Flogging depression with gardening

Apparently, I’ve been depressed.

It sounds as though I make it out to be like it sneaked up on me, and caught me unawares. Well, that’s sometimes how it happens…at least for me. I realized recently, that I’d been falling into old patterns and having no feelings other than unhappy. Today I heard stories about two people I work with at The Big Box Store, who have decided to move away because they lost their homes, and most everything in the flood. There’s nothing holding them here, so they are moving to where they have family, and starting over. It really made me think about all the things that I have taken for granted, and how  fortunate I have been.

Do I have more bills than I can keep up with? Oh, yeah. Do I run like a chicken with my head cut off most days? Yep. Do I feel overwhelmed all the time? Most definitely. Has my ex-husband served me with a legal motion because he thinks he’s paying me too much, and wants a refund? Yes he did, that rotten so-and-so.  Has the heart of my city been destroyed, and so many people I know been displaced and won’t be able to get back into their homes before the snow flies? Yes, and it makes my heart ache.  Have I got more things around the house that need doing than I have time and energy for? Oh, man, do I. Did my engine light come on? Unfortunately, it did. Ugh.

I’ve been feeling really down because of all of this stuff on my plate, and didn’t realize how down I was until I realized I have been having a continual internal pity party for quite a while. Hearing about these two families who have had to make such a hard decision really jerked me out of my rut, and I was able to actually get up and do something. Feeling depressed is very much like wearing weights around your neck…it’s just so hard to get up and do anything. I wish I had realized I had sunk down so far before things got so out of whack.

The thing is, I have got so much to be grateful for, and that really should outweigh the bad stuff. Do I have a home to come home to at the end of a long day, that is dry and safe? Are my kids healthy? Am I gainfully employed? Do I have parents that have stuck by me and helped me every step of the way my whole life? Do I have good friends?  Did my garden produce food for me, even though I neglected it all summer? A resounding yes to all of these things and much more. I am so blessed, and it’s a huge bummer that I lost sight of that.

Before - ugh!

So, after I got home from working at The Big Box Store this morning, I took Older Son shopping. We came home, and then Younger Son and I spent three hours outside. He changed light bulbs over both doors and washed the van, and I spent my time cleaning up and organizing the rock beds that surround two sides of our house. The front one was especially bad, but it turns out that it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Since I had extra time, and was on a roll, I weeded out my strawberry/herb garden and found some interesting things.

Rosemary on the right, Thyme on the left

I planted rosemary, thyme and oregano this spring, which grew fabulously. Now I have a nice bunch of fresh herbs to cook with. Actually, I like to just rub them in my hands and sniff them. There’s nothing that drops my blood pressure quick than smelling fresh thyme. Who needs drugs when you have a good kitchen herb garden!

After that was done, I took a look at my VERY over grown vegetable garden. We planted snow peas, corn, carrots and pumpkins. The only thing that did really well was the pumpkins. The vines and flowers are so pretty! Younger Son has been telling me for a couple of weeks about some really strange-looking pumpkins, and he thought the vines might be infected with something and the pumpkins were deformed. I finally made the effort to take a look tonight, and it turns out that not only do we have genuine baby pumpkins, but also spaghetti squash! I had a spaghetti squash that I ended up throwing in the compost heap this Spring, as it went bad before I could eat it. Apparently, they are very easy to grow!

We also have ground cherries and dill that re-seeded themselves from last year. The strawberries looked a little worse for the wear, but were holding their own and had sent out runners. We even had some carrots that survived all the rain we received. Even though Younger isn’t a veggie eater, I talked him into trying a carrot straight out of the garden, since he was the one that planted them. I was surprised that he actually ate it, but he did. I ate some too, and it was a little woody as it should have been picked earlier, but it was good anyway.

So, by 7:30 this evening, the rock beds had been cleared of all weeds, one garden had been weeded and watered, and the van had been scrubbed for the first time all summer (There wasn’t

Whoa! Now you can see the rocks in my rock bed!

much car washing going on with the city requesting water conservation during and after the flood, until just recently),  and I was able to sit down and eat supper with a genuine feeling of having accomplished something for the first time in a long, long time.

Tomorrow, I work on the inside of the house!





Hope really does float…grab it and hang on tight.

Yes…I’m alive! I’ve been away for several weeks, alternately running like a lunatic trying to keep up with life, and then having time and not being able to write. I just sit in front of my computer and wonder what happened to all of those interesting things that skittered across my brain during the day. It all just evaporated, right into thin air.

I had no intention of blogging today, but I read a blog post of a close friend who is going through divorce, and it inspired me to write about something that I hadn’t thought of in a long time. Her comments reminded me of something I felt, similarly to what she’s going through now, when I was  just beginning to go through the same process two years ago.  She described how she felt like she was in fast-rising, deep water…feeling overwhelmed. Here is the picture she posted as an illustration. I found it interesting for a couple of reasons, but I’ll get to that later:

I remember very well when I discovered my husband had cheated on me and then decided to leave me and the boys to be with her, rather than try to work things out, I felt like I was literally in over my head. I guess I really was…I had no idea what to do, how to deal with him, how to help the boys get through it, or what the future held. I remember very clearly waking up many mornings immediately after the initial blow and wondering what the point to breathing really was. It was probably the most demoralizing thing I’ve ever been through in my entire life.

Something I discovered after a month’s worth of flailing about was that life is a lot like swimming. I remember very well taking swimming lessons as a kid, and having a hard time with it. I really didn’t believe that I was going to just float in the water as effortlessly as the other kids did. My disbelief was the whole problem. I don’t exactly remember when I made the cross over from disbelief to swimming like a fish, but once I realized the water would hold me up if just let it, swimming got a lot easier.

Getting through divorce is so much harder than learning how to swim for a few reasons. For one, it’s not just you that you have to keep afloat when there are children involved. Secondly, a pool is a pretty well-defined area where you can see to the bottom. Getting divorced, especially at the beginning, feels a lot like having to tread water in the ocean, where you can barely see land.  And, if you’ve never done it before, the navigation of it is a bitch. How do you get to your destination when you have no map, and no idea what the landmarks you need to find look like? How do you know when it’s done, or does this hell go on forever?

Just like when I was learning how to swim, I can’t remember exactly when I let go and realized that I wouldn’t die if I just believed that everything would be OK. I do remember discovering that making small plans for every contingency gave me a measure of a feeling of security. Each and every single time I made a plan, or found a way to make things the tiniest little bit more stable, it gave me a little more hope that I would survive. I hung on to that hope, clung to it with everything I had. The alternative, hopelessness, was nothing I wanted to revisit.

Once my (then) husband moved out, after four months of having to endure him living in the house after I caught him with the other woman, the air suddenly cleared and I could breath again. The oppressive atmosphere evaporated and, while I was still left with a lot of uncertainty, I finally felt like I made it a long way closer to shore. I was no longer flailing about in the ocean looking to find purchase on a whatever sand bar or rock I could find. After that long, awful summer, I was finally standing up in the water, walking towards shore. I might still be  in neck-deep, but the end was in sight. I had a lot of hope that things would be OK after that.

Even though I felt better immediately after he finally left, it was a pretty horrible year for both of the kids and I. There were a lot of financial issues, and I was still reeling from having been dumped out of a 17-year marriage without so much as a heads up or an apology. Two years have gone by since the initial shock of discovery, and I’m still angry…but I feel more pity for him than anger a lot of days now. However, after all of that, I’m still standing, and so are the kids. We survived, and we’re doing well. I still have a lot of hope that things will get even better.

Another thing I learned while surviving divorce is how to spin something bad until I’m blowing sunshine out of my backside. No kidding…I am a full-fledged subscriber to the “Fake-It-‘Till-You-Make-It” theory of thinking. Even on days when I could barely hold my head up for feeling lost, when people asked me how I was, I would tell them “Good”, or “Fabulous” and do my best to mean it. I did my best to count up all the blessings I could find, even the smallest things count. There were many days were there weren’t enough blessings to tip the balance and allow me to feel half-way decent, but a lot of days I could dredge up enough good things to ponder on that would give me some hope to float up with. It takes some practice, but it works.

Back to the picture my friend posted on her blog. At first glance it appears that the woman is in deep water, all alone. But, if you take a closer look at it, you see that the water is crystal clear and well-lit, and you can see all the way to the bottom. Not only that, but her face has broken the water and she’s breathing without difficulty. She’s in a prone position suggesting that she’s relaxed and is moving as though taking a long relaxed swim in the morning sun…if she were struggling, the water would be frothy and broken with her movements. The woman in this picture is purposeful in her motions, has confidence in the water to hold her up, and is not alone… she’s just taking time for herself. The peace of this picture is really striking and inspiring to me. It’s my fondest hope that my friend sees the peacefulness in this picture, and can find peace for herself after long time of not having had any.

Have you ever seen the movie, Hope Floats, starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr.? If you haven’t, give it a look-see.  For those of you who are struggling through bad times, hope really does float, so grab on tight, rise to the surface and take a deep breath. It might not seem like it now, but everything will be OK.

What’s in a date?

Yesterday was a strange day. I looked up at the calendar and realized that it’s the first anniversary of my divorce. Hmm.

I kind of thought I should feel something about that, and strangely I didn’t. Hmmmm.

All day yesterday I was concerned more about having to be moved to a new job and all the stuff that needs to be done before then. I happened to see my ex walk by my office door yesterday (we work at the same place), and all I could think was what a sad and strange little man he actually is. I felt nothing except irritated at having had to see him.

So, what’s in a date? Nothing but what you assign it. I guess yesterday wasn’t so bad after all.

Rereading old posts

I got a comment yesterday on a posting I did way back in April. While April is only four months ago, it seems like an eternity. It happened so long ago that I had to go back and reread the post to fully understand the comment. Wow…lots of posts between here and there, and wouldn’t you know it…I actually passed my 100th posting a few posts back. When I began this blog, I never knew that I would have so much to say!

I think it’s a good idea to go back and read what you’ve written from time to time. I think I gained some perspective on things that have happened; certainly about my ex husband. I was pleased to find out that I’m generally less angry than I used to be. Is that healing? I don’t think so…I think being angry for too long just wears a person out and you have to let it go or let it suck you into the darkness. I’m glad I chose to try to focus on more positive things since that upset post in April.

Life isn’t always goodness and light, and I think that to leave out the dark stuff would be dishonest. However, there is probably always a better way to communicate something than just lashing out. Writing here has made me a little more thoughtful about how I communicate things, which has helped not only here, but in other areas of my life. I have read many posts from women who are angry with their ex husbands, and in most I see a lessening of the anger over time. I do know of one blogger who is still ranting and raving, and I wonder, when I’ve seen all those angry words, is that couldn’t there be somewhere or someone else that energy be better spent on? Who knows…I don’t have the answers, just the perspective from my little place on the High Plains.

What I do know is that blogging has been a fun exercise in thought – what I think about,  how I think about things, and how I communicate those thoughts with others. I hope that six months from now I’ll feel even more enlightened!

Blogging as communication therapy…who knew?

My kids are my parents’ best revenge

I had to get after Younger Son today, and now I feel like crap. I have told him time and time again how to do this particular chore, and he refuses to do it unless pushed

Facsimile of me pulling my hair out, curtesy of Google Images

and prodded, let alone do it right. Once he finally got going on said chore, I heard slamming of things, stomping around and nasty muttering. I’d had it…that was just the last straw, and I let him have it. I told him in no uncertain terms that this behavior was unacceptable and if he didn’t turn his ship around and sail straight, there would be consequences. He finally gave in, just did his job and got it done. Had he just done it to begin with, he’d have been finished a lot sooner.

Parenting is messy. It’s hard and mostly thankless, not that I think I need any thanks…I chose this. It was my decision to bring children into the world and part of that is following through to make sure they have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful once they get on their own. Teenagers being teenagers, aren’t going to blindly follow directions. They have their own thoughts about how things ought to work, and tend to be very black and white in their views. Things are either wrong or they aren’t…not much gray area. I remember being that way, and I am sure that my Mother has most likey just now fallen down in a giggling heap on the floor. I’ve no doubt that she has a detector that picks up on when my kids aren’t at their best, which triggers a manic laughter reaction. She did tell me once that my kids would be her best revenge on me. Now I find myself telling my kids the very same thing. While I can certainly wait to become a grandparent, I’m sure going to enjoy their kids exacting my revenge on my children for me (Muhuwhahahaha!).

What really chaps my cookies is that I had to be the heavy even when their father lived here. He rarely ever disciplined them, unless it was an extreme circumstance. Otherwise he was just the “good time” parent, and he had a tendency to do their chores for them, rather than make them do it themselves. Less confrontation and responsibility that way, you know.

The good news is that I have really good kids. They don’t get into trouble, they get good grades, and generally do what they are told. As things go, I could have it a lot harder.

Now the storm has cleared off and everything is back to normal. Hopefully things will stay that way for a while. I might take on the responsibility of having to be the heavy, but I sure hate doing it.

Nice weather and a good long walk…

Today was the first day of the year that I could get out and go for a good long walk. It’s got to be close to 60 degrees today, which is just right. During this long Winter, I’ve missed walking so much, and I think it’s because that’s what kept me sane from April until the snow fell last year. Not only did I lose a lot of weight (which I gained again over the Winter months), but walking constantly, multiple times a day helped me physically rid myself of tension, depression and anxiety so that I could function. It didn’t take it all away, but helped a lot.

Watch out...here I come!

So, Spring is here again and I’m itching to get outside. My ex husband had time scheduled with the boys today, so I decided just to go for a walk and be away from the house when it came time for him to pick them up. Being 15 and 17, they don’t need me around at all times, so I took the opportunity to salve my sanity. Yesterday when he picked them up I had to see him, and speak to him, and it was excruciating. I’ll never admit that to him or the kids, but there’s still a knife hanging out of my back, and every time I have to see or interact with him, it gives a good sharp twist. That’s what I have to work on this year…knife extraction. If I am to be completely honest with myself, the only reason it’s still there is I give it permission to be there. Part of the reason for that is that I’m hanging on to my anger… and I like it. I don’t want to not be angry about the kids and I being cheated on and dumped so carelessly, and, quite frankly, I just can’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t be angry about it. However, it takes a lot of energy to keep that up, and I suppose that one day I will just be too tired to keep it up any more. It would help a lot if my ex and his hussy would just kindly drop off the edge of the Earth, never to be heard from again…is that really too much to ask?

But, I digress…back to walking.

Not only does walking help drain off the negative energy I have all pent-up, but it gives me real time to think. While I listen to podcasts on my Ipod the whole time I’m out, sometimes I tune it out in favor of working stuff out in my head. Sometimes I pay sharp attention to whatever podcast is coming though my headphones, just for the pure distraction. The motion of walking and the mental distraction gives me time to reset, especially when I’m out walking for an hour to an hour-and-a-half.  I anticipate that once I get rolling, all this walking will help me take that weight off again, too, and hopefully I can keep it off.

Now that we have walking weather again, I’m hoping to get the boys out of the house to go walking with me more often…one at a time. Late last summer I was able to get some time alone with each kid. It was nice to just be able to talk about stuff alone, which was helpful given the eventful Spring and Summer we had last year.

So, now that I’ve had my walk for the day, I find I want to go for another one! I’ll have to start going early in the morning again every day now…and the evenings too.

An anniversary and an epiphany

Yesterday we went out to run some errands really quick. On the way to our first stop, Older Son said something that really annoyed the crap out of me, and I couldn’t quite let it go. It wasn’t that he said anything particularly incendiary, but it was the way he spoke to me that really lit my hair on fire.  After that I had a really hard time being civil, and I can’t even remember the content of the comment. I just remember the sound of it and how it made me feel.

By the time we made it to Walmart I was in such a snit I could barely see straight. The boys both went to Game Stop, and I went into Walmart and did my shopping. By the time they came back I was still angry and upset and couldn’t figure out why. I finally figured it out when Older Son turned to me and chastised me for purchasing a particular piece of fruit…in a tone his father used to use on me all the time. Then it hit me…I wasn’t angry at Older Son, I was angry with my ex.

I’m approaching the anniversary of when my world exploded and my marriage died. I don’t feel that I should have to worry about approaching this kind of anniversary, but for some reason my body isn’t listening to any good advice. In the last few months I’ve been depressed and feeling the need to hide. I’ve had no energy to do anything, and would like nothing better than to go to my room, close the door, and lose myself in a good book. But I spent the better part of ten years doing just that. The difference between now and then is that I tried to medicate myself back to happiness. I think I must have been perscribed almost every antidepressant/anti-anxiety med at one time or another. They all come with their own little quirks, and they all come with their own side effects. The side effects generally cancel out any benefit you might get from taking a given medication.

The last thing my doctor put me on was Lamictal, which is an anticonvulsant, after having diagnosed me with Bi-polar II. This particular malady causes a person to stay in a depressed low and have almost no manic periods. She must know, right? So, I took it  and hoped for the best. After being on that for a year, the side effects of the other medication went away and I had no problems. I continued to improve and things got so good at work, I ended up getting promoted to a job checking other people’s work. After a while, I quit taking it, feeling like I didn’t need it any more. Turns out I was right. The Lamictal didn’t do anything for me, really, but I was able to get all that other crap worked out of my system and get to know myself again. Not only did work improve, but things improved at home too…or so I thought. Just about this time last year, when I was riding high on my success, my husband was planning a trip to visit family, and plotting to cheat on me with an old girlfriend from high school….the bastard. More about that in a later rant. I’ll be doing a lot of that in the coming weeks.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that I can at least identify why I’ve been so out of sorts and put an end to it. Life starts today, as it does every day…all I can do is take it one step at a time.

Family traits, or lack thereof

Do you ever wonder what makes a person who they are? Is it just that little spark of the Divine that keeps your soul attached to your body that gives you everything you need to be who you are? Or, are you the sum of your parts? In this case, your parts would be the genetic traits you get from your family.

What gets me thinking about this is that I was just chatting with Favorite Aunty my Dad’s sister. Today is her birthday. As I was chatting with her on Facebook, I was looking at her picture, and realized how much she reminds me of  my Great Aunty. Favorite Aunty not only has a similar build to my Great Aunty, but she has a lot of the same “out-goingness” that Great Aunty had…very much a social butterfly. At the same time, she has all the physical and verbal mannerisms of her mother, my Grandma. It reminded me how I have seen my reflection in the windows at work and there’s something about the way I walk, and just the way I carry myself, that reminds me of Great Aunty. I just wish I had the same out-going personality! Somehow I can never say the right thing at the right time, and the witty comebacks never come to me until hours later. Oh well, Something I did get from Great Aunty (and Grandma too) is a love of cooking for family gatherings…something I wish I had more opportunity to do. I just don’t try to get my guests to stuff more in than they can hold!

I get a big kick out of watching my youngest son and my Dad together. They look like two peas in a pod, only my son is taller. He got the random tall gene which skipped my Dad and me, but landed on my brother and #2 son. My youngest has many of the same verbal and physical mannerisms of my brother too, which is strange as he takes after my mother’s brother in looks, but he has a lot of his dad’s personality. My #1 son takes after his father in looks, but he’s more like me in personality. Sometimes my brother also reminds me of my Grandfather, the way his words come out…it’s uncanny.

It’s so intriguing to me that we all carry around with the most complicated and detailed genetic soup, almost as though we had stolen pieces out of our ancestors’ genetic puzzles and combined them into our own picture. I’m eternally amazed at how children display their parent’s traits in new and interesting ways. I have to ask myself…if I were able to go back far enough into all the branches of my family tree, would I ever find someone just like me?

So, having said all of that, the thing I find myself asking next is what is it about who we are that attracts others? It’s easy enough to figure out what about someone is repellent to us, but I think that the non-physical things that we find attractive us are less easy to put a finger on. Sure people can be labeled as “fun”, or “outgoing” or a million other descriptors. There’s something else though…something not quite as tangible.

Let’s take for instance the man I married, and ultimately divorced. He is nothing like anyone else I ever dated, or crushed on, in looks or tendency. He’s nothing like my Dad, who is handy and can fix anything. He’s nothing like my brother who has a strong sense of loyalty, family and community. The truth is that I didn’t realize he didn’t have any of these valuable personality traits until it was too late. Seventeen years later, he cheated on me with this woman who kicked him to the curb 30 years ago…his “one true love”. (His words, not mine…Puleeeze! pardon me while I gag up my breakfast…) What is it about me that he thought would fill that hole that she supposedly left? I have no idea, I just know that what is fundamentally valuable to me in a husband was never present in the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with. So what was it about him that caused me to not look harder at his personality before I married him? What intangible thing overrode the truth? I have no idea, but I do know that what he did to me and our kids wasn’t heinous enough to completely override it. I still sometimes dream about him. What is it? I don’t believe it is love, because I wasn’t real happy in my married life before he cheated on me…Gods knows I’ll be better off in the long run.

So…What the hell is it?! Who knows. It’s probably something he inherited from one of his ancestors that spoke to something I inherited from one of mine.

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