Tuesday, October 31, 2017

One Thing Everybody Wants

It's Halloween, but candy, costumes, and haunted houses are not on my mind. What's on my mind is something altogether different. What's on my mind is love.

For some reason, I thought of "La La Land" this weekend, so on my drive to work today, I listened to the soundtrack. One of my favorite songs is, of course, City of Stars, featuring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Every time I hear it, I'm struck by the perfect way in which the songwriters expressed the human condition:
City of stars
Just one thing everybody wants.
There in the bars
And through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants––
It's love––
Yes, all we're looking for is love from someone else.
A rush,
A glance,
A touch,
A dance–– 
To look in somebody's eyes
To light up the skies
To open the world and send them reeling
A voice that says, "I'll be here,
And you'll be alright."
I don't care if I know
Just where I will go
'Cause all that I need's this crazy feeling–– 
A rat-tat-tat on my heart . . .
Think I want it to stay.

I really think that's it. That's what life is all about. We're here to feel love and to give love. I've felt this purpose more acutely in the last few years than maybe I ever had before, but boy, does it change things. It gives the world color and forces my understanding of things to be nuanced. It fills my heart with loneliness but also with gratitude.

"Love. All we're looking for is love from someone else." Such powerful words. I am resolved to remember them.

Thing I'm thankful for: a cozy place to sleep.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Carbon Is Where It's At

In the world of chemistry, that is. :)

I've loved carbon ever since I took organic chemistry in college. It's by far my favorite element. I mean, chemistry on it's own is like . . . okay. But add carbon, and things really start to get interesting! The chemistry of biology is so much fun for me to learn about and study, and until tonight, I didn't know it was so much fun to teach!

My sister messaged me today to say that Macy was "flipping out" about her 9th-grade biology homework and wanted to know if I could help her later. Ummmm . . . YES! 

So at 9:30, she called me, and I talked her through saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, carbon backbones, and reactants and products. It felt like Christmas. I don't know if I was a good teacher, but I sure had fun. Plus, I remembered more than I expected to, so that felt really great. At the end of the call, I told Macy that she could ask me for help with biology homework anytime, and I hope she meant it when she said she probably would.

I've been sort of sad about Macy and Lily's growth into adolescence lately. I miss their chubby little kid faces and tiny voices. I miss their cuddles and Care Bear costumes. I miss being able to hold them. But for a moment tonight, I thought, "This is an exciting new adventure as an aunt; I get to teach them about the subjects I love." Here's to hoping this wasn't the one and only homework help phone call.

Thing I'm thankful for: the sound of rain at night

Monday, July 31, 2017

I Finally Found It!

I started a blog post this afternoon that was all about today's Sunday School class and why I didn't like it, but several hours and a nap later, I decided it's just not worth writing about at this moment. Instead, I'd like to write about how––at age 35––I have found my favorite ice cream.

For a long time, it was mint chocolate chip, and then for a long time, it was chocolate or chocolate with almonds (a toss-up, really). Other flavors have entered the fray, but honestly, I never really felt comfortable announcing my favorite ice cream flavor. I mean . . . Ice cream is my favorite dessert! How can I choose just one?!?

Clay introduced me, however, to Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie last week, and I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. I know the flavor's been around for a while, but for some reason, I had never tried it before. Who knew that it was right under my nose for all of my adult life?

And there you have it, world––I like Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie best of all.

Thing I'm thankful for: long walks

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The List

I slept for a REALLY long time today, and now, I'm baking cookies and listening to good music––two of my favorite things in life. All I've been listening to is New Order. I listened to them in high school just like any other well-adjusted teenager, but they sort of fell by the wayside as I started listening to indie music in the early 2000s. About a year ago, though, a friend reminded me of them, and I haven't been able to stop listening for very long since.

So as I've been baking and listening to New Order, I thought about a blog post I wrote long ago called Listenin' to Abbey Road, in which I listed my top three favorite rock albums, and I decided it was time for an update. Back in 2006, my top three were:
  1. Abbey Road, The Beatles
  2. The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
  3. The Blue Album, Weezer
It's funny how time changes things and how we change over time. A little over a decade later, I would say these are my top three rock albums:
  1. Substance 1987, New Order
  2. Louder Than Bombs, The Smiths
  3. Automatic, The Jesus and Mary Chain
It's highly likely that in another decade, this list will change again, and probably, it will change even before that. And why even make these lists, anyway? I guess I think it's an interesting snapshot into a person's life that shows what they were feeling, who they were influenced by, and what aesthetic affected other areas of their lives. For example, in my senior year of high school, I was all about The Cure and Led Zeppelin. (I was melancholy and passionate.) In early college, I was listening to The Strokes, The Shins, and Franz Ferdinand. (I was upbeat and confident.) In grad school, I was all about The Black Keys, The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, Atlas Genius, and Capital Cities. (I was upbeat and confident and interested in up-and-coming bands.)

What would I say about myself now? What do my top three albums say about me? Maybe that I'm nostalgic, bored of today's music, depressed, and sort of . . . stuck in my mind most of the time.

Thing I'm thankful for: lazy Saturdays

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Treating Depression

About six months ago, I wrote Post-Thanksgiving Confession, in which I publicly shared my struggle with major depressive disorder. What I didn't write then that I should have was what I did to treat my depression:
  1. Take antidepressants.
    For some reason, lots of people don't like to take medicine for mental ailments, though they're fine with taking medicine for physical ones. One common attitude is that antidepressants dampen your personality. First, I would argue that depression dampens your personality; antidepressants don't. Second, antidepressants aren't magic; they don't make you happy right away. Third, if dampening your personality means that you don't kill yourself in the immediate future, then dampening your personality sounds pretty dang good.

    I have shared this with very few people––mainly because I realize that people don't know how to respond to such an account––but I'm sharing it now, in hopes that it will make a case for antidepressants . . . Last Spring, my depression was at an all-time low. I couldn't go an entire day without crying. I felt unloved and worthless. One Friday night, I sat on my bathroom floor and bawled my eyes out. I was convinced that no one would care if I was dead, and I thought about how I would kill myself, if I ever decided to. It scared me. I had never gone so far down that road before. I think it's common for people to wonder what the world would be like if they weren't in it, but it's not common for people to think about how they would actively exit it. The fact that I had was the straw. I never thought I would think such a thing, and yet there I was thinking about it. What if it was the same for actually committing suicide? Was that how it worked? You never think you'll do it until you actually do? I didn't want to find out. While I sat there, next to the toilet and all the tissues I had just used to wipe my face and blow my nose, I made up my mind to find a primary care physician and specifically ask for an antidepressant.

    The simple act of making the appointment was enough to empower me––to make me feel like I was making a good decision and taking control of this dark cloud that seemed to have taken over me. Within a month, I was taking duloxetine, and though it was physically difficult, I felt good about taking it. For the first month or so, I was light-headed and nauseated. I barely ate anything because the thought of food made me sick. I lost 15 pounds, which was a plus, but also, I was really hungry. Little by little, though, my appetite came back, and after a while, I realized that I had hope––hope that things would be okay. A friend described antidepressants to me this way: "It's not like you wake up one morning and feel happy. You wake up one morning and realize that it's been a while since you felt completely worthless and uninterested in everything around you." That's exactly how it was for me.

  2. Regularly see a counselor.
    This treatment was definitely more difficult for me and continues to be difficult. I can be pretty darn chatty, but when it comes down to it, I'm very private about my innermost feelings. I guess most of us are, but for me . . . Well, I'm so open about topical subjects that I suspect people think I'm open about everything I'm thinking and feeling, too. I tend to wait to share, though, until asked. If someone doesn't directly ask, "How are you?" I usually won't tell them. If someone doesn't ask, "What's been on your mind," I won't say. And I love to listen. I looove to listen. So some people talk and talk and talk and talk to me. After a while, our relationship becomes one of Sara-as-counselor. It's not a bad gig, usually, but sometimes . . . Sometimes you just need to tell people to shut up and listen to you for once.

    The nice thing about a counselor is that he's paid to listen to you. So if you want to get your money's worth, you have to talk. A lot. You have to remind yourself that this is about you. My counselor often has to remind me that I'm there to talk about myself. And it's hard. It's hard for me to be the non-listener. And quite honestly, I don't think he tells me things that I don't already know about myself, but it's just nice to have someone dedicated to paying attention to me. It's nice to be the center of somebody's attention for an hour.

    By far, though, the most important thing to seeing a counselor has been the mindfulness exercises he's taught me. I don't think the Western world pays enough attention to mindfulness, and I think I'm particularly bad at being mindful. So these exercises––they help me empty my mind of all the buzzing, nagging, negative thoughts that seem to so easily crowd my gray matter. They've helped remind me that I am of worth and my thoughts and feelings have value.

  3. Get more sleep!
    This has always been a tough one for me. I thrive at night. (See Time is Not On My Side.) But after decades of being A-OK on about six hours of sleep a night (sometimes five), my almost 36-year-old body is saying no. Eight hours is ideal, and if I get any less than that, I have a monster headache/migraine the next day––no thanks to that concussion from earlier this year. I think everyone knows about the importance of sleep, but because of the night owl in me, I constantly have to remind myself just how important it is, especially while I'm trying to recover from depression.

I'm still taking antidepressants, I'm still seeing a counselor, and it's a race against the clock every night as I try to get enough sleep time in. I imagine I'll be taking antidepressants for a while, too; in fact, I'm a little afraid to stop taking them . . . But I'm just rill glad that they're available. Of all the treatments, taking antidepressants has been the most beneficial. Sure, it's a quick fix, but when you're faced with thoughts of suicide, you need a quick fix. Quick fixes are okay sometimes––necessary, even.

So. That's my story. I hope it helps someone.

Thing I'm thankful for: phone conversations with kids

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Tonight I ate
  • 3 pieces of pork tenderloin
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 heap of sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup blood orange gelato
And I still felt a little hungry when I got home. So I made myself a half peanut butter sandwich. It was ridiculous. My eating today was ridiculous.

I really hope I turn into a beautiful butterfly tomorrow.

Thing I'm thankful for: brushing and braiding kids' hair

Friday, May 05, 2017

New Order

I don't know what happened to me this evening, but I found myself being angry or frustrated or just . . . altogether undone. I felt like running away from life, I guess––responsibilities and social pressure and slow drivers and physical pain and exhaustion. Lots of things. But that's not how the world works, of course.

So instead, I listened to New Order. Somehow, I feel better about things when I listen to New Order on high. Here are the songs I love the most:

What I love about these songs is their ability to make me feel cool and therefore confident in myself, which is rare. They're also full of energy––not the kind that builds and builds until the finale, but the kind that just constantly builds and bursts and builds and bursts over and over again, so that you're satisfied throughout. There's no waiting for that perfect moment at the end of the song or some kind of resolution in the chorus; it's just a sustained strength and vitality. I think that kind of energy lends itself well to thinking and wondering and exploring.

Give them a try, if you're feeling blue. Or angry. Or frustrated. Or anything, really.

Thing I'm thankful for: fathers