Monday, November 20, 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which is such a better acronym than WFSAMMCAEATT

I was thinking about the acronym SAD, and how fitting it is, and how I couldn't come up with a better one that made a word.

I mean, Winter F$%&ing Sucks And Makes Me Cry And Eat All The Time doesn't work for a variety of reasons. One, it doesn't include the word disorder, and two, WFSAMMCAEATT is both cumbersome and doesn't make an actual word. (And three, but less importantly: you aren't supposed to capitalize the And, And, or The but acronyms with big and small letters are kind of weird.)

ANYWAY.

This is a sort of PSA but rooted in a personal story because I believe that if you're telling other people what you think they might ought to do, but you've never lived through it, then you're a jackass.

Which I try not to be, with varying degrees of success.

(Also, I firmly support double modals, in case you're wondering.) 

So. We are in November, which in the Northern hemisphere means it's fall, with short days that get progressively shorter until December 21. And when the sun is out, the light is thin.

This matters.

OK, now my story. And then I'll get back to what may or may not be about you.

Two weekends ago, at Carolina, a friend asked if I've basically been skinny since those 40 pounds I gained in college.

The answer is no, and yes. Depending on the season.

Prior to antidepressants, I gained 10-15 pounds every winter. This is a lot on someone with small bones who is only 5'3". I'd lose it by summer, to gain it again the following year. My size was always in flux. I thought about my weight all the time.

I was great at not eating in the spring and summer. I could not eat and not eat, and run and run. I had energy, I laughed, I got skinny, and it was great. The longer the days, the better I felt.

But as it turns out, I'm extremely sensitive to light. So I'd notice the shift of light in August, and fully start being affected in September, when it didn't (then) make sense, because it was still warm out.

As soon as the light strength and amount diminished, I'd start the downhill slide. 

This for me meant eating more. I always ate sugar, no matter what else I was or wasn't eating. Mostly wasn't. I eliminated a lot of food over the years. But candy was my thing.

And running.

But once the days were short and the amount of light I got was not sufficient, I couldn't starve myself. I lost control.

It didn't ever matter how much I ran, because I could out-eat all the running.

Really, until I started antidepressants consistently, that was how I lived. Weight gain all winter, weight loss all spring and summer. I'm talking about my weight here, but I cried all winter as well. The crying went along with the eating.

It's not that I didn't cry in the summer, just a lot less.

Now I'm on a much more even keel, both weight-wise and emotionally. Not an even keel like someone who doesn't struggle with depression. But an even keel for me.

And since I've been on antidepressants, that big chunk of dread doesn't lodge in my stomach in September, when the sun is still golden but the slant and quality are wrong. I still get nervous; I won't pretend I don't.

But not like before.

With this level of removal, and no longer being all wrapped up in my own struggles, I can actually see and hear other people. And this is what I've noticed: Quite a lot of people have a hard time. They want to eat all the sugar and all carbs, all the time. They hate winter. They want to sleep a lot more, to never leave the house.

If you're someone who has said these things to me, yes, I'm talking about you, but absolutely not targeting you, because let me assure you: you're one of many. You are in great company.

So.

There are a number of things I do daily that are helpful, although for me, they're not enough without medication. I know this; I've tried.

I don't always manage all of them, but the more I do, the better.

1. I use a light box. Here's a series of Mayo Clinic pages on light therapy.

2. I get sun exposure. I get outside when the sun is out. I either go for a walk or run.

3. I exercise. I do this almost daily, and whether or not I do it makes a big difference in my mood.

3. I eat protein and fats--two things I avoided for too many years. I've always loved veggies and fruit, and have always eat a lot of those (except, you know, when I mostly wasn't eating). Most significantly in my diet, I try to avoid sugar and fast carbohydrates. This is the hardest item for me.

I have drastically reduced my sugar consumption. I had no sugar, bread, pasta, rice, etc, for about five weeks straight. I was basically having a glass of wine once a week, and not every week. Once I quit sugar, my interest in wine went away.

Two weekends ago, I had a debaucherous reunion weekend, and I'm struggling to get back to completely eliminating sugar. I don't even know that this is reasonable for me over the holidays, and I am not going to beat myself up for it.

Stevia in my tea is not delicious the way sugar is. But I will tell you this: I'm sleeping better than I have in a decade. And sleep is more delicious than sugar.

Sleeping well is perhaps the part that has changed my life the most. It makes me feel way better and behave much more kindly toward every single human I encounter, my family being the humans I spend the most time with.

Now, I have a lot of mental health conversations with a lot of people. And lately people are complaining about winter. So many people hate winter.

I mention the fact that I'm on antidepressants in the same way I'd say, "The bus is late." I do this on purpose, because so many people don't talk about it.

And I often hear that people are having a hard time, but "It's not that bad."

I'm not in anyone else's head. I don't know how they actually feel, or what their threshold is.

I would never tell anyone that their bad is that bad, even if I sometimes think it. Sometimes I suggest it might be, gently and indirectly. If these suggestions are met with hostility, I back away.

Sometimes people get downright hostile when you suggest therapy or medication. I am not exaggerating.

But I hear what people are saying, and I see how people close down in this season in particular. I relate to their stated feelings. I know what happens to me, and I know what my threshold is.

Medication can help. Sunshine. Artificial light. Exercise. Talk therapy. Eating in a way that keeps blood sugar balanced.

There are lots of things that can help.

I'm not a doctor, and I don't even play one on TV. But I do know this: it doesn't have to be quite so hard.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Take my hand, take my whole life too

Ten years ago today I had a date lined up for tonight.

One decade, one wedding, two children, two moves, and too many funerals and memorial services ago, I had not yet met Nick.

So half a score ago, I got up alone and dressed for work in an outfit that was cute enough for a date, but still serious enough to have gone to work in.

Because, see, one evening in summer I'd changed into a sundress for a first date, and the guy said, "Did you go to work in THAT?"

Along these lines, I'd begun wearing my glasses on dates. Then a date asked if I'd worn them to deliberately look less attractive. Come to think of it, he was also the one who wanted to know what was wrong with me, being that I was apparently this pretty, funny, and smart.

What was not obviously wrong with me that I was still single?

What I'm saying is, I didn't get up that morning with the thought that I'd meet a man I might marry anytime soon or really ever.

In fact, I did go home to change after work, but mainly because it was one of those weird warmy-coldy DC November days, and my outfit was either too hot or too cold and I can't remember which.

And I did wear my glasses. Both of these things I remember, because changing meant I had to hurry, and because I was hurrying I was sweating. And because it was cold my glasses fogged up as soon as I walked into the bar at the Tabard and said hello to Nick.

He teased me about the glasses then and there. He didn't mention the sweating until we knew each other way better.

You've likely already read about this day at least once or maybe nine times. (Why isn't there a nince, like thrice? Have I written about this nince? I can't remember. But here's the first time and the second time.)

I was 38 and had been internet dating for about two and a half years at that point. I would say that I had no hope left, but that's not exactly true. I couldn't keep going on dates if I had no hope.

So I suppose it's more accurate to say that I had no positive expectations.

He could be someone who was funny on email and dry in person. Someone who didn't actually laugh at anything I said that I knew for damn sure was funny to me. Someone who grilled me on my resume, making the date more of a job interview. Someone who made sure I knew how important he was. Someone who was rude to the server.

There were many reasons, I had learned, that I might loathe whoever he turned out to be. I'm being melodramatic. I might not outright loathe him--that rarely happened--but the overwhelming odds were that I would never want to kiss him and that would be that.

I was tired of going on dates and wishing that instead, I were home doing laundry and watching Grey's Anatomy. I was tired of looking but afraid of not doing so.

I wanted to throat punch people who told me I was trying too hard, that they met their spouse when they weren't looking.

Mainly, I was so tired of balancing on that sharp and painful line between hopefulness and utter despair.

You give up hope and you're done for in this life. Or anyway, I would be. 

So I had to maintain a modicum of it, while still having no expectations. I didn't get excited for dates anymore, but I couldn't give in to dread, because then where would I be?

I should just sum this up by saying I was tired.

I was tired and five minutes late and it was warmy-coldy and I was rushing and sweating.

Nick was five minutes early and calmly sipping a beer by the time I hurried in and scanned the room.

He stood up and held out his big warm hand to introduce himself. I put my small cold hand in his. He smiled. He teased me about my glasses, but didn't compliment or denigrate them.

He didn't talk about his work or ask me about mine. We talked about travel, and books, and weird situations we'd gotten ourselves into and out of. He was warm and kind. He was funny, and he laughed at things I said that I knew for damn sure were funny.

Ten weeks later, when he asked me to marry him, we didn't actually know each other all that well. But he was absolutely certain, and I was confident enough to ride on his utter certainty.

This is who we are in life.

If we stop at a convenience store he chooses a beverage and doesn't give it a second thought. I stand in front of the frige and think, "Would I rather have lemonade? But tea has caffeine, and I'm kind of tired. But then I might have to pee. I should probably have water. But..."

And he's all, "Just pick a drink and let's go!"

Of course marriage is way bigger than picking a drink for the road. I wouldn't ever suggest that ten weeks is an amount of time that tells you everything you need to know about a person.

We all know that it could've gone very badly. I won't pretend that there haven't been some hard periods of time, and we all know I joke about stabbing my husband and that he never finds funny.

But as a human, he is good people. He's generous and smart and thougthtful. He is polite to everyone, and he makes sure our children are as well. He's kind. He laughs and he makes me laugh. He's a very decent, loving person and a terrific husband and father.

I didn't know any of these things when I headed into my last first date.

But I'm thankful every day that I did.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Mean girls, Kindergarten edition

Who's that girl?
This is something I haven't thought about for decades.

When I was in 2nd grade, I was part of a group of four friends.

The leader of our group was a Canadian girl named Kim, although I don't remember why. And every day she decided which of the four of us would be ignored.

It was typically the girl whose bus arrived last. I guess Kim's bus never arrived last.

At some point, it was my turn. They all ignored me every day, for a month. My three little girlfriends in my second grade class refused to speak to me for an entire month.

I cried every day.

We were in a tiny foreign community in newly-independent Bangladesh. Everyone knew each other. My mom spoke to her mom, who invited me over to play, in order to fix it. Kim refused to speak to me the entire time. I was stuck and it was brutal.

I don't remember the moment they started talking to me again, but at some point Kim decided they would, and they did.

Now I think, why the hell did Kim have that power over us? And I participated. Why did I participate?

I don't know. But she did. And I did.

So, yesterday, India's teacher Ms. M told me about an incident involving my daughter.

Incidentally, her teacher Ms. M is terrific. We had her last year, and she switched to teaching Kindergarten, and I'm so glad India's with her again. I feel like she really knows and gets my daughter.

So Ms. M gave me the details as she understood them and asked if I could get India to talk to me about what happened.

Apparently, during recess, India went in to use the bathroom. It's hard for the little kids to lock the stall doors, so often they don't. This was the case.

India was sitting on the toilet, and her stall door was open. Three girls from her class stood and watched her while she was using the toilet, even though she told them to leave her alone.

One of the teachers walked into the bathroom while this was going on, and put a stop to it.

India is very close to that teacher, and cried and cried to her. India was hugely upset. Afterwards, she  refused to talk about it.

My girl is bold and strong, and when she falls down, she typically gets up, brushes it off, and says she's fine.

But this isn't falling down. This is other kids being deliberately unkind. Staring and refusing to leave when you're not in the position to make them go away. When you're vulnerable.

One of them is a friend of hers, but the other two were names India has never mentioned.

Now, Ms. M explained that this is part of a larger climate of subtle bullying going on in her classroom. There are girls being mean to each other in sneaky ways. She said India isn't a target, and that the mean behavior isn't consistently directed at one person.

I asked if India is ever one of the mean girls, and Ms. M said she doesn't instigate but sometimes she will tag along at the tail end of the group.

I think about myself in 2nd grade. I think about Kim.

So, Ms. M has started assigning seats, deliberately separating girls who are tight. She's assigned them places in line, because they were clustering. The school counselor is going to come in and talk about kindness.

Ms. M said that kids don't hesitate to tell her if someone hits them. That's bad behavior; it's obvious. But she said that what's going on now is not necessarily obvious or clear-cut, and she thinks kids don't know whether they should tell or not.

She doesn't know if India would have said anything if the other teacher hadn't walked in.

She said she thinks it's due to the large number of girls with strong personalities in class this year. She's working to shift this mean girls dynamic that's begun.

I broached the topic while snuggling in bed with my little girl. She buried her head under the pillow and said, "Ms. M already told you about it. I don't want to talk about it."

I knew that my daughter would get her feelings hurt by her friends and classmates. That's inevitable. I knew that at some point there would be mean girls.

I guess I didn't think it would start in Kindergarten.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reunion dinner outfit! Need help choosing!

I know that it doesn't actually matter what I wear to my reunion.

In fact, it rarely matters what I wear ever. I'm actually rather vain, although it's not always evident. Sometimes I leave the house for hours looking like I was dressed in the dark by a mean-spirited chimpanzee.

You should see what I wore to volunteer at school yesterday, which was culottes, because it very warm out, and then my new Sanita clogs which currently feel better with socks on. So.

My son was all, "Uh, do you like those pants?" He did not. I told them they'd look better without the black socks.

You wouldn't know it by some of the things I am willing to be seen in in public, but I love clothes. And shoes. And boots. It's no secret I have a boot problem.

So. With all that said, which outfit do you like for my reunion dinner? It's at a bar/restaurant on Franklin Street. The weather is going to be maybe 50s-ish. Or 75. Or down to 32. Because who actually knows anymore.

The suggested dress for dinner is something along the lines of jeans and a cute top. So I pulled out a couple sweaters I like and was thinking of black pants in lieu of blue jeans. I don't know. I really really don't know.

I  haven't yet put on an outfit that feels perfect. Maybe because I loathe the cold and none of these are sundresses. I don't know. Can I say that again? They all feel so dark and not cheerful and I don't knooooooow.

Option 1. Reddish sweater, black pleather pants, high wedges. Downside: they're actually jeggings and my sweater isn't that long. But I do kind of love them.
 Option 2. Same, except black jeans, and you can see the wedges. Jeans are comfy. Huge bonus is that I'm about 5'7" in these booties. Ha!
Option 3. Black jeans, black sweater, cowgirl boots. I could wear blue jeans instead of black. Can't decide how I feel about black jeans with the boots.
Option 4. Dress with cowgirl boots. Bonus: these boots kick ass. Also, I could wear a cool necklace. Downside, it may be cold cold cold. And my legs are kind of screamingly pale.
What I think it comes down to is: pants or dress; if pants, then pleather/jeans; all black or not; high wedges or cowgirl boots.

Or something completely different?

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee I'm a laughing gnome and you can't catch me

 
I don't know if you've ever written an internet dating profile.

It's hard to describe yourself in a way that is sincere but not painfully so, and breezy but not contrived. Although maybe now they require less text. Does Tinder require any text?

Anyway, back in aught-five, when I had a flip phone and sody pop cost a nickle, I remember that it took me a long time to even put up a profile, because there were so many steps that required careful thought.

You had to pick a username (one that was not boring and not stupid). I chose Lemon Gloria, because I didn't have a better idea. If you're doing internet dating and have a blog that chronicles your dates, it is in fact plain stupid to use your blog name.

You also had to have a tagline (seriously?), and then write a couple paragraphs about yourself. It needed to be long enough to say something, but not too long because who wants to read paragraphs and paragraphs?

Anyway, I wrote it, and then I read a piece about phrases not to use. One was something about being equally comfortable in jeans or a black cocktail dress. Another was, "I love to laugh." I had to go and immediately delete that line from my profile.

Apparently, saying you love to laugh is stupid and trite, because everyone loves to laugh.

Now, I don't actually believe that everyone loves to laugh. Or maybe they love to, but don't actually do so very often. There are people who will remark that something is funny, but not actually laugh. (I am pretty sure this was on a Seinfeld episode.) There are other people who will smile politely and then you're just left amusing yourself.

When this happens I like to mutter "anal sphincter" and then move along.

Try this. You may be the only one laughing, but it works.

Although none of this happens to me that often anymore because: 1. I am not going on first dates with random people; 2. I'm not actually going on ANY dates with random people; 3. Nick thinks I'm funny. Usually.; and 4. My kids and my mom think I'm hilarious.

Oh! and 5! Maybe even most importantly! I don't work in an office anymore. So I don't have all those regular encounters with people outside my house.

Also: this is why I suck at outlines and figuring out the final points before you start the first ones and making all the things parallel.

So I'm just going to say it: I love to laugh. I do. And! I don't laugh all that often anymore.

Not in a mouth wide open, laugh till you're crying kind of way.

So, anyway, I recently heard a program on NPR on laughter yoga.

Laughter is good for us, both mentally and physically. It makes us feel good, and it actually helps with our health and well being.

And get this: your body does not differentiate between real and fake laughter.

That's the part I found the most interesting. In these laughter yoga classes, they have people fake laugh until hopefully they real laugh.

Since then, here's what I've been doing. I walk around the house fake laughing. I do this when nobody is around because frankly, it's weird.

Go ahead and try it. Ha ha ha ha ha! It feels weird, right?

But your body has no idea. So now I do this. And any opportunity I have to giggle--like if my kids say something emi-funny, I laugh. And then they laugh. And we laugh harder, till we're really laughing.

I'm on a mission.

So a couple weeks ago, I decided to solicit actual, make-you-laugh suggestions from friends. I saved the post so I could always refer back.

And because I love you, and want you to not have to walk around feeling weird about fake laughing, I'm sharing some, most of which I have not yet watched, because we are currently immersed in Stranger Things (which if you are not watching it, why not?).

Some funny suggestions:

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
My Drunk Kitchen
Eastbound and Down on HBO
Youtube video Can't Hug Every Cat (see above)
Tim Conway skits, especially the dentist one
Veep
The Office
Modern Family
Arrested Development (until the last season...which was definitely not as good)
Parks + Rec
Love Sick
The Good Place, Catastrophe, Atypical

Maybe you've seen some of these already. Maybe you have other suggestions. I'm all ears.

Also, I had to retitle because I totally forgot that I was going to use this lyric from David Bowie's weird little ditty "The Laughing Gnome." When I first listened to it in 7th grade I thought it was just kooky, but now I imagine this was during the period where he subsisted entirely on cocaine and milk. Seriously. He said that.

Enjoy! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

And signs that might be omens say I'm going, I'm going I'm gone to Carolina in my mind

Have you gone to a high school or college reunion? Were you nervous?

I'm going to go ahead and say that this post is possibly me at my most vulnerable.

This past weekend, I overheard my friend Leigh saying that I am good at vulnerability. I don't know if this is the case, because it scares me to open myself up to criticism. But I do open myself up. The act of writing all of this down, recognizing the feelings, and releasing them into the universe somehow  lightens me.

So I do it.

Almost every other person I've ever met who went to Chapel Hill loved it, and waxes nostalgic. They go back for football games, root for the Tarheels, and post pictures of the Old Well. Their college years were among the best of their lives.

This is how I feel about high school.You've seen my Delhi high school reunions and my myriad of love letters to those friends.

I almost never talk about college.

In July, a friend sent me details about a Kappa Kappa Gamma reunion. I was a Kappa. Do you know this? Perhaps not. It doesn't really come up in conversation.

After we graduated from college, my boyfriend and I went back to visit once that fall. I can't remember why. Maybe a party at his fraternity house? I went once again looking at grad schools, and once after a dear friend's wedding in Raleigh.

That's it, in 26 years.

I don't talk about my college years because I don't think about them. In fact, I barely remember them. They're kind of a dark spot of time for me, with sparks of memories.

We moved to the US from India the summer before I started college. In September, my dad attempted suicide, though my mom didn't tell me until October.

This was back when we didn't talk about it, so I swore my roommate Lesley to secrecy, and I told her. I had to tell someone. I was already in crisis, so Dad didn't trigger it, but it wasn't, to say the least, helpful.

But this was also back when we all insisted we were fine. My parents had no idea why my brother was so angry. No explanation for why I cried so much.

I literally--and when I say literally, I do mean actually physically--spent hours a day sitting on the floor of my dorm room crying and eating chocolate covered peanuts. I gained 40 pounds that year, much of it by Christmas.

Lesley got really sick first semester and missed weeks of class. Years later she told me the only reason she came back was because she was so worried about me.

I knew I cried a lot, but I didn't understand that I was depressed. And nobody in my family recognized that I was depressed. Now I suppose this was because all the focus was on my dad. Who was, of course, fine.

If someone had handed me Prozac and told me to take one every day, I am absolutely certain those years would've been dramatically better.

But then, if you asked me, I'd say I was fine. This was how my family operated. We were always fine.

I did my best to blend. I kept gaining weight, so I kept having to buy new clothes. I bought Laura Ashley and bucks and rugby shirts. I cultivated a Southern accent that I later worked to get rid of. For years after, when I drank, the drawl would come out. I still slide into it very easily.

I would've gone home and never returned, but my parents were living in Virginia, so their house wasn't home. Because I spent so much time crying and not going to class, my grades were appalling. So I couldn't transfer anywhere comparable.

Anyway, I wouldn't have had the wherewithal to transfer. Most days, getting through the day was as much as I could manage.

This is not to say I didn't ever go out, and didn't have fun; I did. It's also not to say that I didn't make friends, because Lesley was one of my best friends, and one of my closest friends to this day, Ann, lived down the hall freshman year. We all laughed a lot together. Now I wonder if it was that verge of hysteria laughter. I genuinely don't know.

Anyway, I did have fun, and did have friends. I just spent a lot more time crying and pretending than actually being joyful.

Joining a sorority sophomore year, though, was terrific. Most of the friends I've made since college weren't in sororities, and raise an eyebrow when I say I was. And I say, "But it wasn't like you're thinking!" The Kappa House had the highest sorority GPA on campus. It was full of really smart, interesting women. Lots of campus leaders.

I chose Kappa after becoming friends with a couple amazing women freshman year. Fortunately, though I had a terrible GPA, and wasn't a campus leader, Kappa chose me as well.

Once I was on the sorority side of rush, I was astounded I'd made it.

My college experience improved dramatically once I joined. I wasn't quite so lost. I had a group that I belonged to, some wonderful friends, and a place to go that I felt comfortable. I went to mixers and events. I spent a lot of time at the house, and with my sorority sisters.

The summer after sophomore year, I lived with a high school friend's family in Rome. Her dad got us summer jobs at the embassy. In Italy, I finally felt like myself again. I worked it out to spend half of my junior year in Rome as well. I lost all the weight I'd gained. I loved Rome, loved my life there.

I returned to Carolina with just one year to get through, and lucked into living with dear friends in the sorority house. The first week of class I met a very cute, very southern guy who actually, shockingly,  wanted to be my boyfriend. Goal achieved.

By senior year, with the countdown to leave, I finally felt like I actually fit in. I remember, at graduation, being sad to leave.

This brings me to the Kappa reunion.

I got the information, and I was intrigued. What a great idea! How fun to see friends I haven't seen in decades! I should go!

I had some deep and very meaningful friendships, but lost touch with all my sorority sisters within a year of graduating.

But in the past several years, I've reconnected with a number of these friends over Facebook, and gotten to spend time with a few. My friend Eileen, creator of Super Sikh, among other things, came to visit when I was pregnant with Jordan. Being together after all those years fed my soul.

In fact, all of these reconnections have been wonderful. But a lot of those in-person reconnection friends aren't able to make the reunion.

So time passed, and I clicked on the invitation over and over. And every time I thought about it, I got anxious.

Two months went by. The organizers sent out a couple emails. I said I was going to go, but I didn't put money down. The deadline was approaching. One of the friends I saw in January said she and another friend had gotten a room and invited me to share.

Nick was all, "You should go. Just buy your ticket. Go."

I finally bought the ticket one night right before bedtime. I got in bed and he said, "Did you buy it?"

I said, "Yes. But I don't know if I can go."

"Why?"

"It makes me so nervous."

I didn't exactly know why. I had to think about it. Eventually I whispered, "Because...What if nobody actually liked me?"

I honest to god said this. Here I am, a grown woman, a mother, far, far from college years. And what popped out of my mouth, when I reached down into my feelings, was: what if nobody actually liked me?

I hate how lost and scared and trying-too-hard I was in college. I think about freshman year, and how inferior I felt to people who knew each other from high school, but didn't know where India was and weren't interested.

I didn't know about culture shock and being a third-culture kid. I just knew that I didn't want to be there and couldn't go home.

I'm embarrassed that in those years I just wanted to be skinny and pretty enough and have a boyfriend, and eventually a husband because that meant I was good enough. I didn't know that I was smart or could do great things, because nobody told me so.

I think about who I was, and how I really really didn't want to be that person, but didn't know how not to be.

I don't have a lot of memories from college, but I also avoid them because they're painful.

What it comes down to is this: I hated myself back then. So why would anyone else like me?

Sometimes Nick does the stereotypical male thing and tells me how to fix my problem, which makes me regret saying anything and also want to stab him. But other times he listens and he makes me feel heard and considered. Which is what he did in this case.

He said, "I've learned that people who go to reunions go because they want to see other people. They want to reconnect. Do you fear you'll be excluded?"

I said no, absolutely not. These were kind woman. Funny, smart, interesting, and extraordinary in such a variety of ways.

No, I don't have a fear of being excluded. I just...felt insecure.

And he said, "That's OK."

He talked about how, at both his high school and college reunions, he talked to people he hadn't really known before. About how nice it was to see everyone.

I realized that part of this is fear of returning to a place where I felt small and inferior. Where I felt very much on the outside, and thought everyone but me was on the inside.

I still feel like this in life sometimes, just not at much, and I recognize when it is happening.

I'm the same person, of course, but also so very different. And I haven't revisited those years.

As I've worked through it and named it, I'm still nervous, but mostly very excited. The list of attendees is amazing. 

Now it's only two weeks away.

I may solicit your opinions on outfits.

And there you have it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Now I am 48. Also, I have a plan.

48 in my boots!
Usually I write a post on my birthday. I consider the events of the year leading up to it, and I treat it as my own personal New Year's Day.

This year, in August, I turned 48. I find it hard to believe, honestly, although I don't know why. Seriously.

When I'm with my high school friends, I forget we are no longer 16 or 17. Really. Here we are, some of us with kids in college, or "collegers" as my kids call them. And still, we're all teens to me. In the best possible way.

And this is how much we laugh. I don't laugh like this in my normal life. I end the weekends exhausted and fragile and wanting more, just a little more. I have never tried cocaine but maybe this is what it's like?
When you laugh so hard you fall off your chair
(I love this photo, desperately leaning against my dear friend Wendy's leg for support.)

I'm a better parent than I would've been in my 20s and 30s. I'm happier than I was at those ages.

But left to my own devices, sometimes I totally forget that I've lived this long.

I mean, when I was a kid in Bangladesh, we'd have to schedule a call on our enormous, chunky black dial telephone to my grandmother in North Dakota. We'd get a call back from the operator without warning. It could be 3:00AM.

My parents would rush to wake me up so I could shout over the terrible, crackly international line, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH GRAMMA LILLIAN! THANK YOU FOR THE BABY DOLL AND THE MARSHMALLOWS!

The first time she visited us in Dhaka, I had worms. You don't get worms in Minot, North Dakota. She rolled with all of it.
In a bicycle rickshaw
My grandmother regularly sent us packages, and she used to pad all them with marshmallows instead of Styrofoam. We had an endless and magical supply of marshmallows.

For a long time I thought everyone packed with marshmallows.

But can you even imagine using a heavy black plastic rotary phone now? Scheduling a call? Relying on the operator?

What I'm saying is: I've lived a while.

How I feel at this age is not upsetting. Here's what's throwing me for a loop: the OH MY HELL I'M ALMOST 50!

I'm firmly a middle aged woman.

Though I feel fine, though I have smart, beautiful, cool, similarly-midddle-aged friends, and friends who are older that I love and admire, I feel like aging is rough for women in today's society. The term "middle aged woman" does not conjure up positive images.

I believe it's easier to be an aging man. Let me fix that sentence. I believe it's easier to be an aging man.

I also think I wouldn't be in this crisis if the world didn't feel so calamitous. My baseline anxiety and agitation is very high. Add a dollop of anything, and I am easily pushed over the top.

So.

On my birthday, I didn't take my "today I am this old" picture. The picture above is my "I am 48" picture.

I had Nick capture me in this outfit because I love everything about it. It was the first time I ever wore cowgirl boots with a dress. I love the look!

I'd been waiting until it was cold to wear my boots with jeans, but no longer! If I do this, I can wear them way more often! I'm trying to come up with other outfits for my boots. If I lived in Texas I'd have so many pairs.

I strongly suspect that a second pair of cowgirl boots would improve my life immeasurably.

Anyway, I didn't write a post, not because I was freaking out, but because we were just so busy. So I'm doing it now.

This year, I fell down on Jordan's, Betty's, and my birthday posts. I may write them and post in the coming month, for posterity.

On my birthday, I'd just driven the kids and my mom to and from Toronto in one week (yes, I did! I have an upcoming post and pictures, because it was amazing). We did many things, but sleep was not so much among them. I returned exhausted and with a sinus infection.

And the day before my birthday, we went to a memorial service for Australian Builder, our friend Kim, who passed away August 1. (You know him. He's in so many of my house construction stories over the last eight years.)

Kim's memorial service, which was really a big party at an American Legion hall, was where my children learned the drinking song they stayed up at night singing in this post.

When you went to the bar to order, the bartender said, "The first one is on Kim." I cried and drank a lot of beer. This didn't help my sinuses.

The following week, Betty went into the hospital for blood transfusions. The next day, on Jordan's birthday, Nick drove the kids up to camp while I tried to figure out care for Betty so I could join them.

Betty was back in the hospital for the third time. She got out on her birthday.

What I'm saying is, we had a hell of an August and September.

But now it's October, and I have something I want to put out in the universe.

I've been walloped by the number 48 and its proximity to 50, and my reaction is pissing me off.

I mean, at 25 I had a quarter-life freakout. And after 35 I was fretting about whether or not I'd ever get married and start a family. But a lot of that was driven by internet dating, and men whose age cutoffs were 35. There were men who mentioned that I would walk to get serious fast because, basically, I was running out of time. There was the guy who flat out asked me what was wrong with me.

Internet dating for me at ages 37 and 38 was fraught with little traumas. And then I met Nick, who just plain felt lucky that I was single.

So I wasn't so much upset about my age as my situation.

This fret is the number. And the fact that I'm bugged really annoys me. Am I that shallow? (Maybe.)

I feel like, oh, stop it! Celebrate the age you are, because you're lucky to alive and surrounded by loved ones. Appreciate what you have.

So this is what I've decided, and I'm putting it out into the universe for help making it happen.

In two years, I will turn 50, god willing. I am going to celebrate that birthday big.

I'm going back to India, to New Delhi, where I was born, half a century prior.

I started saving for the trip last month, when I decided, because it's a huge endeavor. Planning, which I am admittedly mediocre at, will come later.

My habit has always been read the guidebook on the plane, or maybe when I'm there, wherever there is. Or just look things up as I go. But in this case, traveling alone and with limited time, I will plan ahead. I have two years, after all.

If my family can manage without me for two weeks, that's how long I'll go for. It's such an expensive and long journey, and you have such jet lag when you arrive, that less than two weeks seems pointless.

Now that I have this plan, which at this point is no more detailed than what I've told you, I'm excited! It's something huge to look forward to.

I haven't been back in 22 years. I know Delhi has completely changed. There are fancy malls and a metro! Palika Bazaar, which used to be this claustrophobic underground warren of cigarette-smoke filled shops now looks all swank!

I was born in New Delhi, in Holy Family Hospital. After that we lived in Bangladesh, then Egypt, then Virginia for four years, and then Delhi again for my high school. All of those places were home, and none of them were.

My parents' house in Virginia was the longest stretch of home I ever had. But it wasn't where I was from, and it was only home in the sense that my parents lived there. I have zero emotional connection to it.

Third culture kids, I believe, can relate.

When we left Delhi, I lost touch with most of my friends. I was a terrible correspondent back in the mail-a-letter days. In college, I wanted to go back to Delhi, to go "home"--but by then, my parents had moved to Virginia.

Now I've put down roots in DC. We have this terrific house that we've poured all of our everything into. I love our house, and even more, I love that our kids have a fixed place they know is home.

And still, I could walk away tomorrow if we had to.

After high school, Delhi was never home again. But in a small piece of my heart, it will always be.

As the country of my birth, and a country in which I spent some of the best, most important years of my life, India is both foreign to and such a part of me.
Our house in Defense Colony
When I was small, and people asked me where I was from, I'd say, "India." And they'd say, "You don't look Indian."

 This was always true, no matter how much coconut oil I put in my jute-colored hair.

I learned Hindi and English at the same time, and to my ayah's voiced horror and dismay, my mom let me play with the street kids on the maidan, so I had a filthy mouth at age three. I wasn't allowed to go barefoot because, hookworm! But I could run around saying mother f***er in Hindi like nobody's business.

I will be an absolutely tourist. I barely remember any Hindi. In fact, there's a lot I don't remember.

But sometimes I step outside and catch a particular scent, and it is Delhi, or Kashmir. The smell of jet fuel brings pangs of longing for childhood.

I may have weird Proustian triggers, but I know I'm not alone.

And for my 50th, I'm going home.

Monday, October 09, 2017

A virtual stop on the metaphysical train

Last week I had a remote energy healing session with my friend Alexa.

I wrote about her in this post, which I worried would be too woo woo, and maybe it was for some, but not for everyone. At that point, Alexa hadn't yet officially opened her practice, and was mainly treating friends, family, and friends of friends.

But now I'm naming and linking her because she sees clients in a space in Friendship Heights, as well as in her home. But she also treats people remotely.

Meaning, you don't have to leave your house. Ha!

This is what we did: She called and asked what I wanted her to work on. I said I'd like help with my mood. Because since the election, I walk around so angry. My anger comes up to my throat on too many days.

And lately, with our government's response to Puerto Rico, with Las Vegas and no gun control, I feel enraged. Powerless. And sad. I have this huge, heavy sadness.

These were the things, I said, that I would like help with.

Alexa briefly walked me through what she was going to do. She said, "Honestly, you can be doing anything. If you want to focus on how you're feeling, I suggest taking a couple deep breaths and sitting calmly. But you could be asleep. It doesn't matter. It still works."

Now, that day we were supposed to get our lead pipes replaced. Because as it turns out, the pipes from the main in the middle of the street all the way into our house are made of lead.

Starting at 7:00 am, there were whole lot of construction guys outside. As Alexa and I spoke, I was waiting for the contractor to ring the bell so I could let him into the basement.

Alexa said, "If you can, just relax. Now, while you're doing that, what I do, is I go into a mental laboratory. And I talk to you about what's going on."

I remembered the construction. So I said, "OK, but what if one those people outside rings the bell and wants to come in?"

There was a pause.

She said, very gently, "Which...people outside, Lisa?"

Right.

When Alexa explained how she works, I pictured Eleven in Stranger Things, if you've seen it. (If not, oh my gosh, watch it!) When she's supposed to spy on the Russians, she's virtually in this dark empty space with a white floor, watching and hearing them speak.

So I figure Alexa was with me, and interacting with me, but on a different plane.

Oh, and did I tell you that I wore a tinfoil hat during the session? (I AM KIDDING, PEOPLE.)

So I sat relatively still for about half an hour, relaxing and drinking my coffee and my smoothie. I had my feet up, and when they started to tingle, I put them down. Buzzing, really, is a better word for it. They kept buzzing. Then the back of my ankles and calves got warm.

This was as much of the physical as I was aware of.

At some point I went to the bathroom, and then I was all, "Is Alexa going to know?" I then reminded myself this wasn't like a spy camera.

Afterwards, she called me to tell me what she'd seen. (And no, she had no idea I'd been in the bathroom.)

First she told me about the card she'd chosen for me. She chooses a card from a deck before the session, to set intentions. Last time, in person, she'd put my card aside to show me after. The deck is similar to Tarot.

My card was El Morya, with text,"As a sensitive person, you have absorbed some harsh and toxic energy from other people. This card asks you to stop and call on El Morya and Archangel Michael to clear yourself..."

I do this! I know I do this. I am an energy sponge. I take on your anger, your anguish, your agitation. Sometimes I wind up exhausted by all of it.

Alexa gave me a lot of personal information in her explanation of the session.

One of the most interesting things was that she asked if my dad had been in the CIA. I said no. For a while we wondered, but ultimately determined that he wasn't a spy.

And she said that she saw him with dark cloud over him. She got the sense that he'd done some things he considered unforgivable, things he could never move past.

I know this to be true.

My Dad was in Vietnam during the war, setting up hospitals with USAID. He never recovered from whatever happened there. I don't know what happened, but I know he lost friends, and that he lived with an immense and haunting weight.

I now suspect he had undiagnosed and untreated PTSD.

After the session, I told my mom what Alexa said, and asked if she knew what happened with Dad. She looked crushed, and said she knew some of it, and couldn't tell me. It's too terrible, she said, to pass on.

So.

Alexa said, "You took in some of that darkness to help him, to make him happier. But it's weighed you down." She got me to release this burden. The visual she gave was me vomiting up a whole bunch of twisty, viscous darkness.

This was one example.

She kept telling me things that resonated. Things I know, but don't talk about. Not because I'm trying to hide them, but because I don't think about them.

She told me what she observed, and how she guided me to (virtually) physically let go.

I look at it kind of like talk therapy, where your therapist identifies problems and asks you the right questions or talks you through issues, and you start to see things in a different way.

Except in this case, I see it as Alexa doing the work, or getting me to do the work, but without hours of therapy.

I've been trying to figure out how I feel different, and the best way I can describe it is lighter. When I saw her the first time, I was sick, and my head congestion cleared. That's an easy, tangible result.

This really is more like therapy, where eventually whatever was hurting hurts less and less. Something within you shifts, and you heal. Anyway, that's what I think.

When Nick asked what I was doing that morning, I said I was having a remote healing session with Alexa.

He said, "Oh."

And when he called afterward and I told him a bit about it, I could hear him rolling his eyes. So I said, "I hear you rolling your eyes." He admitted he was. "So," I said, "my next post is probably not for you."

You can believe or not believe, and I'm OK with that.

Me, I believe.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

To Dad, on your birthday

Dear Dad,

Today is your birthday. You've been gone almost eight and a half years.

When I forget how long it's been, I think of Jordan's age, and add three months. I initially wrote subtract, but I think I mean add. Because you left three months before he was born.

He turned eight in August.

He's amazing. He has to read in Spanish every night, and do math in Spanish. I know you'd happily do both with him. You'd love it. You'd love him so much.

And India, my India. She's charming and fabulous and enraging. She'd captivate you.

One day we were driving, and in a hurry. I was complaining about the car ahead of us. From the back seat she said, "I hope that guy in front of us keeps driving really slow."

I said, "What?"

And she said, "Like when we're on your bike and you say, 'Oh, I'm so GLAD that car is parked in the bike lane in front of us,' and you don't mean glad."

Oooh. She's five! Imagine.

We sometimes talk about ghosts, and I hope you are here with us.

Time is both straightforward and confusing and time is weird and time is an artificial construct but time is helpful. Eight years hurts less than five or six or seven.

But it still hurt. It still hurts.

You know this year I joined a team for my Overnight walk. I'm in the  discussion group on Facebook. Facebook wasn't much of a thing when you were still alive.

Anyway. People ask for support on birthdays, and on anniversaries.

One can have time and distance and understanding, and these dates still knock the wind out of a person. It's not just me.

I've learned that you have to respect that these days are significant, and they will be hard, and give yourself permission to grieve.

Mama turned 80 in September.

She was in the hospital three times this summer. I wanted to say "thrice" but I always get teased for the word. I don't remember if you teased me about it. You were more focused on my grammar. And my use of profanity.

Anyway, she kept losing blood and getting extremely anemic, to the point that she was having transfusions. This happened right before her birthday.

Sarah was in the US, and came to stay with us for a few days, and she came to Sibley with me. We asked the doctor if he couldn't just keep pumping Betty full of blood, like you fill up a gas tank.

Apparently it doesn't work like that. They haven't solved the problem but she's doing better now.

Leading up to her birthday, I asked her if she'd like to have a big party, to celebrate this milestone of 80. And she looked so sad.

She said, "Most of my people are gone."

I knew it, because I know who we've lost. I just hadn't thought about it this way.

When you add everyone up, it could be a grand ghost party. You'd be playing piano, like you did throughout my childhood, no matter the country.

You know all of this. Maybe you're all even hanging out. I hope you are.

I'm just saying it out loud because it makes me feel better.

So we planned a little dinner. And Shannon gifted Phil a bushel of crabs for his birthday, so we had a double party and he brought them. Do you know how huge a bushel of crabs is?

I didn't, but now I do. Boy, were the kids impressed with the crabs.

Meg and her family came over to celebrate. You don't know them, but you'd love them. You'd all  swap Peace Corps stories.

Jack is still going strong, and so is Donna. Sometimes Donna sends me snippets of memories. I love it. 

Connie told me Grandpa John had a sauna in the basement. I don't remember that. I do know I got my sauna pronunciation from them.

One of these days I'll go back to Duluth. I want to see my cousins. I want to see that bridge that lifts up, the one we used to stand under, and I was afraid it would come down on our heads.

And I want to see if I can find some of Aunt Jo's art.

The world feels very dark and scary right now. I don't trust that our government is working to keep us safe.

My kids have lock down drills at school, in case there's a shooter. This idea makes me so sad and angry and powerless all at the same time.

So many bad things have happened since you died.

You were already gone, but there was a terrible tsunami and earthquake in Japan, and thousands of people died. It was heartbreaking.

The year before, a man in that community had bought a phone booth and set it out in his garden, so that he could talk to his cousin, who had died. He called it the Wind Phone.

So people go there to talk to their lost loved ones.

I suppose I use these letters like a wind phone.

Japan is rather far. I wish there were one nearby. I'd drive a long distance for it. I thought about getting one, but it's not like we have a large, rambling, beautiful garden.

Nick would never go for a phone booth in our 3x5 outdoor patch of rose bushes.

Plus, it's DC. We might wind up with someone living in it. I wouldn't begrudge a homeless person a wind phone conversation, but I can't have one living in my rose bushes.

You'd happily talk to them, though. I know you would. You talked to everyone.

I love you and I miss you. I always will.

Happy birthday.

Love,

Lisa

Monday, October 02, 2017

And now I'm not sure what to think about this

We have this pillow thing.

OK, not we. I. I have a pillow thing.

It turns out that I'm particular about pillows. Maybe it's congenital. My dad used to take his pillow when he traveled, and he traveled a lot.

He packed his pillow on one side of his brown hard-side Sampsonite. It was very flat, so didn't take up much room. I didn't really understand why you'd even take it, because it was almost like not having a pillow at all.

Now, thought I don't travel with mine, I get it.

We have king size pillows on our bed because Nick is enormous, although apparently just average in Texas, and we have a king size bed. So he bought us king size pillows.

And I'm a pillow smoosher. And this is impossible with such long pillows. So I also have a regular size pillow, soft, just the right softness, without being too flat.

If I were a dog, I would be one who inexplicably turns around like 500 times in the same spot just to get comfortable.

OK, so now let me be honest: I have three pillows. Two big ones because we had them, and then my regular sized one. I don't need three, but I do like two. Because I need to prop my small pillow up against a larger pillow so that it sits just right. The headboard is too slippery, and then it moves. It has to be a pillow.

I'm telling you. I used to be able to sleep soundly anywhere. On an overnight bus through the Andes. Piled into a single bed with friends. In a sleeping bag on wood slats with mice in the thatch overhead.

High maintenance annoys me, and yet I'm a picky sleeper. And sleep is one of my top priorities. This didn't used to be the case either.

Reality being such, inconvenient as it may be, these things are all true.

So.

Nick, who has his own two pillows, insists he doesn't need three. But when he reads in bed, he takes my perfect pillow to prop himself up. And then by the time I'm ready to use it, it's all warm from his head.

Part of the pleasure of a pillow is the cool against your cheek. Who, I ask, wants a pre-warmed pillow? We've exchanged words about this a variety of times. He's agreed to use one of my big pillows, which I offer happily.

Last night while arranging my pillow menagerie, I accidentally elbowed Nick in the head.

He said, "OW!"

Followed with, "You whacked me right where my horn would be if I were a unicorn."

I was all, "I am so sorry!" And then, "But actually, your horn would be further down towards your forehead."

He rubbed the top of his head and said, "No. This is exactly where my horn would be."

We spent some time debating that, both certain we were correct.

And then we kissed and said goodnight.

It wasn't until I was almost asleep that I thought, "If I were a unicorn?"

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My gift is my song. And this one's for you.

Dear Nick,

Today, nine years ago, we stood up and said simple vows in front of loving friends and family.

Growing up, I always thought I'd get married and then I'd be happy. Then again, as a kid who cried over having pale skin and jute-colored hair, surrounded by people with dark skin, dark eyes, and gleaming black hair, I also assumed I'd grow up to look like Barbie.

Or at least Teen Skipper, whose boobs grew when you twisted her arm.

You could say I lacked realistic expectations.

By the time we met, I'd had enough therapy to understand that if I wasn't happy, it was my own doing. No boyfriend or husband was going to magically make me happy.

My therapist came to the ceremony, wearing the scarf I'd given her as a thank-you gift. It felt perfect having her there.

So many friends came to support us, to offer us their love. My only regret from our wedding is that we didn't record it. Not us. I'm not interested in watching us get married.

It's the other people I want. What I'd most like to have is the part where people stood up and spoke as they felt moved to.
Many of those loved ones are no longer with us. My dad. Your dad. Your grandpa Irv. Lou. Pat. John Cool. Bill, our sham internet minister, and his wife Gouri.

Sometimes I feel like photos and memories are not enough. I long for voices. Why didn't I save even one voicemail from my dad? I save yours, just in case. Perhaps this is morbid and weird.

But our wedding. The people who stood and spoke, and shared what was in their hearts.

My friend Ann was the first to tell you she hoped you knew how lucky you were. I was shocked. This hadn't occurred to me, honestly. I felt lucky.

But you felt it. One friend told me later that when I said my vows, you flushed, and it was so clear how much you loved me, and how lucky you felt.

My friend Jane, California Jane, who scandalized Maude's mom with her choice of skimpy bridesmaid dress, stood up and said, "I told her! Marry the man with the boat!"
Marry the man with the boat!
As you know, your sailboat was not an enticement. Really, I was always a sucker for a man who looks conservative but is anything but, and for kindness, generosity, intelligence and a terrific sense of humor.

The picture up top is one of my favorites. One of the big reasons I chose you is because we laugh so much together.

I was grateful for the friends who stood up there with me, and glad that they wore whatever they felt comfortable in. As I recall, it was Philadelphia Jane who took on the duty of keeping California Jane's boobs appropriately covered by her dress as the night progressed.

I was so delighted to have people I love meet other people I love.

We exchanged rings, yours an engraved gold band, and mine my grandmother's wedding ring, the pattern faint after six decades of loving wear.

I wore my mom's wedding dress. You wore a tuxedo, and then changed into the gold paisley jacket your dad had passed on to you. You wanted to wear the gold jacket, and I was horrified by the idea. Now, it seems so silly caring so much.

It's just a day.

It's just a day, but it's a lucky day where you amass your loved ones. People say this only happens for weddings and funerals, and I have been reminded too many times of the truth of this.

Weddings are a far preferable place for this to happen.

You know, I wanted to wear my mom's wedding dress, because she and my grandmother had made it, and growing up, my Grandma Lillian was my favorite person on the planet. I believed she loved me more than anyone else ever did. It felt amazing to be that loved.

It feels amazing to be this loved. I hope you feel it, too.

Happy anniversary, Nick. I love you more than sunshine.

Love,

Lisa

Monday, September 18, 2017

So now let us speak of something awkward

You know how I wind up writing about stuff that most people don't talk about in polite company because I really need to talk about it?

Now I need to talk about perimenopause. I do

I hate it.

There are going to be words like boobs and period and such.

And now you've been warned.

Perimenopause, which I guess is also called premenopause, for those who don't know, and until recently I didn't, is the period (heh) of time leading up to menopause during which your reproductive hormones begin to decline. This can be a short number of years or a decade, as I understand it.

Hormones are tricksy, and everything affects everything, and you might have very few symptoms or your experience might be extreme. You just don't know until you're in it.

And even when you're in it, month to month you don't necessarily know. Which, for me, makes it not unlike depression.

Several months ago, I thought my antidepressant wasn't working, or that maybe the dosage needed tweaking. Because I couldn't stand anyone in my family.

Nick would walk toward me and I'd think, "Come closer. SO I CAN KICK YOU."

The kids and my mom would do things that my kids and my mom do. Like eat breakfast. And I would think, "OH MY GOD THEY'RE SO ANNOYING."

I snapped and snarled at all of them. I had no patience.

This continued for some days and I was about to reach out to my shrink and ask him for help. And then I got my period. Immediately, much like Dorothy landing in Oz, the world became bright and happy again.

In retrospect, I have always reacted extremely to hormones. What can I say? I'm a delicate flower.

I was raised believing condoms were the answer to most of the world's problems. Not everyone is in agreement, and I had several stints on hormonal birth control. I turned into a raging lunatic. Crying easily, angry, completely irrational. All the time.

Basically when I think about it, it combined all the difficult parts of being me, but taken to extremes.

Like pregnancy. I was a crazypants during pregnancy.

Now it's moot. (Snip snip!)

For years, coasting on my own hormones, I've had a pretty even cycle. Sometimes I'd have PMS and my boobs would get very sore, and I would get mad at them. But still, it didn't last. But it was generally brief, as were my periods.

And on a related note, India calls it my pyramid. "Do you have your pyramid, Mama?"

She also learned about period undies when one day she said, "Don't put those on! They're dirty!" I know, I know, this is a horrifying topic. I told you.

I do have some fear that she's taken this information to school, but what are you doing to do? Her mama has pyramid undies. At least it's true. (Unlike the time she told her class that for time out we put her in the bathroom after Nick poops.)

But now. Now I have PMS on steroids. My boobs are so sore. I extra hate everyone. I eat so much sugar and junk food.

After the kids went to bed last night, this is what I had for dinner. Gelato and Cheez-Its.

Horror. I know.
And I know it doesn't help. In fact, I know it does the opposite of helping. I KNOW.

What I don't know is when this annoying ride it will end. It's not consistent month to month.

It's kind of like being in one of those horrible carnival mirror houses where this one makes you short and wide and this one makes you taller and this one makes you upside down and this one makes three of you but there's only actually half of each of you so I guess one-point-five and where the fuck is the exit?

And this misery could end in a minute, or tomorrow, or next Friday. Your guess is as good as mine.

This morning Nick called and I guess I snapped at him because he said, "I really wish your period would start."

And I snarled, "Just imagine BEING ME right now."

Also, hand me those Cheez-Its and come over here so I can kick you.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thoughts on "commit"

As Suicide Prevention Week draws to a close, I'm asking friends to consider saying "died by/of/from suicide" rather than "committed suicide."

Personally, I tend to say, "died by" when talking about suicide. And as you know, I talk about suicide a lot.

This may be something you say without thinking. It's certainly what I used to say. I am sure there are instances of it on my blog. It was common parlance.

But that doesn't mean it doesn't carry negative connotations. I believe it does, and I personally favor the shift away from it.

It doesn't offend me. A friend recently said about me that I'm not quick to take offense, and this is true. I'm also surprisingly hard to shock, by the way. But the use of "committed suicide" does now bother me, and some people find it very hurtful.

Lots of people have written about the negativity of using "commit," and I think what it comes down to is that we typically use "commit" for crimes. It's the only way of dying that people do not use "died of" when talking about. People die of liver failure caused by alcoholism, but we don't say "committed alcoholism."

I don't typically tell people what to say or how to say it. I do sometimes judge, that's true, but more often I'm interested in how language is used. Deviations are interesting. I'm a descriptive rather than prescriptive linguist. I love the flexibility of languages and how they evolve.

On a tangent, I will admit that the way incentive has been turned into a verb with "incentivize" annoys the tar out of me, but I don't rail against it. You can verbize anything in English (see what I did there?). One of my language acquisition professors at Georgetown liked to point out that "party" was not a verb in his time.

One could argue that commit is neutral because we also say, "commit to doing something" or "commit to memory" and that is true. But we don't "commit joy" or "commit success." One could maybe argue for the continued use of "commit" as historical. There may be other reasons I haven't thought of.

I haven't had this conversation with anyone outside of the mental health community before. I don't correct people's use of language, ever. That's part of my personal "don't be a jerk" code of conduct.

So I put this out there as a suggestion to consider.

It may be that you have lost someone to suicide, and the use of "commit" doesn't bother you. That's OK. We all have things that bother us and things that don't.

I would just ask that you give this some thought, because language is powerful.

Monday, September 11, 2017

You see I've been through the desert on a horse with no name. It felt good to be out of the rain.

Yikes, our whiteboard is filthy!
Nick hates the band America.

We were on hour 10 of our drive back from Maine and Sister Golden Hair came on, and Nick didn't change the station. I said, "Thank you."

If we've had a fight or he's annoyed at me, or if he's just not thinking about it, he'll change the station when the Eagles, or Heart, or America come on. These are among the bands he hates but will leave for me if I ask, or if he feels like I need some cheering up.

If we've just had a fight, the station absolutely gets changed.

I do not know how anyone could pass up Desperado, but there you have it.

In any case, after that, I decided I'd just quietly slip some America lyrics on his Facebook page. Every day, I'd put song lyrics on, and wait and see if he noticed.

Day two, he called and said, "What's with the poetry or whatever on my page?"

I fessed up.

Yah, so you remember how thieves came through our skylights and stole our laptops and Nick's watches? After that we got locking bars on the skylights. There's a key for the screws, just like for locking lug nuts that you can put on so that people don't steal your car tires.

We recently had some roof work done, and the roofers needed to take off the skylights.

The key is small, and doesn't really look like a key, and it is easy to misplace, and a replacement costs $10 plus an hour drive round trip. I know this firsthand.

So when the roofers returned the key to me, I wanted to put it somewhere safe. But then I wrote a note on the whiteboard (which is more of a greyboard at this point) so I wouldn't forget to give it to Nick.

He came home and was all, "More poetry?"

No, reality.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Bedtime is the longest distance between two places

Do you have kids who have recently gone back to school?

If so, are they complete, rampaging, raging lunatics at night?

I know it's impolitic to disparage your own children, but boy howdy have my kids been big jerks lately.

I try to be all, oh, it's hard going back to school, and they have to hold it together all day and I'm a safe person to let it out with. They are feeling big feelings. I do try.

Sometimes I manage.

But sometimes, like after the 54th time I've asked them to brush their teeth, even held the toothbrush with toothpaste up to their mouths, and tried to actually do it for them, I lose my everloving mind.

Typically they're in bed by the time Nick gets home. This is nice for him.

But lately after dinner, or sometimes starting midway through, they've been hanging from the chandeliers, galloping back and forth down the hallway, giggling like fiends and basically ignoring every entreaty/threat to put on PJs, or get in the bath, or brush teeth, or get into bed.

Every single step of the process is an ordeal. And then when they're finally ready for bed, the actual getting into and staying in bed takes another hour.

I'm all, don't they understand that I just want them to go to sleep so Nick and I can sit in silence and watch a video?

Oh! Which reminds me: what are you watching? We have a year for more Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things doesn't come out until Halloween. We just watched the only season of Wolf Hall. What's piquing your interest lately?

So.

Nick has been coming home to the detritus of the evening and two little barbarians in frenzied motion.

The other night I was done, just done with my small humans. Nick walked into the bathroom and I left him to deal with them. I went and sat in our closet. I didn't come out until the noise had stopped.

Another night he came home to them in the bath, and he overheard India saying, "I'm going to kick you! Do you want me to kick you in the neck or the penis?"

Both tempting options, to be sure.

Last night we stayed on the playground until dinnertime. For dinner I chucked a frozen pizza and tiny hot dogs in the oven and cut up a cucumber. I let them keep drawing while they ate, since it was just the three of us.

They were lovely, sweet, and relatively subdued while eating.

I did airplane with India after dinner, and snuggled and giggled with her. I gave her special, one-on-one time while Jordan read a novel in the bathroom.

I thought, surely with all the playing and attention, surely tonight will be better.

And then it came time for PJs and teeth brushing and my cherubs morphed into creatures that I longed to menace back into the Hellmouth with a pitchfork.

Nighttime is never easy. I am tired, they are tired, and none of us are at our best. But lately it's just been brutal.

One night I snarled, "You're driving me insane!"

And India said, "Why did you have kids?"

This gave me pause. The first answers that flashed through my head were snarky, nothing I wanted to voice.

So I made a funny face and say, "WHY? Why did I have kids?"

And she smiled and said, "Because you wanted more family?"

I said, "Yes! Because I wanted my own family. Because I wanted little people to love so much. And I do, I love you both more than anything."

She beamed and gave me a big hug. I thought, "Oh! This is one of those rare parenting moments I've done right!"

I said, "Shall we brush our teeth now?"

A parenting article might end with her brushing her teeth and me tucking her into bed and giving her a cuddle and her falling asleep hugging her teddy bear.

Ha.

Reality is, she clenched her teeth, giggled maniacally, and bolted from the bathroom.

And I was all, I know, I know, the days are long and the years are short. I am sometimes shocked when I step back and see how big they've gotten. I know I'm blessed. I believe children are gifts and I treasure mine.

But right now where is my space pod and gin slushy machine?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Family Camp

Dinning hall: center of camp, location of endless hot chocolate
OK, so I have approximately a million things to tell you. But first, first I have to tell you about camp!

The last week of August, also the first week of school in DC, Nick, the kids, and I spent the week at Family Camp at Winona Camps in Maine.

Yes, I know, nobody hears "camp" and thinks "Lisa!" I know this.

I wasn't raised by campers. In 4th grade, I was surely the worst Girl Scout in Cairo. Betty earned all my badges. In high school my dad said my idea of camping was staying at the Hilton. I was insulted, but if I thought about it, I generally preferred the Sheraton.

But listen. Camp was incredible. I want all my friends to join us next year. Really and truly.

Now, you know that when I like something, I get very enthusiastic. But I am also candid, which is a thing people appreciate, so I will start by telling you that sleeping in a tent is no underwear dance party.
Tent 12 ready for action!
We did it for a week, and I didn't get one solid night of sleep.

Every night there was something.

In the beginning, the kids were too excited to sleep, despite being exhausted. Instead, they sang a drinking song they'd learned at a friend's memorial service. "Some are here and some have fallen! Bottoms up! The whiskey is calling!"

Seriously.

Another night I felt a tiny bump on my leg. Which was surely a Lyme-infested tick. A tick! Nature is full of dangers large and small!

I could leave it till morning, but the longer you leave it, the more likely you are to get sick. I could pull it out, but then I'd have to keep it, just in case. Where would I put it?

So with one finger on the bump, I felt around for my flashlight. If it was a tick, I'd wake Nick. Together we could remove it and find a plastic bag to keep it in.

It was a scab.

The next night there was a big storm and lots of wind, and Jordan woke up and whispered, "There's a bat on the floor!"

Nick said it was just the tent flap rustling. "Don't worry about it."

Don't. Worry. About. It?

Silently I was all, a bat? Is not a bird! It's a mammal! A bat can have the RABIES! Bats can bite you in your sleep and you don't even know it. Now we're all going to go home dead.

Nick refused to check what he insisted was a non-bat tent flap.

I didn't want to get Jordan worried about his potential impending death, so I stoically fretted in silence, willing myself to breathe. It was like this: Breathe, Lisa. It's a tent flap, that's all. WHAT IF IT'S A RABIES? Breathe, that's right, keep breathing. BUT RABIES! Breathe...

Until Jordan screamed. "DADDY! Daddy! A chipmunk just walked on me!"

So we found our flashlights and calmed him down and pulled his bed into the middle and tied down the tent flaps and then! No more animals in the night.

For example.

Nick was shocked, shocked! that I loved camp. He was delighted and relieved. But astounded at my flexibility. Apparently he was prepared for me to hate it and hole up with a book.

Instead, look at all the campery things I did! All the people I made friends with! All the fun I was having!

In all candor, his surprise has caused me to examine who I think I am, and contrast it with how others see me. Is who I think I am the person I used to be? I don't know.

When I was 24, I trekked for a month in Nepal. We slept in tea houses, sometimes with our sleeping bags side by side on wood platforms. Mice scurried overhead. For a week at highest altitude, it was so cold that the only thing I removed at night were my boots. I slept in my hat.

I wound up going last minute, with new friends and no preparation. I borrowed warm clothes and rented a sleeping bag and bought boots, which fell apart in week two, and which we fixed with duct tape for the rest of the trip.

I was the least fit, and I was always last, every single day. But I got off the bus where the road ended, trekked two weeks in and two weeks out, and at the end of the month got back on that bus.

Aside from sustaining a marriage and raising kids, the Everest trek is the hardest, best thing I've ever done.

And I still think of myself as that person. But the truth is, it's been a long, long time.

So who am I now? I don't entirely know.

It's true that I was worried about being cold, and what to wear, and which shoes to bring, and I voiced anxiety about lack of electricity and whether or not to bring my hair dryer. But that's more because I like to bathe at night and hate sleeping with wet hair.

I solved this issue by barely bathing. We were in the lake every day. Now I know.

Anyway.

Last year, when Nick said he wanted to go to Family Camp, the camp he went to as a kid, and where he was a counselor, and where in his wildest dreams he would live forever, I said, "Sure!"

I never went to camp growing up. I went to my grandmother's house in North Dakota.

When Nick first told me about Winona, which was not long after we met, I thought it was weird that grown men longed to be back at camp, and returned at any opportunity.

And then, four years ago, we flew up for the memorial service of Winona's former camp owner and director, Uncle Al. People flew in from across the world to honor him. The stories told by former Winona campers, boys grown into men whose lives he'd touched and changed, were incredibly moving.

We spent the weekend with Nick's Winona friends. I felt their connection to each other and to the place.

I decided camp was to Nick what my high school was to me.

Since we moved regularly, people to me were more the place than the place, if that makes any sense. When I'm with my Delhi friends, I'm my sparkliest self, and that self is wrapped up in all the memories and delights of who we were as teenagers, with beauty all around us and giant possibilities ahead of us. We laugh and reminisce and revel in the joy of being together.

I don't know if this is how it feels for Nick, and I cannot picture him voicing it in this way, but this is what I imagine.

If it feels anything like that, of course he longs for camp.

So we went to Family Camp. Nick waited all year for it, counting down the days.

When I tell you we loved our week at camp, I mean, even with the tent shenanigans, it was incredible. I, least outdoorsy of us all, adored it. We've already paid for next year.

For starters, Winona is on the banks of Moose Pond, which is spectacularly beautiful. You're outside, surrounded by tall pines. The air is clean. The water is cold and fresh.
Sunset and serenity
The sky is so clear and dark at night, and you can lie on the dock and see all the stars.

I think I took the same photos over and over. Every day. Because it was always that beautiful. And I kept saying, "It's just so beautiful!"

And people just nodded. Because it is true, over and over.
Whee!
Three times a day, you go to the dining hall for meals. You line up and serve yourself. My children lined up and served themselves. Without my help. Without complaining about what was or wasn't for dinner.

Then, because they'd been running around doing all kinds of activities, they sat down and ate. They were hungry, they got food, they got more food if they needed it, and they ate without whining.

Magical.
Just like Robin Hood
Jordan did archery! He shot a rifle! (I shot a rifle!) He tried the climbing wall. Me, I love to climb, and never do. So I climbed. I decided my goal was to get to the top of the overhang by the end of the week.

I watched kids dance up the wall. Get to the overhang and pull themselves up. For me, the overhang was a big struggle. I tried and I tried.

And on Friday, our last day, I did it. The counselor belaying me kept the rope super taught, and I know he boosted me on the overhang.
This is me! On the overhang!
But still. I did it. I reached the top. I felt proud.

One afternoon, we all took turns jumping off Eagle Rock. The kids were scared. They hesitated. But eventually, they leapt. And they were so proud.
Flying!
And one morning there was an across-the-lake swim. They do this every year. It is eight-tenths of a mile. Nick is a great swimmer. I was going to go in a boat and watch.

And then I thought, when do I ever have the chance to do this? I should try. Because it scares me, because it's something outside my normal life, I should try.
You swim from there to here.
When I said this, Nick said I must. There were boats accompanying us, that would pick up anyone who needed help. One new friend took a life jacket for me in her kayak, in case.

I'm not a great swimmer, and the only stroke I know is breaststroke. I only have a bikini, not a serious swim suit. But I'm strong, and very stubborn.

(I don't know if you have certain things you believe about yourself, but I go through life believing that I can always run six miles if I have to.)

So, I was scared (fear of sharks in open water, also on fear list), I was slow, and I was last, save the two good swimmers who chose to stay behind, to make sure everyone was OK.

But I finished. And I felt proud.

At the start of the week, my kids were upset, because they didn't know where anything was. I didn't know where anything was. I wandered in the woods for 20 minutes trying to find riflery because Nick impatiently said, "Just walk up the hill."

This is why we get into screaming, profane fights when we try to help each other park the car.

There are lots of things up the hill. Including many paths and many trees.

I could hear the gunshots. But I could not, could not find this one specific up-the-hill spot. My phone was charging in the dining hall. The Winona map depicts lots of brown squares and open green spaces doesn't label any of them.

It's like a Nick map: here are buildings and here is a lot of nature and there is a hill that you go up. That way is North.

But! By mid-week we all knew mostly where things were. And the kids had made friends. They'd gained confidence.

Jordan started going to activities by himself. He signed himself up, and took himself to where he needed to be.

We live in DC. We lock our doors as soon as we walk into the house. There is never a time where we open the front door, let the kids out, and say, "See you later!"

At Winona, they were free to roam, and we knew they were safe. They ran around with their new friends. They hung out with their cousins. At one point, we hadn't seen India for an hour. We knew she wouldn't go in the water by herself, so we weren't worried.

Nick went to check the tent, and there she was, calmly hanging out, looking at her book. She said she couldn't find us, so she went back to the tent.

Now I think I get it, and I love camp.
My heart
Part of camp is about making new friends and having fun, which we all definitely did. It's about being outside and getting comfortable in the woods and in water, which is a big shift for people like us who are mostly inside.

But now I see that it is also about making you step outside of your comfort zone, and helping you conquer new things, because in the  process you begin to feel more capable, clever, and strong.

You're scared, and you leap, and you immediately want to do it again, because it was so much fun. And then you want to try the next, harder thing.

You forget you were afraid in the first place.

I don't know about Nick, because it was all familiar for him, but the rest of us grew tremendously.

I'm so excited for us to go back next summer.