Bloggers and blogs glamorize life and frankly we like them to, because they offer respite from the slogging, repetitive, cruel, grueling aspects of being alive. We want our blogs, like glossy magazines, to show us pretty vignettes into which we can virtually crawl, with their bright still-lifes and enticing recipes and cheerful fashion advice, so rather than think one more minute about our cluttered closet/mind, we’re inserted into far away landscapes of sun-washed backyards where floral designers, wood turners and and farmers work romantically with their hands and folks with cozy gold flatware host Valentine’s Day brunches in fluttering peasant blouses and Frye booties while slicing whipped-up flourless chocolate cakes or standing about the understated backyard pool in maxi dresses next to perfectly streamlined outdoor margarita bars at parties they’ve effortlessly thrown together on a late summer’s eve for a floppy-hatted group of fellow creatives with vintage cameras slung about their necks.
Even I, on this burgeoning little blog, show you the best parts of my existence, looking for what’s right and beautiful in the world. But I for one, don’t want only to hear about your perfect day. I want honesty: personal stories and disarming, confessional tales because this is how we get close and break down barriers and learn. I want to know how you got here from there and how you triumphed and tripped along the way.
I will admit right here, right now, that this winter has brought me to the end of my frayed little rope (and back again- maybe more a bungee cord than rope) with it’s cocktail of weather extremes and hormone extremes, triggering the sort of neural-chemical turmoil that has plagued me since the age of fourteen, and now it would seem, is exacerbated by pregnancy. Up to twenty percent of women experience antenatal depression I’ve learned, but it’s not discussed nearly as widely as the postpartum variety. So many thoughtful people ask me in a chipper voice how I feel- and I appreciate their caring, but I wonder how to answer as I am fairly certain they mean physically, and on that front, I feel great. No pain, no issues, plenty of energy; my body feels healthy and strong- this part is easy. My cross to bear has always been internal, emotional and subtle. It’s my brain that’s hurting. My brand of depression has never been the slow, lethargic stay-in-bed, binge-eating type and has rarely interfered with my functioning or been evident to those who don’t know me well. It’s characterized by what most of (healthy) me knows to be a skewed circus-mirror lens: agitation, hopelessness, anxiety, irritability (exemplified this week by a meltdown on the phone to Chris after I knocked an entire blender full of smoothie all over the kitchen just as I was about to go out the door for work) and self-loathing. It manifests as wanting to give up, and escape, compounded by the thought that I should be able to change these thoughts and by the guilt that goes with feeling I can’t control my own mind. The Buddhist instruction is to “see what is” and in this way be with it, lean into it, let it fold and wash over me, ride it out and recognize its transiency. I imagine my practice with this will greatly serve in the labor of my baby as I strive to relax into contraction. The breath is key. Teaching and working sometimes offer immense comfort if I can manage to stay present and sometimes offer challenge as I push against tsunami waves of inner critic monologue threatening to derail it on the spot. There are days a mother-earthness caliber patience and love-for-all-humanity keeps me bouyant and effervescent; available to all to hold and comfort and uplift and cheer, as a leader, helper and adviser. But having a little guy growing inside has drawn me both literally and energetically within toward a smaller constellation. It reminds me that my calling is to share, teach, tell stories and write, not to heal the world. And I have someone to ever more urgently care for as he develops at break-neck speed in my body. He and I are busy, world. 129 days to go.
The catch twenty two, chicken-or-eggness about clinical depression, is that it causes negative thinking and negative thinking causes depression. Well-worn neural pathways take me down familiar routes to judgement and derision I think I should be able to change through some force of will. I should do more gratitude journals. I should change my mind. Boiled down: it’s my fault. My friend said to me the other day, “watch out for the shoulds”. I share this because what most spurs my desire to tell personal stories is to find where they’re universal. If I’m feeling this way, chances are there are others. And perhaps I can offer some comfort. During pregnancy I can’t take many of the natural remedies I normally count on to balance my brain (such as 5htp, an amino acid to help promote the production of serotonin) and I don’t trust that pharmaceuticals wouldn’t harm my baby but I can exercise and get natural light on my face every day and take fish oil and eat nutrient dense food and plenty of protein and strive to get enough sleep. I can watch Louis CK and read funny essays. This week, I returned to acupuncture. I will continue to go regularly- it was bliss- the deepest state of relaxation I’ve achieved in years. And I could feel my baby dancing in there during treatment, all bubbles and sporadic diminutive prods. There is so much for which to be grateful. The storm in my head doesn’t change this. Awe and thrill and challenge and pain can co-exist.
It’s amazing to be able to make a baby. I have the most patient, fun, positive kind-hearted man a lady could ask for and even though I’m not easy to live with these days, he still tells me I’m beautiful and great every single day. I have the sweetest dog and cat around. I have loving friends. One of them recently slid a hugely generous gift certificate to the health food store under my studio door. We’ve had dinner with sweet people for nights in a row and people really care. I know my good fortune keenly. And I can always make a tray of home made brownies.
“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.” – Max Ehrmann
Here is the winter smoothie I’m making a lot lately (or re-making after I spill it all over the kitchen):
Banana- Nut Butter Carob (or Cacao) Smoothie (serves 1-2)
Combine in blender:
- 1-2 fresh or frozen banana
- 1/2 cup kefir or yogurt
- 1 1/2 cups almond milk (or milk of choice)
- 1 heaping tablespoon sprouted ground flax seed
- 1 heaping tablespoon nut butter of choice (I love peanut or almond)
- 1 tablespoon raw carob or cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon chia gel (soaked chia seed)
- 1 dropper full liquid stevia (I like to use vanilla flavored for this)
And here are the dense yummy brownies I made the other day:
Dark Chocolate Spelt Brownies (from Martha Stewart Living)
- 1 stick unsalted butter cut into tablespoons, plus more for pan
- 6 ounces bittersweet, preferably 70% cacao chocolate (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used coconut sugar)
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 3/4 cup spelt flour (I used organic sprouted spelt flour)
- Preheat oven to 350•. Lightly butter 8-inch square pan with butter and line with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang on 2 sides. Butter parchment.
- Place butter and chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of simmering water and melt, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in sugars. Whisk in eggs, one at a time until combined. Whisk in cocoa and salt, then fold in flour until combined.
- Pour batter into pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely on wire rack and lift out brownies with parchment overhang.