Friday, December 31, 2010

A Gift at New Year

New Year's Eve is, in my mind, a bullshit holiday.  The calendar changes.  Nothing more.  Worse, it's the Gregorian calendar, developed by a damn pope as an extension of Imperialist Roman convenience and it's not connected to moon phases or anything remotely significant.  If Life is different in the morning, it's not different because it's suddenly, arbitrarily 2011.  Life changes for the same reasons it always does - or not.

I am starting off 2011 with a mild Depression.  As someone who spent decades in a state of profound Depression, mild depression is no big deal.   It's still a drag, though, and steps must be taken to avoid the downward spiral.

It all started a few days ago, at my parents' house in Texas.  A real estate agent called to say that someone wanted to see the house the next morning at 11:30.  Since my mother keeps the house so clean and tidy that it could be ready to show with very little preparation, there wasn't much to do.  It already looks like Martha Stewart approved her linen closets.  The whole place could be free of water spots and muffin crumbs in roughly thirty minutes, but when it comes to depression triggers, reality is irrelevant.

Apparently, the very idea of somebody coming to see the house activates childhood trauma for both me and my sister since my parents bought, renovated and sold homes.  Every eighteen months or so, the house was for sale/  The family's financial fortunes were directly tied to selling the house for a good price, so my mother was seriously dedicated to keeping the house eat-off-the-floor clean at all times.  As soon as a real estate agent called to say somebody was coming, we had to get it even cleaner.  The shag carpet had to be raked, bathroom fixtures, including towel bars and toilet paper holders spotlessly shined, beds made without a wrinkle, trash cans tissue free.

This training must be so thoroughly ingrained in my psyche that when the real estate agent called this week, I flipped my shit.  I felt like I had to have the gutters cleaned out and the siding pressure washed by sundown.  Or maybe I should have been touching up the paint on the baseboards.  Either way, the next thing you know, a noisy, hurtful scene erupted because I wanted to throw away a tin of Chex Mix.  We had already eaten more Chex Mix than anyone ever needs to eat anyway, and I was trying to clear the clutter from the kitchen counters.

Ten minutes later, I was sobbing in the backyard.  Around the corner of the house, over by the pool equipment, out of sight, entertaining suicidal thoughts.  I rapidly managed those thoughts with all the expertise of anyone who has had fifteen years of psychotherapy, but during the time I was in the zone, the despair was as intense as ever.  Maybe even more intense since that's what happens when we return to our childhood roles.

My mother and my sister both visited me in the backyard and were very kind.  Helpful even.  But once the trigger has activated the pattern, you have to go through the whole process, just like running a maze.  Having had years of practice, I can now climb about half way out of the hole in under an hour, and I'm back to my usual charming self in a day or two.  Before I learned to cope, the bouts could last months - and there was a time when it looked like I might not be able to find my way out at all.  That's when I got locked up.

I'm delighted and grateful that a head trip that used to last for weeks can now be fully experienced and under control in a few hours, but all those intense emotions rushing around your mind can make you dizzy.  Even after crisis has passed, some feelings linger and others get tossed into the mix.  Like the agitation that's been nagging at me ever since I had to be brutal to the man on the periphery.   When I read his last note, it sounded as if he wanted to be understood, but he wouldn't volunteer any confidences without coaxing and assurance.  I could have made those promises and asked to be enlightened - but I didn't.  My response cut off any chance of conversation or understanding.

Continuing the metaphor of me being in a castle with him as a minstrel or beggar wandering by, you could say that the gates of the castle used to be wide open, but now the draw bridge has been tightly closed and there are crocodiles in the moat.  I'm pretty sure a defensive position is necessary and wise, but it's not how I typically roll.  I had just fortified my defenses against this intruder when the Chex Mix episode triggered The Depression.  Although the despair has lifted, the isolation remains.  So once again, I find myself throwing out a blog post as if it's a message in a bottle.

These years of blogging have been one, long attempt to alleviate the isolation that makes life in the world so difficult these days even for people who don't get Depressed.   Our entire society is structured so that we remain isolated from each other, too despondent to protect our own rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness from Plutocrats and their Politicians.  If this article from Alternet is any indication, our European neighbors don't understand it any better than we do (America in Decline: Why Germans Think We're Insane).

Right now, I can't even think about the Government, and I'm certainly not interested in Recruiting for the Rebel Alliance.  I'd have a quiet, solitary New Year's Eve, but the kids will all be over here and maybe VeryMissMary too.  She and I might go out to dinner, then come back to HQ to make sure the kids are all right.  I heard the girls talking last night and they all want to wear dresses, so I imagine they will go out somewhere for a little while, run out of money and wind up over here.  One thing is sure - despite my own occasional bouts of suicidal despair, I've made a safe, comfortable environment for the kids.  It's a gift.

I'm pretty sure that's what actually attracts the men on the periphery.  I have nice skin and stuff, but I've become convinced it's not about Romance, or even sex although sometimes it starts out that way.  They appear to be seeking the same open-hearted acceptance I give to Velvet, and to my kids at school   That acceptance sometimes looks like indulgence, and I suppose it is - but as long as everyone is safe and respectful, there's no reason to be a authoritarian hard-ass when you could be having fun. Why not have the most pleasant home you can afford - especially when acceptance and understanding don't cost anything? Besides, it's not like Velvet gets away with murder.  He's off to Siberia in February.

Actually, he's pretty glad to be banished to Siberia - although the Wind River Wilderness in Wyoming isn't exactly Gulag Archipelago.  All I have to do now is arrange for him to do some volunteer work for an organization like Greenpeace and he can be an eco-activist like those guys who hang banners on oil rigs.  He's already told me that he wants to be like James Phillips, aka The Fox

I did promise Velvet that if he does well in the Rockies and figures out how to pass a class up at Tree Hugger once we get things squared away with the Dean, then he can have a semester in New Zealand or Patagonia.  Or maybe a summer in the Amazon.  If you're going to be an environmentalist, you may as well experience the dang environment.


Beach Bum aka Captain Barbossa said...

As soon as a real estate agent called to say somebody was coming, we had to get it even cleaner.

Mom-in-law is a retired real estate agent, and guess who decided to stay with us when my wife and I put our first house up for sell. After a week of her "suggestions" I would have volunteered for duty in Iraq if the war was going on then.

Jupiter Family said...

Happy New Year!!
New Year's 2011 Fireworks Celebrations Around the World
Demo on YouTube

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Happy new year dear.

Gail said...


and when my parents sold our home I cried for weeks - I understand. I remember sobbing in to the phone with my Mom saying, "no, no, no".

Love you girl

and that is amazing to me how you have a handle on the depression thing - I mean, really freaking amazing

PENolan said...

Beach - I've been noticing your new Captain persona/avatar but I must have missed the explanatory memo. Has it got something to do with Vacation on the Horizon?

Doctor, back at cha.
You, too, Gail.
And Jupiter, I'm sure somebody somewhere will enjoy the fireworks.

okjimm said...

A mild depression???? Sheesh I have had one so long I just kind dress it up and take it with me around town, kinda like a pet monkey or something. But Seriously....have a good day.... I think New Years is bullshit, too. I mean, if they, whoever THEY are, wanted a nice 'New Year' they would move the holdiay to say April or somehting. Alla Best.

Beach Bum aka Captain Barbossa said...

Tricia, Yeah, I have plans in the works to take over the Disney Magic with the aid of Pirate Goofy, Donald Duck, and Stitch. I have my Captain Jack Sparrow hat and a couple of liter bottles of cheap tequila I will smuggle on the ship with every intention of turning one of the Disney Princesses on board into a "salty wench."

Yeah, I'm sort of stoked about the trip.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Let me know if bribing Velvet works. Jr. finally fessed up today to failing every single class. He says to me, "did you know if you miss 6 classes they automatically flunk you?" I handed the phone to M to keep from screaming cuss words at him. Just breathe, right?

Liberality said...

As a person who has PTSD, I know that cycle of thoughts that leads to depression. Once triggered it seems the depression or thought monster must play itself all the way out before I can be done with it. As I get older though I am able to hurry that process along. I am glad I can understand what is going on and give myself a pep talk.

PENolan said...

Yeah, once you understand the process, it's not so bad anymore.
Blessed be.

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