Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Monday night after Great Scott's tests, I stayed up until 3:something in the morning, unwilling to sleep, wanting to stop time in the stillness of the night. I was cold. Very cold. Putting on another sweater didn't help. Putting on houseshoes didn't help. Sitting directly in front of the heat stove helped a little, but not much. When I did go to bed, I piled on the covers but couldn't sleep for my violent shivering. This continued all day yesterday and into today.

On the rare occasions that I speak (or write) of the most painful and frightening things that have happened in my life, I don't get emotional and am not tempted to. I don't cry; I don't feel like crying. I don't get angry. I don't feel afraid. My body, however, becomes very cold, and I tremble. I tremble hard. So given our current concern about Scott, I assumed that my feeling chilled was probably a physical manifestation of emotional stress.

This morning I took a walk. Last night had brought a hard frost, and even past 10:00 a.m. each grass blade and fallen leaf was outlined (when not completely covered) in its thick silvered-white. Halfway back to the house I knelt in the middle of the gravel road and cried, my hands in my lap, the stones pressing against my knees. When I thought I had my breath back, I lay down on the ground, my face buried in my arms. And this was good. There is a comfort in hard earth, in the chill of stone, in their solidness, their support along the body, their stillness. I lay there a long time, letting these soak into me, and if I went home feeling even colder than before, I also went home understanding that while I had been afraid of the cold after all, I don't have to be .

(Note: I discovered this afternoon that I am, indeed, running a fever, and I've been queasy all day, as has our older daughter. The stomach flu, I am told, is going around again. Ah, timing!)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Holiday--The Report

Great Scott! blogged much more during Thanksgiving break than did I. If you'd like to know more, read his posts for Nov. 23, Nov. 24, Nov. 25 and Nov. 26.

There is no blog entry on Great Scott!'s blog for Nov. 27. November the 27th--yesterday--Great Scott and I spent the day in the emergency room. Today we spent the day in the urologist's office. Thursday we will spend the day at the hospital having more tests done and in the urologist's office as he hopefully finds something conclusive in these tests, since today's has given us only this good news: "Well, it's not cancer of the bladder."

No, cancer is not a surity. So far the only proven thing is that there is blood where there ought not be, that kidney stones are not causing it, and that Great Scott! does not appreciate any number of rather personal medical procedures. I can't say that I blame him.

We have learned that one does hear particularly interesting conversations among the nurses of the ER when one is in a curtained cubical across the hall from their desk. One went something like this:

Nurse 1: "Ok. I'm going to lunch. You'll be ok until I get back."
Nurse 2: "I think I'm going to throw up."
Nurse 1: "Oh, no. You'll be fine! There's nothing to worry about. Nothing can happen that can't be fixed! It's all fixable! (thoughtful pause) . . . except death. (another pause, then continuing perkily) You can't fix death!

I also discovered that when a patient's IV bottle is hung from a bar attached to the bed so that the patient cannot move from the bed, one can, from a distance of three feet or better and with reasonable accuracy, flip the patient with the rubber strip the nurse tied around the patient's arm earlier. Only one of many high-quality amusements to be found in an ER cubical after five hours of waiting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Frappr! Map

Jeremy has found an absolutely snifty little blog gizmo that fascinates me terribly. So of course, I'm going to steal it. Hey! In the blogosphere, piracy is the sincerest form of flattery! Think of it that way. So much prettier than the word "plagarism", for example.

That said, I would love for Quotidian Light's regular and semi-regular readers to go grab a pushpin and make their mark at the Quotidian Light Readers' Map at Frappr!

(Much less complicated than it looks; you don't have to sign up for a full account; and the areas are general (zip code) not home location specific, for those of you concerned about that.)

Playing Whack-a-Mole

This morning, the first day of the girls' Thanksgiving break, I was awakened by the pitiful, heart-sinking sound of our younger daughter retching. With the exception of yesterday--glorious, glorious yesterday!--someone in our family has been sick since the 24th of October: the girls missed a week and a half of school each; Great Scott has battled colds and stomach stuff (ah, the joys of being a public school teacher!) all month; and after a literally painful two-week head cold, I only yesterday considered myself "safe" enough to not infect my grandmother and to resume taking her on her doctor's appointments and stopping by to check in on her several times a week. One day--yesterday--when everyone was well and life was "normal." And now, the day before Thanksgiving...upchucking bright and early in the morning.

Sometimes life feels like an endless game of Whack-a-Mole. One thing comes up; you tackle it. Another pops up; you wrestle it to the ground. Another raises its head; you bean it. Some days I'm not sure if I'm the one holding the hammer or the crazed little mole running around trying to find a safe place to poke my head up for a breath of air.

Back in September during an email conversation about being grounded and taking action from that place of interior authority and sureness, I mentioned to a friend that I have most strongly felt that sense of sureness/authority when I am doing a poetry reading and/or writing mentoring. He responded, "If I were you, I'd LIVE my life as a poet and mentor as well as a mommy...warts and all being essential parts of the package that makes you a poet and mentor." That's haunted me for two months as I've tried to put my finger on exactly how that applies to where I'm at right now, caught as I am between the professional training by which I'd intended to define my life and the motherhood I purposefully didn't prepare myself for back when I swore I would never have children. It would have made more sense to me if he'd said, "I'd live my life as a MOMMY as well as a poet and mentor...warts and all being essential parts of the package that makes you a mommy." Not that I'm criticizing him; he didn't have any way of knowing on which end of the role issue I felt more grounded, and to be fair, this may have actually been exactly what he meant. Communication is an art of inaacuracies.

So I'm asking myself lately what elements that manifest most easily for me as a poet can be transplanted to hopefully take root in the realm of building a home and family? The image comes to mind of a blindfolded Luke Skywalker swinging a lightsaber at a darting ball, learning to simultaneously relax and focus:
1. Focusing on the matter at hand and letting all the other stuff go, including the ultimate outcome.
2. Trusting that doing my best will be adequate and that if it isn't, the sun will go on shining anyway.
3. Swinging with calm intent and purpose rather than flailing about wildly.
4. Choosing my mole.

I've a suspicion playing Whack-a-Mole with lightsabers might just add a whole new level of satisfaction and possibilities to the game.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Because it's Good for You

I hated those words as a child. They applied to everything from canned spinach to an early bedtime to that nasty pink antibiotic nuclear sludge the doctor prescribed everytime my mother dragged me into his office. I still don't like them--the words OR those other things, thankyouverymuch.

An odd thing about depression. At least the one I've been slipping into further and further all weekend. It saps your volitional strength, your willed ability to choose to do the very things that would help pull you out of depression's sucking muck and back toward some sort of solid shore. The things that are good for you are the very things for which you have the least desire. One of the disadvantages of being an adult, however, is that you can no longer deny that you know what is good for you, and since you know, you have a sort of obligation to put up or shut up, regardless of whether or not you feel like it.

I find this irritating.

So, with all the enthusiasm of a three-year-old downing a teaspoon of amoxicillin, I'm going to do what's good for me and take an active stance in the WAW (War Against Whining) that Randy is waging over at Everyday Thoughts Collected, by listing ten things for which I'm grateful.

1. I'm grateful my life is not an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. (We watched The Phantom of the Opera--movie version--this weekend, and I was rather disturbed to find that the Phantom reminded me of a particular internet acquaintance, although I couldn't explain quite why.)

2. I'm grateful for the open patch of sky over our house tonight. The stars are cold and distant and set in much darkness, but they're also comforting and clear.

3. I'm grateful for the nap stolen on my mother-in-law's couch this afternoon.

4. I'm grateful that I'm going to be an aunt all over again next July.

5. I'm grateful for good poetry.

6. I'm grateful for ink and paper and beautiful blank journals.

7. I'm grateful that I'm not essential. That would be too much weight to bear.

8. I'm grateful for beads and wire, fastenings and tools, garnets, citrine, jade, tourmaline, freshwater pearls, peridot, onyx, picture jasper, red tigereye and silver. For solid materials to hold in my hands when my mind won't hold words or concepts with which to work.

9. I'm grateful for utterly ridiculously trivial nonsensicallities like Lady Macbeth (see the very bottom of Quotidian Light's main page) with which I can amuse myself for hours, if a bit maniacally some of the time, I'll admit.

10. I'm grateful for light, even when the sky is leaden and the sun, it seems, has turned to brass. And I'm grateful for darkness, also, as much as I hate it often enough. And for the interplay of the two.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday Quote: On Winter

"Killing turkeys causes winter."

--Original source unknown

Thoughts on Seasonal Moods

In the comments section of my last post, Ben said, "Autumn used to be a time to get ready to hunker down and winter a time to hunker down. Maybe you have it right and everyone else is screwed up." Thanks, Ben.

Just for the record, I DO think I'm right, and I DO think everyone else is screwed up. Nice, conservative, evangelically-raised girls just aren't supposed to say that. Perhaps, though, it's time to chuck the pancake makeup of false humility along with the small-floral-print dresses and the big hair, eh?

It does make sense, does it not, that perhaps human beings were never meant to run full-throttle year-round? That perhaps we do ourselves damage by refusing to slow down in our intellectual and emotional lives as well as our physical? This is why I was thrilled to read the following in *McMan's Depression and Bipolar Weekly newsletter:

Metabolic Depression

Bear with me on this:

A speculative
article in Medical Hypothesis by John Tsiouris MD of the New York State Institute for Basic Research proposes "metabolic depression" as the underlying biology for the vegetative symptoms found in major depression. Dr Tsiouris makes his case with reference to hibernating bears. Both hibernation and metabolic depression, according to Dr Tsiouris, confer survival advantages such as conservation of energy during times of life-threatening environmental stressors.

Prior to hibernation, says Dr Tsiouris, bears display features common to humans with atypical depression, including overeating, oversleeping, and decreased mobility. This changes when bears hibernate. Now they display features closer to humans with melancholic depression such as withdrawal from the environment, lack of energy, loss of weight from not eating, and changes in sleep pattern (studies on hibernating animals actually show sleep deprivation).

Hibernating bears experience mild hypothyroidism, increased cortisol, acute phase protein response, low respiration, oxidative stress, decreased neurotransmitter levels, and changes in cAMP-binding activity. These factors may also be present in individuals with melancholic depression. According to Dr Tsiouris, the way we think and behave may be responses to the biology underlying these vegetative states.

Atypical depression, speculates Dr Tsiouris, may be a precursor to melancholic depression or it may be a separate phenomenon triggered by extremes in temperature or sunlight. It may also be related to anxiety. Because atypical depression and anxiety are identified with bipolar disorder, Dr Tsiouris theorizes that bipolar "may be due to a vigorous attempt by the individual to prevent entrance into major depression with melancholic features," either by remaining atypically depressed or by "escaping" into hypomania or mania.

In the past three years I had begun to identify this pattern in myself, but only in the last few months had I begun to be able to put it into words. When I and others like me fight our annual slide into the all-too familiar fog of disconnectedness and loss (of energy, high spirits, enthusiasm and general interest in just about anything) that the inescapable change of seasons brings, the result is initially an increase in euphoria, drivenness, anger and instability and a PUSH toward frenetic activity, achievement, self-hatred and crushing guilt, all rolled into one. But when we acknowledge its approach, when we consent to accept it, to observe and stand witness to the yearly diminishing of our very human energies and abilities to achieve, we can find the fog that once threatened to overwhem us is filled with the possibilites of its own beauty: light caught and refracted, multiplied within each infintesimal water droplet hanging in the air, caught in our eyelashes, clinging to our hair, beading on the backs of our chilled hands, our weary and patient shoulders.

It is most often difficult for me to speak or write about the things that mean the most to me, the ones that are rooted the deepest and are most instinctually sensed. I've an inner reluctance to do so that isn't easily overcome. So thanks for the goad, Ben. It's led to a reminder I needed.

[*McMan's Depression and Bipolar Weekly is the email newsletter of McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web, one of the best sites available for information on bipolar disorder.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blustery Day Rambling

Autumn is solidly set into the calendar of our daily lives, it seems, here at PossumBox Lane. The wind is shoving against the house, rampaging through the leafless, sketchy branches of the trees outside, and the cat has once again claimed the top of the old heat stove as his favorite perch, albeit somewhat gingerly, as he is never sure when it will be hot enough to burn his paws and when it won't. This morning the girls and I dug out their winter coats and found gloves that will serve, at least for a little while.

Autumn and winter have always been bittersweet times of the year for me. Early autumn has usually been particularly troublesome, as I'm plagued by intensity of emotion from both ends of the scale, usually simultaneously. Heading into the holiday season, though, the inner drive toward anger or frenetic joy tends to die down. In the past, I've hated this time, dreaded it horribly. After feeling so much, feeling so alive, this grey existence quickly extended into depression and despair out of sheer guilt for feeling less than I thought I should be feeling. This year, I think--I hope--will be otherwise.

I am doing my best to lay aside self-expectations this winter, to let myself off the achievement hook. If I don't write a single couplet, fine. If I don't get all the holiday decorations out, fine. If I neglect my blog shamelessly--well, that'll just have to be fine, too. One thing, though, I do fully intend to pursue. What I want, more than anything, is to be able to find something beautiful in the fog of "depressed" or diminished mood, something to show that there is meaning there, and worth, something that applies to the life I live everyday as the person I am in the circumstances in which I find myself. Instinctively, I know with that "knowing beyond knowing" that meaning and value do exist in this foggy grey winter existence. I will find it. And I will live there, rest in it, be content.

Friday, November 11, 2005

More Procrastination Aids

Go ahead. Blame your dropping work productivity on me. You know you love them.

Because Great Scott was for many years of our marriage a devoted caffeine addict, I found the following site particularly fun. Go find out how much of your favorite caffeinated beverage you'd have to drink to die of caffeine overdose.

You seen them--cheerful, brightly colored ads for prescription drugs--"Ask your doctor about XXX." "See if XXX is right for you."---followed by a two-page spread of hair-raising, small print about experimental studies and side effects, usually containing words like, "pain," "vomiting," "hemorrhage," "arrhythmia," "tremor," "thrombocytopenia," "cardiac failure," and (my personal favorite), "death." Sounds like fun for the whole family, eh? Well, at last our troubles are over: Panexa has arrived! Be sure to read all the fine print. It's worth it. Here's a sample:

Muscle: In a small number of tested cases (84%) PANEXAwas found to cause abdominal wall muscle breakdown coupled with spasmodic activity in lower back/spinal muscles, resulting in most patients violently bending forward like a book slamming shut. While some other drugs promote similar responses (gemifbrozil, fresh cherries, nicitonic acid, cyclosporine, mustard gas, and acetomenaphin) PANEXA's reactions are over 48X as powerful and take place with a great deal more panache and flash. Also, PANEXA can contribute to developing inhumanly powerful tongue muscles, capable of licking through steel. Lymphatic System: If, after taking PANEXA for a period of four to six weeks, you still have any functioning lymph nodes remaining, double the dosage every two (3) weeks until they are all gone.

Thanks to Shrinkette for the most excellent links.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Some days the various interactions you have with other people leave you feeling bruised. Not neglected or offended or upset or angry or hurt or abused or taken advantage of or foolish or guilty or misunderstood, necessarily. Just weary, worn thin like a faithful and threadbare old blanket. Bruised. It's times like this that I want to cry and could cry, but am not convinced of the need or reason to cry. There isn't anything wrong, after all. Then I think about our younger daughter. There doesn't have to be a rational reason for her to cry; she just cries when she needs to, often out of simple weariness. And it helps.

Since when did childhood wisdom succumb to logic?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How Do I Love Thee?

Michael at Stick Poet Super Hero has asked readers to help him create a list of words for love. I'm going to keep checking in for awhile to see what transpires over there. The concept intrigues me.

Well, go post something!