Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Shadows and All the Points of Light

Well, it seems I fell a little bit back down into a hole. I'm not sure how to describe it, and it took me a while to even recognize it had happened (as I've noted, it's not an actual hole which would be great and recognizable and significantly easier to ask for a hand to climb out of), but in short, in the last two weeks I found myself feeling isolated and alone. I had to work to be my usual chatty self. I would get caught up in memories that make me feel bad. My inner critic was more critical. That voice that tells me I'm not enough, that I can't be, that I lack a certain attractive something that others have and I never will... it's subtle and constant, and when I start to believe it, I realize I'm back in the fucking hole.

But at least I do realize it. Or James does, and so the hole my mind was busy digging couldn't get too deep. A few nights ago we were in the kitchen after the kids went to bed, me making my evening tea, James hovering for no reason I could figure out, when he said, "I don't know what's wrong, but something is... You're so quiet and so separate and I don't know what to do." And we talked, standing there in the kitchen with my tea, and as I tried to put how I felt into words, that's when I recognized the hole. It was in the put-upon falseness of my sudden sadness. There just wasn't a reason for it, no trigger, nothing actually sad. And I wasn't sad. It was just my head making me so and then deciding I should hole up and be alone and then giving me feelings of isolation and friendlessness, also not real, to make it even more effective like the little overachiever my brain can be. I told James that the night before when I couldn't sleep, rather than sliding over to him and waking him up to keep me company like I usually do, I slid out of the bed as quietly as possible, as if the worst thing would be to not be alone, to have to share how overwhelmingly down I felt, and have someone available to make me feel better. So I snuck off to the TV room and slept off and on on the couch before sneaking back in bed before dawn, because not waking up there would involve questions too and I can't tell you how unlike me that is. If I am uncomfortable in ANY way my goal is to make James an active and engaged partner in my suffering, big or small.

After we talked, I felt better, more grounded. Sometimes just recognizing it's happening- seeing the falsity of the darkness- is enough to steer the shadows off course.

Last night I couldn't sleep either. But at 2 a.m. I made myself shift closer, was immediately tucked in tight, kissed on my shoulder, and heard the sleepy mumble of "I love you." And being less alone felt good. My mind, quieter now, starting thinking about marriage and how much of it is behind the scenes, good and bad, that you never see. Sometimes I think James and I come across as a bit of a mismatch, our personalities are certainly quite different, but behind the scenes, I can't think of anyone more suited to me. I'm a lot, and he's here for all of it.

One of the confusing things about depression is that you can be truly genuinely happy in between the moments that you're not. There have been so many highlights in January that posting them along the way has seemed overwhelming. So now you're getting the very highest of the highlights, or at least those with corresponding pictures in my picture roll because that's the only way I remember them, and they are still way too many post. (But I'm doing it anyway because I've got four days of testimony this month, a play, a party, a birthday, lots of teaching, two PTA Board meetings, and a PapaGigi visit and who knows when I'll post again.)

So, jumping in, this was last night when I went to take a bath after a day of work fiascos. I filled the tub, got in, and found Cora excitedly setting up shop in my bathroom. "Look mom! I brought in a table so I can color and still be with you!"

She 100% thought she was fixing a problem for me and though it was not quite the bath I envisioned, she colored quietly while I soaked in my bath salts and I felt very loved indeed.

Speaking of Cora, a friend of mine dropped Landon off a few weeks ago after he'd been playing at her house for 36 hours and Cora happened to be out in the front yard. Twenty minutes later she was asking me how to spell all kinds of random words that I rattled off without asking questions. I realized later she was writing this note to my friend Stephanie to inquire about the "beautiful necklace" she had been wearing at drop off. This combination of notes + concern over proper spelling + coming from a place of compliments is peak Cora and I love it.

Last Cora story: several weeks ago I was making dinner and she popped over to the kitchen to inform me that, "Mom, when I am bigger and I grow up and move out of this house to the forest where the deers and other animals live, I am going to tell them DON'T GO OUT IN THE MEADOW because you will die. And then we can all just live in the forest together and be happy okay? You can visit us."

I love how casually she informed me of her non-traditional post-high school path. Also, she watched a lot of Bambi on our Colorado road trip and I love that rather than be overwhelmed by sadness like I was after my first and only childhood viewing, she has developed an action plan to keep all the animals safe. (Pic from the rodeo on Sunday; rides with Cora remain pure joy.)

Also in January, James was on TV! He was interviewed by a local news station to promote his non-profit, The Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition, and the kids got to go with him for the taping and now they think he's even more famous than they already did. Which, since everywhere we go we see a swim school family who knows "Coach James," was already far more famous than he actually is.

Landon had another round of Cotillion, this time Country Western themed and he's the only one of his friends who doesn't own cowboy boots. My brother was appalled and we offered to get Landon some but he felt that buying his first pair of khaki pants and jeans in 5 years was enough of a sartorial step forward.

The kids, human and canine, and I drove to Houston three weeks ago to check in on my still slightly broken mom. She's mostly adjusted to life one-handed, though she longs for the day she can hold her blow dryer again. We arrived in time to all go see an afternoon showing of Little Women, and I know I'm a little late on announcing this now, but I LOVED IT. I loved it so, so much. It is maybe the only movie I've ever seen that I wanted to be longer and/or that I would have voluntarily sat through and watched again from the top the very second it ended. I was struck, over and over, at how very rarely we get to see stories about women. That the women are enough. And they are! The kids loved it, Landon is now reading the book, and I downloaded and read the screenplay. I just enjoyed it so SO much.

(That is the only picture I took during our trip to Houston; it's the kids at the movie theater pretending to ride a car I wouldn't give them money to actually ride. They seemed to have just as much fun with it anyway, which is pretty much always the case.)

In Claire news, she was named Wrangler of the Month for her class for the month of January! She was VERY proud and so were we.

Papa and Gigi sent money for a treat and, after MUCH back and forth, our Wrangler selected snow cones on a chilly January day.

We went back to Houston again last weekend for a very exciting thing I'll post about later, but first Maggie got a bath so she'd look so pretty for her Papa and Gigi.

That Friday morning before we left, Claire had Battle of the Books! Her class didn't win, but she was excited to have made the team and be on stage.

On Saturday all the girls in my family went wedding dress shopping with my future sister-in-law. It was so fun and I'm so glad we were able to be there for her since her family and friends are all in Brazil. She found her dress (ahem, I actually found it, as I did my sister's, though interestingly, not my own- my mom found that and I nearly refused to try it on because I didn't like it at all and now it remains the most beautiful and perfect thing that has ever been on my body. So, try on the things other people pick out for you, is what I'm saying) and she looks STUNNING in it. We can't wait for their big celebration in October!

The boys went fishing while we were bridal saloning and Landon caught the first fish! And then caught three more! Before they left he'd been concerned he'd have to "murder" the fish, but the other guys were quite happy to do that for him.

We drove home Sunday morning in time for me to teach my barre class, quizzing Landon's spelling words the whole way.

(Page 10 of a million)

You'll be glad to know that Maggie continues to motivate my students from the front of my class.

My parents followed us to Fort Worth a few hours later to celebrate Maggie's birthday!

Just kidding, they actually came to cheer on Landon in the District Spelling Bee the following day, but it was a bonus that it was also Maggie's one-year Adoptiversary, which we have decided is also her birthday. She's now 5 (ish) years old and Cora remains delighted that she has a small sister and we remain delighted that she's our bulldog.

She's a walking, sleeping, snoring, big-shouldered ball of love and I'm just in awe of how far she's come in a year: walking on a leash, running playfully around the yard, rocking a raincoat, riding in her chariot, opening the door with her big head so she can go outside to snooze in the sun, but most humbling is her complete trust in us after she was hurt so badly by those who had her before. I love her with my whole heart.

In true form, Maggie kept trying to escape her party to go back to bed, so we ate cake while she snored and everything was perfect. And then on Monday morning at 8 a.m., we were at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens for the Area Spelling Bee!

Landon had been studying a lot, and after getting his surprise 2nd last year, I think he was feeling pretty nervous about how badly he wanted to win this year. We let Claire stay home from school for the morning to attend she was SO nervous for him while we watched that it made me less so. She was doing the work for me.

There were 16 competitors. Thirteen rounds later, there were three. Words he'd spelled correctly so far included: ancient, ramparts, transistor, hazmat, archives, abundance, sojourner, diaphoresis, gannet, and Connemara.

Then there were two. He got the first word he hadn't studied (millivolt) and we knew from his face he was guessing. He guessed right, and then, just like last year, he ended up getting out in Round 14 to an 8th grade young woman. The word was quorum and he just didn't know it.

And since he just didn't, he felt pretty good about where he ended up. His competitor sailed through her final word and it all felt like the right result.

We were SUPER proud and also not exactly sad to be done quizzing spelling words. At least until next year- he still has two years of eligibility left!

We celebrated with brunch and then my parents headed back to Houston, I headed to work, the kids headed to school, and James went to the pool. And so the week began and it was really busy. And blurry. Middle school electives expo night was Wednesday, with a taco night with the middle school mamas after. On Tuesday and Thursday I taught my class at TCU on my way home from work- that class continues to grow and it's so fun. I had 35 students last Thursday!

Friday was Western dress-out day and the girls did they best they could with the contents of their closets. Claire does have boots, but it was a PE day and she did not care about fashion enough to bring an extra pair of shoes in her backpack.

Speaking of someone who would TOTALLY pack an extra pair of shoes in her backpack, Maggie got a new sweater. It's a new color for her and I think she likes it very much. The blue makes her feel very beautiful.

And the unicorn on the back lends an extra air of majesty. She loves it and hopes you do too.

The kids and I watched Father of the Bride Part II on Saturday while James was at a swim meet and they LOVED it. We'd seen Part 1 during the wedding shopping weekend in Houston and I must say, it holds up. Steve Martin and Diane Keaton forever.

On Sunday we went on a family walk and their little scooter gang was out in full force. I happened to snap this picture as they curved down a little hill and it just brings me so much joy. We're so lucky in how much they enjoy each other and continue to play together. Sure they've learned to fight some as they've gotten older, but honestly, most of the time, they still just play. Here, they were a scooter team, the road was a highway, and there was something about parking spaces and also crime? I have no idea, but the world-building is very involved and James and I just laugh at what we overhear and chat with each other the whole way.

Maggie also did the whole walk on her own fat little feet and took the rest of the day to recover.

We finished the day by heading to the Rodeo. Since we don't have cable, we decided the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Midway was the perfect place to spend a gorgeous Super Bowl Sunday afternoon.

And it was super fun (no pun originally intended, but now left on purpose). The weather was gorgeous. I was in shorts! It's supposed to snow tomorrow, but it was 85 degrees two days ago and we rode rides, ate curly fries, met cows, goats, and pigs, and listened to a lot of patter about carnival games.

And now we're caught up, but for our weekend in Houston, the Stitch Fix box that just got delivered today (*referral link; my first box in over a year, it just sounded fun and I love the pieces!), and all our meals. But for now, I leave you with this dinner conversation from Landon a few weeks ago after James had educated all of us on the plumbing advances in ancient Rome.

Landon: So Mom, did you have an outhouse when you were little?
Me: What? No!
Landon, impressed and happy for me: So you had indoor plumbing?
Me: Yes! Landon, the house I grew up in was built 40 years after the house we currently live in.
Landon: So you had electricity too? I mean when you were little.
Me: YES!
Landon, delicately: What about TV? Or did that come later?
Me: Landon, I'm only 36-years-old. We had TVs.
[I mean, we had one TV; a giant box that sat on the living room floor, but it was color and did have a remote!]
Landon: That's so great mom.

He was really happy for me. Indoor plumbing, electricity, and a TV- I really did have a lot going for me in 1983 in Humble, Texas.

And still do. I mean, we have TWO TVs now and also like five remotes. Things are good. The shadows are there, but I see them for what they are and there are an awful lot of sources of light. Happy February to you all.


  1. Lagliv, your highlights are lovely and the Cora stories and Landon's concern gave me the giggles. These are the kinds of stories we tell in our house back from when our kids were little. We've been telling them for YEARS now :). I'm so sorry to hear of your challenges with mental wellbeing. But I'm grateful to you for sharing. As an older feminist told me back when I was a baby feminist, the idea of sprezzatura (sp?)--the sense that everything must seem effortlessly perfect is deeply ingrained in all of us as girls and women. Knowing of your challenges normalizes my own (at least in my head). I hope you're getting the support and help you deserve, and I hope you will feel more like yourself soon. I'm a longtime follower (found you via Bengali Chick all those years ago :). And I find you inspiring in too many ways to enumerate. Sending love and strength, and I hope you will feel like telling more stories. <3

  2. I hope february brings more and more light to you! All the best. Blandine

  3. The glimpses into your life, including all the highs and lows, are such gifts to us readers. Thank you for the blessing that this corner of the internet is, and I will say a prayer of peace through Christ for you. Also, I, too, echo the above sentiment that, "I find you inspiring in too many ways to enumerate." -Kate

  4. Love to hear from you, and glad to know you're still able to find the "ups" even when there are "downs." High five to James for helping you figure out when something's not right. Take care.

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  6. I am still impressed at Landon spelling diaphoresis. :) Thanks for sharing the hps and the downs - I don't know if I identified myself as a frequent lurker on your blog but it really is one of my favorites. I appreciate so much your openness and honesty here about good and bad. Much love to you. <3

  7. Lagliv, I debated writing because what does a strangers' opinion matter? Particularly a stranger that is several thousand miles away (like a whole continent away) and has no idea of your life other than the glimpses you allow us through your blog.

    But in any case, in case this is useful to you, through following you for years and years, I noticed recently that when you stop posting for a significant amount of time (say more than 10-15 days), the next post generally refers to the fact that you are in or near "the hole". I don't know if the fact that you stop posting is done consciously by you once you realize you are down the hole, or rather that it is a symptom that you are nearing the hole even before you or your family notices.

    It is a trend I saw and that maybe is helpful to analyze further. Or not. In any case I thought I would let you know. (and feel totally free to keep the comment to yourself and not post it!)

  8. I was talking about growing up in the 80's. My middle kid: Wait, the 1980's or the 1880's? To be fair we had just finished the little house on the prairie books, but COME ON.

  9. You are doing quite well, Lagliv. Thanks for honest posts.

  10. Hi! I have never commented before and just found your blog a few months ago, but just wanted to say how much I love it. I am 31, a litigator in big law (in a small-ish city), and pregnant with my first. Our lives are in some ways quite different, but I relate to you so much and really enjoy your writing. Your honesty is refreshing, as I have suffered mental health issues and I really enjoy seeing another professional talk about them with openness and warmth.Anyway, just a note to say thank you for sharing your life, and I'm cheering you on.

  11. I want to chime in and say I really love reading your blog- I went to grad school at TCU and I MISS Fort Worth!!