Here I am, watching my son play LEGO Lord of the Rings on the Xbox, drinking my first free cup of coffee in quite some time. My husband, who is so sick that he slept on the couch, left the house to start-up the lawn mower as soon as I emerged from the bedroom.
Of all the things I thought I’d do to this marriage, I never thought I’d kill it with depression.
I did not foresee that.
For now, I have a house to clean up and some baking to do. And in two days, more trips to the outpatient hospital to get electrocuted. Perhaps it’s all more poignant this way; Since I’m not trying to get better to save my marriage anymore, maybe getting electrocuted and heavily medicated will mean just that much more to my children when they hear the stories once they’re old enough.
I’m alive, somehow. Weird, isn’t it, that depression doesn’t actually, actively kill us? Depression wants us to go all-in with that final show of commitment. My treatment plan was/is simple: stay alive. Shockingly, this is not a self-cleaning house, and therefore as ever so, I’m emerging from the deep to find the house judging. You. A failure at housework. Again. I’ve been here before. I’ve failed at flylady, UFYH, and countless motivational systems designed to make! your! environment! healthy! I exist another day. I exist to try again, so I add housework to my treatment plan.
The kids are outside and I’m channeling Annette Benning.
It’s March, almost. My youngest two children: tornadoes of flung backpacks and lunch boxes every afternoon, they change clothes as if they had a pit crew, then explode into the yard. Their pool noodles are horses, trotting around a tree they’ve named Penelope. When I call them inside, my voice is a tool of torture. “Penelope! Will miss us! It’s not even dark!” They’re shocked at suppertime, horrified when bathtime arrives. Every day!
I want that, don’t you? I want to be so involved in my life that I’m astonished to be pulled into what’s next. I long to lose myself in play, like those two, without consideration of the next moment in my life. It’s taken care of. I want to be bewildered by my death, do you?
“I will clean this house today!”
She’s hard lines and angry motions, but she’s chanting a mantra. I get you, Carolyn. “I will sell this house toDAY!” I wake up and chant “I will clean this house toDAY!”
Even though I could argue that my genius prevents me from being creative in a clean space, some research shows that my brain chemistry can be altered just by changing my surroundings. Clean house, clean mind. Removing the clutter from my environment will create a mirror image in my head. I’m not attached to things. Throwing away is easy. Cleaning is hard to love. You don’t have to love everything you do. Sometimes just the doing is enough.
It’s working. Here’s why:
I give myself fully and completely to the task in front of me, ticking of items one by one on my various lists. I require lists. I use lists from this website, and I use this app on my phone to organize them. Using a system keeps me focused. Now I can really engage the working meditation of housework. I don’t think about anything else. The mess on the counters doesn’t respond to introspection and it doesn’t wonder why it exists; it will respond only to the sponge. Clean up the mess.
My middle daughter decided she’d rather attend public school than be homeschooled. Her decision worked out well for both of us, because at least 30% of my crushing boulder of shame/depression was related to guilt, because I couldn’t leave the house. That’s a made up number. You can’t quantify guilt. I’m an introvert; maybe a radically awkward introverted introvert, or a person with extreme social anxiety or PTSD but the why doesn’t matter. Clean up the mess.
Now that my daughter is in school, there’s no reason for me to stay home. I need to do something besides college and Sherlock reruns. (I’m one of the students involved in this scandal, and my school holds my credits and my future hostage for a ransom of $4690.00) It seems I may unemployable. I need to be productive.
Housework makes me feel productive
Clearing out clutter and cleaning the house makes me feel productive and useful. There is a measurable, tangible result at the end of each task. I do other work, too. This is different. This is a product that I can show. I did this. I care. I’m committed.
Housework Grounds Me to My Life
Caring for this wounded house – with its constellation of stains on the ceiling from that time when I threw coffee at my teenager and holes in walls from doors slammed open and the layers of dust from neglect grounds me.
I’m fighting my way through, tossing out what isn’t needed. I’m peeling away layers of dirt. I’m slowly re-entering my life. Inch by inch, here I am: painting toenails, putting on a scarf. Being engaged is painful; it’s a staring into the sun/bright lamp early in the morning kind of sensation. I’m getting through it. One load of laundry at a time.
I decided to take my daughter to the library that’s attached to my college campus. Yeah; we have this wee annex of the public library that’s in a room on our satellite campus. It’s an afterthought, as if they needed to fill some space in the building and decided to put some books in it. I’d say there are maybe 500 books there. But I’m pretty bad at judging space and numbers. Maybe there are 5 thousand books there. I don’t know, whatever. The most exciting thing for Avery about my campus is the ping-pong table. For me it’s the Keurig in the student lounge. I fantasize that I’m the kind of student that would go to a campus and hang out in the lounge and get a coffee or check out a wii controller and play a game. Cute idea.
Avery asked me, as she does every single day, if we could go to the coffee shop because she has a gift card. I said yes, and she asked me to repeat myself because she was already sighing in disappointment when I answered her.
Anyway. We were out already. We took our books back, and she was shocked to find that 1)there is more than one library and 2) there is a library so small that it fits into a room.
All of this to say that while I was already on the campus I decided to go to the advising office. I haven’t written here about how I haven’t attended classes in nine months because I’m an online student and I can’t get any advisors to advise me online. I’m stubborn, they require a phone call. And so on. It was really for their own good. But whatever.
Here is a sample of my conversation with the advisor (who was SO NICE and accommodating, seriously. I don’t know why I always make it so hard, when it’s always a non-event once I finally go.):
“Your mouse is in a really bad location.”
“I know! It won’t fit on the tray! But it took me 3 years to get them to install the tray! So I don’t know.”
“You’re going to be injured. There is a tray you can install for your mouse. If you give me your email address I will send you a link.”
“THANK YOU! That is so NICE!”
*typing* “Are you still a nursing major?”
“I don’t think so. My husband just dissected a cow’s eye, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to do that.
Also, I can’t pass the math class. I want to pick something else.”
“Oh, You have math anxiety. They can help you with that at the tutoring office.”
“I had a tutor. I have a different problem, that has to do with reading problems wrong and numbers backwards.”
“Oh. Uh, let me give you the number for the disability office. because you do still have to take these math classes no matter what.”
“Thank you. I failed Elementary algebra, with my tutor’s help, with a final score of 43.”
“Oh. Let me just override that requirement for this semester. Let’s get you into English and Women’s studies. Your GPA is 3.9, so.”
“Yes. When I take tests, I don’t read the material. I read the questions first. Then I go back to the material to scan for key words so that I can deduce the answers using contextual clues, since I don’t have reading comprehension skills.”
*typing*”Are you sure you can’t take classes on campus? There’s this one really great English professor…Ok.”"You know? You should really call that woman in the disability office.”
20 minutes later:
“You know who you remind me of? You should watch this movie. Have you ever seen this movie?” *Types “Claire Danes cow movie” into search engine*
It’s known that I believe that suicide should be a civil right . That discussion should happen on another day. I wrote, on my phone today, some things about active and passive dying. I’ve written on this blog about those ideas, and how people’s issues around choice with regard to death seem to get hung up on whether the dying is active or passive. I have a whole big bit about this giant salad that I compose each day as part of this new deal. I use the word compose mindfully here, because this salad is a true composition. Of art, maybe. A sculpture; at the least it’s a project. I spend quite a bit of quiet reflection, logically sequencing the layers of each day’s salad.
I didn’t sit down to bang out the whole discussion where the salads fit in to the dying, or the living. But they’re part of a set of behaviors that signify that as a participant in a family, there’s not much passivity in anything I am doing.
At the end of a weird day, a day that involved rearranging address numbers on mailboxes and big, heavy words like medical bankruptcy, and medical divorce, we looked up and the dvd player was showing us our own YouTube video channel.
A while ago I was online and I was REALLY sick. I made a video called Jack Medicine and it’s nothing special. It’s just Jack laughing. What’s special about the video, which I’m not linking today because today it was a different one was that during that time of my life, Jack’s laughter saved my life. Him laughing kept me alive, and that he made the faces in the video saved me, and that sometimes he still breastfed saved me, and a million other things about him saved me. And the laughing was the best part.
This one right here though: Today I thought, If I ever make the decision that it’s over, that it’s time. I’ll need to make sure that we’ve compiled every single one of these videos on a DVD first. Maybe it would just be for one last look but maybe…maybe I’d want to watch this video 20 times in a row. Maybe I’d want to fall asleep to it and the next day would look different.
Things are bad. Things are really, inescapably bad. But today I watched this video and I could swear I ovulated right that second.