Monday, December 7, 2009

Why Insanity Is Insane

Yesterday was completely lovely. I spent almost eleven hours with Owen and when he left the house with his daddy he was in the very best mood. He was smiling and giving us big googly grins and funny faces and I think he and I have relaxed with each other. I learned something yesterday, which was that if I leave my mind out of things like changing Owen's clothes and holding him, my muscle memory works perfectly and all my old skills and abilities with babies come back and things go so much more smoothly. At one point, I found myself making bread, talking on the phone and holding Owen, all at the same time, and it was like the old days for me- I can do almost anything while holding a baby and it feels right and comfortable and I was either holding him all day or working in the kitchen with him in a little seat on the counter and stopping every few seconds to call him Mr. Goo-Goo and making him smile or making up silly songs (Owie, Boy, Joy and Toy all figure into the lyrics, as you can imagine) to sing to him and I told him about how very soon he will be helping me cook and eating soup and begging me for pieces of raw potato and how much fun all of this is going to be.
He seemed to be fascinated and interested and I am quite sure he anticipates all of these activities with great joy, that boy, that Owie, my sweet toy of a baby.

And today it is warmer and I have no baby here. I am going to go to town later on to go to the doctor with him and his mama to see if his little tongue needs clipping. I have told Lily that if they do the procedure, I will hold him so that he does not associate the pain with her. I know he will forgive me. There is no doubt of that in my mind but I would rather him think ill of me than of his mother, even for a moment.

I'm thinking today of the beach. I haven't been to the beach in so long. In fact, I haven't seen an ocean since Mr. Moon and I got back from Cozumel and I think of those ten days we spent, riding around the island on a scoot, me hanging on wearing a short skirt (my legs were still good back in August- go figure) and we were always warm and we ate the very best shrimp sandwiches in the world at a little lunch place where they laughed at me because I liked the jalapeno mayonnaise so much. And where when I slept, the turquoise Caribbean was always just outside my eyelids, right there, right there.

Mr. Moon and I, along with a friend, own a tiny cottage on the bay on a barrier island named Dog Island, about an hour and a half away from Lloyd.

There is no bridge to the island and everything must be toted there that you will need from water (you cannot drink what comes out of the tap) to food to beer to parts to fix whatever is broken because something is always broken. And you must take gas for the vehicle which gets us from the dock to the house and ice and books and magazines and well, whatever you might need. It is a sort of heaven because there is nothing there but acres and acres of wildlife preserve and it's so quiet. Only a few people live there full time and you can go for days and not see another human. Quite literally. So it is very different than a usual trip to the beach, either here or in Mexico, where you can decide to eat at a restaurant and sit and watch other people and maybe shop or whatever it is that people do at the beach besides swim and sunbathe.

The bay side, where our house is, is very beautiful. There are trees and birds and our little house has a back porch where you can sit and watch all of this and there are miles of dirt roads to walk on through woods and along the Gulf and through palmetto scrub and swamps. There are silent Blue Herons, fishing patiently on one leg and bald eagles and the mighty ospreys which soar and dive and take their catch back to their huge nests for mother and children. There are the tiny little pipers which run back and forth with the waves, searching for this and that in the sand with their beaks and there are sometimes dolphins fishing in the bay and there are the tides bring the water up close and then take it back to expose vast areas of mud flats to explore.
And there are always the most glorious sunsets.

So why haven't I been there in, well, I can't even remember?

I'm not sure. It's certainly not a luxurious get-away. As I said, everything must be hauled over and taken from dock into house and also, yes, the broken things. Will the heat work? The AC? The stove, the phone, will the water run when you turn on the tap, flush the toilet? Is there hot water if there is water? Are there new leaks? Does the car need a new battery? Will I have to get out that iron bar to smack that piece of metal in the engine to get it to run?

But it's not just all of that.

I have had some of the most profoundly traumatic events happen to me at the island. Nothing related directly to the island, but still, they happened while I was there. One was summer before last when I went to the island alone for my birthday, thinking that it was just what I needed to calm my anxious soul. I didn't realize how profoundly insane I was and my anxiety and panic grew to vast proportions there on the island while I was by myself and I walked miles and hours every day, trying to tame it. I did yoga and I wrote and I read and every moment, every second was filled with such panic that I could barely breath. Finally, Mr. Moon had to come and rescue me and when I got home, I went to the doctor and got on anti-depressants and finally the panic receded to a livable degree, which is where I am now, mostly.

Up until that visit, I had loved being on the island by myself, cooking whatever it was I wanted to eat, sleeping whenever I wanted to sleep, reading, writing, walking, sitting. It had always been glorious, despite the inconveniences, the ghost in the house, the complete solitude.
But now, when I think about being there, even with someone, even with Mr. Moon, something in my soul shuts down and whispers, no, no, no.
I am afraid to go back. And that is just the truth. The very thought of it makes me afraid. And this makes me so sad because there is no place on earth quite like Dog Island and we own a piece of it and it is right there for me to go to anytime at all.
I keep hoping I'll get over this feeling because I miss it. I miss the sound of the wind crossing the dunes and I miss the Osprey and I miss the sound of waves hitting the sand and hissing back. I miss the quiet and the pine trees and I miss the way when I wake up, I can get a cup of coffee and go sit and watch the water, the sky. I miss the radio that brings me NPR and the way I listen to music there the way I never do at home. I miss the sunsets and I miss the millions of stars at night.

Would it be possible to keep my mind out of it all, to let the muscle memory return from when I was happy at Dog Island, the way it has returned to me with a baby in my arms?
I don't know. I am anxious, just writing about it all.

Last night Mr. Moon said, "I need to go get us some grouper," and I merely murmured some agreement, thinking to myself, "Have a good time. I'll be here when you get back." But I know he'll want me to go with him. He loves to wake up early there, leave me sleeping to go out to fish, to find me there when he returns to have drinks with, watch the sunset with, dance around the living room with while supper is cooking. We always feel like we're playing house there in that little shack by the bay.

I feel like I'm cheating him and myself, both, by this fear I have. I am denying myself one of the most profound pleasures on earth. And yet- like I said- even writing about it makes me feel that panic start to swell in the pit of my stomach, that flurry-feeling happen in my brain. That I-have-to-get-control-of-this-NOW feeling. This fear that I cannot feeling.

And there is no point to this. It's just what I'm thinking about today, perhaps because I don't have a baby to tend. I don't know. There's so much I don't know.

But I do know that merely a few miles down the road and across a bay there is a little house waiting with clean sheets on the bed and a mischievous ghost and I miss it and yet, I can hardly bear the thought of it.

But anyway, there's too much going on here for me to leave now. I couldn't if I wanted to. Chickens to tend and I need to plant spinach and cabbage and oh yes, it's almost Christmas and above all, there is a boy who is my joy whose mama and daddy need me to help take care of. See? I can't go to the island. I have too much here to do and not enough time as it is.

So why do I keep thinking of Jimmy Buffett and Wouldn't You Like To Spend Christmas, On Christmas Island?

Oh. Our brains are complicated things. I wish I could turn mine off sometimes. I do. Tell it to get out of the way and let me do what I know how to do, let me enjoy what I love, whether taking care of a baby or setting a little house by the bay to rights to settle in and be cozy in and be happy in.

That's what I'm thinking about today, Monday, December 7th, 2009 as this year draws to an end and it is warming up outside and there is an island not very far away where there are pine trees and sea birds and there is sea grass and horseshoe crabs and mullet jumping with dolphin chasing them, perhaps.

But I am not there. I'm thinking about it though. And perhaps my brain is working things out and I can go back sometime soon.

I hope so. I hate being ruled by my fears, by insanity. And by god, I better be over this by the time Owen is old enough to go to the island because if there is a gift in the world that Mr. Moon and I could give our grandchildren, it is the gift of being able to spend time on a barrier island where there is nothing to do but play and fish and discover and swim and dig and watch and sleep and eat and learn and dream. And if I can't learn to love the island again for myself, I think I have to do it for Owen.

I have to. Because I love him. And I want to be able to give him everything I can, everything he has coming to him, even an island where there are ghosts for me but nothing but joy for him. If his grandmother can quit being crazy.

I'm going to try because I can't imagine anything better than holding his hand and showing him the island and watching his wise eyes grow big with the surprises we will discover there together.
I have a few years. I'll work on it.
I will.


  1. If dad pronounces it workable, a few friends and I would love to use it for New Year's.

    I always think of that weekend we went out there right after my surgery, when I got to lie around in the sun and recover. That was such a great time.

  2. I can think of few places I would rather take my kids to than your islan. Or escape to by myself. But I understand why you can't right now, too. And I wish I had some kind of pat answer, but-I don't, so I just send you sweet thoughts and you can imagine me hugging you.

  3. DTG- I hope y'all can go.

    Kori- Thank-you, honey. I am grateful for that hug. And yes, it would be a perfect place for you and the kids. Or just you.

  4. Dog Island sounds like heaven to me. And I know exactly what you are talking about, one of those camp type cabins I love about the South.

    I used to go with a friend to one in the Shenandoahs. NO electricity, NO plumbing. Talk about roughing it. And if it rained, we got stuck in the mud and had to walk to the bottom of the mountain and beg a farmer with a tractor to pull the car out.

    But during the day we tromped all over the woods and watched the mist rise over the tree line and played in the cold mountain water in the brook. Then grilled our food and drank tea and wine. Then sat on the porch with a lantern and candles and talked half the night away. So I know the peace a place like that brings.

    Can you enlist your big family and take them with you to the Dog? Not all of them but enough that there are many around you 24-7, talking and laughing and keeping you grounded and distracted and safe?

    Think about it. Then in a year or so when the teen boy is driving himself and I'm not so needed here and you're still wishing you could get to the Dog let me know and I'll come down there and we'll go. The friend who took me to the wilderness cabin had the panics too. But never with me and never at the cabin. I am an odd one, I can be quite talky on the surface but am quiet inside. If that makes sense.

    Sending calm and care, C

  5. I too have been thinking about Dog Island. The last time I went was pretty terrible in some ways- you know, the whole no AC in the hottest, most buggiest part of the year- but I really did have a good time.

    I like Glimmer's idea about a good amount of the family all going together. It's always been such fun for me. But I understand your anxiety and if it takes you a couple of years to get back out there, then so be it. But I have a feeling more good times are going to be had.

    Love you so much Mama!

  6. Thanks for writing this. I know. I know. I know just what you mean. Oh and it's so tragic really, when we connect that panic and insanity to things that have made us happy, beautiful things and places and people. I actually started feeling panic and anxious just reading this. I could feel your fear. It's real. Don't discount that. It's a body reaction. But yes, it can be retrained, esp because you have more good than bad memories there. It's just because the LAST memory was so traumatic. You ARE working on it in your head, and also will work on it for real, eventually, by going back. But don't push yourself.
    Loved the amazing descriptions of the place. Wow. How lucky, but yes, a bit isolated and overwhelming too.
    Give yourself a break. You have lots to do on the mainland. You will get back eventually, with Owen, and all will be well.

  7. Stunning sunset photo and any place named Dog island, has to be magical, no?

  8. Woah! Scary. It sounds like there was something there on the island, messing with you. Have you read A Cure for Death by Lightening?

    I agree you should all go. Exorcise it. Light big fires and bangdrums and set off fireworks and chase the demon away.

  9. Glimmer- Yes. There are lots of ways around this. I know there are. And I will work on them. My family does love it there. The hardest part is getting everyone together at the same time and able to go. Work schedules, etc. It would be a remarkable place for a Church of the Batshit Crazy retreat, wouldn't it?

    Bethany- It really is. I just pulled that photo at random because I have so many pictures of sunsets from the island which are amazing.

    HoneyLuna- You have NO idea how happy I am that I was not there for that trip. Talk about your holy hell. But you and I have had some wonderful times there, haven't we? And with your friends. We'll have more good times. I know it. I just have to relearn how.

    Jo- No. I have not read that. Should I?

  10. I have anxieties attached to certain places and things too. It's such an awful feeling, isn't it?
    I believe that you can go back to Dog Island, when you are ready, and feel joyful there. It's possible, and I think you can do it.

  11. Daddy X- I am going to. Just writing about it has made me feel better. Honestly.
    Sort of.

    Lora- It's weird, isn't it? As I said, the brain is so odd.

  12. Your feelings about the island are the same ones I have about the entire state of Florida. I just can't go there ever again. I panic and sob when I think about it. And I've come to a place in life where I don't feel bad about the fact that I will never go to Florida to visit my sister or other relatives. They'll just have to come here. Or not, it's up to them.
    And antidepressants are wonderful things. I often miss mine.

  13. Ms. Moon, I wrote a comment too long to fit here, so I blogged you a letter. I wish, I wish I wish you could have Dog Island and peace of mind. xxoo

  14. Everyone's comments are perfect. But I wanted to add that if you aren't able to go, even when Owen is 6 and begging you, don't let this add to your anxiety. That you're letting him down. Because if you aren't able, you aren't.
    Having said that , I do get a strong sense that there is tremendous strength bubbling under the surface of this. Rooms in the house.

  15. I found you from Michelle, and I love the thoughtfulness of your posts.

    I have an Owen too, and I am so glad to meet another.

    Your fears are real because they are yours. You'll know if and when it's time to return to the island.

  16. When you return to the island please, pretty please take photos of everything you possibly can take photos of. Because, I'm from Missouri and have only seen the beach/ocean FOUR times. That's it. Just four times. Miami Beach,(when I was 21) Venice Beach, (when I was 22) Pensacola Beach (twice). (when I was 24, and again at 26)

    I'm now 24 and am missing beach stuff. The sand the wet stuff by the shore and the dry stuff farther away, the warm water, the smell of the ocean.......I really do miss it all.

    So please, when you return, post lots and lots of photos.....

  17. i wish i d finde a place like that to work on my new book....

    and i hope you ll fight your fears and loose them mean ghosts soon..:-)

  18. You know, yes to all of that.

    But most of all, you are a WRITER. You know that, right? That is some serious WRITING!

    And the panic - I tend to want to silence it with not sleeping or watching too much TV. There must be a better way so that there is still space for a good life.

  19. Rachel- This makes me sad because Florida is such a huge state. But I understand.

    Mel- And it was beautiful.

    Deb- I thought about those rooms when I wrote this. I am almost certain that when Owen is six, I will be so happy to take him to the island.

    Nancy- Ah. One of my favorite names. And you found me from Michelle, ma belle. I'm glad you're here. And yes, when the time comes, I will go back.

    Rebecca- And who doesn't crave a beach get-away? My point exactly. I have one and insanity should not prevent me from using it. And when I go back, I will take lots of pictures. The ocean should be there for us all.

    Danielle- But there is no internet except dial-up! Which means of course that it is the perfect place to write that book. Sort of.

  20. Do you have any idea what might have triggered you? It really does sound like a PTSD reaction to something. I'm thinking if you can let yourself feel safe and calm and imagine what you did when you got there up till the time you began panicking, maybe you can figure out what set you off, and let it go.


  21. I think the answer is that Danielle should come to Dog Island and write his book. I'm not sure how this would solve the problem, but it would make for a very interesting time.
    And we should make cobbler. Just sayin'.

  22. Anxiety sucks. Plain and simple sucks. It hunts and haunts me too.

    I hope you make it back to the island soon Ms. Moon.

  23. That is veddy strange, Ms. Moon. Dog Island sounds like my kind of vacation. Nothing much to do. Nowhere to go. No motherfucking neighbours bothering you.

    Don't know what to tell you. All in good time, I suppose.

    In the meantime, I love the shit out of you.


  24. Mary, it's so beautiful. So beautiful.

    I don't think I've seen anything prettier in my life than the pictures I saw in my mind from your words.

    I don't understand panic but I know it's real. I know there are chemical signals in your body that tell your brain you're in trouble and your heartbeat speeds up and your blood rushes around and loops form in your mind and you're scared because life says that wouldn't happen if you weren't in danger.

    I'm hoping that all the things you're doing by replacing bad associations, and doing yoga, walking, writing, breathing, and taking medicine, will change the chemistry and rewire the circuits in your mind so you can enjoy Dog Island again. You deserve Paradise.

  25. @ may

    sounds cool..but what is cobbler???

  26. Oh Ms Moon. I believe a day will come when you stand hand in hand with Owen and watch the sunset over the bay of Dog Island and you will feel completely serene

  27. Ms. Fleur- Yes. I know what triggered it all.

    May- Funny. I have been meaning to make cobbler for days. I bought a bag of Pink Ladies at the New Leaf. Cobbler is a very soothing food.
    And I agree about Danielle.

    Evangeline- I hope so too. Thank-you.

    Ms. Bastard- It is my idea of the perfect vacation too. Which is why I hate that it's been so fucked up for me. I love you.

    Kathleen Scott- Maybe you don't know by experience, but you understand. I am grateful to you for that.

    Danielle- Cobbler is a sort of fruit pie which has, instead of a crust, a topping usually made of flour and butter and sugar or oatmeal and flour and butter and sugar. Sweet fruit baked under a crumbly topping. Very delicious. Peaches can be involved. Or berries. Or apples. Or pears. Or any combination thereof. The best is blackberry, especially if the berries are picked in the wild.

    Michelle- I think you are right. I pray so.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.