Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Whose Depression Is It Anyway?

So for years I thought I was simply dealing with a moody spouse. My husband's moodiness was often the subject of light-hearted teasing. I picked up a Good Mood/Bad Mood button years ago so that he could give all of us a little heads up on which person we were dealing with at any given moment.

I bought into the whole idea of moodiness going hand-in-hand with creativity. He was an artist who needed lots of head space. I could relate as a writer. There are definite times when I need to be alone and think. This is why I prefer to run alone and am fond of the long hot shower.

But unlike me, when my husband was involved with his art, there was no joy in the act of creation. I thought this was just the normal frustration that comes from trying to marry the desire to create with living in the real world. There's nothing worse than being right in the middle of some creative burst and then having to stop to take care of something outside of this creative haze.

I have always tried to make certain that my husband had room to work. I appreciate the fact that he is the one who is working at a "real" job to sustain our life. I encouraged him to carve out time even when I desperately needed time to write myself. It was important for me to feel that he was fulfilled. It seemed simple but little did I know I was dealing with an unknown foe.

Moodiness was simply a cloak covering up the depression that has always been present. I was spending a lot of time and energy trying to make everything as perfect as possible for him without understanding the ground rule: satisfaction does not exist. I've been running like a hamster on a wheel trying to please him while my husband's been emotionally checking out of our life.

Over the past year the depression has gotten worse. My children have been affected by my husband's moods. It's been very difficult for my two oldest children since their father is not involved in their lives. My husband is unable to engage or be involved with anyone other than his daughter from his first marriage. It has been most upsetting to watch him explode at our youngest son when he behaves in the same way as my step-daughter did when she was the same age. My children feel I am their only parent. My daughter once described my husband as "just the guy who lives in the house."

After my husband's depression led him towards a self-destructive act, I've had to put a magnifying glass up to my life. What I've seen is that my husband's depression is a weight my whole family is bearing. My children and I have been experiencing the fallout that comes from living with some one who has been in denial about their mental state for a very long time.

My husband is making a start. He has begun seeing a therapist but he is still having a difficult time understanding the impact he has had on us. For him depression is still a "me" disorder but from here we're all going through it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

To Cheat or Not to Cheat

I made a commitment last summer. I swore I would be true. I would forsake all others... But now temptation is pushing me hard to ignore any pledge I might have made in the heat of the moment.

I've always struggled with creative monogamy. One idea will seize me and I am all aflutter. My heart races and I'm in love. I have goose-bumps and I can't concentrate on anything else until.... that next idea comes along.

I'll try to stay focused on my current love but then that new idea starts calling to me. The next thing I know, I'm journaling about my new idea- the characters start to take shape and plot lines start to connect. But I'll resist entering the story. At this point, it's just a harmless flirtation.

Then I take those furtive first steps- just a sentence, then a paragraph, and before I know it there are pages. The first story is tossed aside. It might linger around for a while. I'll write a line or two but the magic is gone.

I don't want to go through this cycle of falling in love with the newest and shiniest idea again, leaving a string of unfinished, unloved stories in the dust behind me. But...

I'm diligently working on Project #1 but then recently an old love appeared to me. This story has been playing around my head for years. Every time I thought I got close, things didn't work out, until now... I always had this inkling that the story wouldn't flow until I could work out the beginning. Now I have the beginning and the characters are demanding to be written.

So what do I do? Leave one story for the other? Stay with one but keep the other on the side? Or do I practice creative polygamy?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Writing in Public

I'm composing this post in a crowded cafe in Warwick, NY and realizing how much I miss writing in public.

The first writing class I ever took found me sitting blankly in front of a sheet of paper at my typewriter (yes, I'm dating myself here). I sat staring at that blank sheet with my fingers poised over the keyboard ready to pounce when the first word poured forth. I waited and waited some more. Waited for what? I'm not sure but I figured I would know when it happened.

After all this what I believed writers did- they sat, they stared, they lined up their pens and pencils by height and color, and re-arranged the expectant ream of paper. Their desks were sparse. Their lives were rigid and filled with a monastic quality I found attractive... Well this was my vision of a writer back when I was 19 and still believed there was magic involved in the process.

I signed up to present my story to the class. Like the over-achieving honor student I was, I jumped in early taking one of the first slots. It didn't matter I had no story. It didn't even matter I only had a vague idea of what a short story was.

In class when the instructor spoke about short stories by Faulkner or James, I nodded along with everyone else. I didn't want to admit the closest I came to the short story were my grade school readers which were heavy on moral but light on character and plot. I rushed headlong into the arms of the 19th century masters of the novel. The novel was my idea of writing. Our instructor said to think small, I thought 200 pages.

So there I was, the deadline looming, the typewriter ready with a fresh ribbon and enough paper to write the epic of all epics and still no story.

While wandering around the village one day, sans typewriter, looking for a bite to eat, I found this spot right on Broadway and Bleecker called VG's. It wasn't crowded but there were enough people to make me have to concentrate to make out the music playing over the speakers. I sat down, ordered and stared out the window and like an unexpected smack to the head, I had an idea...

I didn't want to wait until I got home, I grabbed my trusty journal our instructor demanded we carry at all times and just started writing. More people dribbled in and the waitress seemed to enjoy my presence refreshing my coffee and giving me a plate of fresh baked cookies. I sat there and finished my first short story.

I returned to VG's often, until it changed management and became a less friendly eatery. I found other spots. One of my favorites was Pat's Jazz Bar in Chelsea where I sat at the bar writing. Ralph Avanti, the manager, seemed to know when I was deep inside a story and he'd keep the men away, only sending the amusing ones my way when he felt I was ready for a distraction.

I've been trying to write at home but it's slow going these days, chores always seem to rear their ugly heads. So it's write and put another load into the washer or vacuum the floor and then write some more. Occasionally I'll get on a roll at my son's soccer practice but there's always the danger of an errant pass taking me or my computer out.

Today, I'm realizing I need to venture out into the world more often. It's a lot less distracting than writing in between laundry cycles. Although the guy coming in with the knee-hi socks circa the 1970's with sandals is pretty distracting.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

That Which Doesn't Kill You...

Gives you writing material.

Through all of this emotional turmoil going on in my life, I've been trying hard to not let it consume me. A friend suggested I go to therapy but there is no need for that right now. If I feel emotionally stuck and unable to move forward in my life, I'll seek the help of a professional. Until then, I lace up my running shoes and head out for my kind of therapy.

For the last week it's been running analysis. I have assessed. I have probed. I have broken down all facets of my relationship. I have seen areas where I can and have made changes. I have let go of areas that are beyond my control.

There are have been some days my thoughts have raced so quickly my legs, lungs and heart could not keep up. There were days I longed for physical pain to replace emotional pain and I have run recklessly. Other days find me methodical and focused. I set out with a clear goal and reach it, feeling something positive.

Yesterday, I set out, in what is slowly starting to become habit again, for my run. The day before had been a hard day for me emotionally. I felt shaky. My legs were tight. I still felt out of my body, out of shape. But I went out and the thoughts came rushing at me. Is there hope? Can we survive this? Can my husband find his way back from his depression and his self-destructiveness? Can I find a way live without being weighed down by his emotional pain? These were questions I was becoming sick of repeating- a different answer each day. My legs felt heavy and there was so much sadness in my body as I began replaying the moment of discovering my husband's betrayal.

Then it happened...

The opening for the novel I've been obsessing about for the last seven years appeared to me in such clarity. I've tried writing this story at least four times but it always felt shaky, a great plot on an iffy foundation.

Now it is finally here, the start of a great story. Like a Law & Order episode, it is ripped from my pain. In the queer way only a writer can appreciate, I'm glad for all the shit I've gone through this past week. It's been worth it if some good can come out of it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

O' Pioneer

I've always held back in my public writing. I'm private and I've never been one to toss my business out there for the world. Perhaps it's this reticence that has led me to be a less than regular blogger. Well I've decided to throw all caution to the wind and allow this blog to be free of restraint. Why now? I was wrenched outside of my comfort zone and now I'm journeying through the universe on unfamiliar and unstable terrain. This weekend I discovered my husband went on a dating website and met a woman with whom he has developed a relationship (according to him it was non-sexual). I'm not sure what is the bigger betrayal that he went on this website and actually met someone or was it because this was how we met more than 10 years ago. He hasn't been able to explain the reason, there are lots of why's- boredom, depression, and the stress of working on a novel (it took a lot for him to throw this out to another writer), financial worries, fear of mortality- a general melange of existential angst. When you're younger this kind of drama manifests itself in screaming, tossing clothing out the window, breaking of glassware- the stuff of nasty break-ups but with four children that isn't an option. Instead of crying myself blind and falling into a bucket of Ben & Jerry's, I spent the weekend driving from one soccer venue to another. I'd stand chatting with someone, having a rational conversation about offsides and ball possession while phrases from the love-note my husband penned to this woman floated through my head. If she was the custodian of his soul, then what was I? If she were his darling, what was I? I've had to remain calm outside because I've already gone through one divorce and the idea of having a replay of that experience is as appealing as being locked away in a room forced to watch endless episodes of "Dancing with the Stars." My children know something is going on. I've spoken about some of this with my 16 year old because she knew I was in pain. My boys are still young enough to believe me to be suffering from nothing more than a extended bad day. This experience has been like one of those life and death moments where images of your life come rushing at you. Instead of my entire life, it's been the 11 years I've been with my husband. Instead of life and death, there is the before and the now. The love story that came before is no longer. It is forming into something else. Right now I'm not sure. At first I had this idea we could put the marriage back together but then while out on my run today I realized that the marriage was probably broken to begin with. I don't want to put back together what wasn't working. So now I'm pioneer setting out in unexplored territory- scared but excited.