Sunday, June 27, 2010


I returned to the office in purple flats.

Each sported a slightly ridiculous blossom of fabric in a matching color that mimicked the shade of my lightweight sweater. They made me happy, the soft, silly shoes, and I would look down at my feet as I hurried between meetings or propped my feet up while taking phone calls.

I smiled and chatted between meetings and paperwork, pleased the trip had gone well, albeit differently than I expected. Our initial flight was canceled, leaving us bouncing above thunderstorms on our trek west for a late arrival that afforded barely more than 4 hours of sleep before beginning a 10 hour day of presentations. Still, there was pride in doing well, especially as I took the bulk of the responsibilities for this particular set of demands.

I tried to catch up, approving documents online, dutifully typing my password repeatedly to promise my electronic signature was valid. I took calls from customers and colleagues, trying to juggle various demands in time that was in short supply, pushing most items to next week when my schedule - now travel-free! - was more open.

I am medicated - feeling more stable and less terrified of any and all stimuli that might push me off balance. I'm working - putting in fewer hours than my typical 16/day, but more than the mere hours of effort of late that have kept me treading water while ill, granted in the absence of any major waves. Mom was here for the week and that helped as well. We talked and giggled and ran errands. We sat in the living room without speaking, the only sound the turning of pages in our respective books.

"Does this end well?" she would sometimes ask and I'd lift my eyes from the text before me to glance at the cover before nodding. "Do they find out he's someone else?" she asked and I smiled before telling her how the book ends, watching her with great affection when she nodded and returned to the story. I felt guilty when the girls called to ask when Grandma would be home. I shook my head when Dad called to tell me how much he missed her, sounding somehow lost even in his familiar environment.

"I'm so relaxed," Mom would sigh. "It's just so easy here - I can rest and read, go sit on the deck if it's sunny. There are no demands - from your dad or the girls - and no problems from your brother. It's like a vacation I'm not sure I want to leave."

And I am, despite a few problems, tremendously blessed. I do have a haven of quiet where, introverted creature that I am, I can curl up and enjoy my own company - read books, listen to music, look at blogs. Watch television, have daydreams and wear pajamas all the live-long day. It's mostly wonderful, looking through photos of places I've been and thinking of professional accomplishments which give my life a sense of purpose.

I did notice, however, that my purple flats - however pleasing - weren't perfect. It wasn't that they pinched or rubbed - the soft fabric was easy to wear and cute as a button. But the soles were smooth and didn't quite cling to the floors, be they tile or carpet, and I would slip back about an inch for every step I took.

So for every whirlwind of travel, there is a corresponding illness - sometimes mental, sometimes physical. For every maternal visit, there is a tug of guilt that I'm keeping her from others who might need her more. For every delicious nap or delectable book, there is a distinct lack of sex because I've chosen to live alone. It's not terrible - just a tiny bit lost from each step - but it's cumulative.

So I sat and stared at the note on a yellow scrap of paper, bearing the name of a psychiatrist and her office number. My doctor wrote it, looking worried and unsure of how to medicate me so that I would stop coming to her office and crying. And deciding that - for now - the pretty purple flower on the toe outweighed the lack of traction on the sole, I crumpled the paper and tossed it in the trash.

Monday, June 21, 2010

At Last

There is something about trotting along behind my lawnmower that makes me (more) introspective (than usual). I awakened today from a Valium-induced sleep (love it - wish I had more than 30 days of it) and felt like myself. The cloud of sadness - irritability, sluggishness, indifference - seems to have dissipated.

I feel good again.

It's somewhat surprising, I decided, pushing down on the level that controls the blade and pulling up on the one that moves the mower forward. I make odd patterns as I clip the grass and weeds, following the rock wall toward the house and the odd shape of the lot against the sidewalk. It doesn't take all that long - an easy hour for the entire quarter acre - and left me time to consider what I wanted to do for an upcoming presentation. I smiled, feeling reassured that my productivity was snapping back - I cared about my job again, past the odd sense of guilt that I was barely keeping up because it all seemed terribly hard.

I woke up and did not want to stay home, curled into a corner of my darkened basement and staring at television. Instead, I walked the dog, put in her eye drops and threw some treats on the floor before telling her to be good.

I returned about 10 hours later to gleeful greetings when I interrupted her puppy-dog nap in her freshly-mowed lawn. I has answered questions and attended meetings. I filled out forms and signed documents. I grinned at colleagues and happily motioned them through my open door to catch up.

I am happy. Thanks to a fairly high dose of a different anti-depressant and some time to come out of it (and the grace of God), I feel like myself again. Finally.

I'm off to travel again tomorrow and my mommy arrives to puppy-sit tonight.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dear Genius:

Not all that is broken can be repaired. People, places and things are meant to decay with use, their functionality dwindling as time goes by.


"I broke it," I told the bearded man sheepishly when called my name and I scurried to the counter. "I bent the corner," I withdrew my precious 12" PowerBook and showed him the outlet, "but I could always coax it to charge before now. But 2 days ago, it stopped. And then it died."

He smiled as he took Nick, the laptop, and withdrew a plug from his drawer. He wiggled it into the outlet and frowned until it glowed orange. I caught my breath with joy and grinned as I remembered the real cords go orange when they're working. I had been using a faux-cord without a glowy circle.

"It's 5 years old," I said as he opened the computer and pressed the power button. I looked down at the keyboard, the m and n keys smudged from years of use, and felt a tug of loyalty and love. "I thought about getting something new - I just use it for fun so an Air or even an iPad might be good - but I love it. It's my first laptop and I had to see if you could fix it."

I eagerly handed over my credit card before replacing Nick, new battery and power cord in tow, in my bag. I smiled, an all too rare occurrence of late, when I realized I have more time. My dog is going blind. This laptop will at some point cease to function. My parents age and one of my favorite colleagues announced yesterday that he's leaving the company for new opportunities.


I do not like change. I thrive in environments of predictable routine, being able to think freely because all the small stuff is handled habitually.

I do face the inevitability at some point. I wandered through the store, gently skimming my fingers across the screen of an iPad and settling my fingers on the keyboard of a MacBook to see how it'd feel. I thought, as I waited, that I'd written my blog on this 12" laptop. I made it through my post-doc and published papers. I wrote grants and made friends I never met in person. I started two books and fell in love and in lust. I typed notes from interviews and formally accepted my job offer.

I've also been sad - lost people I loved and ignored others to whom I owe huge debts of gratitude. I've been heartbroken and deeply depressed. And while the former hasn't happened in some time, the latter persists in a pattern I would like to change.

Still, I keep my baby blanket in a bedside drawer. Favorite toys on a shelf in the spare bedroom. Aging photos still rest in frames. So it gives me no small amount of pleasure and comfort to tap letters on this keyboard, touching the smudged m and n keys and hearing the quiet click of the space bar.

I know it won't last forever. But I'm also glad I have more time.

Love, hugs and kisses,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I bounce quickly from being completely exhausted to miserably bored, trapped (save those few perfect moments before falling asleep snuggled under covers against a cool breeze from the open door) in this state of not wanting to be here (wherever here happens to be) but unable to imagine an appealing there either.

I'm restless and achy so I walk with my dog. But my lower back aches so that each step becomes increasingly painful, leaving me whimpering by the time we make our easy mile-long loop and return home. My hands shake when opening the Advil.

I'm bored so I read. But I've a fondness for romance novels, some of them rather racy, and the new anti-depressant leaves me thinking that sex is not unlike some messy form of exercise so even my favorite-est novels find themselves tossed aside in a rather impressive pile on the floor. I will say I took on the sexual side effects willingly, but it remains odd that even the most erotic or romantic moments in print or on screen leave me blinking with a sort of vague acceptance.

There is work so I try to engage. I spent several pleasant hours fixing EndNote references in a chapter I'm finishing at Former Institution. I wrote a post about what a dear man Boss is and how I feel like I should miss him and my academic career, but I really do not. When it came to writing new paragraphs for the body of the chapter, explain concepts that weren't perfectly clear or adding detail to explain my beautiful figures, it might have been easier to yank out a tooth and hand it over, so excruciating was the effort to make reasonable sentences appear.

I take phone calls but drift into a foggy state that leaves me apologizing for not paying attention when people call my name.

I read blogs I've not visited in many moons, sometimes even leaving comments on posts because there's so little else to do. (Unless I left a comment on your blog - your blog I like.)

I fill out spreadsheets, happy enough to move information from one part of the screen to another, but when anything goes wrong, I feel the need to stop and curl into a loose ball again.

My goal for the day is to make another appointment to see my doctor. I'm not right - not well - and I'm not sure how we're going to fix it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Welcome Homes

Once, a fairly long time ago, I had this delicious fantasy of arriving in an airport - on the west coast, actually - and being greeted by a man. Of impatiently waiting to deplane, shifting my feet and maneuvering my bag before hurrying through the airport so I could walk up the incline toward the main concourse. My lips would curve widely upon seeing him and my heart would stutter gladly even as he grinned and moved toward me. We'd hug and I'd press a brief but heartfelt kiss to his lips before taking his hand and basking in the joy of being in love, moving outward to enjoy a leisurely vacation or sexy weekend together.

When it became clear that said situation would remain forever in my brain, pitifully relegated to some shameful corner that was embarrassed to have even hoped it, I began to dislike airports in general. I remain impatient, of course - barely restraining the impulse to push and shove in order to escape - but have grown so familiar with the places that I more often plod through them tiredly, nary a fantasy or memory marring my single-minded journey to reach my destination. I skirt people who are embracing long-lost lovers, rarely rolling my eyes but often wanting to. I tire of the crying children, the bewildered elderly, the chattering teenagers. Only the business people - strictly efficient and practiced at the art of travel - merit my attention as I tend to walk briskly beside them, follow them in lines where we swiftly clear security.

I was tired and achy after the flight home, but pleased that planes ran on time and layovers were mercifully short. I had a bit of dinner in Atlanta and bought a book before boarding the second leg of my Delta flight home. I nodded with satisfaction, tucking my novel into my laptop bag as we arrived at the gate early. Swinging my carry-on over my opposite shoulder, I sighed because it was heavy and put my head down like a pack mule and walked toward the exit.

I smiled when I saw Dad, raising one hand in a sleepy wave before watching him bend to share his sighting. The migrating mass of which I was part shifted enough for me to see Smallest One, earnestly looking for me with her face pulled into a mask of concentration.

Her expression brightened when she found me and I felt my eyes fill as she cried out and smiled, running toward me in that charmingly awkward toddle that will soon ease into her sister's more graceful stride.

"Hi," I managed, stopping short and dropping the larger of my bags before bending to scoop her up. She clung for a moment, letting me press my face into her hair, before beginning to chatter. I nodded and replied, smiling at Mom as she apologized to the crowd, making her way toward us and retrieving my bag before releasing Little One's hand so I could bend to hug her too. "I missed you," I whispered, smoothing her long curls away from her face, and smiling at the gap where her front tooth should be. "You're getting so big," I said, shaking my head, and leaned to take Smallest One's hand before she could scamper away.

It is not something I've pictured - of having children that look like me, only beautiful and wonderful, waiting eagerly for my arrival - but the overall feeling - at a high level, of course - is the same. To be loved. Valued. Missed.

So even as I'm sick - my lower back hurts such that the antibiotics must not be helping my kidney infection, my ears ache and head spins dizzyingly - I'm feeling blessed and grateful to have my family. And I'm ever so happy to be home.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Rain in Spain

Being the type of person who embraces rain more easily than sunshine, I hummed in a noncommittal way when I saw the gray clouds upon opening my eyes this morning. I convinced myself to emerge from the covers and called downstairs to see if I could keep my room for one more night, fairly certain that the fully booked status would prevent me from doing so. I decided sleeping on a cot in a friend's room wouldn't be so bad while I was on hold, but found myself gushing with gratitude when she said, in her wonderful accent, that it was no problem for me to stay where I was.

I looked around my room fondly and decided that luck had gone my way this trip - I made flights, found my way around and ended up with a room for my whole stay when I'd only reserved two nights. Deciding to tempt fate a bit more, I dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast before leaving the hotel, plucking an umbrella from the stand on my way out, and moving steadily toward the nearest metro stop.

Confused about which stop was which, I missed the one I wanted and was crushed for a moment before deciding I'd simply get off on the next one and begin to ramble in the middle instead of on one end. Given that, it made no difference that I headed in the opposite direction of the one I planned. I grinned when I reached the sea, unsurprised that my sense of direction had failed yet again. Tucking the camera in my pocket and holding the umbrella out of the way, I peered into stands at postcards and blinked with a sense of gentle awe at the places and people on the rain-drenched path.

Poking my head around a tour group, I saw the market off to the side of my street and recalled that my guidebook, located helpfully back in my hotel room, recommended wandering through. I crossed the street and politely closed my umbrella before moving inside the open-air space to smile at the candy and coo over the freshest of fruits. The fish made me wrinkle my nose, but I found the meats oddly artistic, hanging neatly while vegetables provided a colorful background. Skirting the groups and wishing I was hungry enough for a beautifully-packaged container of fruit, I sighed and recrossed the street to continue my walk. I would try to convince myself I was hungry again upon seeing a sign for churros and chocolate. But my mouth lost to my stomach after a bitter internal debate that left me looking longingly over my shoulder at the cafe instead of going inside.

Barely resisting a caress to the petals, I paused to admire flowers at the stands, pausing to take photos and wishing I was staying longer so I could bring some to my room. Instead, I paused to look at a large map and crossed my fingers that heading that way would take me to the cathedral, emerging from a charming alleyway with no small amount of surprise when I beheld the bell tower. I followed a smattering of people up a slick incline and hesitated before descending a few steps into the cathedral structure. Feeling reverent - both blessed to look up at arches in the flicker of candlelight and guilty as the plaintive cries from the old woman outside reached my ears. I understood only por favor and added my own plea for her silently.

I walked through more narrow streets, pausing to look at jewelry or cock my head at shoes before realizing with amazement that I had returned to my metro stop. (Upside-down-! and !) After selecting postcards and magnets, I slipped the plastic bag over my wrist, resettled myself under my umbrella and descended the stairs to the subway again, camera memory full, pleasantly tired and satisfied with my quiet, solitary excursion.

Monday, June 07, 2010


It is, in an odd way, rather wonderful to know the different ways I react to jet lag. Given that this is my third trip to Europe in 2010, I'm feeling rather worldly and was as close to chipper as I'm able to get of late after climbing off the plane and moving through the airport to clear passport control in Spain.

It was a trip of close calls and near misses - I scurried on to my trans-Atlantic flight mere minutes before they closed the doors, having only 30 minutes between the arrival of my connecting flight to traverse a rather large airport and get myself to the jet bridge. Such a quick turnaround is lovely though - when I made it to my seat and buckled my seat belt, I was completely thrilled to be stuck there for 9 hours.

It didn't last, of course, and I fretfully jabbed at my screen as I searched for suitable entertainment. I ended up with The Tudors (resulting in a wikipedia search last night so I could recall my British history) and Young Victoria, both of which were engaging enough. I also tried to make it through the United States of Tara, finding it a fascinating concept but somehow not fully embracing the execution of said storyline. Still, I ate my meals and sipped water, tried to read my book and marked pages in my tiny travel guide.

The latter was necessary when I walked in the lobby to find my friends ready to see sights. So I threw my belongings in a shockingly large room by what I've seen of continental Europe and set off to wander around town. I grew cranky and decided to separate myself from the group, tiring of their backtracking and stopping for no reason and crediting it more to my mood than their actual annoyingness (which was likely very low). Two women decided to go with me on a more efficient tour so we followed my map and commented sparingly on the places we saw until I said was tired and achy - my normal state for the past month, honestly - and wanted to go back to the hotel.

I quickly fell into bed after taking an assortment of prescriptions and slept for nearly 12 hours. I'd say life is still harder than it should be, but I've started the new pills and am hopeful they'll help within the next couple of weeks. I'm also coping - when confronted with a problem, I can battle the urge to retreat and have won more small skirmishes than I would have thought lately. Yet my expectations have dropped according to my mood - while on other flights to Europe I've worked at least a couple of the hours in the air, my laptop stayed off this journey. I find I shy away from even thinking about certain projects and problems but can make progress on both the important and the easy items, as long as they're not terribly difficult.

It's not all sunshine and puppies, but - I think - it's beginning to get a little lighter.

Friday, June 04, 2010


"How are we on time?" I asked, gulping water with an imploring look toward the meeting leader. I nodded when he said we were fine, not feeling fine at all, but placed my water bottle on the podium and began to speak again.

After 80 minutes, not even sheer determination could keep me talking. I apologized to the group that had gathered, claimed a headache 10 minutes before we were due to adjourn. I gritted my teeth when people gathered to ask questions and make comments. I took 2 steps back when I felt they were too close, staring longingly at the doors on the far wall before returning my attention to them and willing my brain to function well enough to answer questions.

"I have," I paused, unable to think of an excuse, "something," I finally finished my sentence. "I need to go." I forced myself to slow when they followed me, scrawling notes in my book and telling everyone I'd get back to them. I hurried to my office in full-scale retreat and hid behind my desk, barely keeping myself from crawling underneath.

I made it through meetings in the desert, feeling the oppressive heat and desolate scenery somehow soothing as it matched my mood.

We landed just after midnight and I nearly shoved people aside as I tried to reach my car. I cursed through a detour as all the ramps were closed and finally made it home to cuddle with Chienne before drugging myself to sleep once again.

I went to work, mostly to print, sign and send documents as that's hard to do outside the office. Then I returned home, stopping to get lunch, and greeted my family. We ate pizza and Smallest One held my hand as we walked upstairs and settled in to watch SpongeBob and nap. They continued to wake me - to ask for things (this is apparently the land of lip gloss for Smallest One) or show me something. I finally slipped into a nap and, when awakened, was grumpy.

"I know," I finally replied when Mom said it was time to go, sounding less mature than Smallest One, who is almost 3. But we went and after a brief wait (during which I took a conference call), we were ushered into an exam room.

"So," my doctor said, a young, pretty woman who despite being patient and lovely, always makes me feel like a mess, "you're having some problems." She propped her laptop on her knees and asked me to start from the beginning.

So I started with the sadness - no real trigger, just a gradual feeling that life was harder than it should be. Then there was the cold - I paused to cough - and took her through the sore throat, runny nose, coughing stage to where I am now - stuck with this constant, slow draining and aches in my chest.

"I don't remember when the aches in my back started," I said. "Perhaps after Stockholm since I don't remember struggling there. It starts on the left most of the time, generally when I'm walking around, and it's getting so that it's hard for me to stand straight after I've been sitting for a long time."

So we chatted about other anti-depressants - or rather, she explained and I listened. I nodded as she laid out options and looked back at her for a moment.

"I don't know," I finally said. "I don't care. I think I want something different so just tell me what to try."

She nodded, keeping her sympathetic gaze on mine until I looked away. The nurse returned with my urine results and I winced when I saw a ++ on one of the lines.

"I thought it was an infection," Mom said when the doctor noted the markers were up and there was some blood. "We get those." The doctor smiled at her as she typed something in and asked if there was also a family history of depression. My heart hurt when I saw Mom's face fall and I quietly said that my maternal grandma had suffered from a very severe form.

"I don't," Mom offered. "And my sister doesn't either. But our daughters all do."

"Maybe it skips a generation for us," I offered hopefully, thinking of my sensitive, dramatic nieces waiting at home.

"And another respiratory infection," the doctor noted a few minutes later, closing her eyes as she thought through which antibiotics might solve my upper and lower infections.

I pick up pills tomorrow before heading back to Europe on a trip that should leave me breathless with excitement rather than a dull feeling of exhausted dread. But the travel season is nearly over for me - this is the last big trip I'm doing - and I dearly hope a return to routine will get me feeling less messy and broken here shortly.