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Just when I think I’m over the hill and I’ve put the worst of the depression behind me, another weekend like this one comes along and sucker-punches me back to a darker place. 

Usually I can tolerate other people’s pregnancy talk.   A pregnant woman who shares my office is the reason I have this job; I’ll be replacing her and taking over her caseload when she has her baby.  But at this school where it seems all the women are married to doctors and in the acute stages of their child-bearing years, it’s not just my office-mate.  Someone else had a baby in September, and 4 others are displaying varying stages of the Bump.  Last week, at what was supposed to be a relaxing faculty pizza lunch, a break from the students, I had the misfortune to sit next to 2 other pregnant women who are similarly far along.  I was treated to an unending discussion about ultrasounds and flu shots and nurseries and heart-beats, and feeling the kicking, and maternity clothing, and morning sickness, and everything pregnancy.  They’re cooing and obsessing about how nervous they were to hear the heart-beat during their first ultrasound and it about knocks the wind out of me.  Because my first ultrasound happened when I was pretty sure I had lost the baby. 

Add onto that a weekend of home improvement failures and a Sunday night in lonely anxiety, and it adds up to my overall despondency this morning, and accounts for one of the reasons I couldn’t summon enough enthusiasm to dress up for “Clash Day,” part of Spirit Week.  Those who know me know I would usually embrace such a day with fervor.  I have plaids, I have stripes, I have fluorescents, and multi-colored sneakers.  This morning, I have on a navy blue and green striped sweater, and navy blue slacks.  I couldn’t do it. 

We tried this weekend to finish – I mean really finish – the kitchen floor.  There were only 2 steps left: doorway thresholds, and trim under the cabinets to cover the gaps left behind by the mandatory 5/16” spacing of the floor planks.  Stumbling block 1: the vinyl toe-kick (under cabinet trim) must lie flat for 24 hours prior to installation.  Stumbling block 2: metal is hard to cut with a hacksaw.  But, between some vigorous sanding and an accidental slicing of my finger, we installed the doorway thresholds.  They may actually work, though the backdoor doesn’t open quite as well as before.

It was the toe kick that sent me spiraling into self-doubt, criticism, and self-loathing.  The vinyl, which we had thought designed for this very purpose (hiding the expansion gaps between the flooring and the cabinetry), turns out not to be wide enough at the base to hide the gaps.  Despite bending it and a lot of cursing, it would not yield to our desires.  That was when the self-stick foam plan hatched.  We set off to the fabric store. After procuring the foam, we had to misfortune to see a deer running amuck in the shopping center, bashing its head into glass doors and windows, its mouth bloodied by the attempts.  We called the police, who probably came over and shot the poor thing.  The unlucky deer sent me into a jag about the dangers of commercialism and development impinging on natural habitats of innocent animals who don’t care about holiday sales at Old Navy or the latest scents at Bath & Body Works. 

I felt a little better once we got home and started our next mission – building up the base of the cabinets with 2mm self-stick craft foam.  There was a plan, and I knew how to execute it.  I did a trial with our 2mm foam, and it still wasn’t enough to hide the gap, so I suggested we add a 2nd layer.  Now 4mm thicker, it wasn’t ideal, but my desire to have the thing finished overcame my desire to do it perfectly.  Looking around at the various stages of the floor installation project, all I had seen were imperfections – blue tape shellacked into the stain; bits of stain bled onto the lemon-colored walls; millions of dog hairs sealed into the polyurethane; and huge gaps between the flooring tiles and the walls.  Hiring a professional wouldn’t necessarily have yielded better results.  As we saw when they came to paint, they broke off a window lock, used the wrong color in our bedroom, and some of the paint in the office is peeling already.  And had we wanted to hire someone, chances are, it wouldn’t have been done at all, since paying for floor installation typically doubles the price.  Somehow, I came around a corner from all of this imperfection, temporarily forgave ourselves for being human and never being able to do anything to my specifications, and became bent on finishing the project.

So we did.  I planned my Facebook status, something humorous like, “I may have just used rainbow-color craft foam to finish my kitchen floor.”  We applied the vinyl.  We hoped we’d never have to think about it again.  Of course some of the foam stuck out above the baseboard. Of course some of the gaps in the floor showed.  I was just so tired of thinking about it.

Hours later, I had to.  The baseboard was peeling off.  Turns out the foam’s adhesive is no match for the vinyl’s adhesive, and the vinyl, unhappy with being bent around corners, decided to peel off one layer of foam and collapse on the floor in a rainbow-colored failure. 

To top it off, Mr. Apron had to go to rehearsal.  Daylight Savings had just lost me an hour of daylight.  It was 6:30pm, pitch-black, the puppy had just peed on the nice rug upstairs, and as the door closed behind my husband, I felt an instantaneous surge of loneliness.  The second I saw him disappear into the night, that familiar lump rose in my throat. 

 I am no good at being alone.  I avoid it at all costs.  Doing homework at the kitchen table in childhood, seeking out common areas in college, I try not to be alone, if I can help it.  I couldn’t help it last night.  After a lackluster trip to the grocery store, I sat on the couch, had a tantrum, and waited for my husband to come home.  I tried calling my mother, under the pretense of asking my father if he had any ideas for the kitchen, but I never actually reached him. I was sidelined by my mother’s trying to “help” by telling me to call in a professional, never do a home improvement project by ourselves again, and find something to do.  She does always try to change the subject.  Either it’s dog antics, some client of hers, or some inconsequential “project” she’s taken on.  I called her on it.  I said, “I have plenty of things I could be doing – things I want to do and don’t want to do – sewing, making lunches, baking, cleaning up, writing letters, paying bills, but I am not going to do any of them.  I won’t be distracted.” 

Sometimes I don’t want her to fix everything.  When I’m in the throes of being miserable or feeling sorry for myself or disparaging myself, I don’t want her to mitigate these feelings with her distraction techniques. 

My husband finally walked in the door after rehearsal.  “I didn’t do so well tonight,” I said, not to make him feel guilty for going away, or to seek pity, but just to let him know.  He recalled a long ago conversation we’d had one time after I’d been upset.  Apparently, he’d had a sprout of insight and had told me, “Buddy, sometimes I guess you don’t want me to fix everything.  I just need to let you be sad.” 

When it all snowballs together and takes over my weekend, all I can do is feel sad.  I can fake my way through a day of work, put on a happy face when I need to be “on,” and function pretty well in zombie mode, but I haven’t yet processed all the garbage that happened.  Sure, some of it is out of my control and bad luck (Daylight Savings, the dog’s accident), while other bits just dig up my old feelings of mediocrity and inadequacy, and still others are things I need to accept make me sad, like being alone.   

I hope I can snap back this week and try to enjoy the silly things the kids are wearing.  I don’t like living my life in constant anticipation of disappointing weekends.  I don’t like hanging my ideals of happiness on how well the kitchen floor turns out, or how “productive” I was during an evening alone.  I don’t want my mood to bounce up and down dependent on positive and negative events, as if keeping score.  I want to take it all in stride, and enjoy it before it’s too late.

I am still finding myself getting “stuck”.  It’s hard to explain “stuck” except that it’s a sort of invisible force keeping me from doing anything productive with my time.

When I am stuck, I end up bouncing back and forth from the computer to the TV.  I’m not trying to catch a particular program (with On Demand, who really has to schedule their lives around programming anyway?), or find specific information on the Internet. I’m not choosing to watch a movie or writing a report.  I seem to be unable to do purpose-driven activities. 

Which is odd, since there are so many!  I could make a list, on a given evening, of all the things I want to do, but don’t seem to have time for – making lunches for work, baking cookies, sewing outfits for the hoards of new babies being born, finishing up paperwork from my last job, brushing the dogs, doing laundry, going to the gym – and I won’t touch a single item. 

Mostly this is a problem when I’m left alone to my own devices.  My husband has a number of evening commitments that keep him away from me for the bulk of an evening.  And while I continually reassure him it’s not his job to “entertain” me, I still prefer his company to my own.  When he’s home, I have no problem happily humming along at my own projects – hence he’s not entertaining me.  When he’s home, I have no problem chilling out to watch some TV without feeling bad about it.  When he’s home, I can make lunches, plan out the evening, and do purpose-driven activities.  Moreover, I don’t feel as bad about myself.  It’s not the doing or the inertness; it’s the loneliness.  I’m just not good at being by myself. 

Even as a child, I had a beautiful bedroom with a desk that was usually clear enough for homework, but I never did homework in my room.  Rarely did I even retreat to my room alone, except to escape from my brother, sleep, dress, or, on rare occasion, clean my room.  Reading, homework, art projects – these all happened in the shared parts of the house.  Homework was done on the dining room or kitchen table, reading likewise.  I just liked to be near people, to know they’re close by.  I don’t need them to talk to me, to help me, to “inspire” me or even entertain me, but I like them to be near me, just to keep me company. 

And when they’re not, I lose that outside stimulation, and I get stuck.  Worse than that, I judge myself harshly for my inaction, my mental freeze.  Sometimes, in a frenzy of self-loathing, and sense that my husband will be at last returning home soon, I’ll make moves to do some little thing, rushing to finish making lunches or unloading the dishwasher as he comes in the door, just so I can report I didn’t waste my evening.  Other times, I’ll find myself pleading with myself, “Just get up. Just get up.” And I’ll tell him that I sat in front of the computer all evening unable to move, wasting the whole evening. 

Wasted time: my sister and I have commiserated on this sense of squandered free time.  If I have a weekend or a week’s vacation, or a whole summer vacation, I’ll look forward to that free time, to the unscheduled, commitment-free expanse of freedom lying ahead.  I’ll squander a good piece of the time just dreading its eventual ending.  I’ll ruin my whole Sunday freaking out about work the next day.  I’ll waste 5 hours of my evening knowing that bedtime is impending.  And then, as I realize I don’t have anything to show for my blessed free time, I get angry at myself.  How dare I not do anything with it?  How dare I not make plans, get things accomplished?  How dare I spend my free time dreading its very end! 

I bounce back and forth, trying to incur as few outside commitments as possible so I can be home, be with my husband, have free time to pursue interests outside of work.  I am trying not to have 3 different jobs, but I know there is a bonus with my extra work, and it’s not just the money.  It’s being scheduled.  Even as I dread the year-long commitment that usually comes with taking on a new tutoring student, I know that as long as I’m working on math, or writing, or SAT prep, or Bar Mitzvah prep with my kiddo, I’m not home alone feeling stuck.  When I’m out, working in the evenings, I wish I were home, pursuing my alleged other interests.  When I’m home, alone, with ample opportunity, I find myself wishing I had something scheduled, planned.  At least when I’m accountable to other people, I have to show up for something.  My couch doesn’t care if I’m late.  And the dogs’ sense of time is appalling. 

I need to get unstuck, and it seems to be a two-pronged issue – the actual physical inertia of a lack of internal motivation to get up and “do”, and my reaction to the stuck-ness that perpetuates the self-loathing cycle and makes me feel bad about wasting time.

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May 2020