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Six Steps.

1. I am listening to The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isokov over and over and over again. I can’t dissect all the lyrics in my mind, but somewhere beyond that, I feel exactly what he is trying to say.

2. Today Emily took me to playgroup at the pool so I could hang out with the Moms and their kids. I am not a Mom. Does that mean I am more a kid to them? I’m not sure, but I hope they want to be friends with me anyway. I watched them all try to discipline their kids quietly but effectively, while juggling the fragile feelings of other kids:

One tells Jill, “We need to ask Benny if it’s okay before we splash him. Do you understand?” Benny’s Mom pipes in “It’s okay Benny, Jill didn’t mean it. Did you find a new toy? Does that belong to Alison?” Alison’s Mom is next: “Alison, no yelling. We need to share. We are sharing with Benny now.”

3. I would really love to be a Mom, but I’m not ready to write to you about that yet. For now, I stand waist-deep in the water. I watch the other Moms.

4. Last night Ken walked to the paper store with me. Ken is my husband. I like to take him with me. I wanted to pick out an amazing piece of paper so I could make an amazing envelope for a letter I am sending soon. I am nervous about this letter and I must have been hoping that if I encased it in something beautiful and made with my own hands, the words inside would read just right. As soon as we got to the big glass door, the lady locked it and put up a CLOSED sign. I made a very sad face at her by accident. Ken said we could go get gelato instead. He even paid the way-too-much-price for a teeny cup of fancypants gelato. Thanks Ken.

5. We are sitting by the big glass wall with our gelato. I am in the middle of a chocolate cream bite when Ken tells me he will soon be gone underwater in an undisclosed part of the ocean. For a week. With The United States Navy. To all of my follow-up questions about the possibility of blowing-up or imminent death, he responds, “I can’t tell you.” It’s just testing…engineering…secret stuff, he says. No big deal. I shouldn’t worry. “This is not NBD.” I tell him. I stop tasting my gelato. I keep eating it, but I stop tasting it because my mouth is busy articulating a million hypotheticals. Ken smiles. He thinks it’s funny when I get worked up and worried and talk this fast. I think: How is this funny? Just then we see bunch of hip people with tattoos and neon clothing posing for a picture on the other side of the glass wall. We are in the background, so we make a photo-bomb face.

6. I feel like this a lot lately: there is me, there is glass, and there is something on the other side. I can make a sad face. I can make a photo bomb face. I can eat my gelato or I can keep walking, but I can’t quite be on the other side of that glass. All these transparent barriers, like water in the pool.

I sent the letter in a plain, white envelope.

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“I am become a name.”

Today I was sitting in the third row, laughing my head off at my professor. He was wearing a purple shirt and had made some nerdy joke about the poetry we read for homework. I was eating a caramel from Becky’s wedding and laughed out loud with with my sticky fingers. I had prayed to feel happy that day and had that momentary feeling where you realize your hopes are coming true. Even small hopes feel great when they’re coming true.

Did you know that it’s hard for me to feel happiness sometimes? It is. Not because I’m a pessimist, but because they chemicals in my brain are sometimes unbalanced and it makes it very difficult for me to feel positive things. This is called clinical depression. It means you are sad, but not because of a situation. You are sad for no foreseeable reason, other than the chemicals in your brain that help you to feel happy aren’t really working right now. But it doesn’t feel like it’s just chemicals! It feels very real. And very lonely. And very personal. So sometimes you can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, you’re just tired and sad and alone. Or sometimes you’re having a hard time feeling anything. And so some days I am a bit of a robot, numb to things around me even though I am reaching out as hard as I can to be a part of them. And that’s rough, because I love to feel. I want adjectives and verbs and change and life. I want to feel it. For this reason, I’ve had lots of practice with what it takes to have a good day. Because for me, good days rarely happen by accident. I have to strive for them and look for them and choose them over and over, even if the chemicals in my brain aren’t reacting to those efforts. For this reason, a involuntary burst of laughter at an incredibly intelligent purple-shirted joke is especially appreciated.

The other night I was sitting on the porch with Ken. We had just come back from a walk by the stones in the river. We were talking about how hard it is for me to feel joy sometimes. How tired I get from trying. We were talking about our future and how some things might need to be different for us. Ken thinks some things might need to be different for us so we can make sure I’m getting what I need to have a happy life. I felt so defeated. Why should anything have to be different? Why can’t we do things like everyone else? Why should we have to take a step back, or take a step extra, or take a step away… for me? Doesn’t that mean I’m weak. Doesn’t that mean I’m doing something wrong. And I started to feel it again. I started to feel that I am less than other people because of the chemicals in my brain. I know this is a physical thing, like a broken leg or bad blood pressure. All the right choices in the world won’t heal it. All the poetry and scripture reading I can muster won’t heal it. At the end of the day, it’s just not my fault. It’s physical. But it feels like it’s my fault sometimes. Like I am to blame.

And then Ken got his serious voice on. His listen up, I mean this and I love you voice. He said that he knows I think depression holds us back sometimes, but he thinks this difficulty of mine is helping him. It is helping him learn to focus on something other than himself. It is helping him learn to take care of someone and sacrifice for them. For years he’s been striving to change his heart by learning how to do that. He is grateful to have the chance to do so, with me, for life. And after that I felt much less alone. Much less to blame.

The bottom line is that depression is real. There are books and theories and methods for coping. There is cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga and exercise and meditation and yes, there are pills. In the end it is a very physical problem that manifests itself emotionally and spiritually in me and many other people. I am not the numb girl who cannot respond to the dullness in her heart. I am not the dullness in my heart. That is serotonin and norepinephrine and neurons and synapses. That is chemical.

I am Lyndsi. I am the girl unwrapping caramels in the third row, laughing about poetry. I am the girl with a notebook of thoughts in her book bag and some peanut butter crackers for later. I am the girl who reads novels on the front porch and highlights the good lines with a green crayon. I am the girl riding my bike by the river and looking at trees upside down. I know joy. I know longing. And though the chemicals in my brain might change my mood from day to day, they do not change who I am. I know who I am. Identity Perpetual.

[Today’s post title comes from a poem called Ulysses by our friend Alfred Lord Tennyson.]