I didn’t know that air could smell this bad after a rain. Even NYC in the summer does smell like this. Or Nairobi during the monsoon season. I tried describing it to my mom, who’s chilling on a San Juan Island with Orcas, and all I could come up with was the smell of a campfire after someone’s dumped a bucket of water on it. But times however many buckets it would take to fill up the clouds that for the second day are pouring rain on to our parched landscape. What climactic occurrence continues to swirl the smoke from Parley’s Canyon, to the south, from California, to the west, from Oregon, to the northwest, and from whatever other western state burning this hot-hot-dry-dry summer.
to watch the mother and baby deer graze in our front yard, to listen to the silence of the house, to read book reviews and craft advice in Brevity, to lie on the couch with the cat and try not to fall asleep, to solve spelling bee or crossword puzzles, to read and perhaps write, to keep the world at bay for a few hours…before the sun comes all the way over the horizon, before the air conditioner kicks on, before my work emails start to ping, before my family wakes up, before the news of the world rushes in.
25 years ago today (June 8, 1996), I married. we promised we’d love each other forever. the cottonwoods blew, the sun shone, and our most cherished people gathered to wish us well. this year would have been our silver anniversary–whatever that means. we made it 16 years plus a few rocky months. but we made two lovely babies who’ve grown into two lovely people. and for them I’ll be forever grateful. they make my life worth living.
still, I cannot help but think about that day, the marriage that was, the partnership that was, the life we had on Blaine Avenue, in the Canyon Rim community, and on Tyler Avenue. our pets: Carlos, Henry, and Bubba.
I was reading about weight gain during menopause and happened upon this phrase, “the menopause.” The article stopped me. Not “menopause” but “the menopause.” Not “war” but “the war.” Not “life change” but “the life change.” Not “cancer” but “the cancer.” It reminds of the work usually assigned to a specific noun. The difference between generic and named: professor versus the Professor; woman versus the Woman; mother versus the Mother. But “menopause” was not capitalized. Still it was “the menopause.”
Perhaps “the menopause” is bigger than “my menopause.” More universal. As if “the” can encompass all of the experiences of menopausal women everywhere. We all pass through “the menopause.” A unifying experience. A hand-holding, gathering in a circle, singing songs ritual where we rejoice in the rite of passage known as “the menopause.”
Praise be to our flames of power–firing surges of hormonal heat!
Hallelujah for our hearty middles, jiggling thighs, fluffy flesh!
Amen to the almighty god, the Menopause!
The second meaning:
accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond.
“the doctor tried to wean her off the sleeping pills”
I’m in my second week of weaning off my SSRI. From 20 mg a day for the last 16 1/2 years to 15 mg for the last 7 days to 10 mg this week. On Sunday I’ll begin 5 mg for 7 days and then be done. Weaned. After the first couple of days, when I felt flu-like I didn’t notice much of a change. Kind of an anti-climatic end to the journey. I must have been ready.
I want to embrace the synonym, “disengage,” which reminds me of my mantra “detach.”
separate or release (someone or something) from something to which they are attached or connected.
“I disengaged his hand from mine”
synonyms: release, detach
What once was connected, now becomes separate, unattached.
And then I wonder if I’ve yet to experience the full effects of withdrawal. Apparently it’s a thing: SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome. Effects ~20% of people who discontinue antidepressant use. Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones?
In 2002 I lost my mind. I was doing the dinner dishes. A pile of recycling had accumulated on the counter and threatened to spill into the sink and onto the floor. Yogurt containers, beer cans, an egg carton. I lost it, it all came pouring out: my pent-up pain. Through tears I raged against everything that had piled up in that kitchen. When I was done, I turned and saw my children in the doorway. They were 2 and 4.
I started with Prozac, which made me “not feel”–something better than the crushing pain I felt before but not a good state. I remember imagining that both of my children died, hit by a car, and found myself incapable of generating any sort of emotion related to such a disaster. I couldn’t cry, couldn’t empathize. When I switched to Lexapro, my emotional range grew. I emerged from that alternative fog.
Now weaned, I find myself racing through memories. Thoughts of my earlier depressive episodes. In the summer of 1990, when I returned from three-week trip to Kenya, I isolated myself from friends–convinced they didn’t like me anyway–and cried at the slightest provocation, and slept and slept and slept. My parents’ friend, an infectious disease specialist, tested me for every conceivable third-world disease. Nothing. Nothing until late summer at a friend’s wedding, where I partied into the wee hours and something let go, something lifted. The parallel story: after leaving a PhD program in English at the U of Arizona, I moved home for the summer and took a job working with kids in day camp at the Salt Lake County Recreation Center. My illness coincided with my post-Africa, post-Tucson stay in Salt Lake City. By the end of the summer I had moved into my own apartment in the Avenues and started a new PhD program at the U of Utah. I guess transitions are hard.
There are more episodes, but I’ll stop here.
Prozac Culture – I related to this piece a lot.
The God of Depression – Thanks to William Styron for speaking out; you didn’t cause it, you can’t control, and you can’t cure it. So suicide may be the only option.
Why Writing Matters in the Age of Despair – Reminds me why I write–to keep track of the trivia that comprises a life. And of course we all need a room of our own–a place to breathe freely, to let our minds race, to gather ourselves together and return to the hearth.
the lure of death
We’ve been talking about death. “We” meaning my kids, my husband, and me. And by “death” I mean the lure of it, the desire not to live anymore. At 2:43 a.m., my daughter sent me this article, I am not always very attached to being alive. It’s a candid description of “chronic, passive suicidal ideation.” At some level, the author and cited sources claim, we all do it: desire to die. Just the other day I imagined driving into the oncoming traffic. I was physically tired, emotionally drained, and thought about how easily I could drift into the other lane and BOOM! be done with it. And last night, after several particularly deep conversations with loved ones, I dove into a crying jag that left me fantasizing about how much easier everyone’s lives would be without me in them. I didn’t so much want to die as to eliminate what I perceived as the stressor (me) from the situation.Then my mind turned to all the mess: the chaos I would leave in my wake, the unsigned will, the dangling threads of projects at home and at work, and I realize I’m making lists of things remaining to do, so I cannot leave…yet.
But why stay alive? Really? I can’t come up with any good reasons to give my young adult children. The line, “it gets better,” lacks credibility. How do you know? Can you promise that? At least “I want you to stay alive” carries the truth. But can that be enough? “I created you, nurtured you, watched you struggle to learn how to be alive, so I can’t stand idly by while you throw away all of that hard work.” Too dramatic, too selfish, and simply too silly. Everyone loses things they’ve worked hard for every day.
It begins in my lower back, draws up my spine, blasts out through the pores in my neck. I sweat and steam pours. While I’m flashing I cannot concentrate. How do the women playing Vivaldi play their violins? Can they saw through these temperature extremes?
short sleeve or long sleeve
capped or tank
turtle, tee, or button-down
crew, scoop, or v-neck
plaid, print, or solid
flannel, poplin, chambray, corduroy, gingham, madras
3/4 sleeve, mock turtle
plain or logo
100% cotton; cotton blend
dress, casual, formal, workout, active
linen or viscose
ribbed, slubbed, brushed, fleeced, bleached
wrinkle-resistant, moisture wicking
vegan, cruelty free, eco-friendly, fair-trade, sweatshop-free
sustainable, upcycled, recycled
bamboo, vegetable, plant-faced
Easter was far from normal….
The day began unalarmingly. I rose early, fed the cats, made coffee, ate a yogurt, and gathered the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. As I blended the dry ingredients with the butter/egg/sugar/vanilla mixture, I felt a pain in my chest. A bout of reflux? I stopped the blender and waited for the feeling to pass. It didn’t. At least not right away. I felt a head-rush–as if I’d stood up too fast. I was already standing, so I laid my head on the counter. The pain and head-rush abated somewhat. Dave entered the kitchen, carrying his laundry, ready to start his day. I greeted him then told him I didn’t feel well, that I needed to sit down. I moved to the bench by the window. I couldn’t catch my breath, slow my respirations–are those the opposite of each other? I asked Dave for an aspirin–thinking I was having a heart attack? He brought the medicine and a pulse oximeter. My oxygen level was in the 90s–good–but my heart rate was in the 200s–not good. He put his ear to my heart: “it sounds like birds’ wings fluttering.” I said I thought I might sit in the recliner instead. I moved to the living room, lay back in the chair, and begin to feel less pain in my chest. But then I felt a wave of nausea, without the cold sweats, and thought I might pass out. Or die. Something about this feeling was not the same. I sensed I might not wake up if I fainted this time. I asked Dave to get help.
911, ride to the hospital, blood tests, chest Xray, EKG monitoring – all normal.
the precious commodity eludes me today, of all days, the first weekday after the switch to daylight savings time. wide awake at 5:45, which was actually 4:45 two days ago. no, the cats did not wake me. perhaps I slept too long on Saturday. maybe I have too many puzzles racing around in my brain. I did 4 yesterday: the Spelling Bee, the mini crossword, the Sunday, and a jigsaw puzzle. or it could be my body’s adjustment to the missed SSRI dose on Friday night. still finding a balance.
today I receive my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and I’m a bit anxious–especially after my “mild prolonged response” to the first one. ’twill be a relief to be protected. by March 22nd. just a little over a year since we shifted to remote work. the year that time stood still.
The president promised that we would be back to normal by Easter. That was last year. Now it’s this year and that president is gone. The new president hasn’t made such a promise. He’s not that foolish. But here we are, one year on, and whatever we thought about returning to normal–whether it would be sooner rather than later–doesn’t matter. There will be no “return” to anything resembling “normal.”
I’ve ruminated on the concept of normal before–back to normal and Norming–and find myself continually returning to the word. Perhaps because the world seems obsessed with normalcy: creating a sense of it, returning to it, institutionalizing it. The elusive place of typicality. Where conditions are usual. Where everyone and everything are average.
What if no one died from the coronavirus, would that feel normal? Or if no one died from gunshots wounds received while shopping at King Sooper’s, working in a massage parlor, or driving along a highway, would that feel normal? Or if immigrants–illegal or not–received compassionate care, would that feel normal?
When I feel “normal” I often wonder what’s wrong with me. The world seems blunted and dull. I plug into my computer and play the working game. On time, in step, efficient, and organized. I stay calm; I complete my tasks; I forget to breathe.
I live on a hill. A very steep hill. When I look out my window I see my neighbor’s car pulling out of their driveway, which wouldn’t be anything unusual, except the car and the driveway and my neighbor appear at the top of my window. As if they might drive down the hill and through my house. Sometimes I look out my window and feel dizzy with vertigo. Which way is up? Will I fall off this cliff? How do I find my balance?
Now that the new year has begun, I imagine a gradual return to normal. I’ve pondered this word before, but I still marvel at the comfort some of us take in “normal” activities, a “normal” life, the “normal” progress of politics. Is there really such a state?
The word reminds me of “nostalgia,” which presupposes a better time/place/state of mind. When life was good, when people were kind, when everyone knew their place. Ever elusive. Like a sense of “home,” which as soon as one feels it, it vanishes–becomes dark and disturbed. Evanescent. Evanescence.
Words. So many words. We’ve been playing the Times’ Spelling Bee–an accursed game that leads one through promises of ever-growing intelligence (Nice –> Great –> Amazing –> Genuis) and the ultimate prize of “Queen Bee” (guessing *all* of the possible words. So seductive. So comforting.
The comfort of words, games, puzzles, movies, books, music, organized shelves and spaces. These buffer the death, the raging pandemic, the horrifying news. We are meant to be sheltered now. Encased in our homes. Comforted by words. Safe with the normal routine of life in lock-down.