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I awoke this morning after my usual complicated, half-frightening, half-supernatural, all-meaningful dreams, thinking about threes.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because I finished Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons last night, with all its scientific/religious intersectional themes.

Aside from thinking about the classic Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (or ” the Holy Spigot”, as claimed by Rowen Atkinson in his short but sweet role in “Four Weddings and A Funeral”), I was thinking about the concept of love – true love – being something that is mind, body and soul.

Love can start in different ways.  It can start as friendship.  It can start as passion.  It can start as a sense of partnership.  It can start as a vibrant energetic connection.  Or it can start as some combination of the above.  In order for it to succeed and strengthen, the three core elements – mind, body and soul – must all be allowed to bloom.  And not just between two people but within each of those two people.

If you are mentally compatible with someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you share the same level of intelligence or education.  It does mean that you are eager to expand your thinking to consider ideas or ways of life or activities that you might not have considered before.  You are willing to be open-minded and non-judgemental of how you – or your potential partner – experience life.  And you are willing to involve your partner in your life and become involved with theirs.

If you are physically compatible, well, it’s an amazing thing.  You can have a successful love relationship without intense physical passion – you can be perfectly fine with average physical passion and attraction.  But when you do have the intense body connection, it can transcend the physical and touch the spiritual.  Due to our nearly-inborn Christian conservatism which we all want to deny, we can think that having an intense physical relationship is “bad”. We can place put on our shame-colored glasses and imagine that we should not be in such a relationship, because if it is that good, clearly that’s all there is to it, and that makes it wrong.  Not so.  An intense physical connection is just a part of the trinity, and something that should be nurtured, cherished and honored.

If you are spiritually compatible, you find yourself expanding in unexpected ways.  Your life is full of minor epiphanies about yourself, about the universe, about each other.  You each fuel the flame of spirit that burns within the other – and the result, while sometimes confusing, is ultimately most joyful.  While I don’t think any element of the “Love Trinity” is more important than another, the spiritual element is the most rare and the most frightening.  It takes courage and strength to confront yourself daily.  When the cares of life are overwhelming, the unclouding of the soul can feel like it is simply too much to manage.  It is easier to find a relationship where you can be less (or be the same) than stick with one that makes you grow.  At least then you have the illusion of peace.  Ah, but what you miss.

Back in college, I had a therapist who said that when you were choosing to be with someone, you needed to be sure that your head, your heart and your crotch were all aligned.  I’ve never forgotten that.  I’ve certainly gone with the “two out of three ain’t bad” approach once in a while.  But for a life partner?  Nope.

I will not compromise the mind-body-soul trinity again.  And I feel sorry for those who do.

I know what can be.  I know what I have to offer.  And I know what I’m worth.  I believe there’s a saying that good things come in threes. (I know there’s also a saying that disasters come in threes, but we’ll put that aside for the purposes of this post.  I believe in the power of good.) 

I am a good thing.

I took a 6-mile hike this morning.  It was muddy.  It was windy.  I was all alone with the prairie dogs and four hawks.  I cranked my iPod and got blisters on my feet.  I thought and thought.

I’m taking advantage of the few days before I start the new job to get outside in the warmth while it lasts.  This morning’s was a lovely hike, even with the blisters.  And as music will, the songs on my iPod took me to a myriad different places.  There were some songs I couldn’t listen to now and others I didn’t even know I had.

I’m venturing into a new world next week.  I’ve almost been thinking of it as a grown-up world – a world where I do real work, commute to a big city, be professional.  It feels like a long time since I’ve really done that.  The prospect is exciting.  It’s ironic how far this new reality is from the reality I thought I’d be facing right now, and there’s a poignancy to that.

In my teens, I had the world before me – it was the open-door world.  I could do anything.  I felt invincible and fearless.  I made decisions clearly and rationally.  I worked my ass off to get into and through college.  I had such hope for the future.  I can remember that feeling as if it were yesterday.

I was three days past my 22nd birthday when I got involved with my husband-to-be.  My 20s were tumultuous, mostly due to that relationship.  My life didn’t take the path I had planned for myself, and somewhere along the line, the choices I started making felt less like choices than requirements.  I started falling into things instead of making decisions about my life.  And I very much wanted to be married.  I needed to know that someone wanted to marry me – that I was loveable enough for someone to want to marry me.  Looking back, I placed FAR too much emphasis on marriage.  And so, I worked.  I grew professionally in a job that I fell into.  I think the only big decision I made during this time was to buy our house.  Otherwise, I was drifting through a fairly interesting, fairly hopeless world, and trying by myself to make our marriage work.  I consider this the semi-conscious world.

Then came my 30s.  The marriage got worse.  We separated for a time.  That was my decision, and it was a big one.  But I reneged after only a few months.  I was still drifting – it didn’t matter whether Pat came back or not, so I let him come back.  I was still pretty unhappy in my marriage, but things were a little better.  Pat was working and we had two houses, so we lived apart for part of the week.  I was travelling a lot for work and I loved that.  I was successful.  I was in the professional world.  I felt grown up.  But I felt something was missing.  And so, late one night, looking in a mirror in a New York City hotel room, I decided I wanted to have a baby.  In fact, that night was just about exactly 15 years ago.

So I consciously moved from the professional world to the world of motherhood.  As sometimes happens, having a child improved our marriage for a while.  But I was still working, always working, trying to support the household and be a good mother.  I left my job of 13 years when Kelsea was two – a restructuring resulted in my position being eliminated and I declined the replacement position they offered me, so the parting was mutual – and that was kind of a choice for me. Pat was working and was supportive of me pursuing my writing and photography.  For a few days.  In an ironic turn of events, he got fired about a week after I left work, and swore he would never work for anyone again.  My choices vanished.  I was back to working again and not really by choice.  I was missing my daughter’s childhood.  I was drifting, but I was dedicated.  I was in a stifled world.

Finally, I hit my 40s.  I had gone through several layoffs at several jobs, and had been working multiple jobs for years.  I was literally working myself to death.  I could feel it.  I would go days without seeing Kelsea awake.  Finally, I decided again that something had to give.  I decided to take a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to the Caribbean.  Pat wasn’t interested in going with me.  So I went.  On a beach on Cane Garden Bay, my soul opened up and I recognized, buried inside me, that happy, hopeful young woman of my teens.  God, it was good to know she was still there, and that she just needed a little peace and sun to emerge from beneath my skin.  I had entered a hopeful world – where I could see potential.

I came home feeling happier.  The once-in-a-lifetime trip became two or three times a year.  It was the only way I could hold onto who I was, since I was still working so hard at home.  But regardless of my travel, my marriage worsened.  I grew happier – he grew more sullen and angry.  He drank more.  My trips became escapes from my real life.  And that was not acceptable.  My parents died. My life was too painful.

Finally, I found the support and love I needed to take the step of leaving my marriage.  I told my husband I was moving out, told my daughter we were getting a divorce.  I shook up my world and entered the transitional world.  During all this, I got laid off, but had a temporary reprieve for 9 months.  I had made a big choice to get divorced.  But I was immediately in another relationship – it was what inspired the change.  I felt supported enough to start my own freelance business, but couldn’t seem to motivate myself to pursue it.  I just wanted to rest after all those years of working.  I know it irritated my new partner.  But we had plans.  We kept talking about our future.  It was all about to happen at this time, this year.  And the relationship ended.  I had the rug pulled out from under me.

In that relationship, I had felt that teenage hopefulness again.  A vibrancy to my future.  Like my dreams could actually come true.  I was willing and eager to work with a partner.  The depression that settled on me in the last few months has left me a place that’s worse than drifting – a world of despair.

So now, I have started over.  Started making choices again.  I am choosing a job that I want (where they want me).  I am choosing to try to invest in a house here.  I am choosing to re-enter the professional world and the big city, armed with the knowledge that I will be learning something that will serve me well in the future.  I am choosing to continue writing – my novel and a new book, and articles.  I am choosing to stay close to my daughter for a while longer, even though she continues to encourage me to move to a warm island somewhere in the sun.  But not yet.  Right now, I am in the conscious world.  And I like that.

I’m making some plans for myself.  They are fledgling.  And a part of them, the first part, aside from the new job, is that I need to grieve for the dreams I’ve lost.  For the love I’ve lost.  And in grieving, I can let it go.  And enter a brave new world.

What side of the bed do you sleep on?

When you’re young and you have a twin bed, this is not really an issue – there’s only one side of a twin bed.  If you have tried to share a twin bed with someone, you will probably have discovered that, if you are the one sleeping next to a wall, when you roll over you CAN break your nose on said wall.  Trust me on this.

At some age, perhaps early teens, many of us graduate to a double bed. 

And if you try to go back to sleeping in a twin bed for any length of time after you move to a double bed, you run a very high risk of falling out of bed.  Trust me on this one too.  And believe me when I tell you that hitting the floor as a dead weight in the middle of the night is a distrubing way to wake up.

It seems, and maybe it’s just my perception, that the size of every bed has changed over the last 48 years.  Kelsea’s twin bed seems much larger to me than my twin bed growing up, or the twin beds in the room we share at the beach for that matter.  Double beds seem smaller – queen beds seem more like what I remember double beds to be.  And king-size beds seem huge, with the California King being huger than huge.  I’ve always wondered why they named it California King.  If it’s a description of size, then shouldn’t it have been named Texas King?

During my entire married life, I slept on my husband’s right.  I don’t know why.  He was left-handed, but I don’t think that had anything to do with it.  On the rare occasions when we tried to change sides, it just felt so wrong.  And now that I am single, the idea of sleeping on anyone else’s right side feels wrong.  I imagine I would wake up in a confused fog, thinking that Pat was the person next to me, and that’s really not an episode any courtship needs.  But I could deal with sleeping on someone else’s left side.

When Kelsea and I took road trips last year, we sometimes had to share a bed, and it didn’t matter what side I was on.  Thinking back, it was her right side in Tucumcari and Cheyenne, her left side in Cimarron and Durham.  Apparently, when it’s not a romantic partner, it makes no difference, although with her, I tend to take the side closest to the door, in order to protect her from intruders (which really makes no sense at all).

In my own massive bed, I sleep on the left side (as viewed from my position lying on my back in the bed).  The right side is a dark territory into which I rarely venture, like the wilds of the Amazon, as yet fully unexplored.  Every so often, I’ll wake up lying sideways or diagonally across the bed, but I never start out of the right side, and I never wake up there.  I’m sure part of the reason is because the light switch is on the left side, but I know that’s not all of it. 

It’s truly a psychological thing.  When I moved out, I wanted to change everything.  Since I took almost nothing from the family home, since Kelsea (and of course, Pat) were still living there, I bought furniture.  (Thank heavens I was working at the time.)  Everything was new to me, which fit well with the idea of leaving my old life behind and making a fresh start.  So I deliberately chose to sleep on the opposite side of the bed from that which I’d slept on for the past 24 years. 

And now, here I am, on the other side of the bed.  I dislike the fact that the side to my right is empty, but I hope that will change in time.  It certainly leaves a lot of room for exploration in the future.

I haven’t talked much about being an empath, but it’s what I am.  At times of great stress, it tends to work against me.  At times of great peace, it is the best gift the universe could have shared with me.

Last fall, I took a weekend training with a Shaman about how to live as an empath.  It was helpful, and perhaps it’s time that I revisit some of the lessons learned there.  One of the things that happens with me is that I can link deeply and intuitively to people for whom I care.  It’s like sharing a piece of spirit.  I can sense what they are feeling and what they are doing. Most of the time, I’m right.  And sometimes being right can be positively devastating.

It is such a mixed thing, when you love someone and want them to be happy, but at the same time you want to be the one they are happy with and you can’t have that.

Empaths have the ability to sense things on many levels.  We can read people – their body language, their eyes, the very air around them.  I can, if I chose, put myself in a stranger’s skin and feel their thoughts and emotions.  This is not something I do, however, because it is a violation of a stranger’s spirit and space.  And I take on too much of other’s stuff when I do it.  This quality is one of the reasons that neither psychology or massage therapy worked out for me as a career.

Most times, it is a matter of finding a quiet space within myself; from that place, I can reach out tender tendrils to sense what others might be feeling, and hopefully help them on a level of which they are not even aware.  This all sounds awfully foo-foo Boulder, doesn’t it? 

The concept of the Highly Sensitive Person is very popular here in Boulder, and while some would say that HSP is the same thing as being an empath, I would disagree.  Perhaps in some people, the two go together.  But in the cases of people whom I’ve met who are Highly Sensitive Persons, it seems to be an affliction, and one that is focused on their own challenges of dealing with this world full of people, motion, light, sound and busyness.  It has very little to do with the strange, serene sense of the feelings of other beings (both animal and human) and everything to do with adjusting their surrounding (and the people around them) to accommodate their “disability”.  Yes, being Highly Sensitive has become a focus of psychotherapy here in town.  Amazing.

However you might choose to interpret it, I live it every day.  It’s a painful joy, which is the mixture of my life these days, with varying degrees of each.  I only wish it were easier.

My note from the Universe this morning:

“One’s ability to stop kidding themselves is what brings about the greatest breakthroughs, fastest comebacks, and happiest feet.”

I had a disappointing weekend, a couple of drinks last night (which is unusual for me) and called my ex-boyfriend in a state of sadness.  I left a message.  He didn’t call me back.  And now it’s time for me to stop kidding myself.

It’s time for me to stop hoping.

I had hoped we could stay friends.  I had hoped he would come back to me someday – even though I don’t know when someday might be.  I’m starting to get the message that he doesn’t really want contact with me.  He really just wants to be done with me.  It’s not his job to be my friend or make me feel better.

I have no idea why I’m having such a hard time letting go and moving on, but I am.  It’s not as if I’ve never been dumped before.  Maybe I just never loved quite this well before.  I’m doing all the “right” things – eating okay, exercising, trying to see friends, looking for a full-time job, writing, trying to buy a house – all these things that are all pieces of “moving on”.

But I’m stuck.  Stuck like a wheel in mud.  And I’m so unhappy.  Yes, I have good days.  It actually seems that I’ve had more good days than bad days.  But the bad nights, like last night, and the bad days, like today, are still so very bad that I hardly know how to get through them.  One breath at a time – which I reminded myself of as I sobbed into my already-soaked pillow last night.  Of course, I am my own person and I don’t need another to complete me.  But I miss him, and the connection we had.  I was happy in that relationship.  But he wasn’t.  And that makes it wrong.  Both people have to be happy. 

Maybe I need to go back to therapy (ick).  A couple of friends have said it would be good for me now, to work through some past stuff, since I am in a place where I am free and set-up for change.  Yes, maybe they are right.  Maybe I need some help to push through this.  I’ve given it time.  Time isn’t helping.  I’ve been trying to focus on the positive, to forge new dreams.  Still, not helping, not really.

I feel so fucking pitiful.  And I hate that feeling.

Guess I need to give it more time.  In the meantime, I guess the tears will keep flowing.

Sometimes you must step outside your comfort zone to know its boundaries.  It is not unhealthy.  I have always believed that you need to know both ends of a continuum – you need to know an earthly heaven and an earthly hell in order to understand where you fit, to know your place in your own life.  That place will vary from day-to-day, from year to year, and can change, grow, twist and evolve with your circumstances.  And when change happens in your life, that is when you need to test the strength of the walls of the house of your soul, to push against them, to climb out of the window and see what it is on the other side.

Sometimes, the walls dissolve completely.  Sometimes you find a new house,new rooms.  Sometimes though, where your spirit lives simply expands to encompass new knowledge of your own soul.  You keep that which you thought was a part of you, because now you no longer just think it is a part of you, you know.  And even though that part of you may not look the same as it did when you first found it, it is still something you recognize, something that you must now adjust, and adjust to having, as a sculptor crafts a block of clay to reveal the form that lives within, shaving, trimming, carving, tweaking, until it is gently and restfully complete. 

It feels not unlike a birth.  Once a seed is planted, it grows and changes within you.  Sometimes it is comfortable and sometimes it is not, and there comes a time, finally, when you must push and struggle and show infinite strength to bring that fully grown seed into the light of reality. 

It happens over and over again in this life.  And in the next one.  We must recognize the joy in the process and the joy in the pain, and never, ever deny any of the truths that we know about ourselves, no matter how much we may doubt, dislike or distrust them. We cannot put pieces of ourselves aside when they are inconvenient or uncomfortable.  We must only learn how to accept the flawed perfection of ourselves with open arms, open minds and open hearts.

There’s a phenomenon that occurs with women when they get into relationships.  I’ve seen it in myself.  I’ve seen it in women I’ve known.  I’ve wondered if it was something tied to age, but now I don’t think so.  Which makes we wonder what it’s really tied to.

It’s not something we talk about.  I think in most cases, it’s not something we acknowledge.  If we do, then we rationalize it into something positive.  And it’s not altogether bad.  But it’s interesting from a psychological standpoint.

It’s what I’ve taken to calling (in my head, where I do most of my talking) the Egg Phenomenon.  I give full credit to the film “Runaway Bride” for the label.  While it’s a total chick flick and didn’t get much screen/air time, it was an entertaining movie with a lot of nuances. 

In a nutshell, the character portrayed by Julia Roberts tends to adapt herself to whatever fiance she has, and so she finds herself putting on the persona of mountain climber, hippie, whatever, to mirror her current partner.  The guy she finally ends up with calls her on it, after he has interviewed her former fiances and each states that she likes her eggs prepared just as he does.  When Richard Gere confronts Julia Roberts with this knowledge, she realizes she doesn’t know how she likes HER eggs.  During their break-up, she proceeds, on her own, to try eggs prepared in all different ways, and when she finally returns to him, tells him, without a shred of doubt, how SHE likes HER eggs.

Hence, the Egg Phenomenon.

Now, it’s one thing to try new things because your new partner is into them.  If you’ve never had Eggs Benedict and your partner loves them, try them – you may love them too!  Same goes for sports-related activities – I mean, you never know if you like something until you try, and you may not try something until the opportunity arises.  It’s not as if I woke up one morning and said, “I’ve never tried fly-fishing – I think I’ll go!”  Without being with someone with the requisite equipment and experience, while I’d thought with interest about fly-fishing, there would be no way that I’d throw myself into a freezing creek at near-dawn to tangle fish hooks in my hair.  (And I loved fly-fishing.)

But I have a girlfriend who worked hard to give up smoking and was so proud of herself when she did.  Then she met her husband, who smoked, and within six months she was smoking again. This might not be the best example, because I’m sure it’s hard for a former smoker to be intimate with a current smoker without giving into temptation.  So let’s take it a step further.

Take a woman who loved music.  She pairs up with a guy who doesn’t.  Suddenly, her love of music is sublimated.  Or say she’s a vegetarian, who connects with a meat-and-potatoes guy.  Her veggie lifestyle is consumed by beef before she know it.   Both of these have happened to me. 

Does this mean I’m weak?  That I don’t know myself?  It’s not as if the men have said “Give up music (or vegetables), or we can’t be together.”  I don’t know for sure.  I do know that I have NEVER seen the reverse happen.  I have never been with a man who loved to go dancing just because I did, when he hadn’t loved it before.  Somehow it seems that men don’t do this mirroring thing that women do. 

I think that’s partly what it is – mirroring.  We are most comfortable when we can see elements of ourselves in others.  As women, we focus on making people comfortable.  Unfortunately, it seems to extend beyond certain boundaries, where we slightly morph ourselves to make the men we are with most comfortable, to ensure that they will want to stay with us.  Sometimes, some of those changes we make are ones we wanted, ones we needed and ones that are healthy.  Other times, though, not so much.

I am sure that self-aware men who read this will say, “But I don’t want you to change – I am with you because I liked who you were when I met you.”  And I think that’s true, to a certain extent.  I know that they believe that’s true.  But what they don’t take into account is that this morphing that we undergo (and I refuse to call it a metamorphosis because that has more positive connotations than I am implying) is so subtle and insidious on the part of women that men don’t even really recognize that it’s happening.  They just know they are happy, and grow more and more comfortable with the woman.

It’s a form of shapeshifting.

I don’t know why men don’t seem to do it.  Maybe they are not genetically programmed to make others comfortable.  Maybe it’s a biological presumption that women will please them.  Maybe they’re just not that sensitive, flexible, or aware.  Or maybe they are more secure in themselves than women.  Trying to answer that question could be a Master’s thesis in itself.

I’m no teenager anymore.  That’s when girls who don’t know themselves tend to do whatever it takes to try to keep a guy.  But during this phase of my life when I am alone, I am asking myself a lot of questions about who I am, inside and out of a relationship.  If I were more secure in my own self, would I still morph in a relationship?

Sometimes the shapeshifting is nothing more than a normal compromise of souls, an adjustment to being with someone.  Being in a relationship is all about give and take, and we do make little edits to ourselves to keep a relationship healthy and growing.

But I feel now is the time to ask myself the big question:

Do I REALLY know how I like my eggs?

Having finished Natalie Goldberg’s first book, Writing Down the Bones, I am looking at her second book.  I say looking because that’s exactly what I’m doing.  Thumbing through, reading snippets and trying to re-mobilize my writing self.

One of the things that struck me last night that I read was an exercise she suggested about writing down what you would miss when you died.  Last night, I was thinking about the big things, like Kelsea.  I suppose in some ways I don’t think I will miss anything because once I die, I sense that I will have access to everything, just in a different way.  Though will I still be ME thinking, knowing, feeling, sensing it all?  That I of course cannot say.

So what will be missed?  Instead of thinking about my own memories, I started thinking about how the world has changed in the last fifty years.

Then I got to thinking about how people used to dress up for air travel.  I admit that I started flying very shortly after this era ended.  But back then, flying was an event, an occasion, something special, and they treated you as if it was.  Men wore suits.  Women wore suits and gloves and hats and stockings and heels.  Stewardesses wore little hats and were solicitous, giving you pillows, blankets, food, drink, whatever they could do for your comfort.  Now the message is literally stated on the PA, “Our flight attendants are here for your comfort but are PRIMARILY here for your safety.”  Meaning comfort can go down those little metal toilets as far as the flight attendants are (instructed to be) concerned.  And people show up looking like they’re ready for bed.  Literally. 

On my last flight, I was reaching for a pillow in the overhead bin next to my seat, when the flight attendant reached ahead of me and snatched it out.  “That’s not supposed to be here,” she said.  “Well, can I use it?” I asked her nicely as she held it pinioned to her chest.  “No,” she replied, “People in coach aren’t allowed to get pillows.”  I didn’t bother to reply to this, and I’m sure the pillow sat unused for the duration of the flight.  Coach.  Doesn’t it sound like a rich thing?  Royalty ride in coaches.  They should call it cattle class or steerage or peon class or mass class.  Something else.  I’ll work on it.  And then of course, there’s business class.  Excuse me?  5 inches of legroom for the business man or woman.  And that implies that the rest of us are just bums.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to rant about the airlines here – although it is a good idea for a post and will likely emerge from my fingertips someday.

What I was thinking about is how the past dies.  Think about the bombing of London by the Nazis in World War II.  Few remember it.  There are books and movies but you could literally count them.  People Kelsea’s age will never hear someone tell a story about it.  But there are those few who do remember it, who can recall the blackout drapes, the sound of the sirens or the planes, their fear, their parents responses, the smell after a bombing.

To take a less dramatic example, no one remembers what the air smelled like before cars and other pollutants started contaminating the atmosphere.  When you could drink from a stream without having to purify the water.  What the plains looked like when there were millions of buffalo roaming.  What it felt like to wear 20 pounds of dresses during a hot Georgia summer – and how you didn’t complain.

When Kelsea and I took the EAR and she wanted me to give her a tour of my life in Durham, I told her stories about school, work, growing up.  Things I might not have remembered had we not been right there.  I’m glad I did this.  Someone knows some of my stories now.  (Not that I am ever shy about telling her anything.)  She, like E-Bro (and like me, once upon a time) has the memory of an elephant, and I know she will remember.  Maybe she’ll tell her daughter my stories someday, as I have told her some of my Mother’s.  Writing them down in a way that evokes a sense of place, of time, of feeling, is a great start – and sometimes the only option.  But the verbal telling of a tale holds so much more power than the written word – your voice as you share your story imbues it with an emotion that is richer than any printed page could ever convey.

There are so many stories we have that we do not recall except in flashes and that we never share, perhaps because they would really mean nothing to someone else.  They are memories more than stories, snippets of our lives.  I think we remember everything that has ever happened to us, we just don’t have access to all those thoughts, images and memories with the x% of our brain that we actually use.  But that y% of our brain must be doing something back in there.  I choose to believe that storing all our lives (and perhaps beyond) is what it’s doing.

But no one will remember the things I do in the ways I do, even if someone else was present at the time.  That person will remember it through their own eyes.  So I suppose what I will miss when I am gone is the ability to share those memories.  Or perhaps I will miss the memories themselves.

Soldiers go off to war and they know why they are fighting, and who they are fighting.  They know what they have to do to win.  But what do you do when you can’t seem to defeat your foe?  When you feel like you’ve vanquished this foe, and you’re doing all the right things, staying vigilant and yet somehow, this enemy sneaks in through some unguarded window and takes over again?

I’m talking about depression.  I’ve suffered with depression for a long time now, off and on, off and on, for 30 years.  For what sometimes feels like forever.  I guess I’ve tried everything.  Therapy.  Exercise.  antidepressants.  It’s all helped, definitely.  Changing my life so drastically over the last 2 years has – I think? – helped.  (And today is the 2-year anniversary of my moving into the Cottage.)

I had a pretty rough bout of depression in the summer.  Then, with a change in meds and the addition of a lot of aerobic exercise, I felt much better.  In fact, I was cruising along just fine.  Until a few days ago.  I opened my eyes one morning and it was back.  No rhyme, no reason.  It seemed to come with the wind.  Now, I’m sluggish, dull, have no interest in getting out of bed.

Have you seen those commercials that say “Depression hurts”?  It does.  Even though it’s been warm, my old broken bones hurt.  My hands hurt from arthritis.  I barely had the energy to take a 2-mile hike yesterday.  What a difference from the 6-mile hike I took a couple of weeks ago.

I keep asking myself what’s wrong, what’s missing.  And I can’t really come up with anything.  Yes, I’m in a bit of a limbo now, not knowing when or where I’m going next, or what I’m going to do next.  But I don’t think that’s what the problem is.  It doesn’t feel situational. 

I have learned that there are two types of depression: endogenous and non-endogenous (or exogenous) depression.  Endogenous depression is typically genetic.  Here’s what our friend Wikipedia has to say about it:

“A sufferer is prone to become depressed on the advent of traumatic events, exhaustion or when under high levels of stress and may not be aware of the disorder until confronted by symptoms of depression for the first time.

Depressive episodes can occur at any age, but despite the predisposition may never become a serious problem. The severity of depression resulting from a diagnosis can vary greatly, from mild to severe. Worsening of a persons mood may not be triggered by any external element. It is hard to determine its endogenous origin. It is often the case that a sufferer first confronted with life events that might trigger depressive condition and when no particular source of the mood disorder is found, the depression is considered endogenous.”

That sounds like me.  Right now, nothing has triggered it, but yet it’s there.  And it’s bad.  Even Kelsea notices.  She worries a bit that she will suffer from it too.  She’s talked to me about it, and she’s talked to a trusted counselor at school about it.  It’s just something we’ll have to keep an eye on.  Nice legacy her Mother may have given her, huh?

I feel like my work is suffering.  My good habits are suffering.  My relationships are suffering.  I am suffering.  And I can’t just “snap out of it”.

I feel grey inside.  Empty.  Yet incredibly heavy.  Smothered by cold, wet cotton balls.  It feels impossible to generate any enthusiasm for anything.  I want it to pass.  I want to master this enemy.  But I have no idea where to start.  I just want this feeling to go away.  It usually does.  It just takes time.  Damn it.

Girls today.  Soooo much more mature at 13 than I was.  Between make-up and physical development, some of the girls in 7th grade look like high school seniors.  This got me thinking today…why?  Is it the hormones in the food we’ve been feeding our kids for the last (at least in my experience) 13 years?  I was never overly concerned with staying organic in terms of Kelsea’s diet – it seemed that you have to go all the way with that attitude or it’s pointless – though I always tried to emphasize healthy eating.  Pat was more the junk-food supplier.

Think about it.  Back in the 12th century, girls were of a marriageable age at 12, which is a year younger than Kelsea.  They were often having kids at 13.  But the average life expectancy was age 30.  And about 50% of children under the age of 5 died.  So it made some evolutionary sense to start procreating early, because you had to work twice as hard to keep your child alive, and you weren’t going to live that long yourself.  Okay, logical.

As we moved into the prim and proper 1800s, life expectancy increased and the acceptable age for marriage and childbearing became more like 15 or 16.  Makes sense – we were living longer, and conditions were somewhat less harsh, so children had a slightly better mortality rate.  People even started naming their children at birth – they didn’t used to do so, since the child had such a low likelihood of surviving.

We then enter the prim and proper Victorian era.  Young women were chaperoned until the day of their marriage – they were expected to be wed and breeding around the age of 21.  With infant mortality rates down to 33%, and average life expectancy up to age 48 by 1901, women could afford to get started having kids later.  But why did their maturation rate slow down – why did sexual maturity start occurring later?  What evolutionary signal was there that said, “Hold up!  We don’t have to do this at age 12.”?

Moving into the kaleidoscope that was the 20th century, we went through different attitudes towards sex, childbirth and the definition of maturity, but we still kept the biological rhythm the same – women developed at about 14 or 15 and up.  

And that’s where we catch up to today.  Life expectancy is as long as it’s ever been – 78.4 years.  The average age for childbirth is 25.  And infant mortality rates are 6.7% in the US.  So why are girls developing so early?  Why are 7-year-old girls dancing suggestively to songs that should be way beyond their understanding?  Why is boy-girl drama starting in 3rd grade?  By 7th grade, it has escalated to who is making out with who in the stairwell (yes, there are 7th grade “players”) and who may be having sex.  I mean, what the heck?

This physical maturity is unfortunately not accompanied by emotional maturity.  You can bet your bippy that at 12-year old bride in the Middle Ages knew how to run a household, even a meager mud-hut household.  A 12-year old girl today can barely run a dustcloth.

What is the point of this evolutionary change?  Particularly since the whole concept of survival of the fittest, which in primitive or animal societies is the natural form of population control, has basically been eradicated due to “civilization”, improvements in medical care, and our system of “justice”?  (And why are all these things that are supposed to be “good” in “quotes”?  Maybe because I don’t think they’re very “good” – or “working very well”).

Perhaps there is something to this whole 2012 apocalypse thing, and we are reproducing and maturing at a rapid rate because survival of the fittest is about to make a comeback.  Or not.  As I said before, I don’t have the answers, I just ask the questions.

August 2019
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