Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This Too Shall Pass.

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Girl Warrior. This too shall pass. Impossible to believe when you’re in the heat of the battle or in the eye of the storm. In the hour of the wolf when only the devil knows your name. When you cry out into the darkness begging for mercy. You’re down on your knees praying for your misery to end. You’re heart is breaking and your body is aching. You hurt everywhere.

You are in agony. You feel alone. Lost. Abandoned. Hopeless.

The emotional or physical pain is so unbearable you wonder if you will ever feel normal again. You can’t see two inches in front of you, much less the light at the end of the tunnel. You are unable to feel the warmth of a sunny day. You wonder, will you ever laugh again? Will your spirit be carefree once more? Will your burden be lifted?

Yes, Girl Warrior. Yes.

Relief from your suffering will come. Be assured. But it will take time. It will also take patience, tenderness, gentleness and kindness. You will find these in the embrace of your Dear Ones, who will love you unconditionally in your vulnerability and brokenness. Bit-by-bit. Day-by-day. One foot in front of the other, you will get there. You will be whole.

Life will never be what it was Girl Warrior. It will be better. Because you not only survived, you thrived.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Dream.

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I’m not much of a dreamer. At least not at night when I’m asleep. I do a lot of daydreaming. But the other thing, not so much. I guess technically, I do dream. We all do. I just have poor recall.

When I do remember a dream though, it’s usually a doozy. Nightmares. Being chased and can’t run away or scream for help. Embarrassing. Forgot to dress and find myself on a crowded bus stark freaking naked. X-rated. Stark freaking naked. Enough said. For the sake of my three adult children I will spare all the sordid details. Some make me sad and I wake up crying. Usually involving the death of a beloved human or pet. Sometimes myself. From others I wake up laughing. Like I was in bed with Louis C.K. Enough said.

But every now and again, there’s one that flat-out leaves me believing. In wonder and amazement at just how stupendously miraculous this thing called life and afterlife really is. It’s the stuff of good science fiction. Time travel. Parallel universes. Eternal connectivity. The never-ending story. The stuff that bears truth to statements like, “She/he is still with me” or “I feel her/his presence.”

On Thursday night I had a two-part dream like this. The first part was kind of a silent nightmare. I was in a subway car with my daughter M and her best friend A and we were headed to some unknown destination. The strange thing was that neither girl was talking, which I suppose is proof that I was indeed dreaming. The even stranger thing was that the subway car was actually a rollercoaster car, which I am terrified of. I was sitting between the two girls. We went around a hairpin curve at lightening speed and somehow I flipped out of the car and was hanging on to the side of the car like my life depended on it, because it did. I called out to one of the girls (who shall remain nameless) to hold onto my arm so I wouldn’t fall off and be crushed by a million tons of fast-moving steel. But it was as if she was deaf. Much like our waking relationship. Then I grew very calm. I knew I would be fine, that everything would end up okay. I hung onto the side of the car, cool as a cucumber. Fearless even. I just love how you can manipulate dreams to make them work in your favor. We arrived safely at the next subway stop and all was well. End of part one.

In part two I’m still at the subway stop. My young female travelling companions are gone. They left without a word, which made perfect sense since this was a silent movie. In the next scene, a door opens and it’s The Old Man. Finally someone speaks. He says, “Look who I brought.” He steps aside. And there’s Ma. It was a younger Ma. The one from when I was about eight or ten. She looked beautiful. I ran into her arms. We embraced. I hung onto her for dear life. Just like the rollercoaster car in part one. I could feel her. And smell her. I cried into the collar of her faux fur winter coat. I told her how happy I was to see her. And that I missed her dearly.

And that was it. I woke up crying. But I wasn’t sad. I was happy to have had this moment with Ma. To be hugged by her again. No one, and I mean no one, hugs you like your mother.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve dreamt of Ma since she died 14 years ago. We’ve had “visits” before. Most of the time they are sweet and simple and far too brief. Much like our time together on earth. Sometimes we’re shopping or having lunch. But mostly we’re sitting together at the kitchen table at 204 enjoying a cup of tea and a good chat. Nothing has changed. We talk about the “daily things” that fill our days with meaning, hope and love. She still refuses to tell me why we’re here, what it’s all about, and where we go after this is all said and done.

One of the wonderful gifts of these visits, or close encounters from the other side, is that I get to have “the one mores” with her. One more kiss. One more hug. One more cup of tea. One more conversation. One more chance to say, “I love you Ma.”

Is it real? Is it just a dream? Are we living parallel lives now? Am I able to traverse from here to wherever she is? Cross borders and meet-up with her in my sleep? Slip from this reality to hers? Is this possible?

I don’t know. And I don’t care. I only know that seeing Ma on Thursday night comforted me. Brought me peace. And made me happy. I look forward to one more.

Ma Girl Warrior - Feature Alt

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Depression.

Face of DepressionThis morning I woke up.  Thank God.  As I was making the bed I thought about my plans for the day. Making a cup of cinnamon coffee. Writing my blog. Banking with E.  Shoe shopping with M. The first two items on the list made me happy.  The third, not so much.  The fourth delighted me.

Then I had this thought.  My two daughters are my best friends.  Then I had this thought.  I wonder if they’d find that pathetic.  I know I’m not theirs.  Nor should I be at their ages.  Then I had this thought.  My mother was my best friend.  Then I had this thought.  When she died I not only lost my mother, I lost my best friend.  Then I had this thought.  That blows.

Then I started to cry.  Bawled my fucking brains out as I was making the bed. The whole nine yards. Messy tears and snot all over my face, the pillows, sheets and my new shabby chic comforter.  Which by the way, was incapable of providing neither the degree, nor the depth, of comfort required to stop this sorrowful eruption of muck and mournfulness.

Then I had this thought.  I’m sad.  Probably even depressed.

I come by this melancholy honestly.  Not that he talked about it.  Not ever.  But I think The Old Man was depressed, most of his adult life.  Maybe it was because he was Finnish.  Their suicide rates are high, especially in the winter, which is long, cold and dark.  Much like Northwestern Ontario, where he lived his entire life.  I got out when I was twenty-four.  It was too dreary for me.  On so many levels I can’t even begin to describe.

What caused his depression?  Who knows. I can only speculate.  One part environment.  One part DNA.  One party magical mystery tour. The Hammond Organ

The Old Man sought refuge and relief from his misery in alcohol, watching sports on TV, buying new shoes, eating anything laced with sugar, swearing at inanimate objects, going to church on Sundays, shoveling snow in the winter and digging in his garden in the summer, umpiring little league games, taking long Sunday drives, scratching our dog’s belly, and sleeping. The older he got the more he slept. He was often antisocial, spending long hours alone in the spare room, behind closed doors watching TV or reading the daily newspaper.  There was a Hammond Organ in that room that he tinkered with but never really learned to play.  (However, he was an accomplished spoon percussionist.)  The memory of that room, and his self-imposed exile and isolation, makes me sad.

People didn’t talk about their feelings back then.  Men especially, kept things under wraps. Stiff upper lips and pulled up boot straps. The Old Man stuffed his sadness inside a profusion of plaid flannel shirts, only to unleash it every three months like clockwork, after a long night at the neighborhood saloon. The Crest on Red River Road.  Instead of manifesting in tears, his hurt took a far darker, menacing form.  He’d come home seething with anger.  Uncontrollable rage.  He never hit anyone because he was like a small yapping dog.  All bark and no bite.  But he ranted relentlessly and bullied the shit out of Ma and her kids. He was an unholy terror. It was one hell of a time.

During those dark nights of the soul, I hated him.  Wished him dead.  Prayed to God to strike him down with a bolt of lightening.  A precise and explicit message from heaven.  But that didn’t happen.  Thankfully.  Because the truth is, The Old Man was a good man when he wasn’t drinking. He had a kind, tender and sensitive heart, and he loved his family fiercely.

And he was ill.

An alcoholic.  But the alcohol was merely self-medication.  The deeper illness was depression.  It makes me sad now to think that we didn’t know that.  I mean, we knew intimately the subject matter of his rum and coke induced rages.  The things that angered and tormented him.  But we never understood why. Our family knew very little about the pathology of alcoholism as a disease.  And even less about depression.  Back then depressed people were crazy.  Plain and simple.  It was far better to be a self-pitying miserable alcoholic.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered if while I was praying to God to strike him dead, if he was doing the same thing. He went to church every Sunday.  What were his prayers?  Did he pray for help?  Beg for healing?  Did he seek forgiveness?  Did he find comfort there? Did it any of it help?  I hope so.

So here I sit.  Years and miles away from Northwestern Ontario.  Daylight is breaking.  How do I deal with my sadness?  This depression?  The tears that stain my cheeks and cover my shabby chic comforter? I do this.  I write.  I run.  I do yoga. I take long walks along quiet country roads.  I take photographs.  I play with my dogs.  I love my family fiercely. I eat well. I take vitamins. I talk to my wise girlfriends about deep dark feelings.  I pour my heart out to my husband.  I listen to my children and look for clues on how to live a joyful life. I laugh my guts out.  I pray.  I meditate.  I write letters to God. I count my blessings. I get up, go to work and give it my very best shot.  I play my guitar and my clarinet. I read books. Listen to music. I dream. I hang out. I waste time. I watch TV. The Old Man Hipster

But I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t do drugs, except for the occasional ibuprofen. I do my best to stay away from sugar, especially white. I don’t give myself pep talks. They don’t work. I also don’t scold. Engage in self-pity, self-loathing or self-flagellation. I watch my inner dialogue. I try not to spend too much time alone in this room.  Although that’s challenging because one of the things I love to do most requires that I spend long stretches of time in isolation.

Over the years I have found solace in motivational books and tapes, teachers, preachers, the wise and the enlightened. I’ve learned acceptance. Of what was.  And what is.

Will I ever be completely free from depression and sadness?  No. The truth is, I don’t want to be fully extricated. It’s part of who I am.  Like my hazel eyes and crooked smile.  It’s the fuel that fires some of my richest writing. The fountainhead of a few of my best ideas.  My literary wellspring. It’s what allows me to feel things deeply. Not just my suffering.  But yours.  And yours.  And yours. I shed tears for all living creatures. Even the dead rats I come across on the country road I walk.  I like that about me.

Depression reminds me of my humanness.  My weaknesses and strengths.  It dictates that, in order to stay healthy, I must stay connected.  It opens the eyes of my heart. And unleashes love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, hope.  And above all.  Empathy.

I get it Dad.  I get your pain.