There’s no effective way to describe depression to someone who hasn’t suffered from it. They inevitably try to empathize with it as sadness. In fairness to them, it is sadness-adjacent, an emotional pain marked by feelings of despair and sorrow. But in fairness to depression, it’s so much more. During my last great bout of depression, I took to comparing how I saw the world to the signature closing sequence of the Looney Tunes cartoons in which Porky Pig pops into view in the circular center of a set of bullseye rings and delivers the line “Th-th-th-that's all, folks!”
Perhaps the time has come. You’re ready to get a paying job after spending months or years caring for your children. I will not insult you by calling you a stay-at-home parent any more than I would call the HR executive who’s working from the spare bedroom in his house a stay-at-home hiring manager. Regardless, that dude might call you one, and you need to be ready with your comeback.
This year has been off-the-charts bad. My cup runneth over with pain and sadness. Anxiety, grief, and stress are in control most of the time. My heart palpitates, I grind my teeth in my sleep, my eyes fill with tears when least expected. To cope, some people may choose therapy, some meditation or deep breathing, some medication, others unhealthy vices, but I chose to watch The Fast and The Furious saga in rapid succession. And it worked.
As I sat on the edge of the bed toweling the viscous fluid from my breasts, thoughts swirled through my mind. Did I make a mistake not coming sooner? What would the consequences of this be? I was nervous on my way there. I had a distinct feeling of performance anxiety even though I knew all I would need to do is lie there until the task was complete. The stranger rubbed and probed me with his, I’m not sure what to call it, wand? Rod? Forgive me, I’m new to all of this.
We’re all going to die! But no, really. We are. Like most people in middle age, especially after a global event that has forced us to watch and mourn as millions of people die fairly suddenly, the presence of death has become harder to ignore.
Long-distance traveling is often something that parents of young children aspire to, but not something most actually do. I’ve heard some say that they’d love to travel “when the kids are older.” I say, you’ve got to carpe this diem right here and now, and it’s really not as hard as you think it is. As a mother who has taken my young daughter to a dozen countries, I’ll tell you my tricks.
My dad was good. That doesn't sound like an amazing opening line, but it's the best word for him. He was a good, good person who always did what was good for others. He was good to hang out with, good to talk to, good to have on your side, and good to his family.
We have a lot in common, or should I say I got a lot from him.
I’m a saver. People who make far more money than I do (which isn’t hard) often ask me how I save so much, and here’s how. I don’t make a lot, but I cost very little. If you want to make money quickly and copiously, I’m not your girl. But if you want to work with what you’ve got and be ok with that, this could be of help.
I know some people who spend their youth just waiting to get married, dreaming of the day the love of their life drops to one knee in front of them and raises up a ring, eyes a-twinkle. I was not one of those people. In fact, I would’ve guessed that I’d probably never have gotten married or had kids, being adamantly opposed to marriage in general and kind of absurdly independent. I wasn’t the romantic type. Just ask some of my exes.
I can confidently describe myself as a creative type. I can also definitively call myself a stay-at-home mom. These two roles, I’ve discovered, can often be at tormenting odds. When thinking about it, I do find it ironic that creating a human being could make me feel so creatively stagnant at times.
When I first heard about the concept of social media, my reaction was, “That’s the dumbest thing in the world and I’ll never use it.” I resisted (before embracing or at least accepting) MySpace, then Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram. It all seemed so unnatural, before it so easily became second nature.
I hated being pregnant. It was a miserable, disgusting experience that I would never like to repeat.
I had what would probably be considered an ideal pregnancy. I was in excellent health when we conceived, and remained active throughout. Up until I set foot in the hospital I was in a habit of walking 5 miles and swimming half an hour every single day, eating a healthful (and plentiful) diet, sleeping soundly and staying positive.
Motherhood is hard.
With that, the following must be said before I start. I’ve come to realize from witnessing discussions among other moms that this is quite possibly one of the most sensitive subjects there are. Doing things differently is somehow viewed as accusing others of doing things wrongly. Many seem to take immediate offense to any statement on how you parent.
Walking home, I witnessed an interesting exchange (interesting in one respect that it’s not at all out of the ordinary): Two teenage boys (I'm guessing around 14) walked past two teenage girls, one tall and blond. The boys ogled, catcalled, and one of the young gentlemen said a few aggressive words ending in “bitch.” The other responded with, “Dude, don’t call her a bitch,” at which point my hope for mankind rose markedly, but only for a fraction of a moment before he continued, “That girl was hot! It’s when they get out of line that they’re bitches.”
The day after Halloween, I caught myself asking if it was too early to put up Christmas lights. It got me wondering where this impatience stems from. I’m not overzealous about Christmas in the traditional sense. In fact, the traditional sense has always eluded me. Possessing Christmas traditions would imply that I have a clear-cut set of ideas about what to expect for that day of the year, some thread of shared ritual running through each of my three decade’s worth.
Here is a guide on how to be a successful freeloader, in one sense of the word. I’m not talking about being an irresponsible, inconsiderate leech, nor am I talking about clipping coupons and hunting deals, but making do with no income or assistance. I don’t just mean scraping by, waking up every morning with the one goal of foraging enough calories to stay alive until bedtime. I’m referring to actually living life on little or no money -- being entertained, having experiences, being well fed. It takes creativity, relentless research, and dedication to become a skilled, honest freeloader.