Monday, October 12, 2015

reckless abandon

My four year old is a force of nature.  She's a fire-driven free spirit with an extra helping of sensitivity mixed in at full speed.  She's the chef's special to life's blue plate, the techno to everyone else's waltz, and the Black Friday deal to the world's 10% off sale.

I often wonder how such a big personality can be compacted into such a small person.  The flurry of activity that takes place between the hours of 6:30 am and 8:00 pm cover such a wide range of categories that it can feel like a full time job just trying to keep up.  In that span of time, she experiences the full gamut of human emotions and in the fullest expression; like a torrential rainstorm.  It can be both captivating and scary to watch as it unfolds.  Each day she has nearly as many outfit changes and attitude changes as there are days in October.  And throughout her waking hours, she has the power to make even our lazy bulldog experience intense bouts of anxiety-driven behaviors.

And I'm kind of jealous.

I'm fairly certain there are preschools filled to the brim with tiny cherubs with similar rap sheets. And even more than that, I'm 99.9% sure that I'm not alone in finding small moments of blissful peace in the warmth of a cup of coffee, the first few sips of grown-up grape juice, or even the comforts of a closet floor; where I can be found laying in the fetal position with my fingers in my ears while humming simply to drown out the tornado of crazy that awaits on the other side of that two inch hollow wooden door {or what I call 'Friday afternoon'}.

It's not that I don't think my kiddo is the only one on earth who has an insanely large spectrum upon which she lives life.  It's just that being privy to co-existing under the same roof as this kind of personality, I have an up close and personal experience with the epitome of 'reckless abandon'. Her carefree existence isn't bogged down by worries of stigma, labeling, and discrimination.

Frustrating as it is some all of the time, I find so many of her idiosyncrasies to be the very things I experience in life; only when manifested into the adult world, their interpretation becomes skewed.

Take the fact that my kiddo likes to dress herself in the style of...oh, what would you call it?  Eclectic. 'All the things'.  To some, Monday mornings mean business suits or scrubs or uniforms. But in the Land of Extremes, Mondays can mean leopard-print leggings paired with a bright rainbow tulle skirt overlay, turquoise halter adorned with silver studs underneath a pale pink tee that boasts 'My dad rocks--Father's Day 2009' {she was born in 2011}.  Let's not forget the intentionally mismatched socks, one displaying Anna's face, the other, of course, Elsa.  The socks of course not visible when she wears her shoes--faded gold wedge-heeled sneakers.  Her hair, a mass of tousled-by-a-blender curls that haven't seen a brush in some 48 hours.  Costume jewelry paired haphazardly with whatever pieces she was able to pilfer from her most recent trip to my jewelry box finish off the ensemble.  This look of course is not to be outdone by the palette of color she paints on her face in the 12.7 seconds I manage to sneak off to pee alone.  The piece de resistance of her Cover-Girl-Gone-Wrong look?  Why bright red lipstick, of course.  Every good southern girl knows that nothing pulls a look together like a string of pearls, some mascara, and the perfect red lip.  {Unless you're four, and your 'perfect' resembles more of Heath Ledger's rendition of the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Now that you have a vague image in your brain, replace 'precious four year old darling' with 'over-tired middle-aged mom of three'.  Not quite the same effect, huh?  When she dons her not-so-Sunday-best to the grocery store, we get looks, followed by smiles and {for the most part} positive feedback. Because, chances are, they have a kid/know a kid who does the very same thing.  But, put that middle-aged mom in the produce aisle wearing the same get-up and aside from looks, she might find herself talking to a uniformed officer.

It's a double standard, and quite frankly, I'm kind of perturbed by it.  It's not that I want to head into my closet with a blindfold to select my outfit for the day and apply my makeup using the splatter from my hand mixer; but I'm kind of jealous that my big, bold, over-exaggerated four year old hits the streets without a veil of self-consciousness or shame, completely oblivious to anything except for what she has going on in her little world.  As long as she's content, life is gravy.

When you struggle with depression and anxiety, there are times when life is pretty gravy.  Things go along at their usual pace, life happens: you react, respond, resume.  But then one day you wake up to find a big lump in your otherwise smooth existence.  You find yourself staring down this bulbous conglomeration of thickening agent, fully intent on slowing your flow and giving you feelings of discontentment, disengagement, and a distorted reality.

The lump is kind of like the mountain in that children's chant "Going on a Bear Hunt".  You can't go over it, you can't go under it.  You've gotta go through it.  Only when you enter into that lump, the dense, powdery gob makes it hard to escape.  Breathing deep is challenging because the air is thick with a dusty blend of tasteless particles.  The blandness of the lump and the inability to inhale and exhale your full expression of self takes away your desire to 'person'.  Instead, you nestle yourself into a shelter of fluffy protection, and introvert your days away.

Only, the trouble comes when life continues to happen.  Life in a house with three kids, one of whom puts the Tasmanian Devil to shame on a daily basis, doesn't quite care about the lump in your gravy. Parenting, wife-ing, friend-ing, adult-ing all require a bit more interaction and involvement than a curled up pile of yoga pants, old college tee shirts, and unwashed hair.

Therein lies the problem.  Striking the delicate balance between fulfilling your expectations for the various roles you hold, and submitting to the desires to shut it all out and sleep.  When one of the roles you fulfill is to be responsible for the development of and care for three flourishing and easily-influenced littles, the struggle can feel more like you're approaching the battlefront each morning the alarm clock beeps {which, of course, is often times irrelevant because you've been staring into the dark at the ceiling for hours on end while the rest of the house snores softly}.

Keeping up with the rapid-fire demands and capricious moods of a four year old whose brain is wired more complex than the switchboard of the New York Stock Exchange presents a challenge for any living, breathing person.  But when that living, breathing person is stuck inside the ruts of depression, each molehill becomes a mountain.  Tasks that are seemingly rote and routine become the bane of your existence.  Pleasure in the abundant joys and blessings of life are dulled by the tasteless flavor of that lump.

Enter guilt.  And while we're at it, guilt's trusty sidekick: shame.  These two disingenuous sentiments are akin to the heat that's beneath your pot of gravy.  Slick, with zero regard for consequences, shame and guilt build and build; eventually scorching your gravy and plummeting you further into your own despair.  Mom guilt {and yes, dad guilt, too} weigh heavily on the minds of parents worldwide. When gifted with the important task of raising kids, I'd be hard pressed to meet a mom or dad who didn't experience bouts with shame and guilt as they try to keep all the plates spinning.

Depression amplifies these feelings when you find yourself thinking and hear yourself saying, "Not now.  I'm tired.  Go away."  Watching my four year old's face crumble into a hot mess of sparkly eye shadow streaks blending into her smeary red lipstick is heart wrenching.  My head {and mouth} have momentarily shunned her bubbling zest for life, yet my heart yearns to take back the words and body language that has brought her such disappointment.  The heart doesn't have the capacity for depression.  It's too busy bustling around with the life-giving blood that keeps you here on earth. All four chambers house the deep-rooted connections you share with those you love and keep close.  It's a whole mass of twisted roots and vines that hold it all in place while your blood courses through.

It's when the blood reaches that brain.  The tangled, intricate conglomeration of possibility; powerful enough to simultaneously keep your heart pumping, your eyes blinking, formulate words and thoughts, and trigger movement within your muscles that propel you forward.  The blood brings oxygen to your brain, keeps it chugging along and doing it's brainy thing.  But.  Somewhere in the depths of this most interesting, most important organ in the human body, things change.  Shame and guilt manifest themselves tenfold as you contemplate why it is that you're even experiencing the realities of depression, especially when you consider that you've got an incredibly blessed life.

"There's nothing to be sad about.  Read your Bible more.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself. There's always someone worse off than you. Try to think happy thoughts."  File these under 'what not to say'.  That includes what not to tell yourself as a depressed person as well. It's not as simple as "putting it in a box" and walking away.  Because even if you try, the box will be jostled and the shroud of darkness creeps back in.

The cloak of shame hangs heavily over the umbrella of mental illness.  Depression rests under that umbrella; often times capturing victims who don't feel comfortable enough to step out into the storm. The torrential rain can be captivating to watch from the safe confines of your umbrella, but it's scary walk into the rain.  To let it wash over you, revealing the truth of who you are, what you experience, and where you broken places are.

Rumi writes the wound is the place where the light enters you. Jesus' entire ministry focused on befriending the sinners, the broken, the sick.  The places where we're broken are the places where God does his best work.  They're where He can transform your scars into stars that shine bright for others to see.  It's where he lets you know Him and where He makes Himself known.  There's no place for fear, only reckless abandon.  The comfort of knowing that no matter where your broken places exist; however lumpy and dark and low-lying they may be, that when you embrace your true, whole self; identify your struggles; and step out in your craziest outfit, He will be there.  Step by step, lump by lump, smeared red lip by smeared red lip.

Depression may grip me tightly at times, but I know that I've got THE force of nature holding me tighter.  And in the end, He won't let me down.