Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Depths

The waters have gotten rough again. Through some obscure universal law, be it karmic or cyclic, a couple boats have sprung leaks at once.

Mihiretu, who has been such a pleasure the past couple months, caught a cold a few weeks ago. Suddenly we are back in the land of the negative; mysterious crying jags ("Lala hit me!", shuddering with grief, a full five minutes after Lana bopped him on the head - understandable reaction but why the delay?), rascality turned up to eleven ("I gonna wake up Mae." "Please don't wake up Mae." "I gonna wake up Mae." "Please don't wake up Mae." "I gonna wake up Mae." "Look, Mihiretu, a matchbox car!" Car thrown at forehead), and general irrationality (3 a.m. "I wanna dog!" "Let's talk about this in the morning." "I wanna dog!" "Mihiretu, you're going to wake up your sisters." "I wanna dog NOW!!" "Huh? Mama? He wants a what? Why is it still dark out?").

His cold is gone but the behavior remains. It takes everything I have to keep my own temper in the face of the Mihiretu tornado. If I don't - and sometimes I don't - the spiral deepens. He trusts me less, he tests me more. Soon I'm looking for any avenue of escape when really what we need is positive time together. Positivity, after weeks on end of bullshit, is almost impossible to muster.

When the girls were two and three and four, they, too, cycled through periods when they were difficult and periods when they were (relatively) easy. It makes sense that Mihiretu would do this, too, and given his rough road, with more spectacular highs and lows. I know, in my head, that this will get better. My heart doesn't believe it. Though each dip he takes is more shallow, every time I'm confronted once more with his enormous hurt and need, it overwhelms me all over again.

My mother has also taken a nosedive over the last few weeks. She doesn't feel physically well, is spending too much time in bed, is swinging her cane at the caregivers in the dementia ward, is victim to all sorts of scatological issues, internal and external, seems anxious and depressed. When I visited last week, she spent the entire time scratching with her thumbnail at invisible dirt on the table, mumbling that she "needs to clean up this crap". For the first time, she didn't seem to remember me. Or maybe she was just too consumed with the crappy table to care.

Beyond the added work of trying to figure out what to do for her, seeing her this way eats at me. I, myself, have been anxious and depressed along with her. At first I didn't realize that it was rooted with my mom. I just found myself unduly worried about wrapping Christmas gifts, about making fudge and cookies with the girls, about what kind of vegetable I would serve on Christmas Eve. All this free-floating angst made me feel crazy. Made me wonder if the Wellbutrin was working after all. It wasn't until Ben and I could get a pocket of time to talk that I traced it firmly to my suffering, vacant mother. Pinpointing it, hearing from Ben that it was normal to be worried, normal to be heartsick, helped enormously. But I'm still anxious. This time about where to put the kids' newly acquired toys.

When it's December, when I'm bundled in three sweaters staring out at the rain, it's difficult to remember the pool in July, the sun on my bare legs, the kids hosting tea parties in the deep, the cascade of mommy chatter flowing over me like a river. When I had pneumonia last summer, I was, of course, dying. Likewise, when I'm depressed, there is no future, only years of darkness to endure.

There are a few tricks to stay on the raft through the rapids. Ben's presence, even if we're knee-deep in children, is comforting. To know that I have a partner in my battles, that I'm not in it alone. Exercise, be it inhaling huge gulps of cold, wet air on a run or prying my ears gently from my shoulders in yoga, or swimming lengths of the community pool, chased by phantom mothers and Mihiretus, wielding canes and matchbox cars. Writing here, taking one big step back and seeing more of the picture. Dark chocolate, preferably raw, works chemical magic. Even the sight of a stack of meaty novels on the bedside table cheers me up. And, lately, we've been downloading movies almost nightly. Last night we all watched "Big". Two nights before it was "Groundhog Day". Watching these silly old favorites, delightfully new to the kids, is soothing. I spend a couple hours in the eighties, a time when my father was alive and my mother, though often foggy with depression, at least knew I was her daughter. I sit with Lana snuggled up against me on one side and Ben on the other, Mihiretu sprawled asleep in Mae's lap. Tom Hanks dances on the giant piano keyboard at F.A.O. Schwartz, stomping out "Chopsticks" and I feel certain that we will all get downstream to where the river widens. Not today, perhaps, but soon. In the meantime, there's "Caddyshack".

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