“Hello, It’s Me Again…”

 

The phone rang and I let it go to Voicemail. I was in the middle of playing Go Fish with the now-five-year old, but that’s not the real reason I didn’t answer. When I’m feeling low, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I barely have the mental energy to get the dishes done, let alone put on a smile and pretend life is peachy keen. My dear and trusted friend, who is SO much better at reaching out than I am, left a cheerful message as she always does and in my state of mind, I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to it. Continue reading ““Hello, It’s Me Again…””

Six Things You Can Do Today to Feel Better Tomorrow

Mental Health in our Rural Communities (Part 4 – Sidebar 3)
Focus on more and better sleep. Take naps. After dinner, start setting your environment up for sleep. Turn your house lights down earlier. Put away technology earlier. Start a 10-minute tidy-up routine each night to help quiet the mind’s To Do list. Get into bed earlier. Do some stretching just before
Continue reading “Six Things You Can Do Today to Feel Better Tomorrow”

Life’s Vexilar

Column 20 – Published in the February 16 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

A comfortable settling-in happened here at The Angle just recently. Seismic shock waves of normalcy have this roller-coaster-ready girl reeling in unexpected surrender. Surely others must have felt it. Surely it’s the reason fishing is so slow.  The steady drip, the slow, evening out of life, now that I see it, seems about as dramatic a change as the world turning white with the first winters’ snow.

I usually can’t predict when a shift is about to happen because I’m mired in the blackness that precedes it. It’s as if a trip around the dark side of the moon is necessary in order to fully appreciate the beauty and the light of our blue green planet.

Full blown depression gets me good still. It has for decades. But being at the über wise medium age of 40, the means and ways I’ve learned to work through depression seem a lot more purposeful, more productive.

It isn’t until I’m on the other side of it that I can come to understand why I needed to go through it. Still, I look forward to the day when the signposts are clearly visible, and instead of slogging right on in to the middle of the slush, I can cautiously and quietly walk the edges, placing no blame on potential stuckness, holding no judgement over that which teaches me.

Dealing with depression at The Angle isn’t all that different than dealing with it elsewhere. Only here, when I need to be still, I can watch the deer instead of pedestrians. I can walk in silence for an hour before meeting anyone. I can melt into the backdrop of our white world like a painted pony in a Bev Doolittle piece. Of course, life’s chores and now parenthood keep me functioning and moving forward, but the pace simply isn’t as frantic. On a recent morning commute, I met four cars. A record high so far this winter season.

And so, this shift, this settling-in feels as refreshing as our well water tastes after a weekend away in some fluoridated, chlorinated city. I went to sleep one long night ago as a girl, and somehow, woke up as a wellspring of a woman with a voice that isn’t afraid to be heard, with hips that suddenly remember what it is to walk as a woman should, with shoulders thrown back in soft readiness, and eyes that need only wait and see.

It doesn’t feel like “settling,” not in that loaded definition of the word. It’s not a slumping into an easy chair, but rather the rightness of good posture, a lengthening of the spine until I feel a tingling in the crown of my head, as if I’ve suddenly grown up into new air. And indeed I have. How does one go through life measuring 5’2 and ¼ inches and then suddenly in my late 30’s grow nearly another inch?

The patient parent that is The Angle has been steadily, almost stealthily, nourishing me with a diet of fresh air and black earth, old sorrows that are the sweet manure of change and growth, and a surprising abundance of new and good people and experiences waiting in the ready for when my eyes could finally see them.

The challenge it puts forth now is to help me slow down even more. To not rush head long into the waiting vigor, but rather saunter with gaining confidence. I read a quote by the Persian poet Hāfez recently: “Run my dear, from anything that does not strengthen your precious budding wings.”

And I found truth in the thought of this settling-in actually representing the growth of wings. “The Angle will provide,” as we like to say, anyone with any opportunities that anywhere else can. It may not take the same form or shape, but the lesson to be learned is as sharp and useful, gentle and healing, wholesome and all-encompassing as the ones I would have learned had I chosen somewhere else to usher in this shift.

But no, I won’t run, as Hāfez counsels. Running from something has meant that I’ve had less time to understand and choose where I was running to.

No, I think I’ll walk. I think I’ll make a snow angel or two along the way. I think I’ll learn to sing. I think I’ll stop from time to time to string words together in composition celebrating that which I find beautiful, joyful. I think I’ll sway a full-hipped sway and relish being a woman in this unbalanced masculine world. I think I’ll learn to look at men differently, with gratitude and honor and respect for what they go through. I think I’ll settle-in and get to work.

But first, I think I’ll go fishing.

Falling back in love

Column 16 Published in the December 8th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

It’s not hard to get hooked on this place.

Oh, perhaps when you first start coming here you look around, vacantly, like I did, at all the great nothingness, the remote and simple lifestyle, the ever-present hardships and doing-without, the still-waters-run-deep people who are slower to let you ‘in’ than pine gum runs in winter. Perhaps you decide, like the majority, that the annual or bi-annual visit is enough. Or…perhaps you, at a near subconscious pace, start taking note of the few and far between real-estate signs, the jovial attitudes of the locals enjoying their freedoms, the wildlife, the birdsong, the beauty in a rutted gravel road.

Not too long ago, when a good gal pal and I were working through similar hardships with life and men, we’d walk the trails and the roads wondering how it came to be that we had momentarily fallen out of love with The Angle. We’d lost our eye for the mystery and romance of what we called our own Secret Garden.

Often, it would take only that walk and that bit of talking to my friend, the trees, the listening birds, to clear my head and bring me back to the beauty of it all.

Women, it seems, suffer from the chatterbox mind more than the menfolk do. Diffuse awareness, author and relationship expert Alison Armstrong calls it. In the faraway past, men would focus all physical and mental energy to bring down a four-legged beast to feed family and village. Women, on the other hand, didn’t have the luxury of a one-track mind. Out of necessity, we’ve always been multi-taskers. In the time it takes the hunters to sharpen their tools, we tend the fires that stew the old bones, cure the hides, carry the little ones and ensure the bigger ones don’t wander too close to the stream. We dig for root vegetables, gather nuts and seeds for winter stock, take mental note that the stone cherries will be ripe in a week and store away a long-term reminder to come back a couple weeks earlier next year for the blueberries in the meadow two hills over. All the while, we keep eyes and ears acutely tuned for signs of danger.

Of course, our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. In my case, and I’m sure that of many women, diffuse awareness in this day of easy survival is the thorn when we’d like to get out of our minds and relax back into the physical, into the now. Compartmentalizing is difficult, if not impossible. We can’t slow down, enjoy, and receive. And presently, we fall out of love with anything that we perceive as pressure.

Women need to be in love.

Marianne Williamson writes in her beautiful book A Woman’s Worth that it’s a need as real as the need to breathe. A man or partner, a job, a child, a project, a home, a friendship:

We need to be in love with anything that we can throw ourselves into and make it more beautiful for having loved it.

That is exactly how I feel about The Angle. It’s why I work so hard on a few small projects that have big potential for such a small community. It’s why I’ve torn open my soul to write truthfully about the ugliness of addiction and the scars it’s leaving on this place and these hearty people. I know something good will come of that, even if the re-lived pain is real during the writing and during the subsequent public critique. I’ve been asked to self-censor for the sake of privacy, but what good would that do anyone? I much prefer to let manure become fertilizer so that beauty may grow for all to experience. A writer writes in order to heal, to work towards self-forgiveness, self-love, and if there’s anything of worth for others along the way, that is the gift we offer.

After losing myself and all of life’s grace and beauty in a short stint of domestic despair, the worst of which will never be written about publicly, I’m falling back in love with The Angle. I’m falling back in love with myself. With the reasons I came here and chose to stay. With motherhood. With friendships and family relationships long neglected. I’m falling back in love with life.

And it won’t be long now, after that long, roaring belly-laugh that is building, building, that I realize life and all of its compartments never fell out of love with me in the first place.