Monday, October 22, 2018

Quicksand

You know, when I was a kid, I thought quicksand was an ever-present danger.

I knew that to escape, you had to calm yourself and spread your body weight out to swim. You had to  paddle yourself to safety, rather than stay upright trying to run.

Flailing wildly would just get you sucked down to your death.

I knew the concepts as well as I knew to stop, drop, and roll if I caught on fire. Better, in fact, as we didn't dwell on fire prevention.

Although now that I say that, did we dwell on how to survive quicksand?

Maybe.

It was tricky, though, because unlike fire, which is obvious, quicksand could be anywhere.

You might be playing and think it was mud you could walk through. It might just look like the floor of the jungle—so tricky! So you could be waist or even neck high before you even realized.

Best case scenario, you'd have a friend along, one with a long and sturdy stick to offer. If they didn't have a stick, they could lie down flat, making sure they were secure, and extend an arm to pull you to safety.

If you didn't have a friend, you could pretend you were swimming and get yourself to solid ground.

And this is how the slide, or stroll, or plod into depression is for me.

I realized last week that rather than being on the same plane as my peers looking them full and brightly in the face, I was peering out at the world from a grim, grey, industrial twilighty kind of place.

This journey in, which I’ve written about before, is so slow and gradual it’s almost imperceptible. I walk further and further in, until I almost can't see out.

It's like that frog in the gradually heating pot. It's not like raaiiiin on your wedding day, or a free ride when you've already paid.

If you don't know me well, and only see me at the office, or school, or wherever out and about, you wouldn't know it. I smile. I make jokes. It's just inside my head where everything is dark and relentlessly negative.

I knew that the rain pulled me down, and that we had an awful lot of it. In fact, I was pretty sure it had been raining my entire life.

But I was taking my medication. And as I’m at the office I have a an almost two-mile walk to work, and a free gym. So I was exercising pretty regularly. I mean, mostly, except when I wasn't.

And I was eating pretty well. More or less. Except for chocolate.

I was fine. Just tired. And frustrated and short-tempered. But I don’t have a single female friend who doesn’t feel that way lately.

So actually, I really was fine.

I mean, not great, and some days it took every bit of my willpower—and I have a lot—to force myself out of bed. But lots of people feel that way, right?

I was drinking a lot of coffee, and all of the coffee was not enough.

But other than that, I was fine.

I was fine and fine and fine, until I wasn't. Which is how I always am.

I stroll blithely forward, never realizing till I’m waist high, neck high, till I’m under. The farther in I get, the harder it is to do the things that help me surface.

I need that friend with the stick or the arm to extend.

Last weekend, after I'd snapped at him repeatedly, Nick pointed out that I was awfully annoyed with all of them. I was about to tell him that it was because he was being particularly annoying, when he said Betty had mentioned my behavior to him as well. I was short tempered.

And this is what happens now.

I don’t tuck into myself and cry. I get angry and direct it outward. It’s more unpleasant for others, but I’m a more functional human. I don’t have the luxury of time to stay in bed and cry all day. Not getting up and dealing is not an option.

This is what I need to do, every day, to keep myself balanced: Exercise. Walk in sunshine. Eat well, with little to no sugar. Sleep at least 8 hours. Take my meds. Have some time alone.

On a perfect day, all those things happen.

It is rarely a perfect day.

Because sometimes it rains for your entire life or anyway weeks and weeks in a row, month after month.

Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly you absolutely have to review everything you've done wrong, every single misstep, for the next three hours.

Sometimes chocolate seems like the only solution.

Sometimes for a long time you do not have one single minute to just breathe.

So after Nick said that, I upped my meds. And I ordered a sun lamp for the office. I have floor lamp for home that I use when I’m on my laptop. But now I spend a lot of time in the office, no sun or sky in sight.

On Saturday, Nick took the kids camping overnight. I had a whole day to myself. I had quiet time. I sat in the park under a tree and read a book.

This weekend, I felt like it was turning around. The world still seems grim—I mean, we are heading for a planetary water crisis and the bulk of my government is comprised of pustulent opportunistic lying cheats—but my particular personal little world is not quite so grey and apocalyptic.

Half a dozen colleagues have inquired about the lamp, because it is visible from a great distance, perhaps even outer space. Some asked if it was a grow light, and wondered if I was cultivating pot in my office.

It's legal in DC, but even so, that might be pushing the bounds of acceptability. Also, it is not my thing.

After I explained what it was actually for, several of them asked for the link.

When it rains for your entire life, or anyway weeks on end, months on end, and you cannot function without sunshine, it’s nice to have your own personal grow light to feed your soul and trick your brain.

The quicksand, for me, is always there. I'm vigilant, but it can look like the jungle floor, and I can be neck deep before I know it.

I am always at least neck deep before I know it.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Day one of wear, Dr. Martens

I was super, super excited about my new Dr. Martens boots. Until the design flaked off on the first wear.

I'd heard how great they were from so many friends.

In June, I walked by a Dr. Martens store in Philadelphia. These New Order album cover Dr. Martens were in the window. They were glowing.

I'd never owned Dr. Martens boots before, and friends have raved about them. 

The woman at the store was charming. She was so excited I was buying them. She said until they were sprayed, you shouldn't get them wet. 

I'm between sizes, so she recommended an insole. And since I bought the insole, she sprayed them for me free of charge to seal them. 

And then it was a million degrees in DC, and not cool enough to wear my new Docs. Until last week.

So I wore them. Friends said it would take about a week or two of wear to break them in, and then they'd be magical.

It rained on my walk home. And the design started flaking off. 

They ended up looking like this. See all those silver spots?

What the hell?
So I called Dr. Martens, and they had me email them pictures and an explanation. And then they sent me an email with this:

*The return process generally takes 4-6 weeks.
*We do not make repairs.
*We offer exchanges only, no refunds.
*Be aware, that if the style and/or color you have returned is no longer available we will substitute a comparable style.
*We are unable to make accommodations based on individual style preferences for replacements.
*We cannot return your original shoe if they are found defective.
*If the boots are found to be damaged due to a wear and tear issue, they are unfortunately returned to you.
What kind of customer service is this?

The return process takes 4-6 WEEKS.

They decide if your boots were defective, and if so, they'll replace them.

They told me on the phone they no longer have the style I bought. This email says they'll send you a "comparable style"--and they won't accommodate your preference. 

YOU DON'T EVEN GET TO CHOOSE WHICH SHOES THEY SEND YOU.

I  don't want some random replacement boots that someone else chooses for me. I wanted these boots. Until the design flaked off. 

Now they look terrible.

Who wants Dr. Martens boots you can't wear in the rain?

Friends have told me their Dr. Martens have lasted years, even decades. They wear them for everything, and they're great in winter.

What kind of quality is this? And are you kidding me with the customer service?

Why would I ever buy Dr. Martens again?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

I don't get many things right the first time...

Dear Nick,

Ten years ago today, we stood up in front of a gathering of loved ones and said our very simple vows.

And then we exchanged rings.

Then did we kiss too quickly? Or did you kiss me twice? Whatever it was, it made us laugh, up there in front of everyone. And our friends and family laughed along with us.

Laughter is what I come back to, over and over.

I remember when I was young, hearing parents' friends say things like, "I married him because he made me laugh."

And I remember being all, what? Anyone can make you laugh. What kind of a lame reason is that?

Ha.

I grew up with a particular kind of funny. Puns. Clever humor. And lots and lots of physical humor. My dad doing silly walks in public that mortified me. My dad and I having terrible-face-making contests at the dinner table. Jokes and stories.

I see this flavor of humor in my relatives, and I embrace it. I love many kinds of funny, but these particular kinds most of all.

And, I have discovered, there are scads of not-funny people in the world.  You know I find women, on the whole, funnier than men. I know you disagree with this. Just as every man I've ever said this to has done.

As I recall, in my first iteration of my Match profile, over two years before we met, I said I loved to laugh. It's hard to write an online profile, as you know. How do you figure out what to say about yourself? I read some examples, and I picked out things that I thought were most important to me.

And then I read an article about how trite that was in online profiles--everyone says they love to laugh--and I took it out.

Other things you weren't supposed to say were "partner in crime" and something about being comfortable going from a cocktail dress to blue jeans.

I guess the reasoning was, who can't leap from jeans to cocktail attire? Who doesn't want a partner in crime even though ostensibly you don't commit crime? Who doesn't love to laugh?

As I discovered in my dating career, a number of men don't find me funny. It was clear that we were not destined to be.

Because I have many insecurities and shortcomings but there are people who find me fucking hilarious, and I was pretty sure the future Mr. LG ought to be one of them.

And then, then you did! We had such a fun first date! We made each other laugh, and we told each other ridiculous stories.

You thought I was hilarious and I thought you were hilarious, and we were both profane, and that seems very little to start with, but really, it was a good enough place.

(It's also true that I accepted your offer of a ride home, and on the way we passed a bar that turned into a sex club once a week, and I pointed it out because a friend of mine had gone and I had a story about it, and this apparently made you hopeful and then I gave you a quick kiss in your car and said good night and completely forgot about it and never mentioned it again.)

By the time we met I was pretty candid online and in my profile.

I said men who could do complicated math and use power tools made me swoon. True then, true now, and boy howdy am I glad you're a math guy with power tools, because besides these being qualities I find attractive, with weekly and complicated house repairs, we'd otherwise be bankrupt.

I do still love to laugh, but no longer wear a cocktail dress under my jeans at all time for the just in case.

There have been, I must admit, chunks of time in this past decade where I haven't found you funny.

When I'm annoyed with you, you're instantaneously not funny.

I imagine you feel the same. We've had some truly unfunny points in our marriage.

Someone once told me that you get married and then you make the choice to stay married. You make this choice over and over. I believe this.

People are hard to live with.  The closest people are the ones with whom we can be our worst selves.

This makes the closest people the most irritating of all.

Particularly when you are not a morning person and your spouse can be kind of smug about getting up at 4:30 am to row and then, like the loud extrovert he is, insists on both playing music and keeping up a constant flow of jokes that kill with the nine and under denizens of the house.

Oh, hilar.

The other morning I walked to work so annoyed that by the time I arrived at the office I had a firm action plan to never marry again after you'd been hit by a bus or we'd gotten divorced.

And then you called an hour later and by then it had passed.

I can't actually imagine us getting divorced. I imagine us getting really mad at each other, and yelling and talking and then apologizing and being the stronger for it. And please don't get hit by a bus. You know I save your voice mails just in case.

I didn't know I was looking for safety, but I found it in you.

Without realizing it, I needed a person who was so stable, so firmly rooted on this earth, and so committed to family that he would never leave.

Not in a boring way. In a calm, reassuring way.

It's not just that I feel physically safe when we're together. Although as a small woman who is extremely vigilant at most times, I appreciate how I can relax when I'm with you.

With you I feel safe in the world. I can exhale, and stop paying constant attention, and all will be OK.

But the bigger thing, the most unexpected part for me, is that I can be the weakest version of myself, the person I never, ever trust most people, and certainly not men to see, and you love me as a whole person.

Nobody ever did that before.

You celebrate my strengths and you do your best to lift me when I'm weak. And sometimes you just listen, which is even harder than lifting.

The other day I got in a fight with Jordan, and when I told you about it you said, "There are times when you get mad at me when you tell me something and I immediately start making a plan to fix it. You've taught me that sometimes you just want to vent, and I just need to listen. And I think Jordan needed you to just listen, and not fix it."

I felt so heard. I appreciated your advice. I loved your insight into our kid.

Honestly, you were right. Our son just wanted to vent, and I jumped to fix, and it made him angry. And then I felt powerless and got mad right back. You listened to me, you processed it, and you gave me good advice.

When I look back ten years, I realize I had no idea what lay in store.

We got engaged in 10 weeks, and we married seven months later. It could've all gone very badly, very fast.

We got married, and life rushed at us. You had to deal with things you really didn't understand, like my dad's mental illness, and the aftermath of his death. You stepped up where my blood family didn't.

I don't know when we started truly appreciating each other for who we are, rather than who we seemed to be, or wanted each other to be. It wasn't immediate, but at some point we did, and we do.

When our kids list our family, they name the members of our household: you and me, Nana, and each of them. You're my family. You're my world.

And look, just look, at how lucky we are to be here, together, now.

Happy anniversary, Nick. I love you.

Lisa

Thursday, September 06, 2018

I'm not calling you a ghost. Just stop haunting me.

This is something that scares me to post.

Last month, Nick took this photo of me at camp.

Isn't Moose Pond spectacular?  I've taken a photo of this view myriad times with and without people in it.

So I wanted to be in a photo with that particular backdrop.

And still, when I saw the picture, my immediate response was to cringe and delete it.

I wear a bikini because it's easier to get in and out of. I learned this when I bought a shaper one-piece after I had Jordan. I got stuck in a bathroom with a wet bathing suit, struggling to pry it up or down. Two pieces are easier.

But I typically wear a sun shirt over it. For SPF rather than modesty. But I looked at this photo of me sitting down and I thought, why, why wasn't I wearing my sun shirt? Or a tee shirt or a towel? And makeup? Or better yet, my sunglasses?

Ugh. Delete.

Then I paused. Because I've recently seen some high school photos of myself. I was so young and fit, so fresh and pretty.

Do you know what I said about myself at the time? Same things I say now. Negative, critical and negative.

But look, look at me then. I was lovely.

And I do remember. I remember all my criticisms of myself at the time.

I was raised to seek external validation. But it didn't actually make me feel good about myself.

I know, looking at those photos of my youth, how bad I felt about myself then. I remember how inadequate I felt. If only I were taller. If only I were thinner. If only were prettier. If only...

The fact was, I could only starve myself so much. I could only run so many miles. I tried very hard to do more of both.

And just as with moving from place to place, you're still you with your same issues, until you deal with them. You can't run from them, you can't starve them out, and you can't move away from them.

As it turns out, you just have to work through them. And sucks for a while, and then it makes you feel better.

I can take a photo tour of myself across time. Sometimes I look pretty. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I am beaming or laughing, genuinely delighted. And sometimes, despite a smile, I can see through the facade to profound misery.

And still, the person in those photos is never the gorgon she imagined herself to be.

My reaction to my high school photos was to wish I'd appreciated who I was and what I had when I had it.

From my current vantage point, my skin then--always too pale and freckled for my liking, and why was I so unfairly pale?--was unwrinkled, lush and beautiful. My thighs, my dread thighs, were strong and athletic, smaller than they are now, back when I imagined they were enormous.

I look at this picture of myself at camp, and my eyes go to my flaws. But let's be honest. I'll never be younger than I am now.

This body created and carried two babies, one of them almost nine pounds, to term. This body had its abdominal muscles cut, and recovered.

This body has done the Everest trek, and ridden camels, and slept on the roof of houses in the desert in Rajasthan.

This body can do push-ups, and climb, and lift an 86-pound kid, and walk over 16 miles overnight.

I work out at home regularly. My kids see me lift weights and do push-ups. I tell them how proud I am to be strong. How strength and fitness are what I'm working for.

I don't focus (out loud) on size. I shush that voice for them, and I try to quell it within myself.

I've had more and less toned abs. I've had larger and smaller thighs.Sometimes my butt is bigger and rounder and wider. Sometimes it's less so.

 Last year I ate a pint of ice cream every night and grew out of all my pants. Like, I literally could not squeeze them up past my thighs, or if I could, they weren't office-appropriate. My skirts were like sausage casings. So when I returned to the office last winter, I bought two pairs of black work pants, vowing to fit back into my wardrobe.

And I started working, really really hard, on fitting back into my clothes. It's more difficult than it used to be. Just eating well didn't do it. Just exercising hard didn't do it. I had to do both, and diligently.

Now I fit back in my clothes, and for the most part, I feel good.

As for my freckled Irish skin, well, I spent too much time without sunscreen in the Indian sun, and that's just a fact.

So back to this photo. I saw it and deleted it. And then I made myself stop and reevaluate. Not the photo. My response.

I decided I needed to change my internal narrative. Because the issue is not actually the size of this body part or that. The issue is my brain.

We swim often, and we wear bathing suits while we do so. And it's OK for me to post photos of myself in a bikini, no matter how old I might be now, no matter how much fitter I might have been back when.

My body has done some amazing things. My body is strong.

I do my best, most days. Regardless of how I look, or think I look, I am enough.

And this is my body.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Welcome to Hell*. It's time to set up your online account.

Welcome to Hell*. It's time to set up your online account.

Name:
Use your first and last name at time of death. If you're a celebrity, divorced, running from the law, a con artist, a grifter, etc., please include all aliases you used in life. (We will know; these behaviors are likely why you are here.)

Physical Characteristics:
You must list your weight, height, and hair color. Your real weight, height, and hair color.

Address:
Hell works, of course, but more creative types often use “the netherworld,” “Hades,” “H-E-double hockey-sticks,” etc. (We’re flexible, but judgmental, so choose whatever best suits you.)

Username:
Your username is the first and last name of the person with whom you had your most embarrassing  sexual encounter. If you can't remember or never knew their name, make your best guess and name a defining characteristic and/or include location. Please note that in most cases you will need to add information or numbers. Steve’sTallFriend, for example, will not cut it. This is your login name; it must be unique.

Password:
Passwords must be at least 42 characters long and must contain profanity.

Fake curse words such as darn, dang, rats, cripes, and so forth are unacceptable. You're welcome to try and use them, but they will be rejected, and you'll have to start again from the top.

Strengthen your password by choosing a compound word or epithet. You can insert an underscore or hyphen between them, which may or may not count as one of your special characters. Examples: shit_head; rat-bastard. We enjoy creativity, so don’t be shy.

You must use at least 4 special characters.

You must use at least 6 capital letters. They cannot be consecutive.

You may not use the name of a pet, street on which you lived, or loved one. We will know.

You will be penalized for including “DivineComedy” or “JeanPaulSartre” in your password. We thought they were clever, too. The first million times.

You may not use any password or variation on a password that you ever used in life.

Note: Pounding on or faceplanting into the keyboard will result in having to fill out the form again, starting from the top.

Note also: In Hell there is no recovering a forgotten username or password. If you forget, you will enter yet a new level of, well, here.

Again, welcome to Hell.

*We know The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP do not capitalize Hell. We don't care. We make the rules here.