I dig

Photo: Microgen/Shutterstock

I dig

I am an archeologist excavating

Brushing away what isn’t

To expose what is

Discovery:

Metaphorical bricks and mortar

The foundation laid by

My mother and father

Their mothers and fathers

And so on

White middle class siding, black

Rooftop shingles above

Contain what is below

A water table of war, famine, alcohol

When trauma rains

The waters rise

Flood the tidy basement red

Shag carpet, tasteful wood paneling

Pretty gas fireplace

Just enough to mildew

There’s mold in the air

The house is boxed tight

Windows closed against

Outsiders looking in

It takes my breath away.

‘Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play’

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Pullman Philip 2

Wise words from Philip Pullman, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005:

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.

But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.

It’s true that some people grow up never encountering…

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There in the asylum, he forgot

For my dad.

Chipping Sparrow

There, in the asylum of dementia, he forgot.

The meaning of suffering.

The toll his life had taken on him.

And on everyone he once professed

To love.

And hate.

He lived for this moment.

Only.

Not by choice.

By chance.

That’s all he had left.

The disease had swept clean the cupboard.

Of minutes, hours he had saved and savored.

Over months, years.

Now there was only this one beautiful second.

This whiff of lilac; gone.

This light spreading golden across the Oriental rug; lost.

This chirping sparrow’s trill; fluttered away.

What came before and after; extinct.

‘Joy and woe’

My friend, Shona Moonbeam, over at www.knomochoicius.com, shared a piece of a William Blake poem with me tonight.

We were talking about a book I’m reading called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson.

I’ll write more about the book later, but for now it’s enough to say … wow. Seventy-eight pages in and I’m blown away.

From the front flap:

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger shows us that the key to being happier is to stop trying to be “positive” all the time and instead to become better at handling adversity.

“Fuck positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest; sometimes things are fucked up and we have to live with it.”

Silly me. For most of my life I’ve been under the mistaken impression that we can reach a state of satisfaction and happiness without suffering. Mark says this is impossible, because the human condition includes both joy and pain … or “joy and woe” as William Blake said.

Oh.

Making a life, pt. 2

I’m propped up in my bed on Sunday morning, skittering around the Internet while hoping a panic episode subsides. It’s a gorgeous day already, much like the one I wrote so happily about on Tuesday. But I’m not in that space now, and I’m wishing my dad was still alive to talk to about it.

My dad battled anxiety and depression his whole life. I can’t help but imagine how providing for our family of six placed a heavy yoke of responsibility on him and exacerbated his struggle. I never asked him about that, yet I think I understand it.

When I experience my own tsunami of anxiety, sometimes out of nowhere, sometimes traceable back to an incident, everything — even the things I cannot do anything about in the moment — make it worse.

Case in point this morning:

  • I woke up feeling anxious, worrying about my future, overwhelmed by how busy I am and wondering how I’ll possibly get everything done this week.
  • I read about tRump’s ICE raids that were to begin today, but in some places started yesterday, without warrants.
  • The New York Times said some of the agents expressed concern about “arresting children” (thank God).
  • It suddenly felt like Nazi Germany to me, which is terrifying and made my anxiety worse. What is happening in this country? Who are the collective “we” we are becoming?
  • I thought about a book on CD I am listening to (thanks, Mr. Z), “The Demon in the Freezer,” about smallpox and anthrax, the horrendous ways people die from them, terrible experiments with the smallpox virus on monkeys and how this country and Russia — and who knows who else? — have huge quantities of the virus on ice that could be used for biological warfare.
  • More terror, more anxiety.

My friend, B, told me I shouldn’t write about personal details of my life on my blog, because current and future employers might read it and that could ruin my chances at keeping a job or securing a new one if they didn’t like what I wrote. My daughter told me I should make my Facebook posts private for the same reason.

In fact, someone did read a recent post of mine, and for a minute I felt afraid, exposed, vulnerable. But wait. Do I not want people to read my posts? Do I not want to inspire readers to think and perhaps even be challenged? And if a potential employer was turned off by my expression of an opinion or description of an experience, would a job there work out for me in the long run, unless I hid who I am?

Who am I making my life for?

For those who like facts and figures, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health:

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. (18%) have an anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder. Most people develop symptoms before age 21.

So why would anyone, employers included, stigmatize anxiety (or any type of mental illness) when 1 in 5 people have anxiety? (Statistically speaking, how many of those decision makers and stigmatizers have it, too?)

Anxiety is part of who I am. (So is depression, but that’s a post for another day.) And although anxiety made this morning difficult for me, I’m moving forward the best I can, knowing it will come and go … and come again.

One thing’s for sure: I’ve hidden my light under a bushel for a long time, and I’m not doing it any longer. Not for anyone.

There’s another reason I write my blog. It helps me regain my footing and take back my power.

I’m feeling better already.