a homeless transitional facility. Most of them are single parents struggling to make it. They are also some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. When you get to know people, when they become part of your lives, you can’t sit back and just sympathize. You realize that your destinies are tied to each other. You begin to understand that, as Frederick Buechner puts it:

 “Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily. That there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense – love.”

Where do we start? Well, I decided to share my heartache instead of trying to hold and control it and ultimately be either suffocated or hardened. Something caught my spirit one morning and whispered. “Just ask for help.” That’s where you all come in. I thought of Momastery’s Holiday Hands Love Project. I contacted Glennon. She and I started emailing back and forth. My favorite thing she said was, “I’m ready to pull a Ty Pennington on these folks.” So through Momastery,  I got this family their very own Monkee familyFive Monkee families that wanted to be a part of the loving and raised over $3,000.

Now I want to tell you that after that it was like the Fairy Godmother showed up from Cinderella and the house just appeared and everyone’s problems were fixed. But to tell you that would be an injustice to all. It was messy. Anything worth doing is. Even though it was tough –  in the process, I began to fall in love with this family of “wild things.”  These kids really are beautiful. Joel wants to play football in high school and is remarkably responsible and independent. His brother, Jairus has such a hard time with learning, but is the best helper to the younger children. He’s training to be a soccer coach. The middle child, Jeremy is so mischievous and loves Boy Scouts. Natalie tries to maintain her Only Girl identity with lots of sass and constantly talks about wanting a slumber party. Aaron has a smile that will melt your heart. And, the youngest, Darrius, well he’s 4. He’s full of energy and loves, well, mostly just snacks.

The home makeover involved battling bed bugs, bunk bed hunting all over the city, lots of laundry, working with a church small group and friends with trucks and building skills, shopping with Tia for sheets, transforming my car into a school bus to and from the hotel, and getting the family a new lock for the their doors. In the end we were able to buy 3 bunk beds, 1 queen sized for mom, a couch and loveseat, dining room table and chairs, LOTS of hangers, a weekend vacation of parks and hotel stays, and a new front door lock and key. But, more importantly than any of that, we built a connection and a trust.  This family learned that people cared enough to do really, really hard things for them.

The night they moved in, you could see the anticipation and joy all over their faces. After two weeks of preparation, Darrius finally got to sleep in his transformer sheets.

 

I picked the kids up this week for church and Mom was gone all day trying to find work. I went back to check on them later that night and they were all curled up under blankets one Monkee family made, nestled in between elbows and toes. Turns out bunk beds aren’t as comforting as the warmth of another body telling you that you’re safe. N* thanked me for coming and the youngest, Darrius, kissed me on the cheek and Natalie said, “I love you, Miss.” My heart melted over the floor where they were sleeping.

 

 

Thank you for being a part of this. Thank you for being a community that dares to do hard things. Please keep praying for this family. Life is hard – and continues to be. If you’re interested in hearing more about what we do, you can follow us www.facebook.com/COREafterSchool or visit the website of the nonprofit I work for www.cityofrefugeinc.com . I’ll be posting updates about this family and many others that are a part of our community.

Love, Nia

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THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, MONKEES. YAAAAAAHOOOOO!!!! IYIYIYIYIYIYIY!!!!!! Don’t tell me you can’t change the world.  I won’t hear it. The Monkees won’t hear it. We have proof otherwise.

Listen,  Monkees.  I want you to get a good night’s sleep. Thursday we will begin the biggest Love Project that Momastery has ever launched.

WE BELONG TO EACH OTHER.

WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

LOVE. WINS.

Love and Peace and JOY to you, sister and brother Monkees everywhere.

And thank you, especially, to the Love Warriors on the front lines –  like Junia. You are the real deal, lady.

Love,
G