Night, like Trump~A hormonal fable


Now that the days are shortening, like the days of my life, night comes, like a barge, toward my ship, and lurks ominously, like Trump, behind Hillary, at the Town Hall debate.

Sometimes night comes even closer, with an unwanted advance, and nudges my boat, just enough, to stir panic inside.

Other times, night enters more forcefully, and the impact is enough to tip my vessel to its side, and I feel the contents of my cabin slide across the floor, and then toward me, as the boat begins to sink, backwards, or sometimes nose down, and sometimes folded in half, plunging into the icy cold waters of death.

Night has been coming like this more and more.
I live in fear of that day in November.
No, not that one.
The other one; where we set the clocks forward
and night comes even swifter.

After that, comes the other night in November;
but I’ve taken care of at least my cabin
with an early ballot.

Last night, I gathered with women
to chase away the darkness,
but night found me even there, in the middle of the dance,
in the center of our power,
as a friend quipped: Nasty Women!

I’m typically buoyant after the dance,
but my ship could barely stay afloat before I docked it into the harbor of sleep.

I woke this morning, long before dawn, to the murky fear of death,
not just mine, but those I love.

I rose then, and began writing, this fable,
and soon, I found in me, an invincible light,
even in the darkness,
with the promise,
of a new day.

~

~

More musing regarding that second day in November:

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the gift of wildly fluctuating hormones

651d184b026fb7ecd9f9e6575e822f6bI want to talk about anxiety. And depression.

Do they always go together?

I’m new at this. Not new at experiencing them. But new at knowing I’m experiencing them.

It’s not only that I didn’t have names for my feelings when I was younger,
but that I didn’t fully feel them.
Until I had no choice.

Hormones.

Earlier this week, I found myself humming and singing what has become my tell-tale sad song (it knows I’m feeling sad before I do):

I learned the truth at 17,
that love was meant for beauty queens,
and pretty girls with clear-skinned smiles,
who married young and then retired.
And those of us with ravaged faces…

Oddly enough, I was one of those clear-skinned, pretty girls.
But still, this song comes to me more and more as I age, to the point where my youngest, at 15, hears it playing on YouTube for the first time and says: “I like the original better,” not realizing that he’s only ever heard it sung by me.

This is Janis Ian, I say. It’s her song.

I’m relieved when I Google her and find that she’s still alive: and 64, happily through menopause no doubt, even winning a Grammy in 2013!

Mid-life women inspire me. They are such warriors. So full-hearted.

This morning I wake with a crushing weight on my chest. (Well, maybe not crushing. But pressing.)
I’m unable to take a full breath. (I taught yoga yesterday.)
When I consider the day ahead, even the smallest part of the day ahead, I feel immobilized. (It’s a relatively straightforward day.)

I’m expecting my period. And menopause. (Soon, please.)

I stay put and feel into the sensations of weight and panic until they soften enough. I take a shower, pack my work things–while scaling the items shouting for my attention around the house–and I drive away.

I feel lighter.

Until I enter our Co-op grocery store. I decide not to shop first as planned, but instead take a seat in the corner of the cafe and get to work. I always feel good when I work. Almost always. It’s how I’ve kept ahead of anxiety and depression throughout my life, though I never knew that then. I thought I loved work. Until someone said these words:

What you love brings you balance.

Work never brought me balance. It brought me 100-hour work weeks at 20. And teacher burn-out by 30. So I decided to stay home. For two decades.

That didn’t fare well either. I found at-home-motherhood excruciatingly boring. Diapers, dishes, routines. Sitting down on the floor with the kids was the worst. I couldn’t still myself into their worlds. I thought it was play that I resisted, but now I realize that it was me. Without complexity to consume my mind, anxiety devoured me.

I had a window into those years when I went shopping with my son earlier this week. I noticed that if I kept my focus on items that engaged me, say the household aisle of TJ Maxx, then I could keep the anxiety at bay. But if he wanted to talk to me, or worse yet, show me something, particularly something that held no interest for me, my anxiety magnified.

I wonder when it all started.

Is it genetic?
Environmental?
Universal?
Trauma induced?

I remember a high fever at the age of 4 and the way the world grew too large and then too small and far away for me to handle.

I remember a fire at the age of 9–the one that took the lives of an entire family except for the boy who went to my school–and how I trembled with that news all night long.

I remember my arm in a sling at age 11, broken on the ice–the result of a mind game that I played often that year–counting down how quickly I could get from place to place–before I blew up.

Aha!
That would have been sixth grade,
the first year of my mother’s alcoholism,
the year that my father poured the bottles down the sink,
and said, “You have to watch your mother. She’s sick.”

My breath catches on this memory.
The weight on my chest returns.

I see this young girl, and go to her.
I rub her heart, and lift the weight from it.

I’m here, I say.
I’ll watch your mother.
You go play.

Addiction Rage

Kelly Back

I wake angry. Riddled with residue. Rageful at the past. Pissed that I will have to write my way through what was meant to be a different kind of morning on this, a frosty first-day of spring.

Last night, I took my 13 year-old to Mount Snow for a presentation on drugs and alcohol–a requirement to earn a ski pass.

The speakers were newly married. One–a famous Super Bowl star, turned addict. The other–the mother of a 17-year old girl who died in two feet of water at a party in the woods.

Their stories were painful, provocative and prey-ful. There was some concrete take-way; But mostly, I left triggered.

My family is rampant with addiction. My childhood was flooded in it.

I HATE IT.

I hate fucking addiction.

I’d like to end this piece right there, but the rage hasn’t drained.

There’s more work to do.

I don’t want to feel this.

This pain. This vulnerability. That mother’s loss. That man’s pain. My mother’s vacancy. My Nana’s ugliness. My Gram’s despair. My aunt’s carelessness. (And I’m not even touching my generation or the one after that.)

Compassion. My physician father taught me to understand addiction as disease. But how long does this disease deserve to live? My mother died over a dozen years ago. Her drinking died a decade before that.

How is it still hurting me?

I don’t want it.

I don’t want to lie there waiting outside on the ice with a broken arm calling… “Mom, mom, MOM!”

I don’t to wait for her to arrive without any sign of effort as if she dragged herself to respond to the cries of her first-born.

I don’t want to see her impassive face.

I don’t want to hear her flatly say, Kelly, what is it, without a single question mark of concern.

And I definitely don’t want to feel her rub my fucking head and tell me how beautiful I am a decade later when she’s clearly bombed.

The WOMEN in my LIFE only touched me when they were drunk. Only told me they loved me when they were drunk. Only looked at me with affection when they were drunk.

I don’t want to hear how my siblings and my nieces and my nephews and even my sons are going to avoid addiction. With their minds. Ha!

We have great minds. We have depression. We have anxiety.

WE are hard-wired for addiction.

We don’t have a choice. We will pay the price…

I feel
sad
now,
instead of angry.

And that is enough.

a birthday orientation

“This too shall pass…”

Kelly Salasin, 12/8/11

It’s my favorite day of the year, and I wake… depressed.  Still.

The glass has been half-empty for days and nothing seems to shift it–not rest, or yoga, or a dinner date with a good friend; not the gym or the supplements or the love of my family.

On the eve of my birthday, I wake every hour, for no reason. I lie there with eyes wide open like a baby, as if it’s daytime. But I don’t feel any child-like wonder for the world, just despondency at my body’s chemistry gone wrong. I consider grabbing the progesterone cream beside my bed and slathering it over my body. (What would happen if I used a cup instead of a quarter teaspoon?)

December is my month. It always has been. The snow. The magic. MY birthday.  Toward the end of November, I delight in finding something at the grocery store that expires on 12/8. It’s such a perfect combination of numbers that I’m always surprised that I’m the only one marveling at them; which reminds me of something a friend once said: “Your own child looks perfect, but everyone else’s kid is just a little off.”

Even depressed, I appreciate my birthday. Even though my favorite things bring me no joy, I feel gratitude. Even though I want to weep for no reason at all, I think: This is my BIRTH day. This is my life. What a gift.

I look down at the ring my mother wore when she got pregnant–the tiny diamond on a thin band that was the only thing my father could afford, and I feel proud. Someone created me.

It perplexes me that not everyone feels this way about their own special day; that they’d prefer to let it go by unnoticed. The noticing isn’t the point. It’s the claiming. In fact, it can feel like your own special secret if no one else knows (like when you first find out you’re pregnant.)

When the end of December 8th comes, I don’t want to go to sleep. When my husband and I crawl into bed, I discuss the International Date Line with my husband, and I drift away from my day while fantasizing about chasing it around the globe.

It’s embarrassing to admit that at 48 my own birthday is still this important to me. Shouldn’t I have grown out of that by now?

On the morning next morning, I wake to find it all over.  The gloom is finally gone, and so is my special day.

But a year later, here’s what I’ve learned: It’s pretty cool to love yourself–even when you’re depressed, even when you’re not feeling special or worthy. That’s the best birthday gift of all.

Kelly Salasin, December 9, 2011