Sunday, November 20, 2016


It started a month ago. Or perhaps a year before that. And another five before that. Thirteen before that, but for our purposes, let's leave off those extra thirteen. Five years before the first year I was depressed, emotional, and seeing a therapist. She prescription an antidepressant. It was wonderful. My emotions stabilized. I felt happier than I had for years. Those were the five years - being happy, feeling stable, developing a wide range of coping mechanisms besides just medication. Thinking, from time to time, that perhaps it was time to end the prescription.

And then, one year ago, I read The Chemistry of Joy and did decide to top, very slowly and under the guidance of a my therapist. That brings us to one month ago. That is when, October 23, I took my very last half of a 5 mg tablet of Citalopram. I was proud of myself and I thought, "Well, I'm finished with that."

That week I cried without reason, I flew into rages and, on Thursday, I was so angry and terrible to my husband that I immediately called and refilled my prescription. If this is me without the drugs, I can't do it.

It wasn't until I started feelng headache and very very sleepy during the day that I thought maybe something else was afoot. Withdrawal symptoms. I looked them up. There is a long and agonizing list of withdrawal symptoms for this medication, and most people described enduring the torture for weeks, if not months.

It has now been one month. One month many extremes of emotions. For a week, I was nauseated and barely able to stay away. I would fly into a rage at small things - a dizzy monster version of myself. One night, I jolted awake in the middle of the night, heart pounding and filled with terror. I turned on the lights, feeling that my brain was collapsing in on itself. That I was trapped inside my brain - like an episode of Stranger Things. R asked me what was wrong, and I knew there was nothing he could do to help. I put my head between my knees and counted to 100. The next day, I diagnosed it as a panic attack, the first I'd really ever had.

Intense anxiety is listed with the withdrawal symptoms. So are fits of crying. Irritability. But also with the withdrawal symptoms was something of a time frame. After one month, the symptoms should mostly be finished.

Yesterday I was on edge all day. It was a familiar feeling, something I remember feeling in high school or in college, in the days before the medication. It was also something I may have brought on myself. Against all better judgement, I had reacted to an extreme article on someone's Facebook wall and then nervously waited their replies. i drank too much caffeine and ate too much sugar. In the evening, I called my mom and wept, telling her all my political frustrations and fears, and then felt numb and tired.

Finding me like this, my husband told me that he'd come to expect a breakdown at least once a week. The present situation: emotions flying all over the place, and me trying to determine what to do with them. Which version of myself is the one that is the medicine-free me? When emotions and anxiety strikes, how much do they reflect realty and how much have they been exaggerated by the symptoms? I don't want to be left invalidated or ignored. These are days in extremes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Live a Creative Life

After viewing this lovely little infographic, (which I came across on a truly wonderful blog–thanks, Abi and Pakou!), I chose to create my own procedure for living a creative life.

I do not have a scanner and creating the whole thing on paint, or the like, would take way too long. So I took these photos with the camera on my laptop.

Here’s the full diagram.

And then I figured out how to make my laptop take pictures that are not mirror images.
 The first page:
 The second page:
 If you really want to know, here’s what it says. You can look at the pictures while I read it to you.

“How to Live a Creative Life”

Wake up. Lay in bed for 30 min longer.

 Think about how you wish you had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.

Try to remember who wrote that quote.

Go make oatmeal. Put lots of good things in it -> all your favorite things so it won’t taste bad.
Coconut, peanut butter, chocolate, bananas, cinnamon, sugar…
– not Cheetos.

Bad idea. Start over. [Bad ideas go in the compost heap.]

Ride your bike to work. Wear lots of flashing lights. And sing while you go.

Send a clever text message, you clever fool.

Do yoga at your desk. Make up your own poses. Wear your bike helmet.

Bad idea. Start over.

Paint a water-color at a coffee shop.

Write fake journal entries. (“Today I rode a motorcycle.”)

Read your fake journal. Try to remember which entries are true.

Accidentally leave your fake journal someplace where someone will find it.

Perform in a poetry slam.

Bad idea. Start over.

Play an instrument. Maybe a kazoo.

Try to have really good handwriting.
Play softball with a rubber chicken as the ball.

Play softball with a banana as the ball.

Bad idea. Start over.

Start a blog which you’ll never post on.

If you create a creative life diagram, please share. I’m looking for a reliable manual.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

May 13, 1943

Carl has finished his army training and now he waits with his company to be sent into duty. They have been moved to three different camps in three states within the past month, with no idea where they will be sent next. He is now in New York City, preparing to ship out any day.

He writes on U.S.O stationary, with the words "IDLE GOSSIP SINKS SHIPS" printed in red on every piece of paper and on the outside of each envelop. Each letter is subject to censorship and already a few lines were cut out from one he wrote earlier in the month. Somehow, he knows that this letter will not be censored--probably the last uncensored letter he will write until the war is over.

To preserve his writing, I have not edited any spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Here are his words:

Well dearest it seems like the zero hour has arrived. I have no idea where we will be transfered from here. Plans and prepairations are being made for our exportation. It is quite certain that we will leave New York in a boat. I assume it will be either England or Alaska, according to the clothing that have [sic] been issued to us.

These two options of England or Alaska seem very arbitrary to me. What sort of clothes could they have been given which would suggest these two places? Did my grandpa really think they would be taking a boat from New York to Alaska? Was the U.S. Army really sending troops to Alaska during WWII? At first I thought this was a joke. It might be, but this next excerpt made me wonder.

I have a plan to out-smart the censor. In case they do not permit me to tell you where I am I will give you names of persons representing places. Here they are. Loyd = London, Alice = Alaska August = Australia Alfreda = Africa Irma = Ireland Isaac = Iceland, Alta some Island in the Atlantic and Paul for some Island in the Pacific (Greenland = George). I will questing [sic] you in the following manner; How is Paul by this time, hereby you will be able to tell where I am. I sure get radical ideas you may even smile at them. I hope to be “smarter” some day.

As someone looking back on WWII, I find these choices of countries very odd. There seem to be several glaring omissions. What's the code for Germany? France? Italy? Did he really think he was more likely to be sent to Australia or Greenland than to Germany? Did the U.S. Army even have operations in Australia during WWII? Since this is the last uncensored letter Carl will write for the rest of the war, it would seem he would want to cover all bases. Thoughts?

Letters from World War II

From September 1943 until March 1945, my grandfather wrote a letter to my grandmother almost every other day. My grandmother kept every single one. She only told us about the existence of these letters a few years ago, very close to the time of my grandfather's death. I now have the letters in my possession and am slowly reading through them, typing them up, and tracing my grandparents' relationship.

Since these letters are so intensely personal and highly valued, I have hesitated to say anything about them here and am still unsure what form my posts take. But I wanted to share some thoughts and some tidbits with you. My knowledge of World War II is not great, so I also want to pick your brains and get some feedback.

As an introduction, let me just say that the man who wrote these letters, a 23-year-old awaiting both the right moment to propose to his sweetheart and his summons from the draft, is a man that neither his son nor his grandchildren knew. He was a hard-working, no-nonsense father and by the time my sister and I came along, he was a quiet, serious grandfather. But the man I have met in these letters is, as he labels himself, a "wide-eyed dreamer," filled with philosophies and theories about the world, writting tenderly and candidly to my grandma.

I first started typing out the letters in November, 2010, exactly 67 years after my grandfather first penned them. I was typing his letter from November 12, 1943 on November 12, 2010. He was 23 when he wrote them. I was six months older and 24 at the time. I have since fallen behind in my recording, but I strive to keep this connection as I follow my grandfather's pen strokes.

I do my best to type at least one letter each night, and so spend my evenings developing an intimate relationship with my 23-year-old grandfather, a stranger who is quickly becoming a friend.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Psalm 126:1

They blink—

new day

light slants through

tired blinds

—and rub their eyes.

Slip bare feet onto the carpet,
yesterday crusted and thin.
Today feet fall so slightly softer

upon the first coat of Lamb’s blood,
of Yes, Lord.
A glance up
 toward the—how many is it now?
Let’s call it the first
of the  seventy times seven.

Later, they will eat spoonfuls of grace with their cereal,
find forgiveness in their dryer sheets.

Last Friday, Jesus prayed that we would all be one.
Today, light bulbs buzz laments.

They sit at the loom
tying frayed ends,
weaving the tapestry that is their marriage.

               One row.
 Two rows—
Tear it out.
                One row.
                                Two rows.
A three-row day.

They do not notice the thread,
a new color becoming more prominent:
the prayers of people they do not know.

Exhausted, wordless, they fall to bed, to sleep,
               unaware of the loosening grave clothes.

It is only the first day,
and two long nights
before the third morning.

Holy eyelids flutter.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Humans of God,
Take your place in line.

Ashes in pie tin
mix with ashes on skin.
When you rub my forehead
are you applying
or uncovering?

Priest to priest,
From dust we have come--
vertical line
--to dust we shall return.
passed from ashes
to ashes.

Pastor Jeff said,
“The reason for the ash
is to remind us that we all come
from the same place:
we are all dirt.”

An endless chain of fetid priests,
every white-washed one of us.

The first emerging from dust,
the last disintegrating.

Dirt caked nails,
ratted hair,
stinking breath,
burnt wick, broken incense.
Image of God,
Give me your sacrament.

Reveal my ash.

Until we return to the ground,
let's take our place in line

to be anointed by the whore priests
in the footsteps of our Lord.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Waiting for Wedding

This weekend I received a free book in the mail, Love Worth the Wait: Trusting God for Real Romance and Real Relationship, from a certain conservative Christian organization as a thank you gift for my recent donation. Now, I don’t remember ever having any contact with this organization, and as far as I know I never donated to them. I have no idea how they got my address—although I do have a sneaky suspicion that my Grandma, who is always sending me literature on getting married, donated in my name.  

I really only read about three pages of it, but they were very thought-provoking. After flipping through a little, I turned to a chapter called “Living with Unmet Desires,” which sounded considerably more interesting to me than “Is this ‘The One’?”  The first suggestion is to “Practice active waiting.” While you’re waiting for your man, ahem, Prince Charming, to sweep in, you may as well do something. The author suggests, among other things, that you “Take a class or finish your degree,” “Explore and develop an enjoyable hobby, whether it’s seasonal like softball or something ongoing like photography,” “Volunteer somewhere,” “Read at least two or three missionary biographies,” (ah yes, that’ll definitely make the time pass faster—I’m sure to have a husband by the time I finish J. Hudson Taylor: Pioneer Missionary and David Livingstone: The Pathfinder of Africa), and my personal favorite “If you are in debt, begin to climb out of it.” Oh I certainly hope there is not a man out there waiting to marry me before he starts paying off his debt, because I can tell you he’s going to be waiting a long time.

It beats me what this author assumes single women are doing with their lives while they wait to be wed. However, I am not exactly the intended audience of this book: while I do have unmet desires, mine fall more along the lines of wanting a travel partner to go with to India than wanting someone to “provide for me,” whatever that means. Perhaps there are women out there who are not exploring hobbies, getting degrees, earning money, or reading missionary biographies (okay, there might be several who aren’t doing that), people to whom it never occurred to invite a friend out for a Saturday morning brunch. Maybe there are women who are actually doing nothing besides sitting at home waiting for someone to propose.  And that is very sad. What is this underlying message that a woman’s life begins once she’s married? You’ll never hear that a man’s life begins once he’s married: more likely you’ll hear that it ends! I say, why wait? There’s plenty of happiness to be had without combining your laundry with someone else’s, or listening to someone’s breathing all night long.

At any rate, I thought the list of “waiting” activities in this book was unhelpful, and rather unpractical. (Can’t we also play softball and read missionary biographies after we’re married? I should hope so.) So I set out to think of a few practical activities that one could do while waiting to get married and start a family, things that will make life easier once this family is in place. I enlisted the help of my cousin, and together we created the following list. Some of these suggestions are more specifically for waiting to become a mother and some are practical for marriage.

  • Stock-pile frozen meals. I have seen mothers, and believe me they are busy people. Isn’t it a paradox that being single means you have the time to cook enormous meals? Why not work ahead for those days of running the kids to daycare?
  • Get yourself onto a polyphasic sleeping schedule. If you’re only taking six twenty-minute naps, you will have no trouble with mid-night feedings, or nightmares.
  • Start sewing baby diapers (or any sort of baby clothes) 
  • Do arm curls. Those children can be heavy--particularly when their weight is combined with that of a car seat!
  • Hang out in sewers, hog farms, and dirty bathrooms to increase your tolerance for nasty smells (which is good preparation for having kids)
  • Spend a lot of time with highly opinionated people with whom you do not agree, so you can practice communication and conflict resolution. Lock yourself in close quarters with these people. In fact, maybe just turn yourself in to the local jail. If you can maintain working relationships with those people, conflict resolution with a future spouse will certainly be a breeze!
  • Live with opposites. For instance, if you like to sleep with the windows closed in the winter, sleep with them open. If you like eating meat well-done, practice eating it raw. If you like to be able to see your bedroom floor, take out all of your drawers and strew their contents around the room. By the time you get married, you'll be very well adjusted to living styles that are different from your own.
Neither my cousin nor I are married, which gives us a slight disadvantage. Are you a married person? Do you have children? What do you wish you would have done  while you had more time and personal space? Are you single and "actively waiting," or "actively living as a single person"? Do you have more ideas? 

What can "actively waiting" singles do to practically prepare themselves for marriage, besides reading books like the one mentioned above?