Today is a day to finish the year strong.
Today is a day to exhale. Seek release, give relief, rest.
Today is a day of beginnings and endings.
Today is a day to have fun.
Today is day to seek warmth and spread joy.
Visit babies, surprise neighbors, put off setting up Christmas tree because it’s not due yet.
Twenty one years ago I spent the evening and the night staring into my newborn daughter’s eyes. She wasn’t tired, so I wasn’t tired either and we stayed up hour after hour the entire night just the two of us in a cold hospital room lit only by the blue light that comes from putting the hospital tv on the tv listings channel.
Although she was due on 12/20, she arrived 12/17, skidding into the world right before my birthday.
The universe’s timing is perfect and all but seriously she took over my birthday cake game like the USSR took over Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
For decades it seemed silly to order a cake for myself when there was always cake left over from her birthday.
No big deal.
I resigned with the veil of saint motherhood to a life of stale cake mixed with ice cream, a treat any day, but never what I wanted since the only cake I ever want/wanted/will ever want for my birthday is carrot cake.
Over the past few years it has become a tradition for Zack to pick out something funny to surprise Zoe with on her cake. Last night Zack tried to make something she’d like but Publix rejected “Happy Birthday Now You Can Buy Us Alcohol” and I had to improv.
After creating her vanilla/lemon cake I ordered her a posh charcuterie board and almost completed my order but then a voice inside me said “order yourself a carrot cake.”
It’s the same voice that sings along loudly to Ariana Grande’s “Seven Rings” - I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.
It’s the voice inside me that begged to try the “Reacting to the Past” historical role playing games which have lead to the most fun and also highest success rates I’ve ever had in the classroom.
So I listened.
I ordered myself a carrot cake with hummingbird filling and cream cheese icing and my name written across the top.
I only want a piece, I don’t even know who else will share it with me, but having it in my fridge makes me the richest woman in the world (after Ariana Grande)
No one knows what the future holds, but I am damn sure mine will not include stale cake flavored with the hope someone else will bring me what I want despite the fact I can just get for myself.
Today is a day to put things together.
Today is a day for pleasure.
Today we celebrate relief.
Exhale effortlessly, sleep deeply, practice perpetual pacification.
Today is a day of big meetings about tying up loose ends and making path forward.
Take care big and small details, find balance, embrace freedom.
Today is a day of freedom; freedom from some things and freedom to do other things.
Today is a day to celebrate ending of beginnings.
Bring treats, shine warmth, laugh and let go.
I have three days of work left, if talking about the Cold War and playing “Reacting to the Past” games counts as work.
Time to reflect on what worked (playing games in class!) and what didn’t (allowing students to earn points so quickly that some of my strongest students finished the class weeks before Halloween).
Today is a day of uncertainty.
Just tried to wake my son up for school and there’s no school this week.
I have classes to teach, even though my students scattered out of town last week.
Somehow work will get done, creativity will triumph and I’m not sure how yet.
Today’s food: cheese and cracker’s
Today’s exercise: patience
Today is a day for questions, answers and bonus points.
Have fun, be direct, win and move on to the semi-finals.
Today is a day of great potential. Make good choices, get test results, lean into the future.
Today is a day to practice things.
Cultivate peace, stretch in silence, plan the future.
Today is day to have fun, tell stories and enjoy the view; only two Mondays left in this epic amazing semester.
Today is a day off work filled with of unpaid labor.
Move furniture, go to the grocery, mop.
Today is the day for pleasure.
Today is a good day to want to stay in bed but get up anyway.
This week is only three days long, so make the most of this Monday and bravely get out of the warm soft bed and face the cold room and the cold world.
Wear socks. (Find socks, then wear them)
Today is a day of suspense and surprises.
Today is a day of beginnings.
Take initiative, set the agenda, lead.
Today is a day to hit a proverbial home run and stroll the imaginary bases.
Start WW1, end Game 2, order catering for the #TCC4Vets Veterans dinner tomorrow.
Today is a day of improvising. Play history games, let learning happen, stay as quiet as possible until asked for help.
Today is a good day to make good choices.
Get vaccines, do laundry, sit outside and listen to the breeze ruffle the leaves, nap.
Today is a day of surrender.
Today is a day of parties and farewells.
Cheer on friends, bring cash gifts, do everything possible to stay awake.
Today is a day to get shit done.
Today’s exercise: the triumphant tango tangle
Today is a day of wonder and enjoyment.
Roll around under blankets, sip perfect coffee, accomplish many small important things.
Today’s food: vanilla caramel coffee
Today’s exercise: the patient snail
Thanks to my mom and my kids (and that damn bumper sticker) I did reach out.
I did ask for help.
I do want to do the things that I used to do that brought me joy and made me feel like I was a valuable part of a community.
Last night I had a dream that I had to write an important speech for a big audience but I couldn't actually write anything because all I had was a fat paintbrush and a cup of water.
No pen. No ink. No paint. No paper. No canvas. No laptop.
I tried writing with water on the wall but the words evaporated before they could make sense.
The worst part of the dream was that I knew what I needed to write -- words of encouragement, something that would shine a little light into the fog.
When I woke up this morning I shook that nightmare off and knew it was time to stop the silence, stop the quiet, and start to get up and go again.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, I hope this small story gives you the push you might have been waiting for to get help.
When my mom told me everyone was worried about me I cried with both surprise and shock and (out of practice and habit) immediately denied everything.
I'm fine. I'm happy. I'm really peaceful. Everything is good.
She squeezed my hands between hers as a I stared at the pictures on her wall. There's me at Disney World in 1976, there's me with Abuela, there's me at a booksigning for Marvin's Book. I hardly know the person smiling back at me, so I stare at the lovely plant sprawling ambitiously out of its basket.
Unconvinced by my feeble response she starts to list every person in my family who has faced depression and gotten help for it.
She tells me life doesn't have to be as hard as it's been. I shake my head. I can't imagine things being easier, I can't even see that path from where I am. I cry harder. I don't want to be here, I don't want to hear this, I don't want any of this to be true but denying it won't make it go away.
Before she lets me leave the sofa she makes me promise I will reach out to my therapist and my doctor and get help.
Then she lets me go, and a cloud of sadness follows me to the car. After about an hour into our drive home I finally tell the kids what my mom said and they go "hooray." The next morning I make the calls, and am met with a flood of support.
If you were to ask me how I've been this year, I would say GREAT.
I would probably say that I have been seeking peace, finding quiet, and looking for balance.
All of that is true, but it isn't a complete answer.
Little by little -- then all at once -- I stopped doing the things that I normally do. The things I do that bring my joy and connection and service.
I stopped bringing dinners to Veterans Village.
I stopped running.
I stopped writing.
I stopped painting.
I stopped researching in digital archives and instead watched all 6 seasons of Downton Abby in a week, the followed it up with a binge of 5 seasons of Working Moms. Same with Schitt's Creek, the Morning Show, Ted Lasso, Kim's Convenience and WandaVision.
I sat on my deck for hours and fed bluejays peanuts while building a strong relationship with a particularly bold cardinal that would come look in the window and wave around for me if I hadn't gone outside to bring their food yet.
On the inside I was having a blast, on the outside I probably came across as aloof, withdrawn, impossible to get a hold of.
I did what I wanted and needed to do to get on with life -- cleaned out my closet, redid my room and emptied most of the garage. Besides that I couldn't make myself do the small things that shouldn't be a big deal. Returning phone calls, running errands, planning anything for the future just seemed too hard, too steep to face. So instead of pushing myself I just sat quietly until quiet became my new norm.
The best way to describe my motivation is with a bumper sticker I saw on an old truck in the 1970s warning drivers behind it "My get up and go got up and went."
I'm never quite sure where to start a story -- the middle? the end? --- so I'll start it on the sofa of my mom's office which was once my childhood bedroom.
Out of an abundance of caution we stayed apart for 18 months, then cautiously came together after we were vaccinated. The first time we saw each other was in May, the second time was the last week of July. After days of cloud watching, snorkeling, reading and other quiet pursuits, I was ready to pack my kids up and drive back to Tallahassee.
I thought my mom was about to hug me goodbye but no, she told the kids and my dad that she needed to talk to me and brought me to her room and closed the door.
My stomach sank. I braced myself for what was coming. The bad news, the other shoe to drop, something so horrible that it couldn't be discussed before now and so awful it couldn't wait until we talked on the phone after I got home.
She pulls my hands between hers and tells me that yesterday was so wonderful that she would be ok if it were her last day. I start crying. I know something bad is coming, here it is, here it comes.
She tells me that my kids love each other very much and are delightful. I cry harder. She pull my chin up because I can't even look at her since I know the worst news is about to come, something unimaginably bad. I want to run away but I'm cornered and held down by her love and concern.
Then she says it.
The kids are worried about you. I'm worried about you. You need to get help.
Everything that is alive is partially growing and partially dying, always changing.
It is no secret and no surprise that I am going through some big things, and as part of that I've been staying here and there and other places -- no easy feat in a pandemic.
More than ever, I find solace in solitude, and savor the silence I am fighting hard to cultivate and live in.
After years (decades?) of swimming against a current, I surrender to the inevitable, to the peace I was seeking in the wrong places and the wrong way.
This morning -- like many mornings recently - I wake up before my alarm, before dawn, and stew in stolen hours.
I open the layers of my hotel curtains -- the thick one, the thin one, the sheer one -- revealing a mystically cloudy hazy yellow orange pink sky.
Fantastic. Everyday I do yoga sun salutations to nowhere, usually not looking at the sky, habitually not seeking the sun.
Today the sun finds me, glowing impossibly orange outside my window.
I welcome it and do my yoga poses, the first set, the second set, the third set.
The sun doesn't move, or at least it rises impossibly slowly.
I am giddy with delight to get to savor the sunrise, entranced with the red orange glow against the periwinkle sky.
I do a 4th set of poses, then a 5th set.
Sweat glows on my face, and I wonder if I have enough time to work on my lecture before class.
I check my watch. I have plenty of time to play with the lecture that goes from Treaty of Versailles to douching with Lysol. Plenty of time.
I do a 6th set of sun salutation poses, reveling in the miracle that I get to watch such a beautiful sunrise.
But it seems to me the sun is going nowhere, so I take a pause from my yoga and look harder and let go of what I think I am seeing so that I can see what is there.
It isn't the sun.
It is the red-orange half-circle glow of the Outback Steakhouse sign, lighting up the sky around I-10.
Of course it is. I laugh at myself and the world and get into the shower, wondering what else is in front of me that I can't quite see yet.