Category Archives: more than meets the eye

Is this how it’s supposed to be?

 

Happiness.  Every day I have it drilled in my head…figuratively.  And now sort of literally.

My 15th session of transcranial magnetic stimulation was yesterday.  My 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th this week.  Another 20 lay ahead.  They still hurt a little, the magnets drilling and tapping so loudly I have to wear earplugs.  My blinking tic beats out an involuntary pattern with the rhythm and my eyes water.  Afterward my skull feels misshapen, my face stiff as I make strange faces on the long drive home.  But each day I feel stronger and instead of feeling like my mental illness is being beaten into submission each session, it feels different.  I feel the pulses shooting goodness into my head.  It’s worth the pain, I think.  The slow tapping on the right side of my brain where my anxiety lives.  It whispers with each pulse:  YOU.  WILL.  BE.  STRONGER.

The furiously fast drilling on the left side of my brain where my depression lives:  YouWillBeOkayYouWillBeOkayYouWillBeOkay  *breathe*  *remember to breathe*  

I feel different.

On Sunday I think I looked almost like a normal person. I was still scared.  With each step I knew I could fall back, that the exhaustion and fatigue and anxiety could hit me at any second.  My daughter knew too…and she was amazed at each step I took.  Yes, we can go get lunch.  Yes, I’ll take you to get new shorts.  Yes, we can go to the mall, the candy shop, the book store.  Yes, we can swim and listen to show tunes and sing.  Yes, we can play a game.  Yes, I’ll read to you.  

Yes…I’m enjoying this too.

It was the most I’ve done in a single day in…longer than I can remember.  And instead of ending the day feeling rung-out and empty and raw I felt…normal?  Is this what normal looks like?  Because if it is I want this.

Normally I struggle with simple things.  I make strange choices.  The strength is takes to shower or the energy it takes to eat?  You don’t get both so choose wisely.  Every action takes such work…as if living with mental illness is like waking to a new different disability each day.  Someone else could quickly do the simple tasks of the day but I am hobbled.  It can take hours for me to do what could be done in a good day in minutes.  But not today.  Today I feel strong.  I feel guilty for being able to leave the house without xanax to dull the world…for being able to accomplish the things that normal people do every day.  And I feel angry that this comes so easily.  I shouldn’t.  I should feel lucky and blessed but then I remind myself that it’s not just happiness coming back….it’s all of the emotions.   It feels like cheating, like I’m on some illegal drug or cheating somewhow…stealing these emotions I forgot were so strong.    And maybe that’s for the best because it means that I appreciate how much mental illness takes from me when it is present and how much it’s worth fighting for relief.  Even with it hiding I know it is a terrible monster I will always fear.

When this monster shows its face I fear the world, I fear myself.  I loathe the terrible things that I see and I am too paralyzed to even discuss the news items that stick in my head.  My dr tells me it’s not safe for me to dwell on these things and it’s true…my intrusive, compulsive thoughts makes me obsess about terrible things that happen in the world.  She reminds me that it will suck away my life if I allow myself to be paralyzed with fear and dread.  I am not built for rebellion.  Not yet.   She reminds me to look for the good in the world because it is real even if it doesn’t get the same press and this is a very good idea for people with broken brains, but mine keeps repeating “It’s not enough.  We’re all going to die.  The world is awful and I am a part of it.”

But now, today, it’s saying something different.  It says that the world is a terrible place…sometimes.  And filled with terrible people…who can change.  But suddenly I’m reminded that there are more people who I know who care, who are empathetic, who fight for others in quiet and loud ways.  I see that I am not alone.  I see how terrible it would be to feel the terror of the world by myself…and how heartening it is that I can see so many people doing small and beautiful things to make the world better.  I’m reminded (for the first time it feels like) of how alone I would feel if I was the only one who felt disconsolate or frustrated.  I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be surrounded by people around the world who care about others.  Who are here for each other.  I think I knew all this before.  But mental illness changes “knowing” and “believing” into two very different things and I can breathe for a moment and know that it will be okay.

It’s an epiphany that brings me such relief.  It’s going to be okay.  Not perfect, never perfect…but we will be okay even when we’re not okay.  Even when we’re wanting to be better than we are.  It’s okay to take a breath.  To love and celebrate and smile and mourn and dance and cry and start all over again.

After a Sunday of driving and shopping and dealing with real live people in the loud world I come home and I am so surprised to find that I am not exhausted.  My daughter tells my husband how much we did.  “Mom did so great!” she says.  As if I am the child.  And it makes my heart swell and break at the same time.  But I will take this.  I don’t want to lose it.  It feels so shaky.  Like holding on to magic you know can’t be real.

My husband mentions traveling this summer…the beginning of the same argument we have had for years.  I can’t travel.  It’s too taxing.  I would get sick.  I would end up in the same wheelchair I’ve ended too many trips in.  I would slow them down.  They go off together on adventures and I am sad but relieved.  I’ve missed many trips.  I missed the first time my daughter saw Japan.  I watched them on FaceTime from my self-imposed jail as they explore the world.

But I will not miss the first time she sees Europe.  Because it will be the first time I see Europe too.

I think it surprised Victor, how quickly I said “Okay.  You know what?  I’ll go.”  He and Hailey held their breath as if I’d take it back.  I hold my breath too.  I wait for my body to say, “No, this was a trick.  It’s not real.  You don’t deserve this.”  But it’s not saying that.  Not yet at least.  It’s saying, “I want to go.  I want to live.  I’ve been waiting so long.”  It says “Let’s see Scotland and London and Paris.  Let’s walk on distant islands and walk through mountains and see the things that I can’t quite imagine really exist because I never thought it would have been possible to see them.  But maybe, a little voice inside my head whispers, maybe it’s possible.

Maybe.

Maybe this is real.  Maybe it’s not forever but it’s for today and if it’s real today then there’s a chance that any day in the future could be like this one…full of promise and energy and an ease I feel like I’ve stolen…one that I feel jealous of even as I experience it.

Next month I will have completed 35 days of TMS treatment for anxiety and depression.  And to celebrate (knock on wood) I will see things I never thought possible.  Some of them in distant lands, yes, but many of them the lovely, simple things that the rest of the world takes for granted.  I will take my daughter.  I will say to her, “Look.  Here is the world.  It’s been waiting for you.”

I will say it to myself too.

Please God let me still believe it.

22 years ago today…

It’s like trepanation but not at all.

So.  Yesterday I started rTMS (repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and if you’re confused then you missed my post explaining it and you need to go back and read it.  I am currently in a depression so my head isn’t working perfectly but if I don’t write it down I’ll forget so let’s do this.

The most expensive hat I’ve never owned.

First off, it feels like a woodpecker is drilling holes into your head while you have an ice cream headache and also you’re paying for it to happen to you.  And your head is in a vice and have you have tape on your face and protective earplugs on and your eyes are blinking involuntarily in a small convulsion and it looks like you’re winking at the doctor, nurse, and the medical students watching you, and then you have to tell them that you are not trying to seduce them but you say it way too loud because you have earplugs in and that’s awesome.

Secondly, I started this post wrong but my head hurts so I’m going backward.  The doctor told me that before we start he needs to find out “where my thumb lives” and I was like, “Are you sure you’re a real doctor because my thumb lives on my hand and it’s really obvious” but turns out they have to find it from my brain, which seems like a really long trip, but whatever.

The doctor told me that in order to find the parts of the brain where they need to hit me with magnets they need to find the homunculus first and then work backward and I thought it was a trick because I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons and I am perfectly aware that a homunculus is a flying telepathic monster made of blood magic:

But the doctor was like, “Jesus, no, that’s horrifying.  It’s this:”

Worst sex toy ever.

And that’s way more horrifying than the telepathic winged blood monster but apparently there are different parts of your body that are affected when you get magnet-punched in the brain-pan and to make sure they’re in the right spot they make you hold your thumb up like a hitchhiker and they keep magnet-punching your noggin until your thumb falls.  I called it a reverse-Fonzie but the med students didn’t laugh because I guess they’re too cool for Fonzie.

Hey, remember when I said I started this woodpecker head stuff yesterday?  Yeah, no.  I got depressed and couldn’t concentrate enough to finish this post for a week so now it’s much later.  But in a way it was good because that depression was enough to make me realize how terrible depression is even when it super sucks to have to leave the house and get hit in the head with an invisible chisel and it made me keep going even when I didn’t want to.

Anyway, here are the things that I found out about TMS:

  1. My brain is not at all symmetrical which I thought was weird but then the doctor was like, “Well, your face isn’t symmetrical so why would your brain be symmetrical?” and that makes sense but it’s also a little insulting because basically I think he just said that I’m even ugly on the inside.
  2. It super hurt the first day but everyone assured me that I’d quickly get used to being pummeled in the skull and they were totally right and also this feels like a pretty good metaphor for 2018 in general.
  3. If it hurts a lot they might be on a nerve and if you tell them they can move it a little and then it only hurts a little.  SCIENCE!
  4. They literally put my head in a vice to do this but if you have a good imagination it almost looks like a fancy fascinator for a futuristic royal space wedding and I think if I keep doing it long enough I’ll develop a magneto-like super power, which would be nice to help find my keys or change the channel without a remote.
  5. Every day they do 20 minutes with one pulse per second on my right side, and then on the left side of my brain they do 20 minutes with LOTS of pulses for 5 seconds followed by 10 second breaks.
  6. I couldn’t write while being whacked in the head so instead I listened to TED talks and took up embroidery.  Finished:

Classy AND positive.

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s working or not but today I feel better than I felt the day before I started and that feels like a good sign.

One week down.  Five more to go.

I don’t even know how to spell the thing that I’m going to do to myself but I still feel good about it so don’t freak me out, okay?

So if you read here you already know that I deal with a host of mental issues and you can probably tell that it’s gotten a bit worse lately and that sucks.  I go to sleep not knowing if I’ll wake up depressed or “normal” and when I do feel normal I’m so damn jealous of the rest of the world…people who can be around others without feeling exhausted or who can concentrate enough to finish basic projects or don’t spend thousands of dollars a year on medication that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  People who don’t deal with intrusive thoughts and anxiety and who don’t struggle in vain to stop their minds at night and restart them again in the morning.

In the last year I’ve done all the things.  I did extensive blood work and took 32 pills a day to fix all the vitamin deficiencies and anemias and treatable disorders.  I ate low carb and cut out gluten.  I went 9 months without alcohol.  I lost 50 pounds and started walking and swimming and I tried to write goals and make myself do normal things and honestly I do feel healthier than I felt a year ago.  But I still feel fairly worthless at least 25% of the time.  And if this is as good as it gets I’ll still consider myself lucky and I’ll just wait for the darkness and dread to pass on those bad weeks, but it’s really…not comfortable.  That’s an extreme understatement but you get what I mean.

A few years ago my shrink told me that I’d be a good candidate for TMS and it sounded really scary so I ignored it like any sane person would because transcranial magnetic stimulation seems like diet electro-shock therapy.  But turns out that I was totally wrong.  I’m going to try to explain it and I’m super going to fuck it up so maybe look it up yourself but here’s the way I understand it:

So part of your brain sort of stops working properly when you’re depressed.  And a different part of your brain goes nuts and works crazy overtime when you have anxiety.  And your anxiety part of your brain can hijack the rest of your brain that already isn’t working and that’s how you get…me.

TMS sends electromagnetic impulses through your skull into small parts of your brain and it stimulates the part that isn’t working, like physical therapy for your brain tissue.  There’s also a way to use it on the over-active part that can slow it down to normal.  Supposedly it feels like a woodpecker tapping at your brain for 30-40 minutes a day for 6-8 weeks which sounds not fun but more than half of people with treatment-resistant depression (like me) see improvement, and around 30% go into full remission.  I can’t even imagine what full remission would feel like but I suppose if I’m willing to have an invisible bird drill into my brain for months it’s a pretty good indication that I need help.  I’ve spent the last month researching it and doing consults and last week after a million pages of paperwork and an interview a local psychiatric unit accepted me as a patient.  I start treatment this month.

I’ve talked to others who’ve done it and some said it was a miracle and some said it didn’t work at all so I don’t know if this will be an enormous waste of time and money but I’m willing to do what it takes to try.  And I feel lucky to live in a world where we are slowly – too, too slowly – figuring out how to treat these terrible things.  I had a great grandmother I never met who had such terrible rheumatoid arthritis she was in a wheelchair at my age.  Currently (knock on wood) my injections have me in remission from what was debilitating RA.  I’m lucky.

This is my other great grandmother.

Lillie

It seems like her terrible secret is that she has a horse head for an arm but that’s just a trick of the light.  Her real secret was mental illness, and she spent the last part of her life in a mental institution where she died from a “heart attack related to psychosis and chronic brain syndrome” which is probably 50’s shorthand for “electroshock therapy” because that was one of the only treatments available for her.  Again, I am lucky.

I keep Lillie’s picture on my desk top.  It reminds me that it’s not my fault that my brain is sometimes broken.  It reminds me that you can be broken and still love.  It reminds me that some of us get better and some of us don’t…but we all leave a trace behind.  Maybe it’s light and kindness and gentle touches.  Maybe it’s dark and bitter and angry.  For most of us, it’s both.  But I’m fighting for more of the former…any crazy way I can.

I’ll keep you posted.

PS.  Several people I know have had good results on electroconvulsive therapy now so no judgement if that worked for you.  It’s a very different animal than it was in the 50’s.  Anything that works is magic.  🙂

Escape

I’ve been stuck lately. Sickness and chronic pain and anxiety and assorted bullshit.  But today I felt human.  Enough to take a shower and leave the house and go write in this tumble-down shack I love…where I can feel like I’ve left the house without actually leaving a house.

There’s something about this broken building that speaks.  It’s filled with wasp nests and rusty nails but it’s still beautiful and unique.  Every time I visit it there’s another hole in the floor and the walls lean a bit more.  The wind sings strange songs through the walls and the rain and sun come inside, creating glorious damage and fascinating scars.  It’s dangerously flammable and more than slightly unstable but it still works.  Much like me.  And I always find myself (and leave myself) in it.

Don’t be fooled.  It may look like it’s falling apart but it’s so much stronger than you think.

So am I.

So are you.

Strange new weather patterns

Last night it snowed.

That might not seem like much to you but snow is rare here.  Rare as diamonds and – in my opinion –  more beautiful.  The newsman said it’s the first real snowfall here in 30 years and I can believe it.  Everyone in Texas seemed outside last night, marveling at the soft white flakes that melted on the hot asphalt but managed to survive on the trees and grass and patio chairs.  There were family snowball fights at midnight between kids who’d never seen snow and parents who knew that sleep on a school night was well worth missing for such a rare event.

And in the morning the snow was still there.  Only an inch or so, and patchy, but beautiful.  And we all stared at our houses anew and in awe, as if decorator elves had come in the middle of the night to repaint everything we thought we knew.  We were trapped in driveways by tree limbs heavy with snow that suddenly sagged and blocked our way.  We were baffled when the car wipers wouldn’t push the snow off the windshields and we searched like terrible MacGyvers to find tools to brush it all off.  (I used a stuffed monkey puppet and a plunger.  My neighbor used a leaf-blower and yardstick.  We were as successful as you would imagine.)

Dorothy Barker whines at the door to be let out, but it’s a hesitant whine.  One in spite of herself.  It’s raining now and she hates the rain so she must really need to go.

We stand under an umbrella outside and she looks miserable but she pushes forward into the patches of snow that are still left.  She smells the place she always smells and for the first time I see the animal tracks.  Deer, I think.  Or foxen.  Small feet.  And suddenly I can see the world she smells, and how she puts together stories with her nose that are only revealed to me through snow.  She looks at me as if to say, See.  I told you.  I nod.  She wins.

I notice something so strange…the rain continues but the streets shine with bright sunlight.  I walk out into the street and close my umbrella.  There’s no rain there.  I can’t understand it at first and I look all around me until I’m certain of it.

The trees are raining.

The trees are raining and I don’t understand.  But then I do it.  The new snow in the leaves is melting so quickly it’s created a downpour.  I stand in the street with my dog and we watch the rain come down all around us while we feel the warming sun.  My neighbor says it’s like being under God’s protection.  I say it’s like being Storm from the X-Men.  Dorothy Barker says nothing because she’s a dog and anyway I suspect dogs are used to feeling like God-blessed superheroes.  

If I lived north this would probably seem normal.  If I lived north I would probably not have driven all over my neighborhood to see the places I don’t even really see anymore transformed by the snow.  If I lived north I would have probably thought the people stopping their cars in the middle of the road to take pictures of white-topped bushes were crazy.  We were all crazy, and we knew it could not last.

But I didn’t expect this.  This second weather phenomenon.  I didn’t expect the trees to become storm clouds.  I’ve been alive for more than 40 years and I’ve never seen this…I’ve never seen trees rain.

I whisper, It makes me wonder what else I haven’t seen yet.

You haven’t seen the foxen, Dorothy Barker seems to say (with a little more superiority than necessary if I’m being honest).

It’s true though.  It’s a nice reminder.  There are things I haven’t seen yet.

It’s time to get busy.

PS. The 8th Annual James Garfield Christmas Miracle is going on now.  If you want to help, go through the comments and find a child in need.  It’s the most wonderful feeling.  Like walking in tree rain.

Hi. I love you.

Our community is amazing.  It’s so strange and lovely and large that sometimes I just watch it from the edges and feel lucky to be a part.  If you are here you are a part of that community, even if you’ve never commented here.  You are here and you are special and I’m so grateful for you.  You have saved me.  You have saved each other.  You do not know your power.

The hard part of having a community is that grief is the tax you pay when we lose people we love.  You may already know that last week a much-loved member of our community, Cheo Jackson, died suddenly and unexpectedly.  He was funny and irreverent and reached out to others and (like his wife Anya) was an ardent and supportive member of #thebloggesstribe.  Today is his birthday and he always said that he wanted a party to celebrate his life rather than a somber funeral, so today -with Anya’s blessing- community members will celebrate him and his family by filling the day with random acts of kindness and joy.

Do something good and kind.  Laugh loudly.  Don’t wear pants.  Tell people you love them.  Embrace ridiculousness.  Be unapologetically yourself.  Inspire others.  Inspire yourself.  Salute the brave.

I’ll go first.  Today I will send books to a juvenile rehab center that needs donations.  Today I will smile at strangers even if they don’t smile back.  Today I will pay for the person behind me in the drive-thru and I will leave toys in the park and I will try harder to forgive myself for not being perfect.  I hope you’ll join me.

We’ll miss you, Cheo.  But you’re still with us.  You always will be.

Now go be happy, y’all.

*******

And on an entirely different subject…

Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):

Shit-you-may-or-may-not-want-to-see:

This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by INSYL, a unique and innovative publishing company that strives to educate young minds on the importance of financial literacy for the future.  Created by a team of teachers, educators, illustrators and writers to teach children what the current schooling system doesn’t, they specialise in financial education, positive psychology and artistic consciousness.  Also, check out their cool kickstarter.

 

Ow. My heart.

Today is Hailey’s birthday.  She’s now officially a teenager, which seems wrong because this was her yesterday:

Seven years ago today. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

A post shared by Jenny Lawson (@thebloggess) on

Or maybe it was seven years ago. Feels like yesterday.

Except yesterday she was still a pre-teen and two days ago I tucked her in like I did when she was still little and I pulled out a book to read her a story. And Hailey thought I was crazy but she went along with it. And I cried a little. And then she asked me to read her another one. And then she cried a little.

And then I kissed her on the head and she said I could still read her bedtime stories, sometimes…if I really wanted to.

It was a nice present. For both of us.

Happy birthday, Hailey. You may be a teenager, but to me you will always be my little girl.

And then I blinked, and suddenly she was a teenager.

A post shared by Jenny Lawson (@thebloggess) on

Surviving September

There’s something about September that wants to eat you.

I wrote that years ago and it’s still just as true today.  In fact, every September for years and years I’ve written a post about how – for me at least – September brings a sneaking depression with it.  This September has been similar, but in a way it’s a comfort to look back at my blog posts and see that the fear and dread is seasonal…and that it passes.  That I’ve survived every September so far, and that’s a good record to remind myself of.  And if you’re reading this?  So have you.

I was going to write a longer post but I sort of think the best thing I can do today is to read a book and take a walk and do something nice for myself.  And so should you. Make a plan right now to do something lovely to celebrate being alive.  And instead of writing a long post I’m going to post what I wrote last year because it makes me happy, and maybe it’ll make you happy too:

September is an asshole.  I don’t why.  Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight or the end of summer or some sort of ancient curse, but regardless, it’s always a hard month to survive if you have depression.  I’ve pulled out my light therapy magic box but it’s not entirely enough so yesterday we went to the pet store so I could cover myself in medicinal ferrets. Unfortunately this pet store knows me so they were like, “ONE FERRET AT A TIME, LADY” and “WE WILL FRISK YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE” but one was enough to kickstart the happy.  It wasn’t quite strong enough though so we went to one of those zoos that’s not really a zoo because the animals are running around free and you just drive through and throw food at them.  It is one of my favorite things ever and not just because it’s hilarious to see Victor get mad about a traffic jam that consists entirely of ostriches who don’t give a fuck about where you have to go.

zebras

Even better, Victor isn’t entirely trusting of large wild animals so he yells, “OTHER SIDE OF THE CAR, FRANK.  I DON’T SUPPORT YOUR PANHANDLING” (he thinks they will listen better if he uses names) or “GET AWAY WITH YOUR BLACK DEMON EYES, LARRY.  I KNOW YOUR GAMES” as Hailey and I feed them and assure them he really doesn’t mean it.  Then he yells “I MEAN IT, LARRY.  AND I WANT MY SOUL BACK.”  But then eventually he’ll see some sort of animal with a limp or a missing horn and he’ll get all mushy and feed it and yell at the other animals about how awesome this broken animal is so that it will feel better about itself.  It’s basically how he wooed me and it totally worked.

"He's not missing a horn, Larry. HE'S A UNICORN." ~ Victor

“He’s not missing a horn, Larry. HE’S A DAMN UNICORN.” ~ Victor

We went at the end of the day so most of the animals were already full and sleepy but I did have an encounter with a zebra who was terrifying, derpy and noble all at once.

“Hey.”

"Knock knock motherfucker." This zebra has NO chill.

“Knock knock motherfucker.” This zebra has NO chill.

JESUS.

JESUS.

If you squint, his snout looks like a black panther, which is probably a very good defense if lions attack during the night.

We also met an emu (I think?) who reminded me that birds are our closest relations to dinosaurs and I fed him out of the bag while Victor reminded me that the almost-velociraptor probably wanted my meat sausages (which I thought was a gross because I don’t have a bag of penises, Victor, but then I figured out that he meant my delicious fingers) but I totally would have let this guy chew on my fingers because the smiles he gave me were worth everything.  And I’m sharing it with you because LOOK AT THIS FACE.

"Hello. I'm from the Dark Crystal. I'll just live in your nightmares from now on."

“Hello. I’m from the Dark Crystal. I’ll just live in your nightmares from now on.”

"JUST KIDDING! GIVE ME FOOD IN MY MOUTH HOLE PLEASE!"

“JUST KIDDING! I LOVE YOU GUYS!  PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH HOLE PLEASE!”

thebloggessbird

And then I felt better.  And I’m sharing it so you will too.  Just remember that as dark as September gets there are ridiculous near-dinosaurs waiting to smile enormously as you hand-feed them.  And that’s worth sticking around for.

PS. You know when a guy is trying to be all suave and he lights two cigarettes for him and his honey?  Not as cool as you think it looks:

cigars

The things we leave behind.

Last month my sister and I were talking about libraries and we suddenly both looked at each other and said, “REMEMBER THAT TURTLE WE USED TO SIT IN?” and our kids sort of looked at each other like we were crazy, and we are, but not about this.

I think everyone has at least one thing that they loved as a child and that they wish they could find again, always searching for it at thrift shops but never finding it.  For us, it’s the yellow turtle.

We spent hours each week in school libraries and on bookmobiles but twice a month our mom would take us downtown to the big library in the next town.  It was enormous and the children’s section was a large room in the corner that smelled of old books and new bindings and cellophane, and it was quieter than any other place on earth.  It had a muffled, reverent silence like a church and it made everyone speak in a whisper even without knowing it.  But that wasn’t the best part of the library.  The best part was the turtle.

Technically the children’s library section had several animals present, all made to sit on while you read.  All shaped out of a hard hollow plastic.  The second best animal was the giraffe (the size of a baby giraffe) that had a hollowed out space in its backside where you could sit and read and rest your head against the neck of the beast and your swinging feet became it’s tail.  But the best was the turtle.  It was low to the floor but enormous (to a child’s mind anyway.)  In my head it’s as big as a boat but probably it was 3 or 4 feet long and only a foot or so off the ground.  It was made to perch on top of as you read (like a giant mushroom with no stem) but we discovered that the underside of the turtle was concave, so we would flip it over on it’s back, crawl inside the turtle, and rock while we read.  I can still hear the welcoming thud that the turtle made when it flipped over and I can feel the smooth, cool surface of the underside and the bumpy textured surface of the shell, and the gentle motion of rocking as if I was safe in a cocoon…in a ship that cradled me, amid a sea of stories and of quiet that beckoned you to read.

I wasn’t surprised that Lisa remembered the turtle but I was surprised to find that both of us had been looking for one for years.  Presumably for our kids, but deep down I think we both would have bought it for ourselves.  We’re too big now to comfortably hide in the deep recesses of the turtle with a book but we still feel it beckon us.  And perhaps the memory is enough.  Maybe finding it would ruin the magic.  But I suspect we’ll both keep searching.

It made me wonder if everyone is like this.  If everyone has a thing they search for…something from childhood that they never got, or want to recapture.  A physical thing…like a book long out of print, or a toy a neighbor had that you always wanted, or a song that you knew but now you can’t remember, or a silk blanket that your grandmother had that you loved and that disappeared and you never found another blanket that comfortable or comforting again.

I have lots.  Some books that I’ve found again at thrift shops and now treasure.  Some that I still can’t even identify enough to search for them.  Some songs that I’ve found.  Some that are lost.  Some things that were better in my memory, as things often are.  Some things that are talismans that take me back in time.  But still I search for the turtle..carrying the memory of it inside me just as it once cradled me.