Saturday, May 21

Hello Blog!

Clearly, it has been a very long time since I've posted anything. Even longer since I've finished a novel.

Today's post started out as a journal entry (or rather, it started out as the idea of a journal entry as I was soaking in the tub, reading a book, thinking deep thoughts and realizing "I should write this down"--then I realized I should write it HERE, not only to explain my long absence from the blog-sphere, but to...I don't know, maybe inspire someone else or something profound like that  ;-)  )

I've spoken a few times about my on-again-off-again bouts of depression. I don't want to over-sell it; it's not (usually) crippling, it just sort of sneaks up on me when I realize I was too emotionally and mentally deflated to do much more than binge watch The Good Wife (yeah, there's a real picker-upper! *not*) or surf Facebook all day. Usually by then, it's two in the afternoon and my husband is coming home from work and snuggling on the bed while he watches Stupid YouTube videos sounds SOOOOO much better than doing anything productive. A day or two later and I'm kicking myself for "wasting" a whole week which of course sets off a downward spiral.

So here I am, a living room full of laundry that needs to be put away, stuff that needs to be done, feeling sorry and ashamed (I'm not actually currently, but a month or so ago it wasn't pretty), wondering what am I doing with my life, as I bleakly stare down the big 5-0. (I'm 47 and turning 50 has been weighing heavy for a while--the fact that today is the memorial service for a guy who was just a couple of years older than me isn't help much. There have been a few funerals the past year that have really made me start to feel my mortality).

A month or so ago, I finally had enough wallowing. Therapy isn't quite within the budget (and seriously, I know how hard it can be to find the *right* therapist) so I decided to start with baby steps. There was a self-help book (for the record, I LOATHE self-help books) that I'd had my eye on for a while and I got it. It's not *great* but it's got me thinking and journaling, which *is* great. It also led to the purchase of a second book which is actually pretty awesome. Granted, it's geared for "girls" half my age--it's about "finding your passion" and "loving yourself", stuff that's pretty old hat to an old lady like me   :)

But. Here's where it got interesting this afternoon, soaking in the tub, listening to They Might Be Giants (always good therapy!) Until quite recently, I'd lost track of my passion. I mean, I knew what I loved, but I wasn't *doing* it. I was quite sure why. A few ( No. Let's see, my kid is 20, and the *stuff* happened in....sixth grade? So that's what, she was 12 or so? That sounds about right.) So 8 years ago, my darling daughter made some less-than-stellar choices. (Nobody worry, she's FINE--and that's actually part of the problem!)

The short version is that my tween-daughter made some bad choices because she was a tween and that's what they do! Nobody died, nobody was seriously injured, nobody went to jail, nobody got pregnant, but it was a *very* rough few years and that had a lasting affect on both of us. I spent a LOT of time wondering where in the world I'd failed as a mother. And like a good mother, I got HER into therapy (which led to it's own bout of drama), but never thought to see a councilor myself.

Eventually things got better, my daughter grew up, she has an *amazing* man in her life and is generally on track to do awesome things--I am genuinely proud of her (even though we still sometimes fight and definitely don't see eye-to-eye on everything!)

In those intervening years, I did some pretty cool things too. I wrote a book. I wrote a few. I started painting again. I thought I was happy.

Then some Life Stuff happened (as Life Stuff does) and I found myself emotionally derailed. AGAIN. Couldn't I manage to get ANYTHING right? How hard it is to just STAY HAPPY?! It's not rocket science. It's just being grateful for the things you've got, right?

Well, yeah. But it's brain chemistry too! And it's learning to be gentle with yourself (which is a LOT harder than rocket science for some people!)

So, here we are with laundry that needs to be folded and a floor that hasn't been mopped in longer than I care to admit to in public, and worst of all no new books and a seriously blown-deadline from last year that I am so ashamed of I refused to even CONSIDER going to my publisher's author-conference because I didn't want to look Elizabeth in the eye (nix that, I *couldn't* look her in the eye, even though she is a wonderful, understanding woman)--even though in previous years, I've come back from that particular conference feeling energized and full of creativity.

And there I was in the bathtub thinking about the work I've been doing the last month or so on myself and it hit me.

Yes. That Stuff with my daughter 8 years ago DID affect me. Moving the way we did 3 years ago had an impact. The fact that the house is...well, it's a fixer upper and I love it most days, but other days, I would give anything for walls that weren't crumbling plaster! (I was entirely too optimistic about the amount of time it would take to turn this place around). I'm disheartened by the amount of money it takes to heat this beast of a house and by the cost of auto insurance in Detroit. But I'm also dealing the fact that I'm not....I'll always be a mother. I'll always be my daughter's mother. But she moved out. I'm not really empty-nesting; I was happy to see her go (because she's safe and happy and I adore her fella). But...I have to re-define myself for the first time as something *other* than my daughter's mother because she's an adult now. I did it. She's out of the nest and flying on her own what?

I wasn't sitting still the last twenty years; I did stuff. But the whole time I was still first and foremost a mother. Now being a mother gets to take the backburner and I'm reading a book on "finding your passion" geared for someone half my age totally identifying with it because while I know what my passion is (writing books and creating art work) that hasn't been my *primary focus* for so long, I think I forgot what it felt like to be a creator first and all these other things second.

It's a little scary.

It's a lot exciting.

And life has thrown us a couple of unpleasant curve-balls, too, but we'll muddle through like we always do. The important part is that I've figured out that I *need* (desperately need) to DO STUFF, to do something that would make me feel accomplished again, between now and turning 50. I still expect 50 to be hard, but if I can look back on the years between 47 and 50 and go "wow, lady, you did it! You did SOMETHING and it was GOOD!" I'll be okay.  And now I have a better understanding of why. My big accomplishment--my daughter--is...well, she's "accomplished". She made it to adulthood with only a few bumps in the road. Now I have to figure out "what next?"

The good part is that I know my "passion."

I'm a writer.

I'm an artist.

Over the next couple of months, I'm going to be working very hard to finish a non-fiction project that's eaten up great big chunks of my life for the past two years. It's probably not something most of y'all would be into (and that's okay!) I'm anticipating publishing it (self-pubbing) right around the end of October--just in time to get back to writing about wonderful sexy boys falling love for this year's NaNo  :)

I have several stories kicking around in my head. I'm not making any promises on when they'll be done; I don't really do well with deadlines (at least not on the initial draft of anything), but I do know that next year will see a number of books from me.

I'm also getting back into ceramics. Mostly small stuff, jewelry, candle holders--whatever will fit in the largest kiln I could afford (and would run on a household circuit without needing special wiring). I'm not sure where it will take me, but I intend to find out. 

So please stay tuned, stay patient, I know I've been away for a while, but I'm coming back. I have to. My passion is writing. It's telling stories and creating things for other people.


Sarah M. said...

Thank you for sharing this. I don't have children, but I can really relate to what you're saying here. I've been struggling the last few years to shake off the miasma of low-level depression that sometimes sinks into full-blown darkness. Never enough to keep me from going to work, but definitely a stopper on creativity.

Good for you for working through this and sharing your thoughts.

The Crotchety Old Man said...

We tend to think of adulthood as a destination--a place where, once we arrive, everything is hunky dory. In reality, nothing ever stays the same. There are always new struggle and challenges to overcome. Some are easier than others, and some folks have a rougher time than others, but...that's life. Rough times help you to appreciate the good times. If you were happy ALL the time, you wouldn't know the difference. "Life begins at 50" is a strongly held view in my family. In my experience (I'm 58 now), it's true. Hang in there, HB, and thanks for sharing.


H.B. Pattskyn said...

Thank you both!

I think Sarah really nailed it with "low-level" depression. It's nothing that would get a responsible doc to proscribe anything for, but it's been there, sucking away at my creativity.

Michael--I need to keep reminding myself that for a lot of people life really *does* begin at 50. For me, it might be more a case of "a new life", but it's life, nonetheless.

One of my "inspirations" is the woman I worked for at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. I can't remember *exactly* how old she was when she gave up a successful (at least on paper, you know, "responsible" and "traditional") career and became a full-time potter, but I'm pretty sure it was right around 47, the same age I am now :) People like that give me real hope :)

Sara said...

There's so much I could say to this, because I totally understand, despite differences in circumstances. But I'll stick with:

- I'm glad you had this realization
- I'm wishing you all the best going forward with everything

Looking forward to seeing what you create next :)