Exercise, Depression and the Boat

February 21, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom signed up for a research study that looks at the relationship between exercise and depression. By participating in the research as a subject, mom learns about her relationship to exercise and learns cognitive and behavioral strategies that will help her create a new habit and routine. Yesterday was her six week milestone so mom had to go in for an assessment. It turns out her depression is at its worst.

Mom had to meet up with the psychologist in charge of the program and had to answer some questions. It was not an easy Q & A session. It made mommy cry. At one point during the Q & A session the doctor asked mom what she does to maintain balance. Mom listed all the things she does: take care of critters, take care of her plants, #practicejoy, #practicegratitude, #gratitudedoodles, #diyjumpsuits, bake, draw, write, blog, read, create a new design think class and make a to-do list of all the things she can try with her students, and exercise. The doctor looked at mommy and said, “this all sounds great, but it all sounds like it takes a lot of effort. Is there anything you can do for yourself that doesn’t take so much effort?” Mom didn’t know how to answer. Mommy didn’t know the answer to that question.

Mom is all about effort. She does get an A for effort. But maybe what the doctor was saying is that maybe “effort” isn’t the way to live through this moment. Maybe mom should—no, not “should”—maybe I can say: just be. Be. Breath. Cry. Be sad. Be devastated. Be mad. Be. Just be. And maybe by watching the rain clouds, the thunder and lightning, she can see that none of this is her fault, and that this too shall pass.

All of mom’s “effort” is like trying to rid a sinking boat of water. Maybe mom can realize she can swim and let the boat go.

What is the boat? What is the thing that is sinking? What is the thing that mom has to let go? The desire to know. The desire to control. The desire to predict.

But really: the boat is the desire not to feel pain.

What if pain is the exquisite proof that we are living—that we have joy. And love. And belonging. What if pain is the shadow to the light of life.

As an adult child of narcissistic parents, mom’s pain tolerance indicator is all over the place. When mom had the shingles, she felt wrong for thinking that the pain was a nine out of ten. So she marked it as a seven or eight. Even thought she wanted to say nine or ten. And sometimes mom misunderstands the desire to avoid pain, as being in pain. Well, she is in pain. She feels like she is being burned alive. The ghost and shadows of past and current pains follow her around burning all of her inside and out, or holding her down under a thick heavy cotton blanket in a tub full of water.

Detach.

Engage.

Detach.

Engage.

Watch.

Feel.

Watch.

Feel.

Walk.

Touch the ground.

Watch critters.

Pet a cat.

Read.

Watch.

Take notes.

Be.

Do.

Be.

Sleep.

Start over.

I love my mom. I wish I could give mommy a big smooshy hug.

Love, Bob

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