Long Time Gone

It’s been a while.

Long enough for my widgets to stop working and all my social media account links to break. Long enough for pretty much everything about how WordPress works to change. Long enough for even my mother to stop visiting my blog.

Two and a half years, give or take.

Well, shit.

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Mine was sparkling cider.

Before I stopped posting entirely, I slowed down because I was writing other places. Then my day job picked up, which was glorious and time consuming.

 

Somewhere in there (step)parenting got pretty un-fun and I didn’t want to write about it. Not one little bit. I wanted a break.

Gigs took me out of the house and out of town for extended periods of time. When I was home, I didn’t want to write. I wanted to clean.

Wanting to clean is my emotional equivalent of bleeding from the eyes.

I clean and I feel like I’m having an effect on something. For like a minute. Because the thing about having a houseful of kids is that you clean a spot and six people and two dogs come along behind you and lay new shit down in the clean place while you’ve moved on, erroneously believing that you finished back there.

My last gig had a pretty brutal production period, which wasn’t unusual. But for the first time ever, I didn’t bounce back after we opened. I kept waiting, and I never bounced. I looked up one day and realized I was down the rabbit hole again. Way the hell down the rabbit hole.

Well, shit.

For many months, I didn’t think about the blog at all. Then, when I did think about it, I was confused. I felt like I needed to define a new direction and have a plan, and I didn’t know what any of that meant.

 

Ultimately though, I remembered that that’s not why I started in the first place. I just wanted to write. When I started, I felt like I had something to say. I didn’t really care if people read it or not.

I’ve been gone so long, I just wanted to come back.

I’m also going to swear. So there’s that shit to look forward to.

 

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You know you missed me.

 

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In Defense of Walking on the Dead

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Palm Sunday I was walking my dogs in the cemetery. Sundays are busier there than any other day of the week, and holiday Sundays even more so. Team Puggle and I do our best to steer clear of people tending or visiting graves, as well as other dogs, so upon seeing five cars parked along the front drive, we took to the back paths.

The dogs were sniffing away in a clearing, enjoying the perfect weather and all the new spring smells. A car pulled slowly down the road about a hundred feet from us and someone in the car did my all-time least favorite thing: made a passive-aggressive judgmental comment just loud enough for me to hear as they drove by, not stopping to actually confront. The woman said, “How dare anyone walk a dog in a cemetery? That’s disgusting!” Her Jersey accent dripped with contempt.

The Puggles perked their ears and tilted their heads at her. She said some other things but I didn’t quite catch them, though her tone of voice made it sound as if I were personally digging up graves and toppling headstones.

I assured the Puggles that they were not, in fact, disgusting and we went on our way to sniff somewhere else. I asked Jack if he wanted to go track her down and inform her that we likely visit the grave of her dead relative far more than she does, because for this woman to be surprised and offended that people walk their dogs in this cemetery, she can’t come here very often.

Jack scented the air and opted out. He is a better man than I, and his insistence that we merely carry on with the walk shut off the imaginary conversation I was having with her in my head- you know, the one where I judge her back and put her in her place and make her feel at least as bad as she made me feel. Jack pulled in another direction and brought me back to where we were.

For a moment there, I second-guessed myself. About walking my dogs in the cemetery being a good thing.

I started walking them here on the advice of my therapist when I could barely get out of bed from depression a few years ago. For a couple of months it was the only thing I could accomplish in a day besides show up to work.

Walking in the cemetery is their very favorite thing in the world. Because we don’t have a yard, they consider the cemetery to be theirs. It’s part of their territory, and I’m willing to bet every other dog that walks there feels the same. It’s the kind of place that inspires ownership.

 

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For me, it’s a chance to serve. I let them choose which way we go. I let them sniff. I pick up their poop; I don’t let them pee on the flags.

 

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They explore as far as they can on the end of a leash. They notice the new trees the groundskeepers plant to replace the ones destroyed in the storms, the flowers and shrubs added by relatives around headstones. They find the evidence of deer, of raccoons, of owls; of the struggle for life and death that goes on in the animal side of things there. We’ve found dead moles, mice, birds and an inside-out rat, picked clean by crows.

 

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I cannot keep a straight face while walking behind two Puggle butts. Jack walks on an extreme diagonal, as if he is in desperate need of an alignment. If he ever requires a wheel, I fear he’ll only move in circles.

The dogs lead me to the change of seasons through all the small signs. I find the first of spring in the new shoots of grass that Casey likes to eat, the crocuses bursting through the ground that Jack has to investigate; I notice the buds on the tree branches as they both stare at the trunk, mystified at a squirrel that magically disappeared by going up.

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We visit the graves of the ones who touched our family: The boy who died on the high school baseball field. The kid who committed suicide, though some say it was an accident. The mother who very intentionally jumped off a bridge. The 20-year old girl who lost out to a brain tumor.

I’ll stop at a grave I don’t know and wonder about the person there. I wonder how they died, and how they lived. I wish peace for their families; I know it is harder to come by for some than others.

One thing I’ve learned from walking on the dead is that nobody gets enough time.  The cemetery is full of people who probably would have given anything for one more day or a chance to make a different decision had they known what was on the other side, and what they were leaving behind.

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More so than in yoga, or while meditating, the only time I truly appreciate the present moment as it happens is on these walks. Because we are present, Team Puggle and I. We are warming in the sun, we are having our floppy ears blown straight out by the wind, we are smelling all kinds of unbelievable smells.

The definition of reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. Walking my dogs in the cemetery is the most reverent thing I do all day.

I guess this whole business of living and dying can be plenty disgusting if you think of it that way, but I don’t. It’s just life. All the gross things that come out of a body have to be tended to, canine and human alike. Is a dog taking a whiz in graveyard dirt any more disgusting than what happens to a body when it expires?

No one here gets out alive.

That’s how I dare walk a dog in a cemetery.

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 Every day above ground is a good day.

 

 

 

 

Red

Oh, hey. I’m glad you came by. Been a while, huh?

Well, you know how it goes. I get quiet when life is busy, when CC is out of town or I’m picking up extra work or cleaning the house. Heh. Heheheheh. Cleaning the house. I can’t even keep a straight face when I type that.

I’m also quiet when things blow up: We have a hurricane. We have a blizzard. A kid goes in the hospital. The Puggles get hives.

But this time I’ve been quiet because my depression took a joy ride.

Depression: Hey. Nice ride. Is this a 289? V-8? Sweet! I’m gonna drive for a while, mkay?

Me: Ummm, that wasn’t really what I….

Depression: WOO-HOO!

Hope you fueled up!
Hope you fueled up!

This round wasn’t terrible. I got up every day at a reasonable hour, I still went to work. I saw the kids, talked to my husband, walked the dogs, and ate my meals. If you deal with depression at all, you know that particular flavor of it is like winning the Depression Lottery. The jackpot this week is up to Functional Depression? Ten thousand tickets, please!

It’s been more of a constant emptiness. A lot of not being at capacity, and not being able to change that.

Two things I’ve not been able to do are talk to my family of origin (because they always see through that shit and I couldn’t talk about it), and write. Well, scratch that. I did write. I just didn’t write well.

Every time I put a pen to paper, I felt like I was recovering from a stroke- or at least from one of those nights with a case of Little Kings and that guy from high school you never really liked but hung out with because he always had the good drugs.

I assure you neither of those things happened.

Forming complete sentences was a real challenge. I’d get overwhelmed or angry or deeply sad or else totally ambivalent before I finished a thought. Sitting at the keyboard was even worse because typing is faster, so there was more time to hate myself in between words.

I can fix this, I told myself. This, too, shall pass.

Except I couldn’t, and it didn’t. And it hasn’t. And I’m getting through this post because I’ve sat down to do it nine times in the past two weeks and I have a playlist full of Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, and Perfect Circle and I’m drinking too much caffeine too late at night and have given myself permission to suck. Out loud.

The lapse, the silence, the withdrawal from society is unfortunately timed because there are a lot of great things happening in my writing world and I sure would like to support them with a strong blog presence. My friends, too, have amazing things happening in their writing worlds and I want to support them as well. I overflow with blessings. But I’m all tap tap hate. tap tap hate. tap tap sigh. tap.

I always think I have a stronger measure of control over the big D than I actually do, and every time it ebbs away I convince myself it’s gone for good. I’m always surprised when it hijacks me again.

Depression: {knock knock}

Me: You again? I kicked you out, you sonofabitch. Go away.

Depression: C’mon, baby, you know you missed me! Let’s ride!

Me: Asshole.

Allie Brosch’s interview on NPR (which my husband, my source for all useful and interesting links, turned me on to) is fantastic, and if you haven’t heard it, here’s the link. She’s one of my favorites. She had a year and a half gap in her blog because of her depression (of the nasty, big-ass variety) and she said this:

“I think there’s a common misconception that depression is about something or depression is sadness or some form of negativity. It can represent a sadness or a self-loathing, as the first half of my depression did. It sort of circled back on itself and made me dislike myself more because I was so sad, and I didn’t know why, and I felt like I needed a reason. … It took me a long time to figure out that something was broken on a fundamental level. There was no reason behind it; it was just the way things were.”

I’ve had the I don’t think I’m pulling out of this kind of depression twice in my life. This isn’t that. I do live in fear of it getting that bad again, though I no longer believe that I am broken. I have promised that I will consider medication if it gets that bad again.

Meanwhile, I fight it. Have you ever heard the phrase: What you resist, persists?

How about, Surrender to win?

So after weeks and weeks of losing battles, trying to find the reason for it and fix it, I gave up. I accepted that it’s just the way things are right now, and there’s no real reason for it. I quit fighting it.

Me: Okay, big D. Let’s ride. Don’t wreck my goddamn car.

My inbox is in the hundreds; I’ll answer a few of them and eat a cookie if I can’t. There are seven unheard voice mails, some of which are two months old, and it’s highly probable I will delete them without ever listening to them. I’ve missed deadlines and I’m about to miss more, but I’m still writing. I’m plugging away, but in quicksand, with molasses, in a straightjacket.

Little things in my arsenal make me feel better. I always considered them weapons against the bad feelings coming, but it turns out they work just fine if you’re already down: Doing something decent for someone even if it’s in a teeny-tiny way; A good story and a strong-ass cup of coffee with cream (not milk, not half & half); Laughing, which this madhouse that I live in gives me ample opportunity to do; Chocolate and heavy metal; A brisk walk under the fall canopy amongst the dead (in our cemetery, to clarify) with the Puggles.

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Oh, and red. Red lipstick in particular. Red lips always make me happy.

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I took this ridiculous selfie when I got to work a couple weeks ago after my writers group told me I looked glamorous, which I thought was hilarious and sweet.

Because I look crazy.

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Does anybody hear Patsy Cline?

I don’t mind; looking like a whack job comes with a tremendous amount of freedom. Especially in New York.

Does the big D hijack you, too?

Where do you find freedom?