breaking the silence

I write this because if you had told me 15 years ago, that despite my relentlessly debilitating depression and (on an infinitely lesser scale) the many peculiarties of my OCD, I would one day have a healthy marriage, two beautiful children, and a successful career, I would have thought you were mocking me. When I was a teenager and at rock-bottom, I could not see any direction my future could possibly take that would lead me out of my darkness. That would lead to here.

Darkness. Mental illness. Depression. Suicide.

It all sounds so dramatic. Over-exaggerated. Cliche. Straight out of a really shitty Lifetime movie. An enormous taboo to put out there into the world, so vulnerably and in a forum that is open to anyone to read and criticize and judge. And that is the reason that I feel so strongly that I need to share it.

Because battling depression in our society is so unjustly associated with failure, with weakness, and with shame.

Because as I write this post, I am feeling such discomfort about anyone actually reading this, even so very many years later, that my hands are shaking, making it difficult to type.

Because of mid-nineties me, hanging by a thread and drowning in the tidal-wave of a devastating chemical imbalance.

Mid-nineties me who needed any proof at all that it could possibly get better. That surviving was worth it.

During those years, I felt so undeserving of love. Too broken to ever punish a hypothetical child, years down the road, by becoming her parent. I want the young, the isolated, the empty, and the hopeless to know that it does get better. That it will. I promise it will. I wish I were creative and original enough to not rip-off the message of critical importance that is the lifeline happy and whole gay grown-ups extend to isolated and heartbroken gay youths, but I am not… and adolescents who suffer from mental illness and depression, as I did (and despite the very many blessings in my adult life, occasionally still do), need so urgently to hear this too.

I wish that in 1996, and again in 2002, when I bottomed-out… that I could have had access to stories similar to mine. Stories from utterly and hopelessly flawed – hopelessly flawed, but no longer hopeless – adults who endured the demons of self-hatred and suicide, and later started families, progressed professionally, and most importantly and seemingly impossibly, found joy.

“There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,

A shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space too vast for words through which we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound whose serrated edges cut the heart as we break open to the place inside which is unbreakable and whole, while learning to sing.”

~Rashani

It gets better. It is worth it. Life is worth it. You are worth it.

Would that I could reach through this computer screen and grab you by the shoulders and tell you this over and over and over again until you believed it. The way that I wish someone could have done for mid-nineties me.

You are worth it.

What on earth are we teaching our little girls?

Somewhat surprisingly and entirely sweetly, Stumps’ favorite book is currently the Bible. Specifically a version she received as a gift called The Children’s Discovery Bible. She asks us to read stories from her Bible every night, and we are happy to do so.

I have blogged about this before, but for a little bit of background, I was raised by a Methodist-turned-atheist and a nonpracticing-Jew. When I fill out standardized forms, I am always slightly disappointed that there is no Religious Denomination checkbox for “Confused & Skeptical, but Optimistic.” I pray all the time; I believe in a benevolent Creator that loves all of us entirely flawed individuals like His or Her children… but beyond that I really have no clue. And I am okay with that.

Husband was raised Southern Baptist. Incidentally he is completely obsessed with the show “Ancient Aliens”, and says that he is pretty certain Jesus was one of our (apparently in Husband’s opinion, many) visitors from other galaxies. I am not entirely certain that he is kidding, either.

Anyway, all of that to say, we do whatever we can to support and indulge Stumps’ budding faith, in hopes that she will grow up to become at least slightly less jaded and cynical than we both apparently are.

Tonight, one of the Bible stories she chose was called “Esther Saves Her People”. The story, which I was mostly unfamiliar with before storytime this evening, tells the tale of a kind and beautiful young woman, Esther, who is pursued by and eventually married to an older King. Fair enough.

A murderer is on the loose in the kingdom and is intent on killing all of the nearby Jews. Genocide for a four year old? I am skeptical of what Stumps’ takeaways may be, but continue the story. Esther is tasked with informing the King, her husband, that the people are in danger. From this point, here is an excerpt of how the story progresses:

“Esther was afraid. She knew that even the queen couldn’t see the king whenever she wanted to. It was against the law for anyone to see the king without being invited. If he was unhappy that Esther came, the king could have her put to death.”

Wait a minute. What?

“Esther fixed her hair and put on her best dress. Then she headed off to see her husband, the king. King Xerxes was surprised to see his wife. ‘Esther looks lovely’, the king said to himself. ‘But why would she risk her life by coming to see me without being called?'”

Now I realize that I don’t know Aramaic. And I realize that this is is a story that has been translated countless times throughout the past two or three millenia, and then reworded for a children’s book. But what messages are we sending our little girls?!? That if you speak to your spouse out of turn, even if you fix your hair and makeup and ensure that you look attractive, pretty, and presentable as is a {insert very blatant eyeroll here} woman’s duty, he will have to use every ounce of his self-control not to kill you??

I just don’t think I can keep reading Stumps stories like this in clear conscience. My inner-feminist died a bit inside tonight while I finished the chapter. Tomorrow at bedtime we will read Maya Angelou poems, watch Oprah reruns, and learn about Hillary Clinton instead.

Stumps-isms from just the last 90 minutes of our Tuesday evening

“My best friend in the whole wide world is Miss Rachel’s daughter. What’s her name again?”

If I were Miss Rachel’s daughter and overheard Stumps expressing this thoughtful,  touching, and heartfelt sentiment, personally I would feel warm and fuzzy for weeks.

*********************************************

“Daddy can I sit in your lap?”

{Husband} Okay but you won’t be able to reach the puzzle that you are working on from here.

“That’s okay. I think I’m just gonna chill out here for awhile.”

Sweetie, my mid-eighties childhood called. It wants its catchphrase back.

*********************************************

{If you count aunts, great-aunts, and great-great-aunts, my children have about ten that they are acquainted with}

“Mommy is my aunt dead?”

Um, no I don’t think so sweetie. Which aunt do you mean?

“You know the one, mommy. The really old one! I drank water at her house that time!”

{Oh that one.} Sorry sweetie, I am still not sure which aunt you are referring to.

“Gah mommy! Yes THE ONE WHO GAVE ME A DRINK OF WATER THAT TIME! It was a really long time ago!”

{Right. Of course. One of your ten aunts, whom so memorably rehydrated you at her house sometime in the past four years. Thanks for clarifying and helping me narrow it down a bit. For the record, by this point in the conversation Stumps has become so frustrated with me that she is about to lose it.}

Uhhhh…… Aunt R? …maybe…?

“YES Mommy! That one!”

Well okay sweetie. Yes Aunt R is in her early 80s but she is decidedly quite feisty and most certainly not dead.

“No Mommy. I didn’t say Aunt R is dead. Gah! {again with the “gah”. I mean how old is she? fourteen?} I just said that she is really really old and that she gave me water at her house that time and that she is about to die!”

Um. My apologies to my dear aunt R. I think I speak for all of us here at the House of Stumps and Beans in stating that we do in fact feel that you are the very picture of senior health excellence, and though Stumps may fixate on the basic human kindness that you once extended to her by giving her a sip of the old H2O that one time that she was particularly parched and cruelly neglected by her mommy at the tender age of two-and-a-half, I promise that we do sometimes give her glasses of water at home, too.

********************************************

For more Stumps-isms on dismissal from employment and of course death…

Why I smelled like tripe for a few months in the mid ’90s

If I reflect back to the ancient depths of my work history, I can recall a time when “counting raw pork parts in a large bin full of butchered raw pork parts” was a part of my job description (and when I say “a part”, I mean the only part. Yes folks, that is pretty much all I did). Psychological defense mechanisms have mercifully allowed me to block most of the experience out, but believe me when I say I know what it is like to have a shitty job.

Very often I see on resumes that a candidate indicates an employment date range with a very recent end date. If you just relocated to the area, if your company closed its doors last month, then of course this makes sense. A cover letter is the perfect place to explain your 100% legitimate reason for becoming recently unemployed. What leaves hiring managers unimpressed is if you resign from a position for a less-than-compelling reason without securing new employment. We will absolutely ask why you left your previous position, and the answer “I just needed to look for something different” (or anything comparably vague) is just insulting our intelligence. You will be asked to elaborate on your reason, and be specific, so be prepared to have a very good, legitimate (Seriously. Recruiters have very sensitive, well-calibrated bullshitometers) explanation for throwing away any type of position and voluntarily becoming unemployed when so many at this time are desperate for gainful employment.

If you are still employed but are one 20 gallon container full of freshly sliced swine snouts away from handing in that two-week notice, stick it out until you accept a new job (and get confirmation that you passed the background check). The hiring managers who receive your resume will be impressed. The most sought-after candidates are the ones who are gainfully employed, as it demonstrates your strong work ethic and loyalty despite spending seven hours per day elbows deep in moist future bacon.

Lessons in marital courtesy from my preschooler

Earlier today while we were visiting a local park , Husband was messing around with some wifi access. Beans and I walked away to go check out an outdoor dinosaur trail, knowing that Husband would eventually follow. Stumps, who is standing by Husband, yells across the park to me “Mommy! You should not do that! You married my daddy and so you should never walk away from him and leave him behind!!”

It has always been my understanding that daddies are very protective of their little girls, but apparently it is, in fact, the other way around.

Husband is contemplating the inevitability of an eventual alpacalypse.

Husband is contemplating the inevitability of an eventual alpacalypse.

CIMG6081

In other news, Stumps is currently napping and I put in an Elmo movie for Beans while she eats her afternoon snack so that I could have some time to write this. After hearing the “Alphabet Jungle” themesong on repeat for 20 minutes straight and feeling like my head might explode, I checked in with Beanie and her movie. Beans is just sitting there wholeheartedly engrossed in watching the DVD’s menu screen, paying close attention and carefully concentrating as if she is worried that with even a very minor distraction, she might miss some of the key points and nuances of its plot.

I am relieved that she generally seems to be an intelligent kid; otherwise I might be a little worred about the Beans.

An interview follow-up letter in the Hall of Shame

Received via email from a candidate whom I recently interviewed (and wanted to hire!) and copied & pasted essentially verbatim:

“good morning kimberly,

thank you very much for your time yesterday.  it was a sincere pleasure meeting with you.

i appreciate your insight into my possible career with your organization.  i want you to know that i am extremely interested in this position.  the more time that we spent conversing, the more i became interested in the open position… {you get the point} …

best regards,

clueless applicant”

Folks he didn’t even take the time to capitalize his own name. Or mine. Or the pronoun “I”. Yes I am criticizing a candidate’s grammar with a series of choppy sentence fragments. The irony is not lost on me. This is a blog but that was a professional thank you letter. From someone whom I sincerely believe really wanted to be hired. Now the content of the letter was fine. Generic (if I were a betting woman I would put last quarter’s bonus on him changing just the recipient and organization name and sending the same letter after every interview) but acceptable. I appreciated the prompt follow-up and this is a candidate who made a very good impression during our meeting.

Why on earth would he sabotage a great interview with a follow-up note entirely crafted with lowercase letters?? I am left second-guessing my faith in his ability to accurately focus on the details necessary to be competent at the job.

Candidates for employment  – why do you put the hiring managers of the world in this position? I don’t care if you are using an iPad, a cell phone, a typewriter, a Ouija board, or Morse code to apply for (and communicate with a recruiter about) a job.

USE PROPER SPELLING AND GRAMMAR.

I can’t stress this enough. Really. I will blog about this again. It will become redundant.

Incidentally, Clueless Applicant has a masters degree masters’ degree master’s degree (oh hell, now I’m self-conscious) MBA.

you will critique my appallingly subpar blog grammar and feel that i am a hypocrite. i can take it. really. just please stop being careless in your cover letters, resumes, and thank you notes.