Resisting Depression—Like a Boss

 

I stepped over to my manager’s cube and announced my depression. It occurred to me yesterday morning before heading into work, all slumped against my pillow with TODAY and a mug of coffee, that this persistent weight of sadness even Hoda can’t cheer away is simple, unmistakable, good ole fashioned “feeling depressed.”

And searching for a substitute for that word to avoid repetition I realize how perfectly descriptive that word is, depressed: I’m a tongue and the thin wooden paddle of life is squishing me, causing me to gag and my eyes to water. My spirit, the lever of me, is being pushed into submission. I am dispirited. I’m pressed. Down.

I’ll be fine. I’ve felt worse. It’s just that one of those normal life passages that pass for loss looms. My sweet little bird—my second and final—is about to fly from the nest. I realize that this is not a tragedy, but I am more than sad. “You’ve done this before, with your boy,” you say, and you’re right. But that was different. Due to a host of challenges, poor lad, the weeks and months leading up to his departure knotted me up in worry more than sadness.

He was the first, and I ached for him and still miss him when he’s gone, but this one’s so final. This one marks the empty nest milestone and all that comes with it. (When Mayo Clinic offers coping tips, it’s real.) I feel downright depressed, though mildly enough to have energy to seek ways to fight it, thank goodness.

So since my boss, whose only child has been away at college in another state for two years, seems not to be suicidal, I decided to confide in her. “I’m depressed,” I said beneath the office glare, “because Grace is leaving for college in less than three weeks.” I went to her thirsty for some sage perspective, which she offered freely. She gently reminded me of a well-tested device. “Make a list,” she said, “of what you have to be thankful for. Try to focus on all the good things about the situation.” This experienced mama bird was prescribing gratitude.


A List of Good Things About Now, or My Attempt at Gratitude

  1. I have the luxury of dreading my little girl’s departure purely because I will miss her and not because I am worried. I feel assured that she is in a good place, every indication that she is ready to launch.
  2. She was accepted into the honors program and will be living in a spankin’ new residence hall (with AC!) with other honors students at a well respected institution of higher learning. This is a very good thing.
  3. She likes her assigned roommate.
  4. My girl will “only be an hour away” by car. But here’s the thing: she could be a two-hour plane ride away, and the everyday reality of my house is the same—she will not be in her room cuddling our cat, on the couch beside me watching TCM, playing her guitar on the screened porch. No more impromptu “belly walks” around the block or binge-watching Nashville (poor Deacon). But the point of this list is to practice gratitude—so okay, I can get there or she get can get home within an hour if she needs anything (or if I need her). I am thankful for that.
  5. My daughter and I have a relationship that is sweet enough to miss. She and I have a kinship it never even occurred to me to wish for. I didn’t know this quality of mother-daughter closeness could exist. She’s a dear friend, my most fun pal. Her presence is sunshine and light. I want to be more like her when I grow up. If I say more now, I will cry and not stop.
  6. Sadness impelled me to write this blog post, the first in two years.
  7. Technology. My sage supervisor recently used FaceTime to coach her daughter through cleaning a room fan. With the magic of a video phone, separated by 800 miles they conquered a household task together. When I was  three states away in college, I had to rely on handwritten letters and long-distance calls on a wall phone. Grace’s and my smart phones will easily connect us. I will still have access to that sweet face and can hear daily details of her life as often as she allows, and will also be available to her when she needs me.
  8. She seems excited to go. In two months she has gone through her own stages of grief—from bummed about not getting into her top choice, to confusion over the leftovers, to defeatist about where she decided to go, to ambivalence, to acceptance, to enthusiasm enough to design and construct her own tassel-embellished bedspread. This is huge and it all has been a wonder to watch.
  9. I have a daughter at all. God let me be her mom, to live 18 years with this girl. She is a miracle, a dream, and everything good my heart ever longed for. She’s healthy, happy, sweet, kind, smart, and motivated to go forth and fulfill her potential. This is the best case scenario of parenting.
  10. My boss. She is pretty cool, and she is a friend.

I’m still a wee bit depressed, and I probably will be for the next few months at least. But if smiling can fool a brain into thinking it’s happy, then listing the good things about my baby bird leaving the nest may well fool me into acceptance. (Or at least get me to Thanksgiving.)

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Found Wonder: Parenting Teens Can Be Downright Astonishing

Dear Moms and Dads of Tiny Ones,

Less blog post than Sunday snapshot of my life, this here message is a note of encouragement to parents covered in applesauce and urine and floating through the bodily fluid era of parenting. It feels like this, too, will not pass, and as aggravating as it can be, it’s a precious time, and you might dread the teen years. Backtalk, hormones, and delinquent behavior you expect, but here is my message in a bottle to you: parenting teenagers can be quite wondrous.

My son, a senior in high school, leaves his homework and hobby detritus scattered all over the dining room table most days, and on top of today’s pile I saw a handout that stopped me cold. Or rather, I guess you could say it stopped me warmbeautiful boy, beautiful mind

I have no idea what his notes mean, but his doodles never cease to thrill me with wonder. The jocks at his school probably think he’s a nerd, but his mind and passion for language and linguistics delight this mama. What a joy to watch your children’s strengths and fascinations emerge.

And my darling sophomore-in-high school daughter, who is away this MLK weekend to play guitar on a youth retreat, warmed me Friday morning before she left for school and I left for work. As she came into my room for our morning goodbye hug and smooch, in a mournful voice she said, “Aww, I won’t see you till Monday?” The realization that I have a daughter, almost sixteen, who still adores me and would miss my company makes me feel like the luckiest mom in the world.

So you infant-cradling, Goodnight Moon-reading young moms and dads worried about your little angels growing out of this present, precious phase, take heart: don’t worry about the teen years. You think these are the sweetest days, but just you wait. It only gets better.

Love,

Beth

Babies Then
Babies Then
Babies Now
Babies Now

College Search Fun: Dirty Dirty Hippies, Elephant Girls and Walmart Oh My!

"Don't blink!"
“Don’t blink!”

There is enough hilarious college slam content in the ether to start a blog devoted to candid student reviewery. But who has time?

Some of my favorites today, from Students Review, offer balance to the admissions polish.

Oberlin (Boy and I just visited and were wowed by the art museum—Monet, Hopper, Arbus and antiquities—and a phenomenal junior violin recital. And, the friendliest admissions rep in the world.)

This is a school for a small precentage of freaks and geeks. Firstly you will do fine here as a homosexual, a hipser, or a hippie. There are all kinds of drugs here from shady hippie dealers that preach against capitalism, but have high prices. Lots of homosexuals, which isnt bad in itself, but they seem to hate on heterosexuals as if they are evil. Everyone is either snobby because they came from an East coast prep school, or a dirty dirty hippie. 

Hanover College (never been)

People are right this school is a waste… the professors dont speak english and the women look more like elephants… our teams are terrible… i think they should send murders here for punishment

Kenyon College (blew the boy and me away at junior visit day yesterday: campus more gorgeous than the website shows, killer bookstore, charming Amish presence, unreal town, like stepping into 1850 or Hogwarts, and also—Paul Newman and John Green)

No matter what people tell you, there is a very high possibility that you will feel isolated here. I go to Walmart for fun. I do not like Walmart when I am living at home. But here, it has become a great adventure.
from Kenyon Galleries
from Kenyon Galleries

A Pleasant Day to Be My Kids: How To Throw Off An Abductor—Make A Scene

Self-Defense By Ethel
Self-Defense By Ethel

I don’t know what it is about being sick that sends the mind into the dark places, but moments ago as I drove home my sweet innocent, exercise-flushed daughter from her bball game, and my son from the dropping off library materials (Citizen Kane blu-ray and some evolution art book), it occurred to me that if they suffered or died at the hands of an abductor without my ever having told them to “do something,” I would never forgive myself.

Like, scream or something. I mean, if the slimeball sticks a gun into my babies’ backs and tells them not to scream or he (or she) will shoot, I want them to scream like banshees, because there is no chance they’ll be heard in the woods or cave or basement or wherever he or she takes them.

So between violent sneezes at the corner of the 1st and Main stoplight I say to my naive suburban children, “If you are confronted by a would-be abductor who says not to scream or they’ll kill you, I want you to scream anyway. Because that’s going to be the best way-” and the son interrupts, “-to die?”

Well. Not necessarily, and I try to explain my rationale, that it might be your only chance, maybe, to be heard and rescued. And then I say, “Well. Just do something, and loudly, something unexpected. Like maybe, for instance–make a howler monkey sound at as booming a volume as you’re capable.” They start laughing and for the rest of the drive home join in on what becomes a brainstorm of ways to catch our abductors off guard, freaking them out with the element of surprise and novelty. Chewbacca-2-Among the ideas:

  • Bust out your best Wookiee roar, but eardrum-busting LOUD
  • Hysterical, Cuckoo’s Nest-nutso laughter
  • Criticism, in the form of a Randallesque narration: “Oh, Mr. Abductor Man, how pathetic do you have to be to stick a person up with a gun, I mean, how desperate can you get? I mean, how cliche can a criminal be? Oh, NOW he’s cocked the gun, guess I’ve really pissed him off now, but if I shut up, he’s going to keep abducting me, so I’ll just keep running my mouth off until a)he shoots me, which I doubt he’ll actually do because he’s dumb enough not to have cocked the gun before now he probably doesn’t even have a loaded gun, or b) he just lets me go because I’m just so anooyyying. Is that what you’re gonna do, mister? Is that what you’re gonna do? Okay…
  • the black speech of MeowrdorChanting the Black Speech of Mordor
  • Show tunes: break into an Ethel Merman impersonation singing, “There’s NO business like SHOW business, like NO business I KNOOOOOW, there’s a MAN pointing a GUN at my back, PLEASE call nine-one-oooooone….”

Oh, so upon further research I see that screaming’s a bad idea. But doing “something” could save your life. Running away is one idea, according to the WikiHow’s How to Thwart an Abduction Attempt: 10 Steps. But I still think belting out a little Ethel Merman could work. I hope neither they, nor I , nor YOU, ever have to find out. Be safe! Do something! Make a scene. Run. Lie. “Fight as if your life depends on it,” because it might.