11 March 2014

Deep Cross-Cultural Understandings

All we wish for is peace on earth and good will toward all people. And a decent bagel.

As many of you know, I am Catholic. As many of you also know, C., my best friend, who also lives with my husband, daughter, and me, is Jewish. And we're not talking secular Jew. Oh hell, no. This woman read from the Torah in Hebrew for her bat mitzvah. She knows when Tu Bishvat, AKA Jewish Arbor Day, is. C. knows that Maimonides is more than a hospital in Brooklyn. Maidel is hard-core, yo.

This (and so, so many other things) have led us to many sit-com-like situations. Like the time my father was the head of the RCIA at his and my mother's church, and, since the Last Supper was a Passover meal, wanted to have a kind of Passover for Goyim Dummies thing for his class. So of course, he hands this off to my mother. My mother, for those of you who don't know her, is an angel and a saint (shut up, she might read this), but this sort of thing was not really up her alley. So Mom calls me and the task gets handed off yet again. So I call C., and unthinkingly use the same words my mother said to me. C. starts laughing hysterically.

"What?" I asked, completely lost. "All I asked was how you throw a seder!"

She didn't stop laughing for another ten minutes, at least. I got the last laugh, though, as I dated a guy I swear to this day was the only 6'2" Jewish man in Texas.

Now, living in New York, I caught up on a lot of things that had previously flown under my radar: bagel with schmear, mashugana tourists, and schlepping ten blocks for the subway. I became, as the poet and playwright Ellen Orleans once put it, "psycho-semitic." This did not, however, keep me from attempting to bring a ham quiche to a family sitting shiva.

And hanging around me and my family (and, you know, living in a generally Christo-centric society) has brought C. up to speed on many Christian-slash-Catholic things. For example, she only wished me Happy Ash Wednesday the once, and she almost never asks about the shmutz on my forehead.

And yet, some things persist. Allow me to set the scene.

Like many other churches, the one my husband, daughter, and I attend has a little program-type thing they hand out when you come in the door, so that you can find where in the big, thick books in the pews the readings and songs we're reading and singing this week are. Again, like many churches, the pastor or the parish or liturgical council might put some other information, homily notes, or whatever in the little program thingie.

As many of you undoubtedly know, we Christians have just begun the season of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for Jesus's death and resurrection on Easter.

Last posit: like many other Christian churches, our church has adopted a theme for Lent. (And a running motif for the homilies, but that's an entire other post.)

So, C. and I are sitting at the dining room table waiting for egg rolls to come out of the oven. I don't eat them myself, but you can buy and sell my kid for one. C. notices that the program from this past Sunday is on the table, and the theme for Lent is emblazoned on the front:

Lent... a time for close encounters.

No, no, no...

You know, we don't even need to say things anymore. She just looked at me. And I looked back. And she grinned. And, not for the first time, I said, "Christianity does not involve aliens!" But it was too late. Suddenly I'm seeing Jesus, not ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, but being beamed into the mothership.

Still not as good as the time she put dibs on being the First Epistle on the off chance I bore the next Messiah, though.

09 March 2014

Be Warned, I Swear in This One. A Lot.

This post is in response to an essay I read earlier today by an internet acquaintance and very popular author and blogger Ferrett Steinmetz, entitled, "How to Be a Good Depressive Citizen." In his essay, Ferrett makes a very good point about the unwritten yet strangely compulsory stoicism required of writers who grapple with depression. We hold ourselves to this impossible standard we would never require of anyone else. At least I hope to G-d we would never require of anyone else--that would be monstrous. But, for me, what he says boils down to this:

You do not discuss your depression until you can be an inspiration, or you are just fucking crazy. 
Nobody likes crazy.
Hi. My name is Lyn, and I am fucking crazy. Really. Mentally ill, as they say. Liking me is optional, but, I'm told, entertaining as all hell. Case in point: I'm kind of done with being publicly stoic about how big a mess my life is at the moment, and feel like flinging my crazy around like paint. Feel free to fling along.
I'm unemployed. Not my fault, thank Dog, but still, a distinct lack of job holding and paycheck receiving. I want to start freelance writing and editing, but the thought scares me to death.  Since depression lies like a cheap rug, it's telling me that if I can't hold a job, how the hell am I supposed to hang on to clients? (Remember Rule 1: DEPRESSION LIES.) And did I remember to register for unemployment this week? Shit.
This conviction is not helped by a desk that looks like this.
Speaking of the big liar, I am currently fighting a rearguard action against a full-scale tumble into what I call The Pit. For those of you joining us in media res, I suffer from chronic clinical depression and anxiety. It intensifies and lessens in cycles. We are not in the happy part of the cycle. I have showered in the past 24 hours. This is a huge achievement. Please do not ask me about the 72 hours previous to that.
My teeth hurt. I hate the dentist. But I'm subsisting on oatmeal and peanut butter sandwiches. But I hate the dentist.
I want to curl up and for the world to go away, but the world now includes an adorable little girl whom I love like my next breath. But lately I often feel completely unequipped to parent her. Sometimes, I want to hide from her. "Mommy isn't feeling well" isn't going to cut it for much longer, and I don't know what comes after that.
Do not get me started on the insomnia. It's new. I loathe it. Next.
PMS! Need I say more?
And yes, I'm in therapy, but there're only so many problems that can get tackled in one 50-minute hour a week. Meds? Oh, yeah, I'm on them. I wouldn't be functioning this well if I weren't.
So, there's my crazy. 
I am lucky. I am luckier than most depressives. I have a husband, a best friend, and family who prod me to eat, to leave the house at least weekly. They come knocking when I'm too quiet for too long. Where many people go into a cycle honestly not knowing if they'll make it out the other side, I go in, holding my breath, unsure if my life will come out intact on the other side, but generally certain that I will make it out the other side.
This was not always the case. Like I said, I'm lucky. But my life is a wreck at the moment, and I don't know how I'm going to fix it. I'll let you know how things work out.
My bedside lamp. I can do this. I can get up one more time.

08 March 2014

The Power of Poop

So, I've technically missed a day on my mission to write a blog post every day for 40 days, but I got back up to write this, so it counts for something. I think I had a really good reason for missing out, though.

A new and exciting side effect of depression for me these days is insomnia and the general screwing-up of my diurnal cycle, i.e., I don't have one. That isn't helped by the fact that the last part of Herself's bedtime routine is mommy or daddy staying to cuddle for the first story on her If You Give A Mouse A Cookie CD. My problem is that I get so warm, content, and comfy that I fall asleep, sometimes for a few hours. This, as you can guess, helps my own sleeping situation not at all. So I promised The Therapist and The Shrink that I would work harder to stay for just the first story, and then leave and go to bed at a decent hour for me (ideally, 2200 - 2300).1

Our house has been in some emotional upheaval the past week or so. We got some scary news about family on the other side of the country, and it wasn't helped by medical information, once we got it, being less than complete. So, things have been a little rough round these parts. Tonight, I gave in and was in there for about three hours with The Girl.

The thing is, it's more than just the warmth that comforts me. (And those of you who know me and know how I feel about cold will recognize the enormity of that statement.) I remember, when Herself was a tiny infant, noticing that the smell of her dirty diapers actually didn't disgust or otherwise upset me in any way. In fact, at the time, I could feel something primal, maybe even feral, being tapped when the scent hit me. So I did what any good geek does: research. It turns out that, no, to many parents, mothers in particular, their kids' poop doesn't smell. At least not to them. There's too much information being transmitted in that scent, and the parent's subconscious is too busy registering "MINE MINE MINE" to register "EW." Nice trick on Mother Nature's part, huh?

Even today, when I bury my nose into my darling cyclone's neck as she finally settles for sleep and snuggles under the covers, I can still catch that scent (minus the fecal overtones, of course, we haven't become that undomesticated), and it comforts me like nothing else. My Girl. Right here. Where's she's supposed to be. Ahh.


1. I use 24-hour time, yes.

06 March 2014

So, This Lent Thing

I have always been a fan of doing something for Lent, as opposed to giving something up. I don't drink that much, I don't smoke, and, trust me, no one wants me giving up chocolate or caffeine. To that end, this year, I'm going to be writing every day and posting it. Some of it will be good, some of it will be crap, but it will be done and it will be here. Aren't you thrilled?

Seriously. There are days that this and my escitalopram are all that keep me from running down the block in my bathrobe, screaming.

Now, Lenten promises are usually more spiritual than that, but if some of the writing looks at things theological and spiritual, the exercise should manage to fit the bill. I would like to cordially invite anyone moved to point out to me that this isn't what Lenten sacrifice is "supposed" to be to have a piping hot cup of Shut the Hell Up. Do not piss the priest's kid off on this one.

Writing prompts and constructive criticism are welcome, unconstructive criticism is not, and trolls will be shot on sight. Thank you for flying and buckle up.

05 March 2014

I Used to Judge

...and I still do, to a certain extent. Probably more than is good for me. But the judging I'm referring to is parents with little kids. My particular pet peeve used to be little kids in church. I used to give the kids quelling looks, and my posture would get straighter and tighter and straighter and tighter until I was practically bent backwards. I would be so angry--nay, incensed--that these children and the parents who refused to discipline them had ruined my spiritual experience! Quickly! Someone get me some pearls to clutch!

Wow, if I could beat my past self about the head and neck region with a large and heavy two-by-four, I wouldn't have the motor functionality to write this post. (Which is rather existential, when you think about it, but that'll have to wait for another day.)

I was selling the toughness of parenthood and the requirements for a spiritual experience so very short. Also, I was apparently meant to be a karmic object lesson: I now have a little kid who, if there is no Children's Liturgy of the Word, goes, shall we say, batshit insane. She's a high energy, strong willed kid, and she just doesn't understand enough of what's going on at Mass to be engaged in any way, which is normal for her age. And she does not sit still well. At all. Ever. Infinity. You get the picture. But she won't get any better if we leave her at home. So we sit there, hissing at our daughter like one of the residents in the Reptile House at the Zoo.

Bea! Stop climbing on the pews! Bea! Leave that woman's coat alone! Jesus, crap, she fell off the pew again...
Photo courtesy of The Maryland Zoo
And it's hard not to be harsh on her and myself. What I've learned to do is just the best I can. Try to listen to the readings and prayers while I wrangle the child. Taking off my glasses helps, because it cuts down on the input to my already-overloaded brain. (Among all my other issues, I also have an ADD diagnosis.)

Now, generally, by the time the Eucharistic Prayer rolls around, Bea has stopped running, jumping, climbing, etc. and has settled on freaking out about something. We have no clue what will specifically set her off, week to week, but there's always generally something, the root cause of which is generally the fact that the kid needs a snack. But that's not a bad thing. By then, she just wants to sit on my lap, and I can do that. I sit, more or less blind, with my snuffling five-year-old on my lap, and actually manage to hear the prayers. Sometimes I even whisper along with the priest, although I don't have the hang of the new translations. And it's kind of nice. Really.

As I fell into the rhythm of this grappling match with sanity over the weeks, I could kind of hear G-d. He said, Yes. That's it. Don't put me in a cold marble box. I AM both/and. Let me share your messy, high energy, strong willed life in all its chaotic glory.

But if you could get the kid to stop climbing the statue of St. Joseph, that would be great.

03 January 2014


So, besides the fact that this song's lyrics are hitting way too close to home right now, I'm looking for help setting up 1.) more of a web presence than I currently have, and b.) a more impressive web presence than I currently have. I've already put two library books on WordPress on hold. Anyone have tutorial or book suggestions?


02 January 2014

So. Good news for you guys...

The bad news is that I got laid off. Which means I'll be writing more here? Yay?

It was about three o'clock or three-thirty. The admin dean and the admin director took me into an office and ripped off the band aid right away, which I appreciated. The school budget is just a wreck, and given that I was still technically on my probation, and I had the least seniority, I was the one elected Judas goat to be sacrificed upon the altar of academic finance (or lack thereof).


To be fair, they gave me names and numbers, urged me to speak to campus HR, and promised glowing recommendations. However, I'm finding I'm getting pretty damn tired of my income hinging on the whims of others, not to mention the winds of fate.

So, yeah. Maybe this is what I need to get my tuchus in gear. Silver lining, anyone?