Monday, August 8, 2016

She Knows

She knows her grip is too desperate, too needy, but she doesn’t loosen her hold on his hand.

They are going out to dinner, and he has reassured her she looks fine, twice at home, again in the car. His tone had been more exasperated than appreciative that last time, and she winces at the demands her insecurities place on him.

He always says she looks beautiful. He always holds her hand.

Even so, she can’t quite believe him when he says, “I love you.” It might have been true when his infatuation was new, before she’d worn him down, tugging at him like a dingy being tossed by the ocean. He is not the first person to serve as her anchor. Others have tried and failed. Surrendered to it. She knows that one day the moorings will snap and his safe harbor will vanish, too, as she is drawn back into the maelstrom. This is the only truth she knows.

There are reasons he’s still at her side. He’s an optimist, but in a relaxed sort of way that allows time to slip by without bothering him. Her children have his eyes and curiosity. His children have her hair and love of drawing. They are blended together in their small, socially awkward, imaginative, living creations.

On the other hand, he is impatient, frustrated when he is held back from something he wants to do. She holds him back a lot. Some days, he goes on without her rather than work to bring her along with him. One day he won’t come back. This is what she tells herself on the black days.

But today is one of her better days, so she tightens her fingers around his palm and marches into the restaurant. The whispers of thought that brush against her become less of an overwhelming chaotic storm, like the one she’d fought against outside. Walking down busy pavement through swarms of teenagers and judgmental suburban professionals is never pleasant. Restaurants, at least the more dignified ones, are easier. Diners tend to focus on their meals and companions. A thought or two might be sent her way when she walks behind the hostess, winding her way down the path between tables. She can handle that. It’s nice to have a reprieve from the opinions and disdain that pour from other people’s eyes.

Sometimes she forgets how to talk to him, but this is a good day. They talk about world events, friends, and nonsense that makes them both laugh around their forkfuls of pasta. Together they entertain their server with the sort of patter-talk that used to trip off the tongues of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. The server loves them, their wit, the welcome into their little bubble of irreverent amusement. It’s one of those moments when she knows they’ve been labeled a “happy couple” in someone’s head forever. She wishes she could bottle that feeling and carry it with them back out into the world. She would open the bottle on the bad days, when she can’t breathe from the pain of her helplessness, when he can’t quite find the patience this time to react with understanding rather than irritation.

Her illness has become a third wheel in this relationship, and she doesn’t know how much more they can withstand. How much more she can fight it. How much longer he can stay. But he still calls her “beautiful”, so she clings to hope, and to him.

She thinks that her biggest burden is knowing she’s not quite sane. Her mental vision is forever impaired, tinted nonexistent shades, and she can’t see clearly. This illness has wrapped her in chains that lay so heavily on her, she cannot lift her body from the bed. But she can still see all her potential, all her wasted opportunities, and all the losses of friendships and dreams that have come and gone while she’s carried on surviving.

One day she may not win the battle. She knows that, too. It’s strange that it frightens her enough to make her feel safer, wearing her terror like armor around her heart to protect her from herself. Using fear to survive at the same time that it keeps her from living.

Most times when he attempts to drag her out of the dim room of her inner sanctum, she tries to let him. Some days she hates him for it. On the worst days, she hates herself too much to do more than keep breathing for him.

She has never been a crier, and when she breaks down, it scares him. He brings her ice cream. He tells her why she is worthy of love. He tells her he believes in her. He tells her he’s never going to leave. He tells her about all the wonderful things that are worth living for. He tells her he loves her.

She knows.

Depression lies. It’s not her fault. She’s not a failure. She’s not unloved. She’s not weak for not conquering this awful mountain of Can’t. She matters to people. She matters to him. Depression lies.

She knows.

She holds his hand.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

White Privilege

So. White privilege. I read a really great blog post about this, and I wanted to add my own two cents to the mix.

I’m white. Like whiter than white. But my children are Hispanic. Specifically, Mexican and Nicaraguan and indigenous/Native American. This puts me in a weird situation as far as discussing civil rights and racism, the same sort of situation as white parents who adopt children of color (and of course other parents of biracial children).

I support Black Lives Matter and similar groups trying to protect marginalized people in the US. As a child of the early 70s, I remember when race riots were still a topic of national discourse. Things seemed to quiet down in the 80s and 90s. That’s not to say that racism went away. It just got ignored again.

But then, oh lordy, we got ourselves a black President. People lost their minds. Obviously he had to be from Kenya because (apparently) that's the only place black people come from.

In my naïveté and privilege, I had sort of thought that Obama’s election signaled that racism in the US was on the wane. Boy was I wrong. The ugliness that poured out astounded me, and my view of what Americans are changed dramatically.

It’s hard to push back against the seething mass of hatred, fear, and anger that was unleashed following the 2008 election. My voice is small, and the volume of negativity has continued to get louder and more vicious.

I talked to my children, tried to educate them, and I became more mindful of my own privilege and how I could use it to help stem the tide. I know I will never understand or experience what African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and other marginalized groups have to deal with on a daily basis. The only way I could hope to relate is my struggles against the misogyny I’ve encountered in my life. But if I’m honest, which I should be, my socio-economic background has insulated me to a certain extent there, as well.

See, the thing with white privilege is that you grow up without having to fear for your life any time you leave the house. It has never occurred to me during a traffic stop that the police officer might shoot me if I said anything wrong. I’ve never walked to the store with the knowledge that some random vigilante could find me threatening and blow me away. When I’ve had to knock on a stranger’s door, it has never been with the fear that I would be seen as a threat and killed before I had a chance to speak. I’ve never had to fight to assert my right to live unmolested and safe. I’ve never had to prove that I matter.

I never expected to have to warn my children about the prejudice and aggression they will encounter because of their skin or their surname.

When Donald Trump rode down that ridiculous elevator and stood in front of the cameras, he chose to accuse Mexicans of rape and murder and insisted he would rid the country of these evil-doers. I’ll ignore for the moment that the vast majority of Mexican immigrants are hard workers, dedicated to their families and communities, and living lives that would make the average suburban white person weep.

The thing that sickened me most about that speech was that it signaled that racism was socially acceptable. Since that day, I have heard and seen more racism, bigotry, and intolerance than I think I had in my entire life up till that point. Because now we have this open culture of hate, and to our shame, a great percentage of our citizenry has jumped up on that wagon.

My oldest son told me once that he “feels white.” What he meant is that he has been sheltered and essentially accepted into the predominantly white environment due to our family’s financial advantages. He’s never been treated like a “lazy Mexican.” Even so, I had to warn him that there are many people out there who will remind him he’s brown, and that he might even miss out on job opportunities just because of the name at the top of his résumé. He didn’t believe me before the Trump speech. Now that he’s seen the aftermath, he realizes that it’s only too true. I hate that he had to have that revelation.

My youngest son asked me if Trump would deport his father. He is genuinely scared of this. He is proud of his heritage and cannot understand why people would hate his grandparents, his father, and him because of it.


As a white woman in the suburbs, I don’t know if I’m really qualified to talk about racism, but I think I need to anyway. I think we all need to. Because if it’s socially acceptable to let hatred and bigotry have a voice, then it should also be okay to speak out against it. So even though I’m steeped in white privilege, I’m not going to stay silent. My children will not stay silent. And I hope that at the very least, I can leave behind a legacy of descendants who will be unafraid to speak the truth.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Now Available

The second edition of The Truth Seekers is now available!


Print copies can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace.



Since this is a second edition, I won't be doing much in the way of promotions or giveaways, but you never know - the mood might strike!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Nearly There!

I've received the page proof for The Truth Seekers today, so it looks like this is really happening!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New Developments

I've been neglecting this blog for quite some time now, but at last I have something new to pass along!

The second edition of my historical romance, The Truth Seekers, will be available on 5 July 2016 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other channels. The e-book is available for pre-order now, but the paperback is still being sorted. It will be available soon, though!



Also, some may note that I'm blogging and publishing under a different name these days. I've decided to stop writing as Elizabeth M. Lawrence going forward, so all of my future publications, including The Truth Seekers, will now be available only under the author name Mavvy Vasquez.

I'm working on some new projects, as well, and I will keep you posted on their development as they progress. Hopefully not too much longer.

It's good to be back in the saddle again!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Unanswered Question

     There once was a girl who knew too much. She went to the river, but she knew its path. She went to the garden, but she knew its growth. She went to the hills, but she knew their height.
     The girl wanted to have questions again, so she packed up her bag and began to walk. She slept on the ground, but she knew its pebbles and grass. She ate fruit from the trees, but she knew its taste. And still she kept walking.

     One day, she came to a small village. She knew its people, its houses, its trades, and its songs. Still, she thought she would stop here a while to rest.
     It so happened that there lived in that town an old woman named Alma. When the girl approached Alma’s cottage, the old lady welcomed her inside.
     “Please,” she said, “come into my home and share supper with me, for I am all alone and would enjoy the company.”
     Being quite hungry, the girl agreed and entered the woman’s house.
     Alma gave her warm, crusty bread and a bowl of nice, rich stew. A steaming pot of tea sat ready on the table, along with a jug of milk. The grateful girl thanked the old woman and began to eat.
     Then Alma asked, “Why do you travel, dear girl? The world is a mysterious place, and you are so young.”
     “I know too much,” the girl replied. “I want to have questions again, for I love to learn, so I am searching to find new things I do not know.”
     “Ah,” said Alma. “That is a worthy effort indeed. How did you come to know so many things?”
     The girl answered, “I asked questions. I asked until all my questions were answered.”
     Alma leaned back in her chair and folded her hands across her plump waist. “Why do you need to know the answers?”
     Confused, the girl paused to consider this. At last, she said, “The purpose of questions is to receive an answer. It is the natural way of things.”
     The old woman chuckled and shook her head at the girl. “You may know too much, but you still have much to learn. The greatest questions are those that cannot be answered. The only thing they will teach you is to know your own heart.”
     “Where can I find a question without answers?” the girl asked eagerly.
     “Stay with me here for one month, and I will show you.”
     The girl agreed. Soon, she was settled by the fire with tea and a book, and she and Alma were quite comfortable together.

     Not many days later, Alma said to her, “Come with me to the market, for I have something to show you.”
     Excited, the girl sprang up from her chair at once and donned her cloak. Alma gave her a wide basket to carry and, hooking another over her own arm, led the girl down the path to the market.
     The pair moved from stall to stall, and the girl’s basket began to grow heavy under the weight of the vegetables and fruits Alma had selected. At last, when both baskets were full to the brim, Alma declared she was satisfied.
     “It is time now to travel to our next destination.”
     “Where are we going?” the girl asked, for she always wanted the answers to her questions.
     “You will soon see,” replied the old woman. “Come along.”
     The girl came along, following Alma down the path, which grew more and more scraggly and unkempt the farther they went. At long last, they came to a hovel that looked as though a strong wind could bring it down. The door stood straight, but the walls and roof listed and bowed with age, the drooping windows seeming to squint at the women as they approached.
     “This is our destination,” Alma told the girl.
     “Why are we here?” the girl asked at once.
     “You will soon see.”
     Alma approached the hovel, and with great care, knocked on the ancient wood of the door frame.
When the door opened, the girl took a step back in alarm. There stood a very old man, his body more twisted and frail than his home. The man’s hair was a scattering of yellowed white wisps that hung down limply to his collar. His eyes were far too large for his face, the corners damp and the irises dull. The skin of his face and hands was brown and leathery.
     His near-toothless mouth gaped in a smile of welcome for Alma, who took his gnarled hand in hers.
     “Joseph, it is so good to see you. Are you well?”
     “Ah, Alma! I am as well as I need to be. Please, bring your young friend and sit with me a spell.”
     The girl did not want to enter, but seeing Alma march in without hesitation, she straightened her spine and followed.
     Inside was a small table with two spindly chairs on either side. Not far away was a sleeping pallet covered with tattered blankets. The crumbling fireplace sheltered some burning twigs, which must have been all the old man could manage to gather. A precarious stack of books, their spines broken, stood upon the dirt floor like a column of defeated soldiers.
     Feeling quite awkward, the girl stood quietly, watching her guide speak with their host. Alma asked after his health in some detail, for it seemed they were old friends. She bade the girl rest her heavy basket on the table and take a seat and be comfortable.
     The girl did as she was directed, and Alma claimed the other chair for herself. Joseph maneuvered himself to sit upon his pallet, his rheumy eyes sparkling in the scant light. While her elders talked together of the past days of their youth and laughed, the girl began to think.
     “What is the question that Alma wants to show me here?” she wondered. Although she was anxious for the answer, she knew what the woman’s response would be.
     You will soon see.
     So she didn’t ask her question just yet, resolving to wait a bit longer for the answer to come on its own.
     When the visit finally ended, Alma stood to say her goodbyes. After giving a quiet word of thanks to Joseph, the girl took up her basket from the table and went outside to wait for her friend to join her.
Alma emerged, but the girl noted that she was not carrying her basket.
     “Oh, Alma,” she said, “you have forgotten your basket!”
     Undisturbed, Alma continued to walk down the path. “I did not forget, my dear.”
     “You meant to leave it?”
     “Yes.”
     “But why? And who was that man?”
     The old woman chuckled, then spoke. “He was the friend of my elder brother, years and years ago. When we were in school, he would tease me and pull my hair and trip my feet and steal my primer. He never had a kind word for me in all those years.”
     “And yet you visit him?” the girl asked, confused.
     “One day,” Alma continued without answering, “he went away to make his fortune. I was glad, for he had been a constant source of unhappiness for me. Time passed, we all grew up, married, had children, and lived our lives as people do. My youngest was grown and gone before Joseph came back.
     “He had seen and done many things, some bad and some not so bad. When he had money, he’d spent it without reserve. When he had food, he ate his fill. When he did not have those things, he stole or cheated them out of someone else. After a lifetime of living without care or conscience, Joseph had nothing left. He had cheated all his friends, and now no one would help him. He had stolen from all the merchants, and now no one would trust him. So, hungry and alone, he made his way back to the village of his youth.”
     “And did he apologize for how he’d treated you?”
     “No, he never did,” Alma said. “He came to that hovel and hid away from the world, surviving as best he could on what the forest would provide. And since everyone here remembered his behavior in the past, no one approached him.
     “But I had gone out walking one fine day, and I happened to see him. He was limping badly, trying to get back to his shelter, but it did not look as though he would be able to reach it on his own. So I went to him and took his arm, and he leaned on me until we reached his home.”
     “Did he thank you?” the girl asked.
     “No, he never did. I helped him inside and got him to sit on his bed. I cleaned his wound as best I could, fetched him some water, and told him to rest. Then I went home.
     “That night, I thought a long time about Joseph. He needed help and had no one to give it. So the next day I went to the market and filled up a basket, and I went back and left it on his table. He grumbled at me a bit, but he let me change his bandages and put ointment on his leg to aid the healing.”
     The girl considered this. “And so you keep going back to help?”
     “I do.”
     “But he was so mean to you! And he never apologized! Never thanked you!”
     “No, he never did.”
     “But…” The girl was more puzzled than ever. “Why would you do that?”
     Alma looked at her with a knowing smile. “You do not know charity?”
     “Well, yes of course I do, but… he was so awful to you!”
     “Do you not know forgiveness?”
     “Yes, of course,” the girl repeated. “But he did not ask for it. There are far more deserving people in need of aid. Why him, Alma?”
     “My dear, when one gives a gift, whether deserved or not, it should be without condition. The receiver need not be deserving, or humble, or repentant. All that is required is that the giver wishes to do good for another.”
     The two walked in silence for some time, until at last they came to Alma’s cottage and went inside.
     Once they were settled by the fire with their tea, as had become their habit, the girl asked once more.
     “Why help him, Alma? I understand that gifts should not come with expectation, but why in all the world choose him as the beneficiary of your kindness?”
     “That, my dear, is the answer you must seek in your own heart.”
     No matter how many questions the girl asked that night, Alma would say no more on the subject.

     Several days passed before Alma again said, “Come with me to the market, for I have something to show you.”
     Not knowing what to expect, the girl followed her to the village marketplace once more.
     Alma went to the wizened old man who sold second-hand books. Not many people wished to buy such extravagances, but he greeted Alma as though she were a customer of long standing.
     “My dear Alma! How are you on this fine day?”
     “Quite well, Marcus. Do you have any new treasures to show me?”
     The girl stood in silence, observing while Alma and Marcus pawed through his collection. Now and then, Alma would lift a book from the pile and give a delighted laugh, and Marcus would nod and smile at her choice. Each so favored book found its way into the girl’s waiting arms, until her burden became quite heavy and unwieldy. Alma paid Marcus for the books and bade him goodbye, taking half the books from the girl’s aching arms.
     “Come along, my dear,” the old woman said, so the girl came along.
     This time, they took a neat, orderly path that led to a neat, orderly house in the glen. The house was well-kept, with brisk white paint and merry red trim. A profusion of flowers danced along its border, and a sturdy wooden fence ringed the property.
     “This is our destination,” Alma told the girl.
     “Why are we here?” the girl asked.
     “You will soon see.”
     They entered at the gate and over the pebbled walk until they reached the door. Alma gave three brisk knocks.
     The door soon opened, and there stood a woman not much older than the girl. Her hair was wrapped in a bright orange scarf, and her skin was as dark as night. The woman beamed when she saw them, the whiteness of her teeth bright against her complexion.
     “Alma! What a delight! I did not know you were to come today!”
     Alma moved forward and hugged the dark woman. “I love to surprise you, Ashai. My young friend and I have brought some marvelous books to share with you!”
     Ashai opened the door wide and said, “Please, come in! Let me see what treasures you’ve discovered this time!”
     The parlor of her home was clean and crisp, the fabrics bright and welcoming, the wooden furniture gleaming and warm. The girl found it comfortable and was quite glad to visit with this woman in such a room, now that her initial surprise at her skin had passed. It was clear that Alma saw nothing objectionable about Ashai, and the girl trusted her friend’s judgment.
     Soon, the trio were seated comfortably, looking through the selection of books Alma had bought. The girl discovered that Ashai was wonderful company, intelligent and kind. She was sorry when it came time for them to leave, but she was not surprised that most of the books they’d carried remained behind when they went.
     “You left those books for her,” the girl observed.
     “I did.”
     “Why did you do that?”
     Alma looked at her with an appraising eye. “Did you not like Ashai?”
     “I liked her very much,” the girl answered. “I just do not understand why you brought her books.”
     “Ashai is a very smart person. She loves to read and discuss what she has learned.”
     “But she cannot buy her own books?” the girl guessed.
     “She could afford them,” Alma said, “but it is difficult for her to go into the village.”
     The girl was confused once more. “Why? It is not a long walk, and she appeared to be in good health.”
     Her friend explained. “Ashai came here several years ago. She had inherited a modest fortune, enough for her to buy a house and live at leisure. However, when she arrived, not all of the village welcomed her.”
     “Because she is so dark?” the girl guessed.
     “Yes. One day, some men who felt this way threatened her and told her not to return to the village or she would be beaten.”
     The girl shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself. “What a horrible thing for them to do! She cannot help the color of her skin, and she is such a good person. They were wrong to act that way.”
     “Yes, they were,” Alma agreed. “Ashai did not wish to leave her new home, but she recognized the danger these men posed. So with the help of those who had welcomed her, she arranged to stay on. Everything she might need at the market is brought to her by a neighbor of mine, and he only takes the money needed for her supplies. He is a very kind young man.”
     The girl nodded and then stayed silent the rest of the way back to the cottage.
     That evening, when they were settled at the fire, she asked again.
     “But why do those people hate Ashai? It does not make any sense.”
     Alma looked up from her knitting. “Many people hate for reasons such as theirs. A person’s color or poverty or religion determines how some folks treat others.”
     “But…” The girl was more puzzled than ever. “Why would they do that?”
     Alma smiled, although there was sorrow in her eyes. “You do not know hatred?”
     “Well, yes of course I do, but… Ashai does not deserve it!”
     “Do you not know anger?”
     “Yes, of course,” the girl repeated. “But she did nothing to deserve it. What those men did was far worse. Why her, Alma?”
     “My dear, when one is prejudiced against another, whether deserved or not, it is without logic. The object of scorn need not be deserving, or malicious, or evil. All that is required is that the hater wishes to do harm to another because that person is different in some way.”
     “Why hurt her, Alma? I understand that some people harbor hatred for others, but why in all the world choose her as the target of their violence?”
     “That, my dear, is the answer you must seek in your own heart.”
     The girl asked many more questions that night, but Alma would say no more on the subject.

     When the girl had been with Alma for nearly a month, the old woman said to her, “Come with me to the market, for I have something to show you.”
     The girl rose up from her chair at once, curious to see what new conundrum Alma would show her. Her friend gave her a bright ribbon for her hair, for the day was windy, and she led the girl down the path to the market.
     At the butcher’s shop, they met a boy who was wrapping cuts of meat in tidy parcels with paper. He smiled when he recognized Alma.
     “What can I get for you today, ma’am?” he asked.
     Alma gave the boy a wide smile. “Have you taken Ashai’s order out to her yet?”
     He nodded. “Went this morning before it got busy. If I’d waited, all the best cuts would have been gone.”
     The girl realized that this was the boy who brought Ashai the supplies she could not get for herself in safety. She inspected him with an attentive eye. He was tall, she thought, with dancing bright eyes and ruddy cheeks. His arms and shoulders were strong from years of honest work, and his open expression warmed her. So involved was she in her observation that she started when Alma turned to introduce her.
     “This is my young friend who has been visiting with me these last weeks,” Alma said.
     The butcher’s boy turned shy, but managed to stutter a few words of welcome. The girl thanked him, and then they stood for some time, blushing at each other in awkward silence.
     Alma broke the moment with a chuckle. “If I’m not interrupting, I’d like to get something to cook for our dinner.”
     “Of course,” the boy replied, blushing even redder than before.
     With many more shy glances at the girl, he managed at last to attend to Alma. The transaction complete, the girl answered his breathless farewell with embarrassed pleasure. Her friend said nothing, and they returned home.
     The boy began to call at the cottage every day with one excuse or other, and the girl found herself looking forward to his visits. As the time for her departure drew near, she told him that she would miss him when she left.
     “Then don’t go,” he said, taking her hand in his.
     Her heart jumped a little at the contact, but she said, “I must move on. Alma has been more than kind, but I do not want to outstay my welcome.”
     “You would always be welcome in your own home.”
     “Well, yes. But I have no home here.”
     “You could have,” the boy said, “if you married me.”
     Air left the girl’s lungs in a rush. “You wish to marry me?” she asked.
     “Yes, I do. Very much.”
     “But why?”
     He smiled, his expression quiet and confident. “Because I love you, dear girl.”

     The girl asked for time to consider his proposal, and the boy agreed. She returned to the cottage in some agitation, and at once petitioned Alma for advice.
     “He says he loves me. Why should he love me? I have no special beauty or wit or talent. I am just an ordinary girl.”
     “None of that matters, if he loves you.”
     “But he is so good! And he never asks for thanks! He’s never anything but kind!”
     “No, he never is.”
     “But…” The girl was more puzzled than ever. “Why would he love me?”
     Alma looked at her with a knowing smile. “You do not know admiration?”
     “Well, yes of course I do, but… how can I know I’ll make him happy?”
     “Do you not know hope?”
     “Yes, of course,” the girl repeated. “But he did not ask someone better. There are far more deserving women in need of love. Why me, Alma?”
     “My dear, when one gives love, whether deserved or not, it should be welcomed. The recipient need not be deserving, or beautiful, or wise. All that is required is that the lover wishes to spend their lives together.”
    “Why choose me, Alma? I understand that some people fall in love, but why in all the world choose me as the object of his affection?”
     “That, my dear, is the answer you must seek in your own heart.”
     “You always say that,” the girl complained. “How can I find answers inside my heart? What am I supposed to find there that I cannot learn another way?”
     Alma shook her head at the girl in obvious exasperation. “Why do people forgive? Why do people have faith? Why do they hate? Why do they love? These are the questions that have no answer, my dear. Embrace the mystery. Have faith. Choose to love, even if there is no reason. Let the answer be you love because you feel it, and he loves because he feels it. There is no better answer than that.”

     The girl lay in her bed that night and considered Alma’s words. The old woman had found forgiveness and charity inside herself, and she had refused to share the hatred others held. And she was right. There was still no good explanation for why some love and some hate, or why some believe and some doubt. Alma’s choices showed her heart to the world, and that was where her reasons could be found. She forgave and loved and trusted because that was who she was.
     And the girl looked into her own heart and found love for the boy, even though she could not explain why she felt that way. The next day, she went to him and said, “I have considered, and I have found that I do love you. I also believe that you love me, even though I do not understand why I would be your choice. So I am choosing to be with you, as well.”
     So the two were married, even though they weren’t sure why, and the girl discovered that some questions need no answer.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Balancing Mind Ogre Patterns

On Wednesdays, I get toothpaste in my eye. I’m not sure why this occurs every week without fail. It’s not intentional. Wednesdays are not good days for me in general.

There’s a pattern.

Sundays, I forget to do everything and wind up frantic at 10:00 at night, wondering how I’m going to do it all with no time.

Mondays are like New Years Day. I’m bright and shiny with intention and purpose. It will be a phenomenal day. I will exercise, plow through my pending work, clean the house, volunteer for a charity, and find a cure for the common cold. I wait until about 3:00 to admit none of that happened, but the dream has not yet died.

Tuesdays, I take another stab at it, but it’s like January 2nd. You can’t recapture the magic of that electric determination. By lunchtime, I stop even pretending to be a productive member of society.

Wednesdays are toothpaste. There’s often an afternoon nap involved, too.

Thursdays, I don’t give a damn about anything. I do what needs doing, but it takes effort. If someone asks me to participate in some event or activity on Thursday, it ain’t happening.

Fridays, it’s a toss-up whether I’m even going to get dressed.

On Saturdays, my resolutions come back, only this time I swear to go out and enjoy the world, see art, watch a play, and enjoy life. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the birds are singing… I’ll just finish this chapter in my book, and then I’ll get going. Yep.

Then I keep reading straight through to Sunday evening.

The pattern of my life is one I would love to change. My therapist would love for me to change it, too. If nothing else, I would get more work done, which would enable me to afford my therapy sessions. It’s a vicious circle.

Every night, I lie in bed and imagine worlds and adventures and people, forming them into stories in my head. Everyone tells me to write them down. I don’t.

When you talk to people about depression, this is not what they would imagine, I think. How it wears you down, dragging at you in whispers that hold you back with subtle force. I’m not sad. Like I said, it’s a beautiful day, the sun, the birds, etc. My mind is just not under my complete control. And yes, it’s frustrating as hell.

There are rare days when I am hypo-manic and can take on the world. Those are the days when work gets done, stuff gets cleaned, and I am the mistress of all I survey. Brimming with focus, burning to explore the world. It doesn’t last, though. I pay the price afterward with an unusual low. This is kind of like a kid on a sugar high passing out when they come back down.

So low is bad, high is bad, and I have to learn to ride the line between the two. My pattern allows this, but I need to change my pattern. How to stay balanced while doing this is a conundrum.

My friends and family want wonderful things for me. That’s great. I want wonderful things, too. And I understand it’s hard to watch from the outside while I continue with the same old behaviors and making the same old mistakes. It’s impressive these people stick around, really. I’m annoying.

There are these voices in my head. (No, not like that. I’m not schizophrenic.)The encouragement, faith, love, and admiration I receive from the people in my life is a quiet chorus, whispering at me over and over to remind me that there is something more, and that I can have it. These soothing voices join together against the loud clamor of my own inner voice telling me I suck in every possible way. It’s hard to hear past that barrage of negativity.

I hear everyone, though. I do. No one should ever think that their words have no effect on me. Often those words are the only weapons I have in the fight to do SOMETHING today, even if it’s brushing my teeth. Without those voices in my mind, it would be a fight I couldn’t win.

Mental illness is invisible. Sure, you can see someone flake out and do some weird shit. You can see cuts, scars, weight gained or lost, mood swings, seizures and meltdowns. It’s below the surface that the true symptoms do their damage, however. Each depressive person’s experience is unique to them, but there are many near-constant similarities. The biggest is that depression has the potential to tear apart everything they care about and want to build for themselves. It’s impossible to do your taxes, wash the dishes, or manage your workload when you’re fighting a sumo wrestler in your head. Your hands are already full.

I’m not sure where this is going, but here it is anyway.

In my case, depression is a fact of life. I’ve never been without it, even as a toddler. There is no “me” without depression. I’d be a completely different person. That means that there is no clear way to unravel its effects from the rest of who I am. It feeds my creativity, informs my decisions, and influences my relationships. So I have no frame of reference for what “normal” would mean for me. I don’t think I’d like it.

My imagination walks hand in hand with my illness, giving me words and images and characters to bring to life in my writing. The books I read come alive, dynamic and immersed in detail. That would be hard to give up.

Having been judged and marginalized all my life, I am much more accepting and accommodating in my interactions with others. I embrace the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. (Metaphorically. I’m not a hugger.)

It makes me want to help others, support those who are suffering, particularly when their circumstances are more heartbreaking or perilous than mine. I want to fix all the problems in the world, even though I can’t fix mine.

Depression gives me those gifts, but it keeps me from using them. And that’s a dilemma that makes me run around in mental circles day and night. I want to use the talents and strengths. I want to achieve my potential. I want to tap into the creative spring inside me. If only I manage to be strong enough to fight the ogre who lives in my thoughts and tears apart my confidence.

My ability to feel any self-worth is significantly impaired. I can’t accept that it’s not my fault, because I’d get past it if I didn’t suck. I can’t defend myself against criticism, because it’s true that I suck. It’s hard to believe that anyone really loves me because I suck. There’s no point in working to become healthier, since I’d suck regardless. Every time I meet someone new, they can tell right away that I suck. No one will ever read my books because they suck. I will never, ever be good enough, because I’m not good at all.

This is the ogre that lives in my head. This is the voice that I hear ALL the time. It’s constant. It’s there right now, telling me to stop typing and just go back to bed with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a spoon to mourn the loss of my dignity.

I may not be dignified, but I did write this. The quiet voices of hope helped me write this, and so even this small step is an accomplishment.

Suck it, mind ogre.