Sometimes you push through. Sometimes you pull back. I’m doing a little of both to get through this slump.
I want to make it clear I recognize the difference between clinical and situational depression, and this is the latter. It’s not unusual to have a letdown after a major life change, even a happy one.
Four months of adrenalin-fueled hard work take a toll. I feel like I’ve aged a couple of years through this move.
But I’m English–stiff upper lip, pull up your socks and carry on. Here’s my plan:
- Self-care! Acupuncture. Chiropractor. Naps. I have to stop dinging myself–small cuts, burns and bruises. No falls.
- Stop giving myself artificial deadlines. Unpacked boxes, annoying and unsightly as they are, will eventually be gone. We are gradually sorting and hanging art. (Half-awake one night, I imagined the bedroom was full of dark boxes closing in on me.)
- Get out: a river walk, a play, a visit to the library or art center, a browse through a thrift shop.
- Plant things. I’ve never been much of a gardener. After leaving most of the container plants at the condo, I’m rebuilding–herbs and other container plants for now, but I’m eyeing a spot for a meditation garden, and I’m going to look in thrift and antique shops for a bench.
- Read. I don’t remember the title of the last book I read. I keep up with periodicals: the New York Times (online), the New Yorker, the local daily, and now that we have cable TV for the first time in 20 years there are overwhelming choices of news and movies. Books are unpacked and I’ve started a fascinating biography of a pioneering Texas women doctor who reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, except her story is true.
- Make friends. This is a big challenge. We’ve met a few neighbors and dog-walkers, and I have some connections through Austin friends. I attended a Democratic women’s mixer. I have joined the Arts Center and plan on checking out a knitting group and a poetry group. When the Hill Country Chorale starts rehearsals in September I plan to join. We will soon start attending the local UU church. I must remember it takes time to establish friendships.
- Create art, knit. Art is satisfying, knitting is meditative and calming.
Most important of all is gratitude. I am so grateful for the good life we are able to have, that we have the resources (physical, financial, emotional) to care for the granddaughter. When I check out of the grocery story with a full basket, it’s such a relief to pop in the debit card and not worry about whether there’s enough money in the account to cover it.
Gratitude, patience, knowing when to push ahead and when to pull back. There are no deadlines.
It was inevitable. We decided to move in March and found our dream home on March 18. Since then it’s been an adrenalin-fueled four months of selling the condo, financing the new house so we didn’t have to wait to sell the condo, booking movers, packing, finishing the school year, and Gary doing a one-man show on Clarence Darrow. Then, after June 2, it was unpack, find services, find our way around and try to get settled.
Lest you think there are second thoughts, there are not. No regrets. I love our new home and I know we will find out communities here.
But Sunday morning I woke up so depressed I could hardly get out of bed. That’s why I wrote the rodeo piece, to focus my mind on something good and positive.
Being the self-analytical person I am, I think I’ve figured out the reasons for the funk. I lay awake Sunday night, and here are my conclusions:
- Before we moved, my problems were time over energy. There was never enough time regardless of my energy levels, which were pretty good. Now the equation is reversed: there is plenty of time–the days are long, there’s no school and few deadlines. But I’m exhausted. I just don’t have enough energy and stamina.
- Heat. One of the reasons I’m flagging is that it’s Texas and it’s hot. It’s less humid up here and if there’s a breeze it’s not too bad. But I try to do errands early in the day, and even walking the dog before sunset can be uncomfortable.
- No matter how hard I work I can’t seem to finish unpacking. It goes in fits and starts, and some days feel like we’ve made enormous progress, then there’ll be days when it seems like nothing happens. We’re spending time shopping for things we need–a bed and desk for the granddaughter’s room, patio furniture, a composting system, items that need to be assembled. That stresses the three of us, trying to figure out which allen wrench and which bolt goes where.
- Speaking of the three of us: that’s it. There are three people, a dog and two guinea pigs in this house, and for the most part that’s our daily contact. We’re getting on each others’ nerves. I would love to get Chloe to a day camp, a class, or something. Even a neighbor’s house. But she balks at any suggestions. I may have to just register for a class or a camp and insist that she go.
- And I’ m lonely. Other than husband, granddaughter and dog, the only other people I talk to are my acupuncturist and random checkout clerks and neighbors. I miss my communities: my dog-walking friends, Travis Heights Elementary friends, condo neighbors, church friends, poetry friends and singing friends. I did appreciate them but I don’t think I realized how much I’d miss them.
I’m not complaining. I know it takes time to find new communities. And I will be proactive. I am not bashful and I already have some contacts here to get me started.
Next: getting out of the valley.
Knowing my political views, some of my friends might be surprised that I had such a good time at the Kerrville Open Rodeo. I posted photos on Facebook last night, but overnight I’ve thought about all the things I liked about it:
- I’m usually early for everything, but we got a late start (my fault–I insisted on walking the dog first), but it was a quick ride and, after paying ($10 each for us, granddaughter free), we easily parked, walked a short distance to the bleachers, and still got there in time for the opening parade, which is my favorite part. I am also weird enough to enjoy singing the Star Spangled Banner (even though I have to change octaves when it jumps up or down).
- The aforementioned opening parade–elegant horses, women bearing flags sitting tall in the saddle.
- It was a beautiful evening, with the sunset tinting the clouds and a full moon rising. There was a breeze and it wasn’t too hot.
- The judges (all on horseback) wore bright pink shirts.
- Participants were mostly local or from surrounding communities. People in the bleachers rooted for people they knew. Chloe noticed a pretty young woman sitting near us, and later she was in the barrel race. Her horse balked and she had a bad ride. When she came back to her family people around them offered encouraging comments.
- The young contestants have wonderful names: girls named Jody, Morgan, Riley, Tana, Charlie, Shelby, Whitley and Teva (whose mother, Melissa, was also a rider). Boys: Jessie, Landon, Brett, Blake, Tyler, Tanner, Hawk, Chase, Cody, Stralen (last name Cowdus!). The announcer seemed to know these kids’ back stories. One bronco rider was blind.
- Despite the clown’s lame (and dated) jokes, there were genuinely funny moments. “Mutton busting,” in which young volunteers ride sheep, was hilarious. The calf scramble is also fun (Chloe actually considered joining in.)
- People are so polite. When we needed to go up and down the bleachers they made way and offered hands. I needed to slide off my seat at one point, and I had Gary on one side offering a hand and a stranger on the other (whose hand I accepted, not to offend) when I didn’t need help at all!
- It’s dog-friendly. A guy had an adorable toy Australian shepherd puppy. And a small dog was loose in the arena during the bull-riding. (It survived.) We may take Junior next time.
- This is not a white-only redneck town. There were as many tattoos as you’d see at any event in Austin. There were old folks and babies, couples, women having a girls’ night, people of color.
- Vendors were few and nice, and it was easy and pleasant to wander around the grounds. Sno-cones were cheap and do-it-yourself, so Chloe restrained herself on the syrup–she said she mainly wanted the ice anyway.
- The nicely weird part of the evening: a guy in front of me had a shirt with a poem on the back. I recognized it when I read the first two lines, and it’s one of my favorite poems. So when he left his seat I asked him about the shirt. He said it was from Rogue American Apparel. Norton tells me it’s a dangerous site, and the merchandise is W-A-Y more macho than most people in my life would wear, but I found the shirt. Gary was surprised I talked to the guy, but I think he got a kick out of someone knowing an obscure Stephen Crane poem. (What a terribly short life Crane had.)
If you can’t read the back of the shirt, here’s the Stephen Crane poem:
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
At least we were laughing by the time we got home. It was nobody’s fault. (As Nixon would say, “Mistakes were made.”
After a month of singing the praises of our new hometown, I found some flies in the ointment. Or rather fire ants. And that was the least of our Fourth from Hell.
Not knowing exactly what the setup was or what to expect, we got to the Robert Earl Keen Kerrville Fourth of July celebration early enough to park fairly close, west (upstream) from the event. Fireworks at 9:30; arrival a bit after 6. That’s a lot of time to kill in high 90s heat. And we had the dog.
Chloe, Junior and I took a walk to the river below the dam, where it’s easy to wade and Junior could plunk himself down to cool off. Not having suits, Chloe and I sat on a little ledge near some rapids. I assured her we’d dry off quickly, and anyway having wet shorts would be cooler.
This killed maybe 30 minutes. There were musical acts during this time, but the setup was such that, unless you were within the actual audience seating area, you couldn’t see the stage. There were vendor trucks, beer tents, sound trucks, trailers, amp towers totally blocking views to people outside that small perimeter (and this was a free event in a huge park).
I took a very long time walking to the rest room (rather than using a portapotty) and filled the water bottles, during which I heard the National Anthem. I missed Keen’s intro and had no idea who was performing when I got back to our blanket.
I hadn’t heard Robert Earl Keen for at least 30 years–my late friend Sunny was a big fan and she took me to see him in the late ’80s. I don’t know if he’s deteriorated with age, but I kept wondering who this guy with the awful voice was. His vocal delivery is flat, bordering on musically flat, and his range is tiny. The band–mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar etc.–was fabulous, and he should just shut up and let them play.
Finally, after an encore/singalong of “This Land is Your Land,” every verse, at half-tempo (Woody Guthrie was spinning in his grave), it was time for the fireworks–9:35.
We took Junior because he gets hysterical when he’s left alone too long, and I thought he’d be ok if we held him tight during the fireworks. And he was, for a couple of minutes. Then he just wanted out. Chloe and I hugged him and held onto the leash for dear life. In addition to hurting all over from being on the hard ground, I was besieged by fire ants up my right arm.
We decided to head out after about 15 minutes of this torture. Got yelled at by a cop for crossing the street in front of traffic (the light changed quickly). I said to him, “Please don’t make my day any worse than it already is.” We found the way to the car and pressed on, realizing that we were going directly toward the fireworks (upstream, remember?), with Junior pulling as hard as he could in the opposite direction.
It was like being in a war zone, with an audience along the sidewalk watching us. I felt like Wonder Woman crossing No Man’s Land, but without a shield.
We reached the car before the fireworks ended and hightailed it home. Gary and I were laughing by the time we reached Goat Creek Rd. (a great place to laugh) and he missed a turn and nearly put us in a ditch.
Chloe had a bowl of cereal and Gary and I each had an adult beverage. Junior slurped up a bowl of water (we had been giving him water all evening) and went under a table.
Gary insisted on what I called a “post-mortem.” I insisted there was nothing to discuss. He needs to make friends between now and July 2018. Until Congress moves July 4th to October, when it’s cooler and gets dark early, I’m done with the Fourth.
* David Foster Wallace, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” an essay collection.
I love yanking crabgrass. This surprises me. I’ve never been much of a gardener or yard-work person, and 18 years in a condo seemed to prove that. But now that we have a big yard, I find it deeply satisfying to pull up great lengths of nasty crabgrass, and it’s great exercise, too, while I toss tennis balls for the dog.
Today I hung hummingbird feeders near the pool. (Some previous owner was really into wrought iron, and there are places to hang things all over the property, some not suitable for plants because of the difficulty of watering them.)
I also planted red flowers for the entry to match (kind of) the red front door. (When we first looked at this house, that door was a good sign.) I checked to make sure deer don’t like them. Front yards are a midnight grazing ground here.
My gardening gloves smell like the rosemary. The only rosemary I had at the condo was a sad little potted one that never thrived, so I appreciate this giant.
Next project is the corner of the yard behind the pool. It’s weedy and bare, and I want a meditation garden in that space. I know it needs seating, a table, flowers, maybe a wind chime. I welcome ideas and suggestions.
Moving is never pretty. This one was especially ugly. Short version: it was a comedy of a too-small truck, surly crew, items left behind, plumbing problems at both houses.
Then there’s the pool (a white elephant, an extra pet, another child?). It was sick, and it took many phone calls, waiting, draining, refilling to get it sparkling and inviting. We now have reliable service. Yard care is another matter, but I leave that to Gary.
One thing we’re finding in our new home town is how hard it is to get services. Businesses take days to return calls, if they do at all. It must be small-town standard time.
We still need the basics of everyday living. My mantra has been “EAT. SLEEP. BATHE.” As long as we can get food, have beds and have a bathroom, we’re fine. But being surrounded by boxes gets old, and we still have a lot of unpacking to do (art, books and knickknacks–unnecessary items you wonder why you have so many of).
These are of course so-called first-world problems, and we love it here. We have met neighbors while walking the dog; some have knocked on our door. One neighbor helped us hook up the washer, another has offered iris plants when she splits them. People everywhere give me tips on local shopping, swimming holes and other treasures.
Some of my Austin friends connected me to people they know here in Kerrville, so I already feel like we have friends here. One invited me to a Pink Power Democratic Women’s mixer, which I really enjoyed. On the next street we met a couple whose daughter goes to our UU church in Austin. They are into theater and we’ve already had them over for drinks.
The best thing is that, despite the slower and quieter pace, there is a wealth of things to do here. The beautiful Guadalupe River provides walks and swimming spots. There are several art venues and theater companies and a small UU congregation. I’m finding poets and knitters. When we can pull ourselves away from home, there’s a multitude of choices.
We have small mall, a large regional medical center, two H-E-B groceries, a Wal-Mart (to which I have made more visits in the last three weeks than my previous lifetime total–it’s five minutes away). If Wal-Mart or H-E-B doesn’t have it, Gibson‘s, a local hardware-hunting-fishing-dimestore-discount place probably does. And I won’t miss Michael’s, because Home Town Crafts has everything–it’s Michael’s, Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s mashed together. There are Home Depot, Lowes, and local home and garden supply stores. About the only thing missing is a Target, which I can manage without.
Even though most of the art remains boxed, we have hung curtains in our bedrooms, acquired (and assembled) dining room and patio furniture, and have functioning spaces to eat, sleep and bathe.
My studio is the last thing to be unpacked and set up before we hang art. I want to get back to doing art, but I’m having trouble. I have broken it into stages: unpacking, sorting, organizing and putting away. I’m still in sorting phase, and it’s so overwhelming (why do I have so much STUFF?) that I have to break that up too.
We had to go to Austin last week to close on the condo, and we went to San Antonio yesterday. Each time I couldn’t wait to get back home. I’ve told my kids my next move will be to either the nursing home or the funeral home.
When we have our coffee on the patio in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening, or when I float in our private pool surrounded by pecan trees, I feel like we won the lottery.
Christmas 1989, Austin, a southern city that does not handle cold well, had an extended hard freeze. Pipes froze and burst, rooms were flooded, water was turned off. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment with my younger daughter, then a teen. Pipes in the next apartment burst, flooding my daughter’s walk-in closet. We moved everything into the living room, hauled water in buckets from neighboring buildings that still had water, and made the best of it during the holiday break.
After a few days of living in the mess, I got my paints out. I had graduated from St. Ed’s the previous spring with my art degree, but I was working a full-time administrative job and sharing space with the daughter, not an arrangement conducive to making art. But I set up an easel on the dining table and painted away.
This move has again proven what I learned then: I’m an obsessive control freak who feels a constant need for order, yet when everything falls apart I tend to fall into the flow and let creativity take over. It seems like a paradox, but it really isn’t: when control becomes simply impossible, I relinquish the need for control.
Last week I had some panic: “There is no way we’ll ever get all this stuff cleared out and packed.” But things got moving, a friend offered to help me pack art, and now, just over two weeks before Moving Day, I’m relaxed enough to sit here blogging. This afternoon I’m having a massage and acupuncture.
Tomorrow is my birthday and we’re having our traditional lunch at Chez Zee with an old friend, with whom I share a birthday, and her husband.
Three weeks before the end of school I decided to knit washcloths for my granddaughter’s teachers; they make nice gifts wrapped around a bar of fancy soap.
As I turn 72, I am so grateful for good health, family, friends, and our new adventure.