And not as in Queens. Or toilets.

I’m feeling like a bad parent, a bad partner, bad bad bad. Bad to the bone. Rotten inside. Wounded, damaged, bandaged. Incapable, overwhelmed, concerned. All day long, the waves come, up and down, up and down, up and down. And all day long, the body breathes, in and out, in and out, in and out. For a moment, everything is good: we are making muffins, we are drinking hot chocolate at the bookstore. Another moment, everything around me seems to be broken, falling apart, just like the cheap-ass Rubik’s cube knock-off Pearl proudly bought with her own money at Michael’s yesterday.

Fall-out from being gone for a week? Re-entry, to be expected? The realities of family life, young kids, parents, so many moods and needs colluding, colliding?

I have been taking an anti-depressant on and off since 1997. I have had periods of depression, feeling that terrible disconnect between myself and the world I can touch. I’ve touched on this only from time to time on the blog; it remains, amazingly, taboo territory, shameful, or something perhaps I even relegate to some distinct category called “private.”

For one week, I enjoyed my own company. I settled quickly into an easy rhythm with myself. In some ways, I didn’t even miss home, though once I saw a couple kissing in the clear blue Caribbean water and had the thought that if I didn’t have Greg, I would have looked at them longingly.

For a week, I used exactly four dishes: a French press, a mug, a bowl, and a plate, which I washed by hand to the music of roosters and tree frogs. I went walking or running in the early mornings, pulling on surf shorts and a jog bra and stepping out into a bright, dusty world. I got cafe con leche and maybe chatted with some locals before walking back up the steep hill, where I settled in to another world, the world of my own past, for hours at a time, writing without interruption.

In the afternoons, I hitched a ride with a neighbor to the beach, which usually resulted in getting a drink afterwards, something I rarely do at home. I kept meeting people with connections to my life in Vermont. Vieques is called “The Enchanted Isle” for a reason, of this I’m sure.

I can imagine that if I didn’t have a family, this is how I would live. Whether that’s true or not is a moot point.

I have a family. They were here when I slipped into the house on Thursday a little after midnight, breathing like one body in a bed too crowded for me to crawl into.

I have cried a lot in the last 72 hours hours. Last night, the four of us went to a Valentine’s Day Family Dance at the YMCA, where we danced our hearts out to a wedding-worthy soundtrack. Later, Greg and I went out without the girls to the Bluebird Tavern, where we sat at the bar watching Apolo Ohno gathering speed. I ordered rum and sugar, trying to taste my time away. Greg got a couple beers and we ate a basket of fries. We talked about changing things up, living abroad, what are the models for that for people with families? For people without trust funds or jobs they can take sabbaticals from?

This, our life. Our wedding rings say so.

Such a blessed life, so full of gifts. Believe me, I am grateful for the time I had away. For the healthy, beautiful girls whose waves I learn every day how to ride, for Greg, who keeps showing me how to trust, how to open.

To be this honest, is that not why we are here? Depression is a label. For one week, maybe a little longer, I stopped taking the anti-depressant, that little yellow pill. I didn’t actually think much about it, and from past experience “know better” than to go cold turkey on that front.

The sun, the sea, the sand, the solitude. All those lulling “s” sounds transforming my skin, my hair, my connection to the body, my being. And then, coming home. The pile of bills, the wall of grey, the wall-to-wall feeling of family life, the longing to slow down and be-here-now more with my kids, with myself most of all, the coming-and-going feeling that perhaps I am incapable of this. Just. can’t. do. it. Even as I tell Pearl that “can’t” isn’t a word “we” use. Ha! That Royal We.

And then, all of these tears, like flushing toxins, releasing built-up emotions. Surely not a bad thing, right? But then fear: is this me underneath the drugs, even that low dose by all accounts? Does that chemical help keep me glued together, and without it this is what happens?

Up and down, in and out. Breathing. That’s all.

A coupon for 50% off a large pizza is sitting here on the kitchen table, and I am going to use it for dinner, having never made it today to the grocery store. It’s good enough, this path of least resistance, coming all day long into acceptance – of my kids just as they are in any given moment, of all of it, radically. Without stories and the well-worn maze of thoughts where I just end up feeling lost and frantic. With just one breath, one pause, I see what’s real in this very, very, very moment, and the elusive “nowhere” of depression gives way to the inarguable now, here once again.

Where’s the shame in that?

15 thoughts on “Flushing

  1. holly says:

    once again, our lives intertwine and intersect and all i can offer you is my hand in solidarity, jena. i. am. right. there. with. you.
    much love.


  2. Lindsey says:

    Yes. I know so well the feeling of: this is my life. This. With all of its untold, immense riches. And also the feeling not being quite able to engaged with it, even though I see its glory.
    Thank you for this honesty. And welcome home.


  3. Renae C says:

    “r”eality with a little r jars you after immersion in “R”eality that takes you deeply inward.

    Re-entry deserves some tears.

    YOU ARE ENOUGH – and in that there is no shame.


  4. Janice says:

    As I read this, I kept thinking of birth (common theme, eh?) You are so open, naked, vulnerable and yet oh-so-strong, a force of nature…perhaps giving birth to a new part of you during that week away. And now it’s the inexplicably confusing post partum hormone rush. Flush it out. Nurture and mother yourself when you can and lean on me when you can’t. I love you.


  5. GailNHB says:

    Your words, your story, your emotions, your fears – they are so perfectly right for you. And so frequently shared by others. The joy of the journey. The peace of time alone, getting reaquainted with yourself. Walking. Eating. Drinking. Writing. So good, so very good. The jolt of the return to “normal” life. The realization that home life feels smothering at times. Thanks for your honesty yet again. Thanks for your vulnerability. And for allowing us to walk with you all along the way.



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