Taking notes

I can’t really put my finger on why I feel compelled to blog. Just like that option about relationships on Facebook, it’s complicated.

I do like to think of myself as a storyteller and if I can get a few laughs along the way, all the better.

Perhaps Mr Morley, my 6th Grade teacher, is part of it. Even since he kindly but succinctly critiqued my attempt at a retelling of “Goldilocks & The Three Bears” – Michelle, I appreciate your hard work but your writing is verbose – I’ve felt the need to hone my writing skills.

Maybe it’s a way of quieting the voices in my head. I find putting thoughts into words on a page brings clarity and some sense of order.

My love affair with blogging actually started about eight years ago. I was going through (what I hope will be) the most disastrous time in my life. I had the trifecta – career; family; marriage – all in the shitter. There’s no nicer way to put it. Everything was crappy.

I was suffering deep anxiety and depression at the time (of course, had no idea that’s what it was) and I credit taking up writing in a journal for helping me through those really tough days.  I committed to writing one page per day, last thing at night.

At first, it was so very, very trite. My entries read like that nasty classic “What I did in my holidays”. It was just a recount of what I’d done for the day.

At the same time, I discovered you could actually do this on the internet and I started my own blog – The Blah-Blah. Nothing controversial. No deep inner revelations. No dark secrets. It was just like my journal – dull and boring and nothing at all of the real me in there.

Some time later I re-read both the early days of my journal and my blog, knowing full well what was really going on, and I could see how much of a liar I was. There was no hint of any distress at all. They were positively dripping with sweetness and ‘hail-fellow-well-met”.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Then the shit really hit the fan. My dad died. And all the crap came spilling out as life as I knew it exploded around me.

Finally, my journal did what it was supposed to do. It released all the pent-up angst, all the hurt, all the sorrow. Some nights I struggled to condense it all onto just one page.

Unfortunately, my blog took a turn for the worse as well, diving into diatribe. I took a good look at it one day and deleted the whole thing. It had become nothing more than a moan about things that were either out of my control or of my own doing. I felt embarrassed to have all that out for public display.

I kept my journals (there ended up being 5 of them) buried in the back of my cupboard for a few years. I made NIH promise to find them and burn them if I died. He knew everything about me so I wasn’t worried about him reading them (it’s one of the reasons I love him dearly – he knows it all and loves me anyway) but I worried about anyone else finding them.

About three years ago I did a big spring clean. Life was relatively good – there was still that pesky little issue with infertility but apart from that, I loved who I had become and where I was in life.  I pulled the journals out of the cupboard and flicked through them all.

Oh, that me was so sad and lost. Even now, I get a lump in my throat thinking of her. She was a total mess.

So I ripped them apart and burnt all the pages, even those heart-wrenching entries just before and after my dad passed away. The journals had served their purpose and I didn’t need to hold onto all that pain anymore. It was past time to let it all go.

I started “Creative Midlife” as a way of discussing my journey from librarian to graphic designer. It was meant to be a showcase of my work whilst being an amusing little aside at my life – a token diary without too much angst.

I decided to be real but not offensive. I wanted to write stuff that might leave me vulnerable but at least be my truth. I didn’t want to be a liar anymore.

It’s interesting to see how the blog has evolved around my life – first as a foray into a vastly different career, then as an IVF war veteran, then an immigrant to a different country and now as a second-time-around mother. I’m so glad I have kept a written record of the highlights. Sure, it’s not been all wine and roses but still it’s been good.

I don’t think I’ll be deleting it any time soon.

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A little bit grey today …

robin grey

An open face. A tired and troubled soul. His ability to make us laugh will be sorely missed.

Everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock (or on a hilltop in remote Iraq avoiding being slaughtered … but that’s another blog entirely) has heard the sad news of Robin Williams’ passing.  I really didn’t want to get on that bandwagon – I don’t know him personally, I’ve never met him, I have no real rights to grieve his death – and yet … it haunts me.

Robin Williams reminded me so much of my dad – who also died at age 63. My dad looked similar, his laugh was just as loud and instantly recognisable and he also hid a struggle with depression and disease behind the jokes and sociable outward face he presented to the world.

As anyone who has lived with someone with depression knows, there is really nothing you can do to help them. My dad described it as being stuck down a huge hole and just not having the energy to pull yourself out.  For a long time, I didn’t really understand what he meant. How could you just not make yourself happy?  Especially when you have a roof over your head, money in the bank, family and friends that adore you?  Then I went through a very stressful and, to date, the most difficult time in my life …

“Ah. Hello, hole. I believe you know my dad?”

And Robin Williams, apparently.

See, the thing with depression is you never fully recover from it. It’s always looming in the background, ready to tap you on the shoulder when life’s hurdles start making you jump. A little bit of stress and all of a sudden, there you are. In the bathroom. Trying to put your makeup on to get to work on time whilst sobbing for no apparent reason.

You know what the reason is, though. And you learn to adopt practices to try and sidestep that gaping black hole both terrifying and tempting. You know it will actually pass, if you can just make it through the morning. The day. This week.

Dad used to give himself 24 hours. He was allowed to wallow at the bottom of the hole for a day and then it was time to resume the mad scrabble up the sides to reach the light.

Life for me has become so much better since my dark hole days, but every now and then depression gives me a little tweak, just to let me know it’s waiting for me should I ever drop my guard.  But back in the days when it wasn’t so great, those days when I would wake to a crying jag, I knew I’d have trouble dragging myself to work but once there, the people I worked with would lift my spirits just by being themselves and by lunchtime, the light would be breaking through the thunderclouds.

I used to promise myself to concentrate on the fun jobs that I enjoyed and the crappy stuff could wait a day. (I was the boss, which was handy.) I was gentle and kind to my soul, making no demands and forgiving transgressions (“You want that cupcake? Have at it. You can exercise it off tomorrow”). I tried to go for a walk in the sunshine, or in summer tried to do a few laps at the pool. Or just settled for a bath.  Anything that would soothe and re-balance the chemicals in my brain causing me to feel funky.

Did Robin have little rituals and promises he made to himself? I’ll bet he did. But the recently revealed fact he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease must have been just too much. No amount of rituals or promises would spare him from traveling that path. 

I hope he knows that he took a piece of the world’s heart with him when he died.

He will be missed.