Tuesday, January 7, 2014

From Grandchildren To Football And Beyond

That's a picture from yesterday when we were playing vacation in my old room. Owen packed a suitcase with plenty of toys and he and Gibson and I made the long journey through the house to the old bedroom. "Let's pretend this Dog Island," he told me when we arrived. "We can live here forever."
"Okay," I said. "But where we will get our food?"
"I packed plenty of vegetables," he said, as if that was that. Enough vegetables for forever in a red Samsonite suitcase I got as a graduation present from high school. Along with various stuffed animals and two wooden reindeer that are put together from pieces which for some reason have taken up permanent residence in the Glen Den.
He put the reindeer up in different corners of the room and he hung a magnetic puzzle thing up on a closet door handle and he tucked a spider monkey in the Pack-n-Play with my old Zippy.

"They are friends," he said. 
Gibson and I sat on the bed and observed all of this. Buster joined us for a few moments, which you can see above. Somehow, sometimes, he can still jump up onto the bed. Not that I encourage such foolishness but it made for a sweet picture. We pretended to all go to sleep for seconds at a time. Owen would go around and turn off all the lights and make sure I took my glasses off and that we were all covered up. 

Within the blink of an eye after we'd settled, he'd pop up and say, "Good morning!" and turn on the lights and come and put my glasses back on me.
"I being very careful," he would say. And he was.

We played that for a good long time and we also played cards. I am learning how to adapt different games to keep him interested. For some reason, the child wins every game and I am not kidding. No cheating, just luck. The boy has good luck. While we play games, Gibson tries on hats from the antique suitcase I have in the dining room. More antique even than my old graduation one. He tries on the hats and he tries to snatch the cards and he plugs in the twinkle lights and it's a fancy dance, keeping one happy and the other engaged. 

So that was some of what I did yesterday and today it is cold. I mean, I hate to really call it cold but I assure you that for us, it is bitter. The heater is not keeping up with it very well and it's only fifty-nine degrees in the house but I won't die. 

There was a football game last night which I am glad was finally played and is over. It was FSU vs Auburn in some bowl game or something (seriously, I do not know) and it was played in Pasadena and that's all anyone has been talking about in town for months now. The Tallahassee Democrat, our local paper, has literally been garnet and gold for so long that I can't begin to understand what more they could find to write about a game that hadn't even been played yet. Not that I read any of it. 
Still, one can't help but be aware of such goings-on. Mr. Moon, who went to Auburn and who has lived in Tallahassee for almost as long as I have, which is forty years now, was so torn. He decided he wasn't going to "be" for anyone. He watched the game down in Orlando and when I went to bed, FSU was losing but when I got the paper this morning, the headlines (of course) said something about FSU being the champs so I guess they pulled it out. 
At least that's over. 

I told you all of that so that I can feel timely and shit. 
Not really. 

I told you that because I'm rambling and it's so cold outside. I just went out to let the chickens out and they are all alive and acting as if nothing whatsoever is amiss, crooning and pecking happily at the corn I scattered for them. Chickens are hardy creatures. I'm not sure what I'm doing today. I am again at one of those places where I want to get rid of crap, I want to make my living space a bit more serene but I don't even know where to begin. Yesterday Owen told me that I had too much stuff and that I should throw some of it away.
"I know," I sighed. "What do you think I should throw away?"
He thought about it. "I don't know," he said. A lot of my crap is pretty interesting to look at, truthfully. 
"How about I throw away some of these toys around here?" I asked him. There are toys all over my house and paints and crayons and paper and coloring books and tricycles and dolls and stuffed animals as well as kid books stacked everywhere, not that Owen will let me read to him. And games of course. My house looks like a daycare center. A cluttered daycare center with an insane director. 
"No," he said, as if I had wounded him with my getting-rid-of-toys suggestion. And then he gave me a look. 
He asked me later on in the day if I would play Candy Land with him and I refused. "Why don't you take Candy Land home and your daddy can play it with you?" I said. 
"Can I have it forever?"
"You bet!" I said. 
So there is that. I got rid of Candy Land. 

A few days ago a commenter (Regine Franck) sent me to a link about the editor of the Atlantic Magazine, Scott Stossel, who has written a book on anxiety. The title of his book is My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. The link sent me to an article about the author and the book and then last night I heard an interview with him on Fresh Air. This morning I've done a little more searching and found another excellent article in the Atlantic here. 
Reading the articles, listening to the interview, I am struck by the similarities in my own (admittedly self-diagnosed) anxiety disorder to Mr. Stossel's although he suffers and has suffered far more than I ever will. So many of the same landmarks. And he discusses the disorder in a historical and scientific sense as well as within the own framework of his own life which has been an incredibly high-functioning life. He has taken every pharmaceutical remedy known to science, he has been in every sort of therapy for the disorder. None of it has worked very well and that is disheartening. But, he has learned to live with it, has learned to operate within the parameters of what could be a paralyzing situation. And now he has written a book on the subject. 
But here's what really freaks me out- the comments on the article I linked. So many of them are in the vein of "Oh yeah, I had anxiety. I gave up gluten and caffeine and now I'm fine." There are also numerous suggestions that he just needs to get over himself. "Man up," is how one commenter put it. 
"Man up."
Other suggestions include specific amino acids, yoga, Al-Anon, numerous sorts of therapies and of course, Jesus. 

I am appalled for Mr. Stossel. Absolutely appalled. The man barely made it through the seventh grade without being institutionalized. And here he is now, a husband, a father, an author, the editor of a very highly-regarded magazine, doing book tours which require him to face and overcome many of his deepest phobias and fears, an obviously incredibly intelligent man who has researched the subject of anxiety to an exhaustive degree, who would probably do anything to rid himself of this life-long horror, being told to "man up"? To give up caffeine and gluten? 

Well, the brain is far more complex than we understand and what works for one sufferer of a disorder, a disease, may do nothing at all for another. And if there is one thing I myself have learned in my own taste of this suffering, it is to be compassionate towards others who may suffer what I do or something entirely different and perhaps even incomprehensible to me (fear of cheese? really? it's a thing). To not disrespect their feelings, their problems, their trials and their tribulations. 

My journey is not your journey although they may be similar. 

And some days my journey is across the house with supplies packed in a red suitcase and some days my journey is simply to survive the minutes of a day with acceptance and hope that the next day will be better. Or the one after that. 

I'm sorry this has been so rambly. This is just the way my mind is working today in this quiet house with the cold barely staying at bay, the anxiety somewhat the same. 


  1. My brain is too scattered today to formulate a specific comment. Just want you to know I hear you.

  2. Was it old school Candy Land or the new version? The new version succkkksssss. I played it like 18 times over xmas with my nieces.

  3. Rebecca- Love back to you, dear. Thank you.

    Jill- Obviously my brain is too scattered to write. So there we are. Thanks.

    SJ- The new one? I guess. It's pretty new. It does suck.

  4. I didn't think this was rambly at all. I am happy the chickens are unscathed and you got rid of that game. For me it's Monopoly, I hate that neverending boring game.

    I too read a that article and felt glad I never knew the levels of anxiety the author suffered. And I read enough of the comments to get nauseous. Most commenters are bossy know it alls, especially when it comes to health and meds.
    All the comments should have been in the vein of thank you, or congratulations on building such a remarkable life under such difficult circumstances.

    You are so right and wise, we all are on our own journey, each of us is unique and what works for one may never work for another. And of course I believe modern medicine and pharmaceuticals often don't know shit, just like the rest of us. I wish there were an easy anxiety cure, or even a way just to take the rough edges off, but we are still in the hunt for that one, aren't we?

    I love your stories of how you play with the boys, it helps me to remember how vivid their imaginations are at those ages. I love that you pack a suitcase for an adventure across the house.
    And I hope it warms up fast in your neck of the woods - if my house temperature got below 60 I would come unhinged. You better bake a lot of bread and keep your kitchen cozy :)

    Take care and keep on rambling. xo

  5. Maybe my first memory of my grandma is playing an imagination game with her, similar to the one you played with your boys. I couldn't have been much older than Owen. I might have been younger. So believe some day, he will have this memory of you.

    The dumbest people in the world are spending all their time commenting on internet articles. Dear god.

  6. The comments on the slightly different version of his article in last w/e UK Guardian are quite interesting, maybe it's a cultural thing or whatever but I found some of them actually moving.


    Reading your post made me look up our dress-up box, now hidden in the guest bedroom, but still intact, red slippers, straw hats, shiny slips and fake flamingo feathers etc. waiting for whoever wants to have a good time playing.

    Your boys are sooo wonderful.

  7. Ms. Moon - thank you so much for sharing the article. What an amazing man he is - to overcome, write and speak about all of his anxieties. Commenters can be so ignorant. Love when you write about your grandbabies - they are so adorable! The old candy land is the best - why must things always change and be made supposedly better. Stay Warm - we are only like 1/2 a million degrees below zero today in Minnesota. -Marcia

  8. I heard the Terry Gross interview last night and was fascinated by the detail of his young daughter's identical phobia (but without the connecting narrative he told about his own)and also that it was somewhat mitigated via CBT at such an early age.

  9. I won't comment on the anxiety, since I don't know anything about that. But, I do know about getting rid of things. I am not a hoarder or anything, but things do accumulate. I find it so hard to do the big clean-out at one time because it seems so overwhelming to get rid of all of those things you paid real money for.... And you still kinda like some of them even though they serve no purpose and take up a lot of space. So, about a year and a half ago, I came up with a plan.

    Everyday, I get rid of at least three random things. Give them away, donate, throw away. It can be big things, little things.... Anything. That doesn't sound like much, but in one year, that is over one thousand "things". At first it is easy, but becomes harder and harder. When I'm really stuck, I go to the closet and get rid of some of those clothes I will never fit into. Or I clean out a "junk" drawer. It works so much faster than you would think. Do it first thing in the morning and you are free for the day.

  10. Every day, Pudge?? Damn. That's good.

  11. Pack up that red Samsonite (that's what I got for high school graduation, too) and come to the
    SOLAR vortex where we are candidates for the special eco hell for turning our heat to 74 so my mom doesn't shiver. And that's with the long underwear......

  12. I started taking an anti-anxiety drug Klonipin a while ago. It has helped me with the whole thing around deaths this past year. I had hoped to not need to take anything but have found it to help smooth things out. There--I've outed myself.

  13. There is so much here to ponder but the images that sticks with me is you and your grandsons playing dog island forever and these are the memories that will stay with them and will bond them to you and make them who they become. I haven't read the links yet cause I'm on my phone but thank you for sharing them. It's so important. And the photos, especially that first one, divine.

  14. I'm impressed that you're even able to tell us who won the game! I wouldn't have gotten THAT far.

    Yay for purging yourself of Candy Land, though I suspect it will creep back into your life at family gatherings.

    I had not heard of that Scott Stossel book. It sounds interesting. I read (after I saw your post) that his core phobia is a fear of vomiting -- something he hasn't done since childhood. I feel like he wouldn't be so scared if he vomited as an adult. I mean, no one likes to vomit, but it's not as terrible as all that. Then again, if it weren't focused on vomiting, the anxiety would probably manifest in other ways.

    Commenters on the Internet often let their basest instincts and prejudices emerge. The veil of anonymity and all that. As a newspaper editor, a large part of my job in latter years was to try to develop ways to manage comments on news stories.

  15. Mel- I love your long and insightful comments. I really do. They make me feel completely "gotten."

    Ms. Vesuvius- I hope he does. I hope Owen remembers the fun he has with me. At least viscerally- you know? That when he thinks of me, he will feel loved, forever and ever.
    You're right about internet commenters.

    Sabine- I need a dress-up box too. I do. Thank you for reminding me of that. I went back and reread the Guardian article and it's comments. Yes, different, although some were slightly still condescending.

    Marcia- I don't know why they had to change Candy Land. It was pretty okay before. Please stay warm. You have my deepest sympathies for trying to live in that sort of weather.
    And respect.

    A- Perhaps the CBT would have worked better for her daddy had he been able to get it at an early age. Yes, I, too, was fascinated by the fact that the daughter got the same horrible phobia without knowledge of her dad's.

    Pudge- That is incredibly good advice. Now. If I could just motivate to do it. Maybe? Thanks.

    Jo- Right?

    Denise- It's going to be back into the seventies here by the weekend. I will make it.

    Syd- You had a horrible year and a little medication that helps is only a good thing. I'm proud of you for asking for help and getting it. So very hard to do for some of us and you did it!

    Angella- My baby grandson cuddling that old doggie. He loves animals as most children do. Thank you for taking time in your journeys to comment. Means a lot to me.

    Steve Reed- Well, that's the thing about anxiety disorder- no logic. Whatsoever.
    You know, I am so grateful for the sweet and loving tone of the comments I get here. I've gotten so few ugly ones and of course, they were ALL anonymous.

  16. Anxiety is as individual as the sufferer. We all must paddle our own canoe. Sadly. What works for one, might not work for someone else, but I think sharing tips in a caring and loving way is good. Being an arse about it helps no one. That being said, I used a workbook about anxiety and some audiobooks on meditation and relaxation that helped me. For awhile, I had to loop that shit for hours every day just to function. I'm much better now, but I still get blips of it. Like today! Yahoo!


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