Breaking Up the Crust

I recently discovered that my heart had grown, without me noticing, a thin, little crust.

I don’t mean that I’m cold hearted or unable to feel. If anything, I err on feeling too much. Every injustice in the news makes me angry. Every story of suffering makes my heart squeeze with the pain of it.

No, what I have is the result of my mental illness, not from my nature. I was born wearing my heart on my sleeve. I would throw full on tantrums at age twelve. I spoke my mind a little too much. I was an over-sharer. I hadn’t even realized I’d developed this crusty heart, until my therapist kept asking me, “Do you hide your depression?”

No, I told her. I don’t hide it. I talk about it on social media. I’ve blogged about it. All my friends know.

Then I sat with the question for a little bit longer.

I do hide my depression. I call it being strong. I call it not bothering people with my bad mood (that’s lasted years). I hide it when someone asks how I’ve been and I lie to them. I never talk freely about my bipolar disorder to anyone, really. I talk about it sometimes in the past tense, like it’s something that’s gone away, instead of the black dog it is, always by my side.

I realized why though–why I don’t talk about it and why I’ve got a crust. Because here’s the truly terrifying thing about depression. Being depressed is like having a hole. A hole of emotional need. The natural thing to do is to look to other people to fill it. And when you look to other people to fill it, it doesn’t work. At least, not much. Because depression is a bitch, and it can’t be placated with things like a nice snuggle or a good talk with a friend. You battle depression in your head, by yourself, using tools you don’t have and willpower that depression itself has sucked from you. It’s an impossible scenario.

Pretty soon into depression, I talked myself into believing that if I didn’t want to be a soul-sucking, leech of a mother, wife, friend, that I had to keep my depression to myself. But keeping it to myself made a crust of isolation and an independent, stubborn, strong streak. Because I wasn’t meeting my emotional needs, for years at a time. Having untreated bipolar disorder closed me off, and it made me reluctant to be vulnerable with people.

Now, I’m slowly learning that the world doesn’t end if I talk about it. That I’m still loveable even if I’m depressed. It’s not easy to trust that I don’t need to be so strong, such an impenetrable fortress. I’m stepping away from my self-induced isolation, and slowly, I’m breaking up the crust.

What Being a Parent of a Preteen is Really Like or the Great Parfait Debacle

I am >< this close to banning yogurt from our lives forever.

It started innocently enough. My third son, Griffin, age 10, loves yogurt. Like enough to drink a Gogurt down in one go. It’s like watching someone chug milk out of a jug.

We were hungry one day at Disneyland and Griffin wasn’t a fan of the options at the place we were eating. I’m blessed to have four picky eaters, so mealtimes are fun rainbow bunny laughs 100% of the time. When I saw they had parfaits, I was like: I have found it! The solution for this meal!

This was shortsighted of me though. Because it solved that meal a little too well. Griffin loved this Disneyland parfait so much that it set off an obsession. We bought him one at McDonald’s, and it was now over, now that he knew he could get parfaits at locations spaced approximately every 15 miles (and not just one location more than 1000 miles away.) At this point, I was still ignorant to my fate and thought I was simply bringing joy and smiles to my moody preteen. I did not realize I was creating an obsession in my child that would spill into my life for WEEKS. WEEKS.

I am weary.

Griffin has asked in the weeks since we got home from Disney for the supplies to make parfaits. However, since we got home I haven’t done a big grocery store trip. I’ve only done panic shopping. Panic shopping is when I text David in a panic saying that we’re almost out of milk or eggs or bread and David texts me back that he’ll pick some up. Panic shopping does not include ingredients to make anything.

So, no ingredients for parfaits at this point, and two weeks ago, I take pity on him. Since we are running late for our first rehearsal for our new show, I stop to buy a McDonald’s parfait.

Do you see my mistake? I didn’t realize it at first either. But, if you do something with your kid on the first day of an activity, they might be inclined to think it’s part of that activity. Like a tradition. Or to use a word from the Right, an entitlement.

Big mistake.

Now he is obsessed. Every rehearsal is about How I Did Not Buy Him A Parfait. He comes up to me, leans his head dejected on my arm, and groans, “Parfaaaaaait.” Like multiple times. He’s moody and when I ask what’s wrong, I get the same answer. “Parfaaaait.” The 20 minute drive to rehearsals is filled with his hope that I will stop for a parfait, although I have told him no every day the past two weeks and not given in once, and the drive home is the exact same. A parfait-longing fills the car.

I finally bought the stuff to make parfaits tonight, but fresh blueberries were $7 and strawberries were $5, and we are trying to save for Christmas. So, I got frozen berries. Which was the wrong choice. Griff declared the entire parfait “gross.” I don’t blame him too much, but can we please STOP HAVING OUR LIVES REVOLVE AROUND YOGURT?

Complexity

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately. Specifically, musicals, but that’s beside the point. Because I love language, music has always been more about the lyrics for me in a way. Give me a clever lyric, and I almost don’t care about the melody. However, I’ve been trying to listen more deeply–listening for the beautiful complexity that’s created by the weaving of the words with the melody and harmonies, the interaction between the vocals and the instrumentals, the interplay of the rhythms and the dynamics.

So often, we’re told to find the beauty in the simple, and while that’s true, there’s beauty to too in the complex. I love looking at a leaf or a blossom from my cherry tree and seeing the complexity of each vein and cell; the chaotic order than nature imposes on life. What at first may look simple may be in reality much more complicated.

I’ve never been one for keeping it simple. It isn’t in me. The routine of my life is simple. I wake up, I go to work, I come home, I check Facebook and Tumblr, I might go to theater rehearsals or work on a project, and then I go to bed. But it’s the complexity of these activities that make them fresh day after day. It’s the challenge of learning my lines or teaching myself a difficult new lace knit stitch while I watch Gilmore Girls again or deciding that I am going to sew my own Edwardian costume for my current show that keeps my life from feeling stale.

I’m not afraid of failing at a complex task. I fail, I learn, I master. And it’s the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction I get at the mastery of whatever I’m doing that drives me to my complicated hobbies.

In the day to day, I’m occasionally too hard on myself for failing to keep it simple, stupid. But, maybe I need to stop. Maybe I should appreciate those moments of complexity and the beauty found there. Maybe some things are better when they’re complex.