On Dying: Our Marjorie

My neighbor of fifteen years is dying in a hospice from pancreatic cancer. Something she didn’t want to share with anyone so I’m just finding out this week in her final days and hours. I understand her not wanting everyone to know I am just as private when it comes to my own personal tragedies but I would like to have been able to tell her what a wonderful neighbor she has been all these years. I would like to be able to tell her that I will miss her, I mean really miss her. Maybe she didn’t want to see the heartbreak in my eyes or feel my tears slip down from my face to her hands as I try to convey my feeling for her. I have told her on more than one occasion how much I appreciated her but right now I don’t feel as if it is enough.

My family and I moved into our predominately white Italian neighborhood fifteen years ago. I knew very little about Rhode Island and less about Providence or its neighborhoods. Our realtor took us to homes in Cranston, Providence, Johnston and finally our home in North Providence.We visited the house I was to buy on a cool October night driving down from Boston where we lived. My dream was to find us something in southern MA but the home prices were way too high for me a divorced single mother of three. A co-worker who commuted from Rhode Island suggested I take a look over the border in his neighborhood so every weekend we would drive out and just scope the neighborhoods as best we could without a guide. I liked the quietness and small town feel of Rhode Island so contacted an real estate agency. My realtor took us to homes in Cranston, Providence, Johnston and finally the home in North Providence. As soon as we walked in the door we all loved it. It just felt like home to all of us.

On moving day my cousin joked that my neighbors were probably peeking out their windows at this little black family moving in and saying there goes the neighborhood. I laughed but it hit me at that moment that other than my co-worker telling me North Providence was a great place to raise kids I hadn’t much thought about whether it was a great place for black kids. It never crossed my mind there were no other black families on the street or in the neighborhood I could see. My guard went up a bit from that moment not knowing what to expect and my mind prepped for anything bad. What I got however, were the best neighbors and the the absolute best neighbor in Marjorie or Ms. Marjorie as I instructed my kids to call her.

I no longer remember how or when Marjorie introduced herself to me or my family but she has been a rock for me since I moved here. All of my neighbors have been kind but especially her. She and my other neighbor Jackie looked out for my kids and home when I was working from 6:30am to about 6:00pm I was commuting to and from Boston for work. That first year I dragged my youngest with me to his school in Boston. My middle schoolers were latch key kids but for good or bad it was the way it was and we were happy in our home and they were safe with both neighbors checking in on them or spying as they would say.

Marjorie loved my youngest son from the very beginning. He was six when we moved in and although she was good to all three of my children we all joked about how Jabriel was her favorite. She would make him the best cookies and drop them off-
“Here you go I baked these for sweetie.” she would say and I would smile and say thank you knowing I was going to devour half. He could not appreciate the goodness of fresh home baked chocolate chip oatmeal cookies he thought Oreos were treats for Gods sake. The cookies she made were the real treats and they were the best.

We talked often both of us being  PBS fans, political junkies, and social commentators. We talked about our failed marriages, why I wasn’t dating, my kids, her daughter, our jobs, her retirement, and her depression. She was thoughtful and meticulous. I admired her life story and her struggle to be independent. Our lives mirrored to some extents and I understood her but there were things I didn’t understand and will never know about her.

I was mad at her last year when her tree fell in my yard, a big one, and she didn’t say anything about it. Legally it is my responsibility to get rid of it but she never acknowledged it only calling our other neighbor who told her there was nothing she needed to do I just inherited a tree. I was angry with the both of them.  As angry as I was with her I felt like she didn’t want to say anything because to get it cut was expensive and she was retired on a fixed income for whatever reason she didn’t know what to say if she couldn’t help so I chose not to make it a big deal and my dad cut the tree for me. That was the only time I was ever mad at her and I’m happy I chose our friendship over a fallen tree. How could I be mad at the person who fixed my kids dinner while I was in Dallas, Texas for a work event? Or who brought my trash bins in every Wednesday morning, or who gave cards to all of my children for every milestone and wrote to my son while he was away at bootcamp- he never got the cookies she sent but I’m 100% certain some Navy officer knows how much love went into each delicious bite. She had done too much and continued to be too much of a nice person for me to make a tree a thing between us.

Now she is somewhere slowly slipping away into her light and I hope she knows I will miss her and how heartbroken I am that she will no longer be our next door neighbor. I hope there is an afterlife because I know a wonderful one awaits her because she is one of the most deserving.

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On Energy: Fighting the Negative

I, like a lot of folks, can be my own worse enemy. I am filled with self-doubt and uncertainty as I maneuver through my self-proclaimed mid-life crisis. It is negative energy that has a bio-chemical component to it. I notice it more when my body is preparing for my period. It is not every month but when it hits it hits hard. I am fortunate to know myself well enough to not give in totally to the wave of negative thoughts but it does not make the struggle less agonizing.

Last Thursday morning I felt its ugly trigger. It came in as it usually does picking a fear that I keep hidden within myself. This day it was my fear of being forever alone. I was looking through a friends  Instagram  who recently came back from a wonderful trip to Brazil with her significant other. She looked so happy as did he and I immediately felt that defeating feeling I would never have that again. The feeling that happiness would never be mine.

I.will.never.meet.anyone.like.that. I.will.never.be.pretty.enough.for.someone.to.love.me.like.that. I.will.never.be.happy.like.that…..

These thoughts swim in my head all day and by the evening I am in full mode depression.

I fight it. I try  very hard but the clouds get darker. I tell myself I won’t let a tear drop from my eyes because if I do it means I accept the negative thoughts as my prophecy. I look at my period calendar, I do this to assure myself that it is a premenstrual affect. I feel some relief because these feelings, this sadness is a biochemical reaction… my brain is not producing enough serotonin or are the receptors blocked? I am in a bad hormonal swing. Cogently I know this.

Amongst all the dark noises I try to speak to myself logically but I sink deeper into this abyss of sadness. I can’t stop myself. My mind shifts to my other fear. Fear of writing. you.will.never.be.a.legitmate.writer. there.are.millions.of.writers.how.do.you.think.you.compete. save.yourself.the.heartache. give.up.now.

Friday afternoon my father sends me flowers and chocolate covered strawberries with a note  “You are the best daughter. Happy Mother’s Day!” Oh my God I love him. I am not out of this cave but I’m reminded of being loved for me no matter what. He is my biggest cheerleader and it helps. I keep fighting the negative words and thoughts. I feel them in my gut now.

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Saturday I barely get off the couch. I can’t move, I don’t want to move. I fake the funk and function as best as I can. I speak to my mom on the phone. I cook. I smile. I play Operation with my little guy and kiss his little face most of the day but inside…inside I want to lie down and not wake up. I force myself not to give into tears.

I feel tired beyond normal energy loss but I fight it.

When my daughter was eleven and began her period I told her she would have days like this. Usually only a few days. I told her to pop in a good movie like Imitation of Life and cry it out.You just have to know it will pass. I wish I had added that if she ever got so afraid of that dark place to let me know because not every bad day passes.

I kept telling myself this will pass.

Sunday I sleep most of the day again but when I wake up at six I can feel the flip side of this starting to turn over. I grab my pen. It feels good to have it in my hand. I write a plan of the things I want to get done this week. Planning helps me focus as I have said many times. I’m still dealing with the inner doubt and I can hear the whispers in the back of my mind but my shouting fighting voice is getting stronger. It is passing.giphy4

I’ve spoken on my issues with depression here.  I have always had this hormonal side-effect of depression and now I think age may be a factor. This is my struggle however there are

“an awful lot of people in what ought to be the golden years of life dealing with dreadful sad and nervous moods and/or having sleep and energy difficulties, losing desire or pleasure in even basic things such as eating and being with others, dealing with increased aches and pains, and having awful thoughts about life and themselves(Psychology Today).”

If my symptoms were more than once a month and longer than three or four days I would be asking my PCP for something to control those crippling thoughts of unhappiness. Right now I can handle it.

As I get closer to a menopausal stage I wonder how these midlife changes will effect my thoughts and moods. I am being proactive and keeping my doctor in the loop as well. Biochemical changes and external life changes can alter my perceptions before I realize it so I make sure to ‘watch’ myself.

 

Stay well and seek happiness. You still have power.

A few articles to read:
Depression-National Institute of Mental Health
Can Exercise Cure Depression? Washington Post
Fighting Midlife Depression

 

 

On Aging: Aging Well

I have a great-great aunt who turned 101 last week. At her birthday party she was dancing in her heels while a lot of the other women surrounded her in flats, she is in her element on the dance floor. I attended her 100th birthday and she was doing the same. She is aging fantastically and she is a  model for myself.

She is on several committees at her church, goes to Vegas every few months, and takes Zumba, yoga, and aerobics. You will never see her out the house unless she is done-hair done, clothes perfect and stylish, a pop of lipstick, a smile, great attitude and she is out!

#Livingwell

Getting older does not have to mean taking yourself out of the game but sometimes staying in the game is hard work.

It is easy as we get older to fall into a rut and being middle age most of us take a depression dip (read statistics here) but it is not permanent. Just a life transition we have to overcome.

KNOW THYSELF

I think I may  have said it on this blog a hundred times- know and understand where you are. I understand how external factors effect you internally. Understand how your internal thoughts effects your external and work from there.

I thought I would never go through a midlife crisis because I was relatively happy and satisfied with my life. I was wrong. I know I am in a midst of one right now and I have been actively working to to not let this stage be my forever.

Some mornings I wake up and I’m just confused about my life. Confused about my goals. Questioning my existence. In a mini-panic BUT I calm myself down because I know where the self-doubt, the angst, the questions are all coming from and I respond. I respond to those questions of doubt with self-affirmation and action.

GET UP GO HARD
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I get up and I go hard. I do my best to make every day count. I put on something that reflects the best way to see myself not on how I’m feeling at that moment.

I look over my list of goals and get my brain in mind to tackle them.

I put the damn smile on and try to make that my attitude all day.

I do the things I need to do to get to the person I once was and the happy person who is still  waiting for me.

Even if I don’t live to be 101 I will live like my great-great aunt happy and dancing in heels…or flats but dancing #lifegoals

 

 

On Depression: Essence Magazine April Issue

One thing that I would hate to see die as we keep diving into the technological pool is magazines. I love magazines and have been addicted to them since I was twelve years old.

chirlane-mccray-essence_240x340_43Today Essence magazine came in the mail and as I’m skimming through I see they are doing a series on mental health within our community. New York first lady Chirane McCray is heading an initiative to  to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and bridge gaps with programs that can help. 

I was unaware that her daughter suffers from anxiety and depression so I’m glad she is taking that personal story and using it to create a platform locally and nationally. Another first lady with style and leadership. I’m looking forward to seeing how in depth Essence will go with this and the stories they will unfold in the series.

The interview is in the April edition of Essence or visit at essence.com

 

On Depression: Women of A Certain Age

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“You are the most together person I know so what’s really going on?” My friend said to me just last night over dinner.
I laughed. I always laugh.
“I’m fine. Nothing really…I just…I don’t know.”

But I do know and I have known for a few months now. I mentioned it here.  I’m depressed. After bucking saying the words out loud I finally opened my mouth and let the words live outside my lips. I have been reluctant to say to anyone with any real seriousness that I AM DEPRESSED. It’s has been hard for me to face even though we have come a long way with dealing with issues of depression. And although I have counseled my share of friends who were dealing with it themselves it has been a struggle to admit my own dark days. Turning myself into someone else’s cheerleader is easy for me however being a cheerleader for myself at this time in my life has been hard.

I feel incredibly vulnerable exposing my sadness out loud to my family and friends. I shouldn’t because I know I have a wonderful support system. I know I am loved and respected by them but I can’t break that façade of togetherness. I want to be there for others but have a hard time letting others be there for me. I can’t let go of the feeling of being broken but I know that I am. I feel misplaced in the world. I feel like I am walking on icy grounds and the faster I get up the faster I slip back down, hard. I feel like I am going through motions but not making any real connections. I feel like a fraud.

“You are your worst critic.” She said.

It is true. I try not to judge myself harshly. I try to focus on all the things I have accomplished and less on the things I haven’t. I constantly tell myself I have time to do anything I want to cross off my bucket list but since I turned forty-eight all I can hear is fifty ringing in my ears like it’s the beginning of my expiration clock.

Logically I know where all of this is coming from. Women my age go through this. Logically I know that between the ages of 40 and 50 women and men go through this spiral of discontent. I’m experiencing all he classic causes and symptoms:
• Career changes
• Empty nest
• Premenopausal (?)
• Withdrawing from social activities
• Changing appetites
• Having little or no desire to do much
• Feeling insecure aging-body and looks
• Anxious
• Restless

Knowing these things only makes it somewhat easier, but not much, because I try to tackle them everyday.

My days are not completely dark with gloom but mentally not feeling up to anything or unsure of myself is gloom enough.

My friend and I decided to do a weekly check-in every Wednesday evening. During the days before we meet we have to do something for ourselves that gets us out of the shadow of despondency.

I go to the doctor next week for my yearly physical and although I do not want medication at this point because I feel a lot of what I am reacting to is external I will discuss with her my feelings. I’m not shy about having sought out therapy before and I am considering doing so now just to get over this hump. It has been five months now, too long not to be happy.

I will continue to speak about this here and I would really love to connect with other women who are feeling the same. Having my friend to reach out to last night took some of the angst away and enabled me to even write this.

Here is an informative piece from the Huffington Post regarding Black women and Depression.

I firmly believe that KNOWING and FACING your problem is half the battle won. Stay strong.

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This Thing Called Depression: RIP Robin Williams

I have been trying to understand depression for quite some time now and its difficult. I have learned through reading articles and personal blogs that it just isn’t an easy fix. I have learned that no amount of money, fame, nor acclamation in one’s life can stop it. I have learned that it is a very serious disease and we all need to discuss it more. I have learned that people who suffer depression can not just snap out of it. Their darkness may be something I can never understand and it’s not a bad thing for me to be grateful I don’t have the disease. My sympathy and empathy goes out to anyone who suffers from this debilitating disease.

Our focus is on Mr. Williams now because we are all shocked that someone who made us laugh and forget out problems suffered from problems he could not find a cure for. I am hurt by this loss of a man I have watched since I was a child. I watched Mork and Mindy when it was on ABC and not Nick at Nite. I loved his stand up and movies. I’m very sad to know his space is now empty in the world. RIP Mr. Williams

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“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not.

The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”

Robin Williams

1951-2014

 

Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Martin Luther