When a person with depression gets Some News.

I woke up this morning to a grey sky and cold air. After yesterday’s warm sunshine, the stark contrast convinced me to skip Jazzercise and stay in bed a bit longer.

Then I received some disappointing news. The nature of the news is irrelevant to this post. But to set any inquiring minds at ease, no one is in mortal danger and life is generally still fine; the news was just disappointing. And my brain revolted.

The trajectory I experienced upon hearing this news was:

  1. This news sucks.
  2. Therefore there’s not much of a reason to live.

Keep in mind the news was just disappointing, not earth-shattering or life changing. There are possible solutions to this news, even. But it didn’t matter–my depression-riddled brain does not care about logic or solutions in times like these. I imagine healthy-brained people do not always react in such a way; though I fully admit I’m assuming, since I don’t know what having a healthy brain is like. Maybe their trajectory is like this:

  1. This news sucks.
  2. But other things suck too.
  3. I wonder what I can do about this sucky news.
    1. Solution A
    2. Solution B
    3. Solution C
    4. etc….
    5. One of these is bound to work.
  4. Nothing I can do about it now, so time for sushi and friends and things will work out.

Instead, I have to fight back with what I’ve learned from cognitive behavior therapy, and I did the following:

  1. I took a deep breath.
  2. I picked up a Cadbury creme egg (it was 9:30 a.m., and eggs are breakfast food after all).
  3. I put down the Cadbury creme egg, telling myself chocolate was not the answer right now.
  4. I looked at my calendar for the day and saw the following events:
    1. Lunch with friends
    2. Volunteering at a flood relief distribution center
    3. Hanging out with my niece
    4. Baseball opening day
    5. A new cookie recipe to try
  5. I took another deep breath.
  6. I decided to *not* cancel on lunch, volunteering, or my niece, even though I wanted to.

Then I fixed myself a dirty Diet Coke and got ready for my day.

It might seem like it was a simple exercise in mind over matter, but in truth, it was a Herculean effort. And while I distilled things into six steps there, it was probably closer to 18 steps total, because each major decision required multiple small decisions. That’s what it takes sometimes when my brain decides the depression is going to have A Day.

Lunch was great, volunteering was holy, the time with my niece was delightful (she’s my favorite–she told me so), the cookies delicious, and though the Braves lost, it’s opening day and there’s a thousand months of baseball until the playoffs.

Sometimes I forget how much progress I’ve made, how incrementally easier it is for me to recognize what my brain is doing and do the Necessary Things to stay healthy. So for that realization alone, I’m actually a little grateful for today’s disappointing news.

I Love Public Schools Day: Music Edition

I planned to hang this in my classroom for I Love Public Schools Day.

I’ve written here before about my high school English teacher and my high school choir teacher. These women were foundational to my career in education. But I’ve never written how public schools helped me become a musician.

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I got a phone call from the choir teacher, Mr. Reimer. He was looking for an accompanist for the show choir.

Accompanying wasn’t what I wanted to do. I’d been down this road at church, and once I showed moderate proficiency with playing the piano, I never got to sing. But in my lapsed-logic-15-year-old brain, I thought if I played the piano for the show choir and sang in the sophomore choir, I’d have a better chance making the show choir as a singer my junior year.

Show choir music is sometimes challenging to play, and as a 15 year-old, I was often out of my element. But Mr. Reimer was encouraging and not critical when I’d miss notes. Which happened often.

We moved to Montana after my sophomore year, and though I delayed telling my new choir teacher that I could play the piano, she still made sure I accompanied the choir at least once a year. And sure, I resented it then, but what I didn’t realize at the time is that both of my high school choir teachers developed my accompanying skills, which have allowed me to earn a little extra money and continue to be a musician.

Fast forward several years: I was teaching at the high school I attended as a sophomore, and Mr. Reimer asked me to play piano for the school musical–nothing fancy, just the violin part on a synthesizer. And then he asked me to play more challenging four-hand accompaniments for his varsity choir.

When I came back from grad school, that choir teacher’s son AJ was teaching choir, and he carried on the tradition of asking me to play for the musicals and varsity choir.

Both Reimers taught me musicianship, the value that each person in a choir or an orchestra brings to every piece of music, and that participating in musical groups is fun, not stressful.

Last year I took over as principal pianist for the school musical. I constantly feel inadequate. But AJ, always the music educator, is nothing but encouraging. He never makes me feel stupid when I can’t figure out a rhythm or when a song pops up in G flat major and I keep forgetting the C flat. Instead, he teaches.

Without these opportunities to grow as an accompanist and musician, I’m not sure I would not still be playing the piano. I’m positive I wouldn’t be as good of a musician as I am. I definitely wouldn’t even consider myself a musician at all.

I’m a musician because of public schools.

What Hallmark Channel is Selling Me.

I’ve been watching a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies, and here’s what I’m being sold* while watching:

  1. A magical eyebrow shaper.
  2. Nordic Track/Bowflex/Peleton.
  3. Wayfair. All the time, Wayfair.
  4. Life Alert bracelets.
  5. Balsam Hill Christmas trees (which, by the way, can run up to $1,000).

 

*In addition to the science-fiction fantasy that Christmas is a magical romantic time where all my dreams come true.

The Ancestors.

I’ve done a bit of digging around my family tree and have learned some things. Here’s five of my most fascinating ancestors*.

  1. Frances Fenton, who got her PhD in 1910 from the University of Chicago.
  2. Jean Tatlock, who allegedly had an affair with Robert Oppenheimer and was a total communist.
  3. John Fenton, who fought in the Revolutionary War.
  4. Fenton St. Clair Butterfield, who was married in 1863 but I cannot find any death or divorce records from that wife…but he married my great-great-grandmother in 1881…
  5. Hyman Gindich, who left Kiev during the Russian pogroms in 1906.

 

*Ancestors I did not know personally. Both of my grandmothers were pretty kickass.

The Best Dates, updated

I’ve been dating for almost 30 years, but it’s a Saturday night and I am dateless so why not pick at that emotional scab a little? During the summer of 2010 I wrote extensively about my best and worst dates. You can check out the archives for those if you are so inclined.

But I’ve logged eight years of dates since then. Here’s a condensed and updated list of my five best dates, in no particular order.

  1. When we met for a late lunch and ended up talking for four hours in the restaurant.
  2. When we sat on the hood of his jeep and looked at the stars and talked.
  3. When we laid on opposite ends of the couch reading books and occasionally talked about what we read.
  4. When at the end of the night he apologized for not talking as much as usual; “I couldn’t stop looking at you. You’re just so beautiful,” he explained.
  5. When after dinner he made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe.