Do you know what it feels like when you think you know just where you want to go and maybe you’re already there?
It feels like you’re on Apollo 11, and the moon is in your sights.
That’s what it feels like.
(from Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt)
Okay, it’s time to be transparent. I’ve been a bit quiet on the subject because I’ve felt ashamed and embarrassed, but here it is. For months now I’ve been struggling with a heaviness, a depression that has clouded my days. It’s such a strange feeling to just drag through the days and fight for happiness in things that normally delight effortlessly. This feeling is in no way circumstantial. That’s one reason why it’s been so embarrassing. I feel like I don’t have the right to feel sad, to be so completely overwhelmed by normal household tasks. I’m told this is a not uncommon symptom of pregnancy, that actually one in five pregnant women struggle throughout pregnancy with depression of some kind. But I didn’t think it could happen to me. And I have fought it hard, exhausting myself further, but not giving myself over to the sadness and the shame. I have forced myself to go outside when I wanted to stay holed in. I have said yes to invitations for spending time with friends when I really longed for seclusion. I have prayed for my eyes to be open to things I can be thankful for. I have watched stupid comedy shows with my husband. It has helped. It has kept me from descending into the pit. But I have not felt totally free from the pressing burden of it yet.
Yesterday I saw the first light at the end of this tunnel. For the first time in a while, I felt joy without effort and the feeling that I might just make it through with my true self in tact. What brought it on?
The smell of sunscreen.
The warm sun on my bare arm as I drove.
The sight of bluebonnets on the roadside.
Instinctively, my fingers sought out just the right spot on the radio dial and in seconds I relaxed under Alan Jackson’s voice.
I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my own eyes, a part of me that hasn’t expanded with the years or aged or faded and I could have been nineteen years old still driving my first car, in love with Jon, and driving nowhere specific in a time when, at $0.99/gallon, driving was cheap therapy.
A flood of memories like so many waves of Texas bluebonnets and I remembered everything I wanted so much when I was young and cute and tan. I wanted Jon. Because he was gentle and cute and strong with rough hands and eyes that looked even more blue when he was dirty. Because he loved Jesus and was a good friend and a good football player and smart too. I wanted to kiss him until my lips were too chapped and I wanted to hold his hand and be seen holding it and I wanted to marry him and have babies that would look just like him. I wanted to write. I would drive under the spectacular Texas sky, which was sometimes blue like Jon’s eyes and sometimes on fire with sunset oranges and pinks and sometimes lit shockingly with lightening that could kill you or make you alive. I would drive under that sky and have to pull over to write furiously on scraps of paper that littered the red seats of my little car. I wanted to write about things that I loved and things that inspired me and I wanted to do it for myself and maybe share some of it with other people, in hopes that they would love those things too and be inspired with me. I wanted to help. I wanted to encourage people and give them what they needed to press on, to show them grace, to pluck them up like sunflowers in the late morning. I wanted to keep my friends forever. I wanted to see them go out and get their dreams but to still stay connected. I wanted to grow up and be in charge of a house and a few cute kids and meet mommies just like me who were grown up and in charge of houses and kids. These are things I wanted at nineteen.
And as these memories of wishes were swimming around in the cool water of Alan Jackson’s voice, I looked in the rear view again and this time saw another pair of eyes–that blue, like the sky, bluebonnets, the ocean–eyes that look like Jon’s and belong to our son. On the steering wheel, the faded tan lines around the finger that is too swollen for the wedding band he gave me when I was twenty. In my womb, the kicks of our daughter, who I’m just certain will have the eyes. I got Jon and his gorgeous babies too. I can kiss him anytime I want.
“I’m going to write about this feeling on the blog,” I thought. I get to write. As much as I want to, I can write about the things that inspire me, the things I love, the lessons I learn on the drive. It’s mostly just for myself, but a few hundred other people stop by here every day and read it too. Sometimes one or two of you say that it reminds you of things you love, that it inspires, or that it helps. Thanks for saying that.
I get to help. I get to work with a local chapter of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), and encourage new moms when it’s hard to adjust from the life of a busy, social, working woman to an exhausted, solitary, rocking mama. When it’s hard to watch your body go from cute and tight to squishy and comfortable. I get to help and encourage and remind them that it’s wonderful and worth it, and they do the same for me.
I still have my friends. I have watched them go out and get their dreams. I have hugged them in their graduation robes, stood with them at their weddings, read their blogs from far away places, rocked their babies, and known that all over the country and all over the world, we are still friends. People who know the stupidest things I’ve said and done, but don’t ever remind me.
I grew up. I’m in charge of a house (although I haven’t kept it up well lately) that has been our home since we married. The house Jon’s mama rocked him in as a baby is where I have the privilege of rocking my babies. It’s a house that, after almost eight years, is still mostly furnished with hand-me-downs but I double dare you to find a more comfortable couch for a pregnant lady to rest when her feet are enormous at the end of the long day or a kitchen table with more charm than the one my grandparents once bought from a fifties era ice cream shop that closed. I won’t defend the carpet. That can go anytime.
I found some mommy friends, a lot like me, to sit with at the park or the pool while our sweet things play together. They don’t know every stupid thing I ever said or did as a teenager. They don’t know how cute my figure used to be. But I can wear shorts in front of them even if my legs are white and fleshy without embarrassment. They don’t hold against me the things that come out of my mouth when pregnancy has eaten all of my brain cells up. Because they’ve been there too. I didn’t know them back when my boobs first came in, but I can breastfeed right in front of them with no cover on a hot day and they won’t bat an eyelash. They don’t laugh at me overmuch if I cry at a commercial. They know about the hormones. They are so different from my childhood friends, these mommy friends. What would I do without them?
I got everything I wanted. I didn’t deserve it all, but I got it. Every part of my life is pure grace. How could I not be grateful? How could I not smile in the face of it all? I don’t know how long it’ll all last. Our lives can change in the blink of an eye, I know. But right this minute, there’s nothing I want for. It’s enough to lift a girl out of the depression cloud, way out into the sunshine again.