‘81 Pontiac

She sat in the back.

Braided Barretts.

corduroy pants,

turtleneck

and a fair isle sweater.

She was 7,

eating an apple.

That apple looks so good he said –

nice and juicy.

Do you like it juicy?

He stole her from the rearview mirror of an ‘81 Pontiac.

All the way til ‘83.

To Lead

The queen bee

The orchestra conductor

The lead vocalist

The general

The CEO

The 2nd grade line leader

The prima ballerina

The drum major

The Panic

Ruling all loyal subjects

Leading by gesture

Setting the pitch

Commanding all forces

Connecting the board

Strutting with pride

Moving so beautifully you could cry

Controlling the rhythm

Ushering in the darkness

The leader

The panic

Panic

Yesterday morning I saw a woman in her car. She was in her driveway. The car was running. There was a baby in a car seat in the back. The woman’s head was down and I couldn’t see her face.

Her shoulders were so slumped. Her head seemed to rest on her lap. I walked past, averting my eyes at first because that’s what we do, right? But I was compelled to stop just past the car because something didn’t feel right.

I checked on the baby first. He was content in his seat. I stared at the women. She was so still. I began to panic – what if she had a heart attack? What if she overdosed? What if depression just took over and she couldn’t handle it any more? All thoughts pointed to the worst. For fear of startling her – or maybe myself, I continued to watch a minute more. Finally I approached the car. My adrenaline moved me forward.

She was texting. That was all.

I scurried away without her noticing me. Throughout my day this resonated in a deeper way than I realized. By evening it culminated in a full blown panic attack the crept in slowly as I snuggled into my covers. My heart raced at a running pace. My breath was so short. My heart was skipping beats. My brain was taking me to the worst places – what if I’m dying? What if my anxiety shortens my life because it puts so much strain on my heart?

Panic attacks make me catastrophize. Once the height of it passes, what it leaves in its wake is exhaustion, muscle aches, stomach upset, depression. The attacks are all encompassing. The acute effects are scary as hell. The aftermath is debilitating.

As the side effects began to subside I reflected on what got me to the point of overwhelm. I reviewed the day, catalogued the events. I thought about the isolation, the pressure of being inside with three kids and the strain that puts on all of us. I thought about what they are missing, what I’m missing. I thought about what they won’t be able to do for some time. I thought about trying to cope through this and what I need to do. I thought about the fragility of my mental health and wondered if this time will set back my progress, growth and strength that I’ve worked so hard to build.

I thought about the woman in the car. A month ago I may not have spotted her. My mind would have been elsewhere. But the quiet of the street allowed me to see things I would have likely missed before. I don’t know her story – she could be the most content young mom. But the fear and potential implications of the event took over. It planted itself in my psyche for the day. After all, I thought this woman was dead.

Once night came and life was quiet, my body and mind stopped protecting me. It let me feel it. I panicked. Throughout the past year I’ve learned queues – queues that help me manage impending attacks. I’ve learned not to cut the panic off harshly but to work with the events that might have triggered it’s hold. I’ve learned to move with it rather than defend against it. I acknowledge the traumatic events that might spark the panic into motion. I refer back to ways in which I’ve lessened the panic’s strength in the past. The techniques I use work – but they’re not foolproof. They weren’t this time. Even for the most trained and counseled, panic can be a sneaky little monster.

The woman left me processing my own fear but also the collective fear for others who have heightened anxiety, panic and depression during this time. We are all mourning a way of life that won’t likely be the same again. We are mourning the actual loss of so many lives. This is loss that could have been prevented. We are wondering about the new normal, what will look like? This gray area of wonder is the worst part. Just as the unknown was with the woman in the car.

But all we can do is manage the uncertainty by moving through the day. Just the day, no more. We can take care of ourselves – whatever that looks like. We can move through these days because we just will. It might not be pretty but we’ll do it. We can continue to see what we might not have seen in the before, when the streets weren’t so quiet.

That might actually be a gift in the end.

The Unknowing Reach of Hate

You shut up.

You sound just like your father.

Do you want to be like him?

No you shut up.

Don’t fucking talk to me.

I hate you.

She stands tall and threatening in the

mother’s face.

FUCK YOU. You’re crazy.

The mother cowers but never lets her forget.

That’s enough.

Do you want to be like your mother?

You act just like her.

You’re right that is enough. Fuck you.

I’m outta here.

You’re such an asshole.

She nearly misses the father’s face and

punches through a glass window.

She is twelve.

She hopes to never be like either one of

them.

Misery seeps from their skin and lives in

their blank stares.

Do they think their misery is unseen?

That the hate just cuts through each other?

She hears it all.

She feels it all.

It pushes her hand through the glass.

Relief.

When the Poles Crash

The Comedown

Darkness don’t catch me, I don’t want to be found. Risk, just let me feel you. You make me pretty. You make me fun. You make me happy. You make me powerful. You prove to me that I can do anything. Risk, here we are at the party in the basement. At the motel, next to the trailer park. Ping-ponging in the walls of my brain. Risk, how long will you stay? Wait, risk, did you leave? Why so fast? I wasn’t ready. We still have so much more to do. I’m fucking pissed. You make me so happy. Now I feel the dread. It’s coming. Risk, I want you back. Please come back. Your replacements are here. They come over my left shoulder like black smoke. They lower around me. They do not rise like smoke does. They make me lay with them. They carry my pain that you make me forget. They wrap me in it. They keep me away from you, risk. They tell me how bad you are. I believe them. I thank them. I hate you risk, they’ve shown me how I hate you and myself when you’re with me. So I live in their deep darkness. I do nothing to get out from under them because nothing feels worth it. I slow down. Risk, I’ve lost you’re frenetic pace. I start to thrive in the nothingness of their space — their pace and their safety. They give me all the darkness they’ve got. I’m good in here. Until I’m not. Just like that. Please come in risk. I see you busting through the cloud. You tell me how the fucking smoke and darkness carries lies. You shift the balance. I need you risk. Yes! Come in, please let’s start again. Save me. Make me move. Where can we go? What can we do? Keep me out of the darkness. For now you’re my friend again. It all happens so fast. I don’t understand it. But you risk, are the reward again. It’s your turn to protect me.

So let’s go back around.

The Strange Light

Happiness in Moments

Observations, Week Two

Sitting for a moment in the quiet courtyard of the closed Public Library.

Watching Lonzo chase squirrels.

The streets as still as the harbor.

Laying under the covers with my son, searching online for new socks.

The same son delivering Oreos, Pepsi, Milk and Goldfish to my bedside table on a framed picture “tray” – because he wanted to make me something. The spoon is so goldfish dust doesn’t collect on my fingers.

Diehard New England Surfers off Devereaux Beach.

The slow motion swaying branches of willows trees.

Strangers walking, exchanging smiles, waves and head nods – even with the uneasy distance in between.

Kids losing their independence outside but gaining it inside. They are finding the flow of their own rhythm.

A homemade sign in the front yard reading “smiles are contagious too”.

Route 128 drives, singing with the windows down, music blaring, hair flowing. “Hey I just forgot about the corona virus” my littlest said.

Newborn winter babies out in strollers for first spring walks- their routine uninterrupted, their life seemingly unchanged.

A rhinoceros statue in the tangled front yard of a downtown house.

Days merging together separated only by the lessons each one brings.

Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free? Can you be?
When some cold tomorrow finds you
When some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you

-Steve Winwood

When You See A Chance

Thoughts On Our New Reality

How hard is this shit? It’s unchartered territory for all of us – something I never even considered happening in my lifetime.

Aside from the political turmoil and lack of response to the pandemic when it was in its infancy stage – we should have seen this coming.

We have been infringing upon our planet in ways it wasn’t built for – for far too long. I am late to the game with things like recycling, repurposing belongings, conserving energy – simplifying life. I just didn’t really get it.

As many are saying, this pandemic is making most of us feel like the world has been forced into a massive time out. But this pause seems virtually impossible for so many – because of the frenetic pace in which our lives move. It has been a daunting task to downshift the gears.

Most mornings I wake up, check my email, scroll Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and the news headlines. Without fail, I start crying. Not at the scope of this all; the lives lost, the projection of the reach of the virus; the harrowing stories from the hospitals and medical professionals. Of course all of that is mind numbing, frightening and incredibly strange. It’s ultimately devastating and I cry over all of that too. But the normal things that people are writing about – cooking for their families, posting pictures of their kids from years ago or reading funny posts about being trapped in the house. Those snippets of life are bringing so much emotion to the surface.

All of it makes me realize how emotionally and mentally taxing this experience has been and how it will be as we get further along.

The effects don’t just show up in one fell swoop, ie – a nervous breakdown on the floor, unable to get up. The mental health effects manifest through an unraveling that’s hard to identify during its slow unfolding.

For example, I don’t want to leave my kids alone. There’s a big mama bear phenomenon at work over here. As much as they are driving me crazy there is this major pull to never leave them – to protect them. It may not be healthy or practical or even rational but it’s a real thing. We as parents feel a real threat. A life or death threat against us and our family. Protecting our kids becomes tantamount to everything else. The problem is, our own self care becomes second fiddle. This the exact reason we need to find ways to take care of ourselves. Second fiddle self care results in second fiddle everything else care.

Of course it must feel like I’m heading into a diatribe on how to take care of your mental health. But here’s the thing – I don’t have answers that will necessarily work for anyone. Some days are better than others. The bad days suck and I can’t get out of bed. The good days have me motivated to enjoy time with my kids or attack overflowing cabinets and closets that have been overlooked for years. Or a mixture of both, depending on the hour.

But, for what it’s worth here are some things that are helping me to get through. And one last side note before the list. Everything I’m doing has been unintentionally taking me back to basics. These selfcare tactics are not manicures, pedicures, spray tans, massages, facials etc (although those are all things I’d started to do less and less before this new reality began – for no reason, just a shift in life).

So without further ado here are some “back to basics”that have been helping me:

Walks in the woods.

Cooking for family.

Meditation.

Binge watching.

Allowing myself to do nothing and trying to remove the shame and guilt around it.

Calming activity like writing, art projects with the kids, painting walls of rooms.

Sitting in the cold sun to get that vitamin D hit.

Using the internet for real social connection to friends and family.

Keeping in mind that I’m not alone. We are all feeling at least some of the ways I’m feeling. That is comforting.

Movement – not every day and not with pressure or goals for weight loss or maintenance. Movement for mental health.

Taking pictures.

Writing down things I observe on walks that I don’t usually see. They bring moments of joy or connection to the earth that I wouldn’t have noticed before.

There was a before Corona virus and the after will never look like the before that we knew. Hopefully this new reality will help to change us all for the better, to notice the basics more. I hope we can see what we’re working with in this world and respect it. I hope we can realize the boundaries our planet has been showing us for so long. I want to see and feel things differently than I did before. We all need to because it’s those kids we need to protect. The mama bear syndrome has short and long term results. Protect them now to protect their future.

I wish everyone calm peace of mind as we all get through this as best we can.