Today, my This Is Childhood essay is running on The Huffington Post. (I’m just a wee bit honored and the tiniest bit excited.)
The This Is Childhood Series is the brainchild of two of my favorite writers, Lindsey Mead and Allison Slater Tate. Each week, a writer reflects upon one of the ages of childhood, from One to Ten. I am so grateful (and humbled) that Allison and Lindsey included me in this group. Not only have I loved reading everyone’s unique commemoration of their child, but I’ve come to treasure the special writing community that developed as a result.
To top it all off, today, I find my words on The Huffington Post. Happy Friday to you and please pass the wine and dark chocolate.
I’ve suffered from depression for more than two decades. When I was first diagnosed, after struggling for five years without therapy and medication, I experienced a sense of failure that rivaled the symptoms of the depression itself.
At first, I told one person: my mother. Period.
Slowly, I began sharing. And by sharing I mean that I told one other person: my best friend. As the years progressed and my experience with the disease deepened, so did my relationship to it. I began talking about my depression whenever I felt it was relevant or helpful. However, that freedom of voice did not make it into my writing. I never, ever wrote about the darkness of my mental illness.
That changed years ago when I decided to write about my experience — a decision I made because I hoped that by sharing about my decades of depression, I might help someone, anyone–even just one. I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of people brave enough to be open about depression; I wanted people to know that an ordinary mom, wife, daughter, sister, writer and friend like me struggled. I hoped that by being open and honest, my words would help to smudge the stereotypical beliefs and discomfort surrounding depression.
Recently, I heard from an old colleague and friend. She’d started writing a blog where she was brave enough to share her story. A story about a depression so gripping and severe that she’d planned to end her life.
As tears threaten to drip as I type, I am so grateful to write the following words:
she did not end her life.
She chose to Love. To Laugh. To Live.
And, amazingly, she told me that my words, my humble words on this humble blog, helped her gain the courage to go public with her own struggle.
(If you’re watching on your mobile device, follow this Vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/user16802566/videos )
It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another This Is Childhood installment. You’re in for a treat–Amanda Magee. She is a gifted writer whose wise words are always luminous and true.
Today, she writes about Eight, “These years are motion and fire. They are amorphous and finite at once, molten lava coursing through time, inexplicably and unapologetically racing and slowing to form the many facets of a spirit.”
See what I mean?
The This Is Childhood Line Up:
THREE – Nina Badzin
FOUR – Galit Breen
FIVE — Allison Slater Tate
One night last week, Hubby put the kids to bed. I poked my head in to say goodnight to Abby, who lay in bed reading. I started across the hall to say goodnight to Henry and heard the faintest singing.
I reached his door, which was cracked open, and pushed my head inside. The smallest, green light from his Lego nightlight muted the dark. I could barely make him out in the jumbled heap of his covers. I stood quietly and undetected by Henry.
I listened to his song.
His faint voice, not unlike his night light, muted the dark. He sang an original composition of his day, the exact words muffled by his white, down comforter. I heard snippets about letters, a friend, a song. Even though I couldn’t make out all the words, I could tell that joy scored the song. I leaned in a bit further, held my breath and deciphered the last verse:
(Humming first, then)
I love my Dad
I love my Sister
I love my Mom
They are the best
I slowly backed away from his door and walked the hallway to my bedroom. The night lights spilled their honey glow onto the hardwood floors, illuminating my path, a path I could walk in the dark with my eyes closed. A hallway I’ve walked countless times: sometimes seething in anger, other times with bland ambivalence, sometimes counting dust bunnies, other times carrying towering piles of laundry. On this evening, I floated down the hall with a sated heart, feasting on the small slice of my son’s song of supplication.
These small slices of grace. These are what make life worthwhile.
This week, I’m writing from the cozy confines of my bed as bronchitis has taken residence in my chest. The bronchitis is a faithful visitor, always up for a late February, early March visit. Although it’s a pain in the ass, at least it’s predictable and consistent.
It’s week seven of our This Is Childhood series, which means two things.
2. I am posting in two weeks, writing about the lovely, the complicated and the transitional Nine. To say that I’m nervous given the tremendous talent of the This Is Childhood group is an itty, bitty understatement.
As I read Tracey’s vivid, beautiful words about the tender age of Seven, I nodded and smiled at her post, my heart catching a bit knowing that Seven is the next step on Henry’s journey.
Please visit her blog to read her Ode to Seven.
I know Six. Six lives in my house, cuddles with me, slowly sounds out words, clutters my floors and touches my heart with a tenderness that shoots straight from his soul.
In this week’s installment of This Is Childhood, Bethany Meyer writes of Six. Her words capture the magic and milestones of this age (complete with a six-year-old-boy’s fascination with all things Poop). Please read her beautiful tribute to Six.
Each following Tuesday, another writer will contribute their voice as we celebrate the varied, gorgeous, evanescent ages of Childhood.
If you’d like to read the previous posts in our series, here’s a list:
THREE — Nina Badzin
FOUR — Galit Breen
FIVE — Allison Slater Tate
I looked out of my office window and watched the snow fall. The pre-blizzard wind lifted snow off of the roof and sent it down into the yard below. The wind gusts forced the snow to intersect which created suspended, white herringbone patterns in the air. At one point, on this morning, before this snow storm gained full traction, there were only left-over piles of last weekend’s snow and brown grass dominating the landscape. Now, just three hours into this storm, the snow had won. I watched from my white desk, tucking my socked feet beneath me as I stared through the white paned window which framed it all.
I imagined the brown grass waving its white flag of surrender as it once again folded into itself, settling in as the foot deep snowy blanket surrounded it. What began as the first fledgling snowflakes drifting from the sky had now turned to a steady snow globe. Even the black street acquiesced to the snow. Soon, all I would see was white and hints of black. White sky, white ground, white frosting the inky black trees.
I’ve been thinking about what separates one moment from its successor, one life experience from the next, one reality from another. A thin membrane exists between. At some point, we straddle both, dipping our toes into this liminal meeting of two realities, and then passing into the new.
This passage, at times, confounds me. Surely there be an exact pinnacle where both realities co-exist? Where they touch, brushing up against each other for a brief interlude before moving on?
A moment between wakefulness and sleep.
An interview between a job search and employment.
A belly laugh shifting a perspective from morose to bright.
A day giving way to night, lavender twilight dancing between.
Labor straddling pregnancy and motherhood.
A small shift in temperature yielding rain to snow.
An imperceptible shift within, yielding massive returns.
Eight women gathered to delve into the writing craft for a weekend. We closed our notebooks as we wrapped our workshop for the night. With a crackling fire and lit candles as our backdrop, the shuffling sounds of ending filled our space. With a last glance at the orange embers dancing in the fire place, I pulled my wool hat down over my ears and pulled on my boots. I walked out of the warmth of the decadent country house and into to the night, softly cut by the light of the carriage lantern.
I looked up. Crystal snow flakes frolicked on the frigid breeze. The cold reached into me; my arms tightened my down coat–but to no warm avail. The frozen, dimpled ground made my booted-footsteps wobbly and unsure. I walked the short distance to the yoga studio.
I really, reeeeeeeeeally do not want to do this.
I could do so many other things instead of yoga.
Alice Munro! I’ll read Alice Munro instead.
I don’t want to don’t want to don’t want to practice yoga.
I reached the yoga studio’s vestibule. I made it. I’m doing it, I thought dejectedly. My other writing friends were there, bare-footed and cross-legged in the muted light. I stomped my boots, hung my hat and coat on a white peg and entered, inhaling the soft lavender and exhaling jagged bits of apprehension. Purple yoga mats lined like vessels, ready to transport us to right here. We began.
Breathing (Why can’t I get a satisfying breath?)
Meditating (Why is there a brick on my chest?)
Down dog (I could still leave)
Pigeon (I should really really leave and Damn does this hurt)
Savasana (Thank GOD)
My yoga teacher’s calm, sage voice finally guided my body into Corpse Pose. I made it. The lights grew lower still. Soft shadows, scents of lavender, a yoga mat and Berber carpet met me. I heard the peaceful, satisfied exhales of my writing compadres. Although I lay on the floor and although the floor supported me, and although I’d just practiced 40 minutes of yoga, my muscles were taught. Clearly my muscles thought my body was dangling from a tight rope. Or, perhaps, being chased by a tiger. Or preparing to jump off of a high dive.
My yoga teacher whispered that she would cover us with the heavy woolen blankets, her words falling softly around me,
How lovely it is to be tucked in
Allow yourself to be cared for
A hundred burning pin pricks rushed my eyes, tears gathered. They descended swiftly down my cheeks and into my ears, cascading onto the purple yoga mat below. My thoughts picked up speed.
Run, run, run away into the frigid night : Stop disturbing everyone’s Savasana : If you pad quietly no one will notice you’re gone
Her words and hands tucked me into a place I desperately did not want to be, but met me exactly where I was. My arms and mind couldn’t name the emotion, couldn’t fit around the discomfort. So I lay in Savasana and surrendered. Deep, cathartic breaths (laced with quiet sobs) finally came. I allowed myself to be cared for, arms out, wool blanket grounding, salty tears falling, heart open as one person’s kindness struck and ignited like a match to my soul.
Surely at one point my stoic resolve met my eventual release, handing me off like a baton. They met in a moment when my terse muscles and firm grip slowly loosened–holding on and then, not. A liminal passage between this reality and the next. A rain drop to a snowflake. A small coat that fits and then, suddenly one morning reveals bare, pale wrists. A woolen blanket and pure kindness nudging from terse control to letting go.