The Wolf

I suppose that my taste in music should not be trusted because my hearing is poor on one side. There are only two acoustic settings in which I can truly enjoy a song, while using decent headphones or listening in a car. In other places I lose too many sonic details to engage my attention fully on music. While I can hear enough to decide whether a song merits a closer listening, I cannot “lose myself” in a song if I hear it on TV, on a stereo, etc.

There have been many songs I have wanted to listen to repeatedly for a time,  like a musical serial monogamy. I like to exhaust the captivating feelings a song provokes until eventually it holds me spellbound only occasionally. One such song is “The Wolf” by Mumford and Sons.

Like any work of the imagination, the meaning of a song is open to interpretation, and I am biased toward finding if a song could be a soundtrack for someone I know. Ordinarily there is not much point to explicating a song as if one were writing a term paper on a poem. While it is not uncommon to hear a tune and temporarily adopt it as a theme song, it is more unusual to listen to a song and consider that it could capture how someone else might see you. This is the case with my impression of “The Wolf”.

As I listen to this song, I think that it is about loving someone who is prone to anxiety. The person loved can get so mired in fear that they may be not be fully engaged in the relationship or life beyond their worries. The first time I heard it, I was struck by the notion that it could describe what it is like for my husband to love me. There are times when I am stuck in the reverie of imagining small or major catastrophes and lose sight of him. I worry that he will grow weary of hearing me explain boundaries that help me ward off the things that bother me, such as avoiding left turns whenever possible. I appreciate his compassion for my issues, and this song reminds me that I would benefit from trying to take his perspective. That is one of the healing aspects of love, the opportunity to see things through someone else’s eyes. With the anxiety I have at times, it is a relief to borrow a different vantage point for a while.

Ruth and Edna

Some dreams are the opposite of a nightmare. I call them blessed dreams. My first blessed dream happened at the dusk of my teenage years. It was brief and involved my great aunts Ruth and Edna. This dream was exceptionally lucid, with a false awakening that made it seem even more real. While it is well established that very unusual things can be dreamed, their appearance was rare indeed. I have never met Ruth and Edna because they died in a car accident along with my great grandpa back in 1936, and I have only seen their death portraits.

In the dream, I walked into the long hallway of my parents’ house, and Ruth and Edna were bouncing a ball back and forth at the opposite end. The ball and their white dresses were embedded with an ethereal glitter. Seeing them provoked the most intense ambivalence I have ever felt, awake or asleep. I was shocked at their presence, but I was also overwhelmed by the profound joy they radiated. Before they noticed me, I realized I must be dreaming and forced myself awake because the emotion of this dream was so strong it could be withstood for just a brief time, or so it seemed at the time

There is a coda to this first blessed dream. When the fatal car accident happened back in 1936, my great grandpa’s extended family could not be found. The identity of his parents or siblings was a mystery until this year. I began building a family tree because I had taken a couple of DNA tests designed to find relatives and estimate ethnicity (23andme and AncestryDNA). At first, I had no close matches that revealed my great grandfather’s family. I mentioned my predicament to a friend who unfortunately passed away a week later. Now I get to the part of this story that almost begs disbelief, but I suppose that the simple explanation may be that I had all the information I needed but my dreaming mind was able to sort through it to offer a solution. I next had a blessed dream in which my recently departed friend told me, “You will find him with his mother.”

Right after I woke up, I looked once again at my great grandpa’s marriage certificate. I considered that it was possible that he was not born with the surname he used at the time of that marriage, so I began my search again with a focus on his mother’s first and maiden name. Within an hour, I discovered that my great grandfather was a man who disappeared from Minneapolis in 1923 and that he used a different last name for the remaining 13 years of his life. My extended family helped me contact the descendants of his first family, who I am happy to report also did DNA testing to help confirm my great grandpa’s real identity.

A letter I wrote to a now departed friend

Back in October, I wrote a letter to a troubled friend who has since passed away. I thought that I should copy it here (minus the first names of others mentioned in the letter) in the event that it is lost elsewhere. At the time, I thought it was a valiant attempt to help her, but now I know that I didn’t really understand how ill she was.

——

I’ve thought a long time about what to write back to you, and I’m not sure where to begin. There is much proverbial food for thought in your two messages. I can relate to the struggle of addiction. U2 captured the problem well with their lyric, “I feel numb/too much is not enough”. Perhaps numbness is not the core of addiction. Instead, it’s any feeling that seems inappropriate in the situations we face. So we stifle or soothe those feelings with whatever addiction we’re facing at the moment. I think I will be addicted to something for the rest of my life. For a long time I’ve restricted this problem to nicotine and caffeine (and sometimes food, which was easily my biggest problem). I avoid classically addictive things because I assume they would destroy me, e.g. gambling and narcotics.

The first and likely the easiest thing for you to drop would be alcohol. Alcohol never helps depression or anxiety. It also harms sleep. The rest one gets after drinking is poor, too.

I should also disclose that I don’t have much faith in psychiatric meds, at least the ones prescribed for depression. Every one I tried eventually stopped working. The list: prozac, effexor, celexa, lexapro, remeron, paxil, trazodone. I also tried Zyprexa and an anxiety med whose name I don’t recall at the moment. None of these meds did much for me.

The only things that worked were the opportunities to love with E** and R**. Also the habit of physically exhausting myself. Love and wearing myself out is what worked. I’d also like to mention that the healing power of love resides in loving more than in being loved. Love can heal even if you do not feel loved in return. Loving heals because it relieves us of the burden of thinking of oneself, however temporarily.

It sounds like you would need medical supervision to alter or reduce the medications you are taking. I don’t know much at all about medically induced comas in rehab. I’ve only heard reference to them in treating opiate addictions. Change or recovery will be challenging no matter what therapy is used, but it will be worth it.

I’d also like you to know that my recovery has not been perfect, but I’ve grown to accept my situation. Some days I wake up inexplicably pissed, afraid or downright depressed, but I move forward. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with post SSRI “brain shocks.” On occasion I also hallucinate. Last year I was home alone and saw a clown and R** walk through the kitchen. Neither of them were there. I’ve seen L*** and R** at work on their days off. This has been happening sporadically for years, and I’ve gotten used it.

I am flawed, but I survive. I am happy because I accept that I am a mess.

Dreams

I relish vivid dreams, whether good or bad. Occasionally I am gifted with what I call a blessed dream, one that has moments or entire plots infused with a degree of happiness that is only fleeting in waking life. Some of these dreams seem to take on the quality of religious or meditative ecstacy. While I have heard the theory that dreams are wish fulfillment, I think the blessed dreams are more than desire. I do not know their origin. They could be feelings that the business of living has tempered out of us, like the inverse of a tantrum. It is possible that socialization has tamed away some good along with the bad. With that aside, I admit that I believe the blessed dreams are significant enough for reflection.

Last night I had a blessed dream about one of my aunts. In this dream, I was talking to her in a sparsely furnished room, almost like a 1940’s version of an efficiency apartment. There was nothing in this apartment that was made after her birth. All had the slightly hardboiled, worn and windswept character of the years right after WWII. As she approached me, she looked to be lit from within, aglow with grace and good. It also looked liked she had been considering something bittersweet, like a hint of mourning come back from the grief of long ago.

As dreams are elusive to waking memory, I recall little of my conversation with her. She showed me a black and white photo I hadn’t seen of my greatparents standing in front of a car from the 1930’s. She told me that no one has that picture anymore. Then I felt a great amount of love as we parted.

I have had a few dreams lately about relatives in which their good natures are made manifest. In real life it seems that over the years I repeatedly lose touch with my extended family despite that I care about them a great deal.

Weighty Matters

After my major depression dissipated (it lasted from 1992 to 2009), I also lost significant amounts of weight. I lost weight slowly over three years in hope that I would be at a healthy weight for the first time for my fortieth birthday. In this venture I was successful. For three years,  I’ve kept off all but 20 of the 135 pounds I lost. I wish there were some formula I could devise and follow so I can devote less of my psyche to this venture. There’s no denying the comfort of reaching and keeping a goal that was so elusive for most of my life, but I feel it is time to focus on something other than my size. I hope that in shifting my focus that I don’t reinflate. It is time to more fully consider matters deeper than my surface.

Tattoos

Tattoos are one of many trends I do not find tempting. I suppose that the prevalence of tattoos is not merely trendy since they become commonplace back in the 90’s, while I was still in my twenties. I haven’t once considered getting one done in the meantime. I figure that my genes and varying size have conspired to imprint me with nature’s original body art, stretch marks. If I want my tribal markings to appear, all I need to do is expose my skin to the summer sun for a while. Soon enough key patches of my arms and legs will get that inverse zebra look, as stretch marks do not tan (at least mine don’t). Some may desire a tattoo to capture a sentiment or tell a story, and my marks can serve those functions too. When they can be seen, my marks reveal that I am not pretending to be perfect and that I have changed over time. What else is more dependable than imperfection and change?

 

Transforming the National Political Conversation

I think that both major parties waste too much political capital on trying to abridge established rights. Why not take it as given that we have the right to keep and bear arms, terminate a pregnancy until the 24th week, or marry someone of either sex? Hardly anyone embraces all three simultaneously, but all three are established rights. The talk of abridging rights is a key driver of our polarized political landscape. People are more apt to get defensive when a right they value is threatened.

Rather than trying to control the choices these rights imply, why not use politics as a tool to shape policies that help with problems associated with these rights? For instance, what can we do to lower unwanted pregnancies to reduce abortions? How about focusing on the reduction of crime and terror so people don’t feel so inclined to build an arsenal for their safety?

The three rights I’ve chosen as examples of course do not enumerate all of our rights, but they have been tinder for many arguments that prevent consensus on useful political action. The laws of this land should not be a theatre for personal values or any one religion. There should not be bills, ballot measures or new amendments that take away rights.