The Tangles

Hawthorne Pond
Marblehead, MA
Spring, 2019

I found calm in the forest.

I felt my life changing under the trees.

I walked to clear my head, to stay present, to observe.

Branches intertwined made a roof where tangles never sorted themselves out.

So I thought.

But the more I walked while looking up at the sky, I saw the openings.

I began to draw a line from their start near the trunk to their finish at the canopy top – just like a children’s maze puzzle.

The branches stopped tangling me in.

There was no roof.

They tangled a way up and out and free.

I found myself free.

Pacifica, CA
October 2019

The Strange Light

Happiness in Moments


Observations: Week One

A man in a suit riding his grocery cart to the car.

A family playing basketball.

A teenage grocery cashier wondering aloud why people need to buy all the toilet paper.

A blue sky morning with the calmest of waters.

An opinion for everyone.

Walks in the woods.

Two French bulldogs named Sey and Otis.

Lacrosse.

The trampoline.

Dogs loving life with their people home all the time.

Quiet busy streets.

Clouds clearing in a straight horizontal line at sunset.

Cooking.

Forgetting how to drive.

Budding trees and bushes.

A man and woman playing catch in a parking lot.

Using the internet for real, live social connection.

Yelling at my kids and loving them to pieces all at the same time.

Deep inhales for myself, family, friends and the earth.

Lynn Shore Drive – Shimmering Fog Lifts

Brave Girl

There once was a brave girl.

But she never knew herself.

She spent her life feeling small.

She spent her life hoping she was good enough.

She spent her life wondering what she did wrong — why people left.

Why didn’t she know how to talk to people?

Why did she rage?

Why did she feel unheard?

Why did she feel unknown?

Why didn’t she even know herself?


As she grew up the pain never lessened.

But her story unfolded without consent.

Life forced a shift.

She didn’t want it.

She didn’t know how to listen,

or feel.

Dependable pain was protection.

Change was fear.


The universe wrote her story long ago.

It was time to step in,

to walk through it all.

The pull toward knowing herself gained strength.

The pain lessened.

She heard the brave girl’s whispers.


There once was a brave girl.

She taught the woman how to love.

To feel her bravery.

To love herself.

One day the whispers became a loud voice,

her own.

The brave girl,

the brave woman

came together,

Completely.

Who’s in Charge of Reality Anyway?

It’s taken me longer to post this time. I’ve passed the pleasantries stage. I realize that may sound ridiculous considering what I’ve shared to this point. But I can’t help but feel like the emotion has come from a guarded place, a narrator’s voice. Words from the thoughts of someone who understands the pain but doesn’t feel it.

I’ve found that to translate raw emotion to thoughts, to words is daunting and difficult. I don’t fully grasp the process. Is there a process? What I do know is that sharing publicly requires ridiculous amounts of vulnerability. I believe this vulnerability is helping others. I believe it is helping me to accept my true self and that is uncharted territory.

The following poem comes from that place of total vulnerability. I wrote it after I struggled to get out of my house one night because of my appearance. Listen, no one ever said anxiety was rational. In fact the definition of anxiety is an elevated emotional response that does not correlate to reality. But let me tell you, these thoughts are as real as can be when anxiety takes a firm hold. Who is in charge of what reality is or isn’t anyway?

With that said, here is my reality from that night and from many other days.

A Hate/Love Letter to You, Body

Hate

Body,

I see you today.

I blame you for everything.

Today you are the reason I can’t move.

The reason I won’t leave my house.

I look in the mirror and see all of you.

I poke at you and lift up saggy parts,

Letting them drop.

I try clothes on you and see

fat,

bulges,

bumps,

rolls.

Ugly.

I hate how you look and how I can feel that

you are soft under my crossed arms.

I hate you.

Today there is nothing more ugly than you.

If you could be different I could move.

I could get up.

But I’m frozen in this chair because I hate you.

If I move I’ll expose you.

You’ll be seen. I’ll be seen.

My failures will be seen.

I want to love you, to be kind and forgiving to you.

But all I can do is blame you.

If only you were better, life would be better.

Love

Here is what I know, body:

I’m sorry.

I know you’re my scapegoat, my escape hatch,

my control

when all else is crumbling.

To blame you is to block out the hurt, the

trauma.

Hating you has been my protection.

I don’t want to hurt you anymore.

I don’t want to see you as ugly, bumpy, old, saggy, scarred, discolored.

Distorted.

I want to see you for who you are,

what you’ve done for me.

You grew three humans.

You move through my pain.

You carry my brain and heart when they’re broken or fragile.

I do not want to uphold you to the standards

that no one, without sacrifice, can maintain.

I should see you differently but my thoughts

and eyes are deceitful.

They serve up trickery and distrust.

They have me look in mirrors to hate you more.

They force me to turn down lights and see you only in darkness.

They protect me by hurting you.

Do they not see your power?

Can I block them? Can I push them the out?

I just want to know you – the real you.

I want to feel you differently.

I want to see you for you.

I want to be at peace with you.

I want to be your constant friend.

Because body,

I’ve given you too much attention,

too much responsibility.

I don’t want to

blame

you anymore for being frozen in that chair.

I don’t want to rely on you to shield me from my pain.

Please forgive me body.

Please be patient with me.

It’s all harder than I thought it’d be.

XO Me


Stevie always sums it up for me:

“I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever.

I believe when I fall in love this time it will be forever.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/4P3R9J5VGPyAPx9T6ZXAcF?si=22n1DJmvScGTxhtGqv_TUg

The Light to My Heavy

“Boy, you gotta carry that weight,

Carry that weight a long time.

Boy, you gonna carry that weight

Carry that weight a long time”

– John Lennon, Paul Macartney

The following was edited and still contains grammatical errors everywhere. You’ll still get the gist.

I was driving to a hockey game not long ago and Carry That Weight by the Beatles came on. My kids are singing a Beatles medley in their upcoming chorus performance so we’ve been listening to a lot of Beatles. It’s a welcome respite from the Tik Toks.

The lyrics reminded me of the physical side of depression: It’s heavy. It makes you feel sluggish. It’s like trudging through mud or climbing up through quicksand. It’s trying to move your body but it’s frozen in place. It’s like carrying a weight – for a long time.

But, what if we look at the physical side of depression and flip it on it’s fucking head – make what’s heavy…..light. Let’s take the awfulness of it all and find the humility, the silly, the gross, the relatable – all in an effort to lighten the load we carry.

So without further adieu, come along and see if a few examples of my heavy can make you light too, cause I’m laughing at myself and it feels good.

The Back of the Head Bedhead

Do you know that cowlick of hair on the back of your head that comes from a lot of pillow time? It’s kind of a matted swirl. It reminds me of the one an older lady gets at the end of the week – before her appointment to get washed, fluffed and reset.

It forms after multiple days of horizontal pillow time, sans shower. With that pillow pressure the grease build up forms this matted swirl. If you’re anything like me and cursed with thin hair, in all likelihood this swirl will also put your roots on full blast and may even reveal a sneak peek of a pasty white scalp. Unlike that old lady though, I’m not holding out for my next beauty appointment – just a shower and some vertical movement.

Pale Patrol

If you want to judge my level of depression by the intensity of my tan you’d probably be 99% accurate every time.

Some background: I’m a year round spray tanner. In fact my membership at Palm Beach Tan (formally Darque Tan) has been grandfathered in like 5 times. A month of unlimited spray tans are now about $80 – $100. Mine is $18. I refuse to cancel this membership. It’s just not fiscally responsible to do so.

If I don’t look like I’ve just been on a Caribbean vacation and it’s winter, I’m probably not feeling my best. But, as I start to come out of the fog, I slowly ease back into the tan. Recently I found these really great tan wipes at Walgreens. They’re for you’re body but I cut those bad boys up, divide by six and put in little sandwich size ziplocks. I use a 3×3” square to tan up my face and neck. So if I’m tan neck and above, go ahead, look at my hands. The stark contrast is shocking but also an indicator that I’m probably feeling a little better.

The final level of the tanometer scale of depression is represented by a full body spray tan in the Mystic – level 3 clear (hardcore tanner reference).

This move takes advanced preparations. Wear loose clothes to Palm Beach that are not pajamas, wash face, possibly tweeze eyebrows, shave legs. Making these preparations AND getting in the car to actually get this done is a clear indication that the light is beating the heavy. As depression ebbs and flows, so does the tan.

Let the Sweatpants Be Your Judge

I live in sweatpants year round. So this isn’t going where you think. Sweatpants are innately good and should never, ever be vilified. I don’t wear jeans. Jeans hurt. Jeans are not an indicator of anything for me. They just suck.

But, there are highs and lows to sweatpants that correlate directly with the upswings and downswings of depression.

The Highs:

Cute form fitting joggers: I’m feeling pretty confident, pretty good. Depression in check.

The Lows:

Walmart – Hanes, XL – men’s section: 3 colors – red, black, blue $7 a piece. Pull them over the belly button for maximum comfort and a very unattractive look. This is the shit right here. This is full effect sweatpants depresh.

When your pillow is your table

There are TV trays and there are pillow trays. Unlike TV trays, pillow trays are tied directly to depression. Once you’ve plated the Cinnamon Toast Crunch – milk poured delicately over the crispy nuggets, you retreat upstairs to the comfort of your bedroom. The bowl is placed carefully on your pillow tray. This is depression dining at its finest.

The Hair

The hair is everywhere. Upstairs, downstairs, just lots of hair. Dry shampoo is a shower for your head hair when you’re living deep in the fog life. But dry shampoo isn’t soap or shaving creme. When getting yourself in the shower to wash your bod is a triumph, you best believe there’s no energy for any type of body hair removal. So all that hair you don’t want is now dark and long and EVERYWHERE – like a wildabeast in training.

The Non Sex-life Life

Only person I’m having sex with is myself – and even that’s without any regularity. It’s truly an IDGAF agenda item when the heavy is really heavy.

Ok, assuming the above non exhaustive yet TMI list didn’t turn you completely off or horrify you from reading any further, I’d like to come full circle with my expertly wise, unsolicited depression advice.

The weight of depression can hold you down physically. It can suck your energy, take your spirit and drain you of all you have. But sometimes, when you can – if even for a second, just laugh at yourself – at it all. Take advantage of the days where the glimpses of light outweigh the dark and you can see the bits of funny. Body hair is funny. Spray tanning is weird and funny. Pillow trays are fucking genius and funny. It’s depression we’re working with, not miserable asshole syndrome. Laugh at yourself in all the bed head, pale bodied, sweatpant wearing, pillow tv-traying, hairy, sexless glory. Because maybe we can put down the heavy stuff – just long enough for a chuckle. Maybe we don’t have to carry that weight for as long as we think. Who knows….but I do know that humble, happy laughs can always lighten up the heavy along the way.

CL

Split Personality Shit

It took me years to decide to write anything down at all – especially with a pencil. I hate holding writing utensils. My hand muscles are weak after so many years off. But, I had a therapist once who told me to set a timer for a 10 minute brain dump every day for a couple of weeks. She said to write down anything and everything that came to mind without regard for grammar, content, flow (pretty much like this blog) – just put thoughts to paper. The theory is that the act of physically writing will allow stressful thoughts to process and dismantle.

I tried it. I sucked at it. I barely did it. This doesn’t work for me I thought. Now, looking back, I never gave the process enough of a chance.

See, one of the problems with depression and anxiety is that challenges – even the smallest ones, can freeze a person up. It’s a cycle that has gone pretty much like this for me:

Brain Dump

1. Energized, go buy a cute journal. Ready to change my life by writing shit down.

2. I start the dump. Words are flowing, I’m feeling good. I’m still hanging on to everything but that’s ok, the process is supposed to take a little time.

3. A week passes of “oh crap I forgot to write.” So then I just stop. I give up.

4. Journal sits on bedside table, I see it every night and think “you failed again.”

5. Commence nonstop inner dialogue about how much I suck and can’t finish anything.

6. Oh hey guilt, hey shame, what up? Me again.

7. Total freeze on the shame pile for months.

8. Finally get down from that shitty shame pile and get motivated to try something new. Again.

So then the task changes and the logistical and emotional cycle repeats.

It’s lovely. It creates a winning attitude and positive outlook on life (yep not at all).

But nobody knows my inner struggle. I will not let anyone see – well now they can. There is a survival mode working behind the scenes that has provided me with an insanely efficient ability to compartmentalize and leave my hard shit in a little box in the back corner of my brain. I can do this in a split second when I need to.

Recently I can remember ugly crying, curled up on the floor in the corner of the bathroom with the door locked – overwhelmed. I thought I just can’t handle anything right now. I CANNOT. DO. THIS. ANYMORE. But this ball of agony situation only lasted until I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. In 1.7 seconds I opened the door while “washing my face” – to explain away the cried out look. I was answering math questions – (not correctly mind you, because what parent can these days) and fielding requests for dinner. Just like that. Instantly shifting into the mom I needed to be.

It feels like Split Personality Shit. It’s a disorder not listed in the current DSM-5, but I’m going to deem it worthy of inclusion in the next edition. This “SPS” simultaneously scares me and impresses me.

Don’t get me wrong, I have an open discourse with my kids about mental health and what anxiety, depression and other struggles look and feel like. They know I’m not perfect. They see that I need breaks sometimes. They know I get sad sometimes. They know I get anxious sometimes. But isn’t that just life? Love trumps all of that anyway.

We talk about constructive ways to cope when and if they ever feel overwhelm. I have vowed to take the ever pervasive stigma out of mental health struggles for them.

But, there still is a need at times, to maintain the facade of stability and normalcy for them. It’s exhausting. It feels like it’s going to break me. Sometimes it does. But then 1.7 seconds go by and I’m back.

My hope is that as I continue to work to heal, the need for the cover up won’t be so necessary. The healing work will reduce the split. I won’t have to hide one side – the side that counts the hours I can stay in bed while the kids are at school, or the side that’s barfing in the bathroom because a panic attack came on out of nowhere. I won’t have to hide that side because through healing, it’s hold will lessen. I’ll feel better. The parts of me can begin to meld together. The mom helping with math homework and the woman locked in the bathroom won’t feel like two separate people. I can be the mom and the woman that was actually in the bathroom just to wash her face. No more ball of despair on the floor, no more SPS – split personality shit.

This is the goal anyway.

I’m determined to succeed without paralyzing myself with guilt along the way. Healing is not linear. There will be ups and downs. I need to always remind myself of that.

I’ve learned that charging ahead at a manic pace for a lifetime is not what’s going to do it for me. Maybe for some, not me. But I’m just figuring this out. I’m 43. It took a lifetime of trying to keep that pace for me to realize I just CANNOT. KEEP. THAT. PACE.

I guess this all brings me back to the brain dump. As part of the healing process, I’m trying the brain dump again in the form of this blog. I’m going to work through things and let things go, little bits at a time. I’ll write without pressure, when it works for me. I’m not using a pencil though. I will type my way up through the trees and out of the fog as I feel myself becoming whole.

CL

Let the Cracks Show the Light

After writing my first blog post I got a lot of feedback from readers. Most of it was praise for being so open, so vulnerable, so honest. I was very appreciative of these comments. I was surprised actually. 

But then, on a dog walk (where I do all of my best thinking,) I realized how that first post barely cracked the surface. Yes, I alluded to therapists, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, eating disorders, body image struggles, coping mechanisms and on and on. But, there was no real delving into any one topic. Which in many ways makes sense – it was the first post!
But then I started thinking – if readers were appreciative of my honesty and vulnerability, how will they feel if they know the details; the ins and outs, the sometimes gross, scary, ugly, happy, weird truths that make up my life? Am I comfortable enough to even go there? Is it too scary to leave myself wide open? Will there be judgement, pity, fear? Maybe, maybe not. Probably not outwardly, but perhaps unspoken thoughts or quiets murmurs “offline.”
Conversations and acknowledgement of mental illness and real, open dialogue about it’s struggles still seem few and far between. Let’s face it – the stigma surrounding mental health issues is alive and well. We all know someone with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, social phobia, OCD, bipolar and on and on….but we just don’t know it 99% of the time. Because of the perpetual stigmatization, even the most open people are still are afraid about letting any part of their struggles show – even if it’s to help others going through similar struggles. It requires vulnerability and that’s really fucking hard.
I have depression. I have anxiety. I have panic attacks. I have an eating disorder. I have coping mechanisms. I have highs and lows. I am not anyone of these, they don’t define me. But they are a part of me. They can all ebb and flow and rarely are all in the mix simultaneously – but they’re all in me, chillin’, waiting to say, “hey what’s up.
On the flip, I own a home. I have success. I have a great partner. I have three kick FUCKING ass kids. I have friends who I love dearly. I have perspective. I have empathy. I have love. I have happiness. 

Do I look like mental illness? 

I hope to use this blog to help break the stigma, if even in the smallest ways. If you know me, you might not have known any of this and that’s my point. Now we have cracked the window just a tad to let in some air. Hopefully some of what I write will help you to crack your window too. I think that’s a great place to start.
“May whatever arises serve the awakening of compassion and wisdom. Don’t be afraid of the wounds. Look into them. They are what you need to heal. They are where the cracks show the light.”

– Bodisattvas

Kindness 2020

Be kind to yourself.

Friends and therapists say this to me all the time. But to be honest I haven’t really understood what it meant. I get it on a general, conceptual level. I know it’s not the self care we see on Instagram though – I’ve tried that. Massages, nails, hair, clothes, gym selfies, Botox (ok fine I like a little Botox), no carb, low carb, keto, gluten free, whole 30 and any unreachable, unrealistic “wellness goal” do not add up to transformative self care and kindness.

So what does being kind to myself actually look like? How does it play out every day?

Its January 1, 2020 and like most, the day has shown up with some thoughts on goals and resolutions. I’m siting with my coffee, puppy in a blanket – curled up in my crossed legs. CNN is on low volume and I have a quiet house for just a few more minutes. With this time I’ve come up with some ideas of just what this kindness looks like for me.

Allow myself to rest without judgement.

Allow myself to not shower every day without judgement. Dry shampoo is 1/2 a shower.

Allow myself to eat when I’m hungry.

Let myself eat shit because I just need to eat shit sometimes. It’s OK. Sugar balances anxiety. It reduces the levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. In times of anxiety I can only do what I can do. Fight, flight, freeze. Eat the sugar. Kale, sweet potatoes and ground turkey aren’t reducing any level of anything.

Continue to try to accept my body for what it is, what it’s made and how it carries me through life every day.

Allow myself to know that aging is ok.

Tell myself I am good. Say it again and again.

Dwell on accomplishments.

Push out the black cloud of depresh (thanks Gary Gulman for “depresh”) that looms and tries to steal my happiness.

Allow time and patience for the healing process to work.

Perfection doesn’t equal happiness.

Remember that true joy in life isn’t constant. Moments of happiness are strung together over time to make a happy life.

Continue to work the therapy.

Binge the shows.

Believe that I can find that intersection of happiness, passion, fulfillment and tangible career success.

Be still in my thoughts and create the space for the answers to come in.

Help someone, every day.

Smile at non creepy strangers.

Move every day.

Make the damn macarons.

Love hard on my kids.

Clean the basement.

The list could go on and on. The theme of kindness runs throughout. Like happiness, kindness is strung together with a thread of understanding and acceptance of who I am, what I am capable of and how loving myself will lead to the strength I need to live the life I want and deserve.

If I can do just a few of these this year, the kindness will grow and so will the happiness.