For the past few weeks I’ve been sinking into a funk. Superficially I blame Jesse, and also sometimes Nick, but I know it’s really just me. Jesse’s anxiety and PITA syndrome have been in a healthy UP cycle for a good month. It’s a whole lot of emotion management. She lashes out at me a lot, whines a lot, beats up on herself a lot, complains about things from all sides, churns little blips into major issues. It’s all “a lot.” Nick is always A LOT, even when he’s on an even keel (for him). When they’re together with me, they yell over each other constantly to get my attention so I can’t make out anything they’re saying, and even when they’re getting along (which I admit is most of the time) they’re just crazy people. So it only takes a moment for me to reach some serious sensory overload.
I could share anecdotes and stupid stories, but honestly, who cares, because all I’m really saying is this: it’s just the same old boring shit. When I deal with Jesse’s bursts of negativity these days, I feel a combination of bored, bleak, and blank. I’m going through the motions: feed the kids, put on a fake cheerful attitude for other moms, play with the kids (yawn), get my exercise, pick up and drop off the kids here and there, read some news, homework, blah blah blah. What I’m feeling inside is a vague need to escape. I found myself yesterday fantasizing about what my life would be like right now, at 47, if I had never had kids or a partner. Would I be a partner in a law firm instead of a partner to a human? Rich as Roosevelt, socking away bucks for old age, my wardrobe and hair well-attended, a secretary to send my mom flowers on various occasions?
It’s a lame thing to imagine, of course, because it’s just exactly what I rejected, a path that would have been filled with loneliness and long hours and extreme stress. So I think it speaks to a sort of sub-clinical depression. Rationally, I know I’ve been down this road often, most plainly when I began working hard on emotional self-control a few years ago with Jesse. My first order of business when we started taking her to a shrink was to stop losing my shit and screaming at my family. I struggled with it for a few months and felt like I was succeeding, but Anthony eventually confronted me with a big problem. The exorcism was not going as well as I thought. It seemed I had a binary switch: insane rage or sullen bleak depression. This bothered Anthony. I was angry and defensive when he brought it up. It’s all I’ve got, I told him. It’s the best I can do. I’m emptying myself of emotions so I don’t feel anything at all, and that’s how I stop the yelling. I thought that’s what everyone wanted. I don’t have anything positive to fill the chasm my rage usually fills. How come what I’m doing isn’t good enough for you? How come nothing I do is good enough?
When I was done feeling sorry for myself, I took heed of Anthony’s words – spoken in compassion and perhaps fear, not in recrimination — and eventually I was able to work on a more constructive mood, along the lines of calm but not blank, an open space where my mind can think about the problem confronting me, without self judgment, and evaluate whether I can add positive sense or whether I should walk away for a spell. Oftentimes, I can actually find my way there.
But when I get like I’ve been the last few weeks, I’m back at sullen. I don’t know what it is about Jesse that’s so exhausting for the adults around her. I don’t have answers, but I have a lot of fears and I’ve been out of ideas for the next evolution. I also haven’t felt the warmth I need to help her overcome whatever hurdle is lurking in her heart right now, which I’m sure she intuits. I haven’t had a sense of humor about it all, which is essential to survival in my world. I haven’t even felt grumpy, and I’ve had no desire to write and share my vapid thoughts with the 20 or 30 folks who read my dribble. This is really bad.
Stick a fork in my ass and turn me over; I’m done. I’ve been attending my pity party for weeks now and I’m pretty tired of myself. A couple days ago a song came on the radio, and there’s nothing better than a good pop song to break a cycle. “Let’s Be Still,” recorded by The Head and The Heart, brought it on. I listened to that tune and the lyrics, and it broke a dam inside me with an easy sigh and no tears. First it made me laugh, because of course I thought, hey, it’s another mommy song! I’m always asking my kids to be still. But it took me someplace else too. All the hours I spend trying to own the emotional status of my kids, to spy out the path of their lives, to love them and live with them peacefully and fully — it’s all too much. Living in the moments and small battles, I forget that I have to slow down my racing thoughts and just be still for a moment. Also the song and its band remind me of a lot of music I listened to in a less complicated time in my life, with hints of the Beatles, VU, Mazzy Star and even Tiny Lights. It’s all good, I thought to myself. We’ll make it. It’s not that complicated.