Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Not (Quite) Drowning, Thank You for Waving Back. . .

Title's a reference to Stevie Smith's poem, "Not Waving but Drowning", in case you don't know it. . . .

 Late posting this week -- I tripped over something that sent me into a puddle of tears and not wanting to do anything much more than lie on the bed hugging a pillow. Not sure what went into the triggering mix (fatigue, someone's cancer, a throwaway remark that hurt, a hip/knee combo that's interfering with fitness routine, another throwaway remark, fatigue -- again, yes, those sleep-disturbed nights!,an overly critical assessment of some creative attempt or other, being too far from my women friends), but it took me down for a couple of days.
I trusted my instincts yesterday morning, and followed the first energy-driven impulse I'd had in many, many hours . . . to snap a photo and post on IG. Paul/Pater had got me to move out to the terrace. I'd been not so much resistant as dead weight, but he'd persisted, and there was sun and light breeze and so much green and a variety of sounds and considerable bird movement (our fountain is a big hit!). . . and I posted this. . .
 I get that many will see this as a questionable move. I'm not going to make a litany of the possible questions, nor try to parse them.

Instead, I will only say that it felt a less vulnerable way of reaching out (left me more in control, somehow, and whether illusion or not, I felt less revealed in my neediness) than calling friends or family.  I realize there are gradations of sadness and depression and then despair, and that at a certain point more immediate, physical connection would be appropriate, but I had a watchful, concerned husband at hand, and the flickering of that impulse, some emotional energy finally, signalled a possible route out of the deep well.
 Perhaps the act of will that made the IG post was the first hint of a biochemical wave already washing me back to shore. But I know it helped to have so many thoughtful commenters swimming alongside. Thank you. (And I do, I do realize I've switched metaphors, and I'm sorry, but in the experience, there are simply images that stick, and they don't always follow the rules)
 I don't like posting about my moods much more than I like experiencing them. But I'm no good at ignoring elephants, nor can I change gears too quickly. So that's where we're at this Wednesday. Changing gears slowly . . .

Had a whole other nattering-on paragraph here, which I've just deleted.

Let me tell you instead that I took these photographs while out for a walk on the weekend -- and then I wasn't sure why, wasn't sure who I wanted to show them to, wasn't sure the Instagram accounts of the world don't already offer enough photographs of beauty. If I'd been more organized, I might have already deleted them.

 But somehow this morning, they struck me as a tangible reminder of something my husband tells me, of  something that Kristin commented on this post, that the flip side of the sensitivity that can lower our moods so drastically is often what "brings us to the edge of artistry, to the edge of compassion, down a path of extreme self-awareness." 


This morning,  these photos remind me that I might be someone who gets felled, occasionally, by a biochemical quirk, but I'm also someone who can scarcely walk down the block without seeing something moving or beautiful that I want to share. Tradeoffs, right?

 We have a Six and a Four coming to hang out today while their Mom fits in some birthday celebrations. So I'd better get ready. . .

But first, let me tell you that the theme here, in these photos of magnolias and roses, is that stage after blooming. I mean, don't get me wrong; I love the blossoms. But aren't those rose hips stunning? And the shapes and colours and textures of the blossoms as they age and decay? (You know Bobbie Burgers' amazing paintings? -- magnificently oversized, brilliant, sensual meditations on the latter stages of a bloom.) And the creamy, waxen sculpture of a magnolia bloom is undeniably wonderful -- but so is the tanned-leather of the flower as it ages and dries out while preparing for the amazing surprise of its transformation into that shaving-brush of a seedhead. . .
 And with that, I thank you for reading, and I thank you, in anticipation of your comments, for your compassion and your thoughtfulness and your patience and your company.
And I hope that anyone who might be dragged under today will find somewhere in this post a hand reaching to pull you out, or at least to keep your head above the water until you find your strength again.

xo,
f

33 comments:

K.Line said...

Frances - I'm so happy that my words had even a small impact (because for me words are often as close to everything as it gets). I've had to confront how I want to express the depth of my own personal challenges. It's not easy!! I feel I'm constantly navigating the scope of my own need to communicate with that of wanting to be strong, to seem strong. At this time, my perspective is that we are strongest when we are honest (however that honesty finds us and however it takes us forward). When you share your challenges, it gives me an opportunity to care for you - and to realize that others likely feel the same about me. Thank you, is what I mean. I am so grateful for your communication. xo

Adele said...

Waving to you from here in CT!! And sending many hugs.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is lean into it.. and how wonderful that you have someone so close on whom you can lean, and who will help you get settled in the fresh air and sunshine. The moments after the bloom are always the loveliest, imho.

Madame Là-bas said...

I'm glad that you are feeling a little better. Trying to discern the cause or the remedy is pointless but if there is a little biochemical
change, that's positive. I've been trying to write a post to explain (justify) blogging probably to my mother (who shares a voice with my self critic) and why anyone would care about people that they don't know or haven't met. We are connected by our words and our feelings that we share. Depression is not something that can be easily dismissed with platitudes but caring words may (or may not) have an effect. Or perhaps your words about your darkness may help someone else who suffers. I guess, like K.Line, I have a deep belief in the power of words.

Sandy King said...

I think ( hope ) this post is going to spawn a torrent of comments. So I will pop mine in here now, but come back to read other contributions as they come in.
Powerful statement K.Line -- "communicate 'be strong, seem strong" - here, here to 'strongest when we are honest.' And I share any and all who question how we share and be honest in the uncertain world of social media.
I'm not going to say you were/are being brave about your statements of self-awareness. I'm going to say Good For You. If your posts about the honesty of your life impact one single person then I would say, finally, here is someone posting about the truths in life, not all just pretty pictures.

I often wonder how I would have navigated the world of Social Media when my daughter was transitioning 20 years ago. I was definitely alone in my social circle on this issue. Maybe there would have been someone 'out there' who could have swum alongside me.

There are so many phrases I would love to requote here but this one is really sticking with me.

" tanned-leather of the flower as it ages and dries out while preparing for the amazing surprise of its transformation "
In these times of physical ( and chemical ) upheavals in our daily lives, we do look to those navigating the same journey. How do we know who to reach out to if we don't know who's there? How do we know who to ask for help or who to ask just to come and sit with us ( without judgment ) until the storm passes?

I'm understanding more and more as time passes that the honesty of who we truly are and in all our vulnerable states can be such an interesting space. Maybe not at the time we're feeling the waves wash over us and we can't get our breath, but in looking back. I'm definitely feeling like a 'tanned and leather' flower but somehow too knowing that there ( maybe) an amazing surprise of transformation.

If you don't mind I'm going to tuck something in here. I keep it on my back burner and refer to it every now and then. To me, it's genius on so many levels.

Sandy King said...

Posting this here.

brene brown vulnerability video

An amazing quick animated video so worth watching. The difference between Empathy and Sympathy.

Sandy King said...

Oy - sorry. I feel like I've taken over the comment section. I'm not sure that Brene Brown cut and past worked, but if anyone reading this wants to check it out, or send it to someone who needs to watch it, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Search for Brene Brown youtube video on Empathy and Sympathy.

XX

Anonymous said...

Hugs....<3
Thinking of you
Dottoressa

Drew said...

Frances,
I get it.
I see you.

Keep on.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry you have been feeling so low. As others have said I am glad you have your loving partner to lean on. Thank you for the lovely photos and hugs from Vancouver Island. Brenda

Anonymous said...

You are among friends here for the simple reason that there are tons of kind and perceptive people you've beckoned to your shore. YOU have created this community, you have embroidered it, enhanced it and made it flower. It is you, even though we all play a part, it is your doing which, in my book, entitles you to receive every one of the balms offered in this comment section from us-people who care about your existence, your soul and your heart.Being vulnerable isn't my strong game, either, but to Kristen who points out it is necessary to our survival, I say, "Preach, sister"!
Life is f*^%ing hard. It has nothing to do with age, it has to do with the state of the world, the cruelty of others, the cancer you mention, the loss of loved ones far too soon, the worry about our families...it swamps us all sometimes--even for the lucky ones,like me, who do not have brain chemistry that turns on them.
Two people close to me are teetering on the edge right now. I am nearly daily telling them to collapse into covers- over- their- head mode with no judgment until it passes. I will wield the shield and tell anyone who has a problem with them putting themselves first, no matter the form, until the storm passes, that they need to find something else to be judgemental about.
Please take you time.
I will now quote the Dowager on Downton Abbey ( the font of much wisdom) " I hanker after a simpler life, is that a crime"?!
Exactly how the outside stressors in my life for 20 months have made me feel. How you might be feeling now.
Lots of love being sent your way from London-town to you.
We care, I care...about you.
A.in London

Eleonore said...

I was a little surprised to read that you found it easier to write an IG post about how you were feeling than ringing up somebody physically closer to you. But if that is the way it is, and if this community of readers can help you to find your way out of that black pit, I am very grateful to form a part of it.
A very close friend (who died many years ago) had the personal habit of commenting other people's achievements by giving "points", as in a game. Later she moved on to giving points in advance, when somebody seemed to be in need of special support, and called them "points of fortitude". So I am sending you a bagful of points of fortitude hoping that they work their magic at the other end of the world.

Mary said...

Although I saw your post on IG, I am not registered on any social media, so could not respond. Was worried for you. Thought about you. Was glad that Paul was nearby. Understood you needed to work through all the thoughts, feelings and actions that brought you so low, but also understood your needed to reach out into the ether, if you will. Sometimes reaching out to others--besides those closest to us--allows one to share pain without worrying about how it will impact them. A double burden, at times.

Strength comes in many forms--reaching out, accepting support, leaning on others when help is needed is among them. In sharing your pain as well as your joy, you gift us all with truth and perspective. The only kind of 'influencer' I am interested in these days. Would that it did not take such a toll on you. Pax, friend. Take care.

Lorrie said...

It takes strength to make yourself vulnerable. So many great comments here - little to add. You are seen, you are loved.

Georgia said...

Thinking of you..xxx

Maria said...

Dear Frances, I see you, I’m waving, swimming alongside and sending you a lifebuoy or better still, some good looking surf life savers to make sure you reach the shore safely. I’m not sure why some of us find it difficult to reveal vulnerability because we respond to it so kindly when others reveal it to us. Life is a series of highs, lows and in-betweens. The lows can be difficult to manage so I look for patience to get through them and take comfort in knowing that this too shall pass. I think there is a relationship between the ability to observe and feel beauty and joy keenly and to experience sadness and depression. If given a choice, I don’t think I would give up the former to protect myself from the latter. Love and hugs.

Anonymous said...


Even though they were probably taken earlier, your photos are very evocative - somewhat melancholic yet transformative. I'm glad you're starting to recover from your bout of depression. Your terrace oasis, a supportive husband and all the eloquent comments above must surely help. I can only add my own meagre words of encouragement.
Frances in Sidney

Anonymous said...

Such wise words by your online community. Can't add a thing but a "wave", a "hello", and an enfolding, loving hug.
Charlene H

Bev said...

I am so glad to see you are even marginally better, that all our words of encouragement and solidarity helped. And again, your photos amaze me! You have a particular eye for detail, and so often it's the gorgeousness of post-bloom. I'm personally navigating that rocky slope towards retirement (2 months away) and embracing Cronehood, trying to still be/feel relevant. I find your particular vision to be, well, inspiring. Yes, you struggle, and yet you persevere. Brava!

Anonymous said...

I truly understand how that black dog takes over. So hard to explain to others. He/she then slips quietly away.
Sending a hug.
Ali

Anonymous said...

Oh, Hon, I'm so sorry. My own bouts with the black dog have been more seasonally/hormonally related (a Southern California girls's first winter in Massachusetts combined with the onset of hypothyroidism, a combination I do NOT recommend!), but my own trusty Paul (not his real name) steered me along the coast until I could swim ashore on my own, as yours seems to be doing.

Outside does help (I was relieved that Paul had steered you in that direction). Routine as well (my Paul had to remind me to take a shower...). There is a certain amount of waiting it out involved, and I can only recommend Artist's Dates while you do so - have you visited Sweet Georgia Yarns? A delight for the senses, since you sway yarny.

Wishing you all the best as you work your way thru this one... Carol

Taste of France said...

Even in anguish you write beautifully.
I know what you mean about the photos. There are so many amazing photographers, with good equipment, putting their work on IG and in blogs, and who am I to clog up the system with my phone shots? But it's about the connection. Your photos took me there, and your words have incited empathy in my heart. I wish you well.

materfamilias said...

K: So much in your few words here, but mostly -- the words being everything, yes, and that need to seem strong, which perhaps is good discipline in some ways but I find it can be dangerous and limiting as well. . . . So we use our words and try to craft messages that signal our vulnerability from a place of strength. Or something. xo
Sandy: hugs and thanks. No apologies allowed for persisting in leaving us Brene Brown's message -- really worth viewing and sharing. I've seen it before and it's worth seeing again if only to stop the spread of the dread "At least. . ." virus. And I can't imagine the isolation you experienced 20 years ago. For whatever the complaints against Social Media (and sure, many are legitimate), it allows us to find community when that seems impossible in our immediate neighbourhoods.
Drew, Dottoressa, Brenda: Thank you so much for being here

Suz from Vancouver said...

Thinking of you - glad you’re feeling a little better. Thanks to all the commenters, a very wise group here.
Suz from Vancouver

Anonymous said...

I see you too Frances and I hope you can see me waving from Scotland. Wilma

Jeannine said...

I appreciate your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable. Thank you. Hoping the days get easier - bit by bit.

Kate Budacki said...

Thank you for describing your feelings . It is hard to make them public, no doubt, but by doing so, you let me who shares your feelings know that I am not unique. Part of the pain of depression is feeling that no one understands. You know. We know. None of us are alone in this. Thank you for the reminder. Sometimes I forget.

materfamilias said...

A. in London: Thank you for your very kind words, your thoughtful praise. And thank you for pointing to the larger context we are all living in these days. Hankering for simpler times indeed!
Eleonore: Thank you -- points of fortitude will come in useful and what a dear legacy your friend has left you. You must miss her.
Mary: Such kindness! And yes, exactly, about the different ways of reaching out. It would depend, too, on the severity (I hope)
Thank you, Lorrie, Georgia, Charlene!
Maria: So true about the paradox you point out -- we don't like to reveal vulnerability but respond well, generally, when others reveal theirs. . .
Frances and Bev: So glad you enjoyed the photos -- and Frances, your words are far from meagre. Bev, I'm touched to hear I inspire in any way. Thank you!

materfamilias said...

Ali: He's a mysterious beast, right?
Carol: Thanks for the company and the encouragement. As for Sweet Georgia Yarns, funny, I followed her blog way, way back (maybe 15 years ago?) and I know she's somewhere in Vancouver, but no, I haven't visited and I'm going to put that top of my list to do this summer. I've just looked up the address and it's not so far from where my daughter and I will be taking a course tomorrow -- serendipity!
Taste of France: Coming from a writer like yourself, that means a lot -- thank you!
Suz: Aren't they/we wonderful?!! So much wisdom. And kindness, which is not nothing ;-)
Oh Wilma! Yes, Yes I Do! Thank you!
Jeannine: The fog is lifting, thanks!
Kate B: It is tough once the words are out and can't be retracted, and I did spend some time cringing and regretting a little. But a comment such as yours makes it worthwhile. Knowing we're not alone is huge. Thank you!

LPC said...

First of all, I am sorry you've been in a deep downswing, and I hope the up is continuing and comfortable. Second, I believe that virtual communities are integrating into our traditional ways more deeply than we even know. So an impulse to post can be not an avoidance of something "real" but a true new way to engage and exist.

Decay and browning does in my experience lend a depth to beauty that is impossible if everything's perfect. That said, it's miserable being besieged by our devils and I hope that this time of retirement, for you and all of us, can allow us to establish devil negotiations that can be civil even though unavoidable.

Much love to you Frances.

Beth from Oregon said...

Frances, I just want you to know I am thinking of you and waving at you from Oregon. Your honesty and openness touch my heart and I value and appreciate all of the incredibly wise and aware comments from this community you have established. Our lives have a number of similarities and I have been struggling as well. Thank you for sharing.

Susan B said...

Frances, I'm so sorry you were laid low due to the "biochemical quirk" as you've called it. I'm glad that you have a bit of natural beauty on hand, and that it provided some relief. And glad (though not surprised) that your online community rallied round. Despite all of the worrisome news, conflict and hand-wringing, the internet does have its shining moments.

materfamilias said...

Lisa: Yes!! I think this is true, and those who scoff at the possibility of real connections being made digitally have a point, sure, but they also perhaps lack experience. In no way do I want to lose the "IRL" ways of being together, but it might also be true that those aren't always as satisfying as the mythology insists.
Beth: I'm so grrateful for your care and also glad to know that writing this might mean something helpful to others who struggle. I hope you find as much support as you need -- it can be tough. Take care.
Susan: Thank you! And it really does have shining moments -- see Lisa's comment above, which I find interesting and insightful

Mardel said...

What K-Line said.

I can't read all the comments now, but I love this post and think we all need this touch of vulnerability, although at the moment I am struggling with my own walls and defenses and cannot quite work my way through the comment chain. tI am not deeply embedded in the slough of despond, but feel as if I am skirting the edges, and despite moments of joy there is still a risk I will fall in.

Oh well. I've long thought that perfect ripeness, or beauty, is just the edge of decay, because that is what comes next, and we are foolish if we ignore this. I think beauty is even more beautiful with those edges of decay, and it is exactly this that I love about magnolia blossoms, because they start to fade at the edges so quickly, and this makes them even more beautiful. I think this is also why Autumn is my favorite season. It reminds me that it is in our edges and our depths that we find true beauty.

When I moved to Tennessee someone said "The Holy Spirit can't work through the internet". Well, I think that is wrong, both regarding the effectiveness of the internet as a path to meaning and connection, and in terms of its narrow view of religion. Regardless of whether one believes in the HS or not meaning and connection sneak up on us in many ways, and find our vulnerabilities and bring us together. I think these internet connections can find vulnerable spots we otherwise manage to keep hidden and will strengthen our IRL life experiences as well.

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