Poem: “Martha, Martha”

One of my hobbies, of course, is writing. To this end, I have also published some books. My most recent one, a poetry collection entitled The Cost of Things, is available on Amazon. This poem is from that book.


martha, martha
according to Siemiradzki’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (1886)

She is denied the foreground
and all color, all adornment,
her face, devoid of detail and dark
with work, flushed with fervor,
with her sleeves rolled up because
for her to slave is to say I love you
while her simple robes blend into the wall.

“Your sister chose the better thing”
and her soul strains beneath the weight
of her water jar, which carries the bitter
drink of not enough, not enough, not enough.

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Butt in the Chair

The trouble with promising myself to write daily (or almost daily) is that it relies on me having something that I’m just burning up to say. Or does it? That’s been my experience with writing, anyway, which is why I think I’m so bad at making it a part of my daily life. I must wait for… INSPIRATION! [Lightning cracks, thunder rumbles, a child screams]

But that’s not really what writing is about, at least not as it has been taught to me. I have my undergrad degree in English, and my Master’s degree is in creative writing. The recurring lesson that has not stuck in my head through six years of higher education is “Butt in chair, pen in hand” (or, you know, fingers on keyboard). You know why that’s hard?

Discipline.

That’s a dirty word in our modern, free-floating society, conjuring images of the military, or aggressive parenting, or perhaps well-meaning monks sleeping on cold stone floors to try to make their bodies holy. According to Dictionary.com, the third top definition of discipline is “punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.” Punishment! That’s what we think of when we hear the word.

Also according to Dictionary.com, though, discipline descends to Present Day English (PDE) via Middle English (ME) via Anglo-French via Latin (because of course it does): “disciplīna: instruction, tuition, equivalent to discipul(us).” Instruction and tuition, huh? Perhaps this hints at a definition more in line with education than punishment? Indeed, the first two definitions of the word indicate this. Training, activity, exercise, regimen are the words that pop up in the definitions–sometimes boring repetitions of a task in order to improve at it.

I think that’s where 21st century American society–and I–chafe at the thought of discipline. The thought of doing the same thing over and over and over to gain mastery of it just seems so dull. There’s nothing novel in it. (Unless you’re writing, in which case there may very well be a novel in it–sorry.) There is no instant gratification in disciplined activity. That’s incredibly frustrating for the breakneck speed at which American culture operates, and it’s downright obnoxious for my funky brain wiring.

My ADD comes out as impulsive decisions, “I gotta have it now,” and low desire to try new things because I won’t be immediately good at them. Part of the problem, I know, is fear of failure. I don’t want to suck. It’s embarrassing to fail, especially on the public platform of the internet. (Yes, I could make this blog private, but what’s the point if I’m trying to conquer my fear of putting myself out there?) I don’t like being embarrassed. Not sure if anybody really does. But the thought of disciplining myself to write daily is really, really exhausting sometimes. After all, it involves reining in my desire to flit and flutter around from one amusing thing to the next–to curb the impulse to just go play video games for six hours rather than putting in 20 minutes on the blog. And that’s hard.

There’s a saying I learned from my mom: “If you pick up a calf every day, one day you can pick up a cow.” There are a few ways you can interpret this. In general, it means that if you do the same task every day, over time it prepares you for harder tasks. As things get more difficult, you have become progressively stronger to pick them up. I suppose writing is a lot like that. If one writes on the days that it’s easy and ideas flow freely, then that makes it easier to write on the days that the brain gets constipated.

I suppose that’s why my writing teachers all harped so much on writing daily. I was always a bit of a slacker in that regard; I didn’t want to do it, and moreover I didn’t think I needed to. I’ve been good at writing since I can remember. Why bother, right? But even naturally athletic people have to train in order to run a good marathon. We writers, especially writers like me with brain wiring issues that make ordinary tasks more difficult, have to train daily, too. We can’t just wait on inspiration.

And sometimes, when we don’t wait on inspiration but make our own, we find we’ve written an entire blog post on a day we thought we had nothing to talk about.

Per aspera ad astra,
Steph

Little by Little

One of the single hardest things about living with depression is the way it completely saps your enthusiasm to do anything. Some days, I come home from work and all I can do is change out of my work clothes and crash for a two-hour nap. It’s frustrating. No, it’s beyond frustrating to a place of such deep, self-directed anger that I don’t even have words for it.

Well, you’re useless. Can’t do anything but sleep and go to work.

You’ve got dishes piled up from two weeks ago. You could at least put those in the dishwasher.

Get your lazy ass up and at least clean the litter boxes.

What’s wrong with you?

It doesn’t help, either, that when my parents come to see me, I get passive-aggressive comments from my mother about it. “You know, if you would just do X every day, Y would be a whole lot cleaner/neater/better.”

Yeah. I know. It’s not that I don’t know how to clean my own house or do basic chores. I had a reasonably normal childhood. I know how to wash a plate and vacuum and do laundry. The difference between me and a more factory-default person (I really don’t like the word neurotypical) is that sometimes I just can’t. I physically cannot.

It’s the most rage-inducing thing. It’s like there’s the real me, the “normal” me, and I can feel it, but it’s trapped by this… nebulous, seething shadow-monster called Depression. And it’s like I think “Oh, yeah, I need to do the dishes,” and the shadow-monster hisses and says No, you’re going to take a long nap instead. Then I do, and I wake up feeling no less tired and a thousand times more upset.

Part of it, too, is the comorbidity of ADD and depression. While depression makes me tired and saps my enthusiasm for doing literally anything, ADD sits in the passenger seat and panics because the task at hand seems too large and there’s too many steps and OH GOD NOW WE’RE OVERWHELMED BETTER DO NOTHING. (I’m not sure which one drives the car of my mental health struggles. I think they trade.) The struggle, as they say, is real.

But I’m not content to roll over and do nothing, to wallow in my funky brain wiring and say “I can’t.” I’m trying instead to say “I can’t right now.” Yesterday I tried to clean my room, but it was such a big, overwhelming mess that I knew I’d stop before I even started. So I took a deep breath, told myself it was okay, and promised myself that if I would just clean my nightstand, that would be enough for the day.

It took me only about five minutes to tidy up my nightstand, but I felt so incredibly productive by doing it–way better than the self-loathing that would’ve risen up had I not done anything at all. A little bit at a time has to be enough. I’m sitting here looking at the health points bar above the head of the shadow-monster. I can’t kill it in one swing, but I can stab at it lots of little times.

There’s a saying in French: Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid. “Little by little, the bird builds its nest.” The bird doesn’t put its nest together in a single moment. It’s lots of little moments gathering twigs and string and scraps, padding the inside with feathers, over and over and over until it’s done. And I’m slowly teaching myself that that’s the trick to living with–no, thriving with mental illness. I need to work with myself, not against myself. It’s not my fault I have these struggles. I can’t control what my brain wiring does. But I can control how I react to it and how I take care of myself.

And sometimes, that looks like standing in the middle of a messy room and knowing that tidying the nightstand will be enough for one day.

Greetings & Salutations

Good morning, world. It’s me, Steph.

From where I sit at my desk today, it is 10:08 AM. I have started this blog more or less on a whim (as you do), to force myself to write more frequently. I am the sort of person who feels many things very deeply, and often I find it difficult to put those things into words. I’m also the sort of person who is terrible at journaling because my brain runs faster than my hand can write, but typing can keep up, for the most part. It’s to help me channel the feeling of screaming into the void into something more productive. Hence the name.

I do not know where this blog will go. Right now, I can think of a thousand different topics I’d love to cover. I can imagine it will be something of an eclectic mix, a window into the hubbub of my brain.

While I’m thinking about it, a bit about me:

  • 26 years old until January
  • Administrative assistant in higher ed
  • MBTI type: ISFP
  • Enneagram: 4 (that alone explains why I have lots of feelings)
  • Servant of 3 fine felines, affectionately called the Furry Little Bastards (FLBs)
  • Obsessed with flowy clothing, tea, candles, and incense
  • Giant dork/nerd/geek (gnerk?)
  • Anglican (more on that later, if I remember)

On a much more personal note, I’m sure this blog will touch on my mental health battles at times. I was diagnosed with moderate-severe depression and mild-moderate anxiety in October 2012 after 3-4 years of living with it undiagnosed. Sometimes it kicks my ass. Sometimes I kick its ass. But I’m still here, so that’s a victory.

I also have Adult ADD, which is just nifty. AD/HD and depression/anxiety are frequently comorbid disorders, which just explains… so much.

Anyway, just wanted you to know what you’re getting into with me as I process and learn to take better care of myself and express my emotions in a healthy way that doesn’t involve me bottling them up until I explode and melt down. That is an unsustainable practice, and conquering my demons (so to speak) requires sustainability.

Hopefully my ADD brain doesn’t take over and make me stop blogging once the novelty wears off.

Anyway, these are two of the FLBs. Winston is the monstrously large orange/white, and Trinket is the black one. Thor wasn’t part of the family when this picture was snapped. I’ll have to add him soon.

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Winston and Trinket enjoying a nice breeze.

Thanks for coming along on this insane roller coaster with no real plan. It’s like a game of The Sims where you just put them on auto and let them ruin their lives while you laugh maniacally. But hopefully less maniacal laughter.

Per aspera ad astra,
Steph