Thursday, December 25, 2008

Back (in black)

It's been a rough few months.

My absence from this blog was about 40% deliberate. Like many of you, sometimes I need a vacation from dead baby land. I haven't been writing, I haven't been reading. So much grief, both for me and for others. Compassion fatigue. I can only give so much. It's important, but caring takes energy, effort, and lately I've been very tired.

The other 60% have been the reasons I've been so tired.

Part of it has been my new job. I love what I do, and it's such a revelation for me to wake up and not even think of it as "going to work." I don't love every part of it, and I don't love it every day, but I love what I do. But it takes a lot of time and energy. I was responsible for almost 170 kids across three classes, and this was the first time I've had this large a teaching load. Not a lot of time left in the day after that. I spent about a week out of school sick with a cold that turned into serious ear and sinus infections. I spent the rest of the semester playing catch-up. Not much left of my brain by the end of the day.

The rest? Well, if you follow my wife's blog, you'll know that she's been having a very hard time over the last few months. And honestly? I've never seen her so depressed in all of the years we've been together, including the time following the death of her mother from cancer. Helpless, mired in grief. Paralyzed by anxiety and self-doubt. In tears, constantly. Wracked with sobs and pain. I'll be honest. There were days that I wondered if I would come home and find her body.

Nothing I could really say to anyone else about it, and even with her in therapy, I had to get her out of bed, get her to shower occasionally, remind her that it wouldn't always feel this way, that there was a strong, smart, compassionate, kind woman under the grief and pain. It was tiring, so tiring. I was exhausted. So much on my shoulders, no time or strength to talk about it outside of my own therapy. It was all so big, and so important. I had to carry it. I had to be strong. Not much time left for myself at the end of it all. Nothing left to give to anyone else.

Fortunately, things are getting better. S. got her meds adjusted, is in therapy twice a week and consulting with a psychiatrist, and our beautiful, beautiful new dog is a source of joy and love and happiness. She gets us out of bed, gets us outside, reminds us of the presence of things that are good and pure and sweet. S. is doing better. Not cured, not even close, but no longer at the bottom of a deep, dark hole. I'm on vacation now, in many senses of the word.

We got up late yesterday. I was mostly exhausted after spending the last week grading final exams and papers. We ran to the market to get food, and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening making chili. In our house, food is love. When S. and I first started dating, I would make her dinner on the weekends. It was my way of courting her. For me, cooking is comforting. It's a soothing ritual - the preparation of ingredients, the timing of different things. I put on the radio or some music, have a beer or two, chop vegetables, cook meat, add seasonings, stir. It's a wonderful feeling - just me and the ingredients and knives and heat. A world of my own. A way to meditate, almost. And at the end of it, something delicious, something tangible.

And so today, a day which proved so horrible and terrifying last year, we sit in our living room, something familiar on television, surrounded by sweet animals, and the sweet, spicy smell of the chili I made yesterday reheating in the kitchen. It's one of those dishes that's always better the next day.