Category Archives: more than meets the eye

Hey. Do you need something?

Okay.  Next week we’re doing the  7th Annual James Garfield Miracle.  Every year I think it will be the last and every year the people who were helped in the past ask me if it’s going on again because they’re now back on their feet and they want a chance to give back and this year is no exception, so technically I blame you.  But in a good way.  (In case you’re new, the James Garfield Miracle is when we get together and help give toys, blankets, and books to homeless children or to children whose parents are seriously struggling during the holidays.  It’s done anonymously in this community without any sponsors and it is a great joy to watch.)  If you want to help someone, or if you’re unable to buy a toy for your kid this holiday then watch this blog next week and I’ll set it up with all the instructions then.  It is awesome and exhausting and THIS IS NOT THAT.

Today’s post is just a small way to say thank you to everyone here who has been so amazing and supportive.  Because of the sponsors on the sidebars we’re able to keep this blog going without losing money.  Because of the people who buy things using my affiliate links I’m able to give back that money during the James Garfield Miracle.  Because you’ve been so incredibly supportive with my writing I now have two #1 NYT bestsellers and can spend my time creating ridiculous things that somehow help others.  That’s pretty amazing and I am so incredibly lucky.

As a small ‘thank you’ I decided that it would be nice to give back in some way so I pulled out a stack of my books that I usually drop off at Little Free Libraries and I’m going to give them away to the first people who say that they really need one.  Maybe you haven’t been able to afford one of them yet, or maybe you know someone who needs one, or maybe you’re in a bad place and you just need a reminder that someone cares…whatever.  Just leave a comment (with an email address!) telling me if you want Let’s Pretend This Never Happened in hard cover, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened on CD, Furiously Happy in hardcover, or Furiously Happy on CD.  If YOU ARE HERE was finished I’d give it away too but we have a couple more months before it’s done.  I’ll email you for your mailing address so make sure you check your email today.

Additionally, I know there are a lot of people during the holiday seasons who feel alone so I thought maybe I would set up an open thread on my Facebook page if any of you want to become friends or exchange info to send cards or to find someone struggling with similar things to have someone to talk to.  I have no idea if this is a good idea or not, but what the hell.  Click here if you want to find friends in the community.

And now, comments are open.  Let me know if you are in need of a book and be sure to specify which book and which format because it’s first-asked, first served.

Things to give away today. Dorothy Barker not included.

Things to give away today. Dorothy Barker not included.

 

UPDATED: Holy crap, that went fast.  I gave away the 35 copies I had and I’m going to check the closets to see if I have any more.  I think I have a box of Let’s Pretend copies somewhere if I can find them.  I left comments on all the comments that I could fill and I’ve already been told that some people are contacting others to pass on their copy or buy one for others.  I love you people so hard.  If I find more books and email you but someone else has bought it for you since I’ve written this then just let me know and I’ll move on to the next person.  Thank you for being you.

PS. I’m not sure how safe it is to have your email address in a comment so I’ll probably go back and delete them in a day or two so they don’t get used for spam or something.  Also, if you want to buy someone a copy but don’t want to ask for their physical address you can just confirm that the email works and then send them an electronic gift card.  I trust everyone in this community but I’m just throwing it out there just in case.

PS. Thank you.

 

I’m still alive in here.

The last year has been hard for me.  I have glimmers of myself.  I have hours each day when I can smile.  Some days I come out of the fog and feel the terrific relief from coming out of the underwater of depression or whatever it is that haunts me.

I struggle through the day until sunshine comes back.  Sometimes I get my child off to school and then go back to bed until she comes home.  When my husband travels I feel relief that I can hide without shame, but the shame is still there.  But I know a part of me remains because I miss them when they’re gone, and if I can feel that then I know I’m still alive.

It seems strange.  How sometimes I can be normal and functional and my head and body will let me live like people are supposed to live, and then the next day I’ll plunge back into that halfway space where I’m asleep, either physically or emotionally.  I remind myself that depression lies…that I’ll come back again.  That the hollowness is temporary and could disappear any moment.  I kill the day with sleep.  I struggle to write, feeling such incredible relief on those days when my head works again and can put words together in a way that makes sense to anyone other than me.  I write small notes to myself for the book I’ll finish when the hungry ghost that lives inside me is full, or spent…whatever she needs to do to leave.

And when I can’t write my words on the paper I draw them by hand…symbols and images and strange things from dreams.  I draw and erase and draw and erase, and make and unmake myself.  I hunch over my sketch book and find myself leaving images to prove I was here…even when I’m scared that I’ve gone missing.

I’m still here, even when I’m not me.  I’m still me even when I come out of this spell.  I’m me.  And I am unpredictable even to myself.

I’m still alive in here.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-3-37-01-pm

Up and down and up again.

If you’ve read here lately you know that I’m coming out of one of the longer depressions I’ve ever dealt with and although it’s still up and down I’m having more and more days when I’m myself again.   Those days are bright and warm, and coming back is like the first brilliant, life-saving breath after spending too much time underwater.  I’m writing this now to remind myself how wonderful it is to breathe and live and feel human, both because I need a reminder for next time depression lies to me and tells me it will never go away, and also because maybe you’re in the hole right now and need a reminder that it will get better.

It will.

And then maybe it will get bad again.  The ups and downs are always there for those of us with forever broken brains.  But that’s okay because you come back out.  The good is worth battling through the bad.  It’s so worth the meds and the therapy and the time and effort and the waiting.

There’s a park in my neighborhood that we go to sometimes.  There’s a playground at the edge of the park and the swings look out onto a cemetery, which I always thought was both strange and also a bittersweet type of poetry.  Small children laughing and playing as funerals pass.  Life beginning and ending and ending and beginning all at once in the same small space.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 2.48.01 PM

Yesterday I stopped there and the playground was empty so I decided to swing, and I went so high I felt like I was flying.  And I flew, in between death and childhood, up and down and up again…in the place where I felt alive again.

jenny lawson

And it was beautiful.

All of it.

It was worth it.

She brought light even in the darkness.

Last night I dreamt about a blind girl who lived in a forest made of night.  Her hair was alive and each strand held a lit candle, making her a human candelabra.  It seemed a sad irony that she wasn’t able to appreciate the light she gave off, but when I watched her walk though the forest I saw that each person she passed was delighted or awed as their faces were bathed in the rare light, and that after pausing a second they used a few of those moments of illumination to quietly move the dangerous things from her path so that she could walk on safely, without needing to see.  I don’t know that the girl knew there were others, but she seemed confident that the world would be safe, or that it was at least worth the risk of walking tall through the darkness.  I don’t know why the others didn’t stop and talk to the girl or take her hand.  It seemed as if this was just a part of nature, a cycle, a partnership of sorts, and even though I didn’t understand it I woke up feeling hopeful.

If you’ve read me long enough you know that a peculiar effect that comes with my depression is that I lose my peripheral vision, like I’m literally in a cave and can just see in front of me.  This morning I can see so far.  I’d actually forgotten what it was like to see that much light on a horizon.  And I don’t know how long it will last but I know that today I can see the sun and I’m writing this down to remind myself that it comes back, and that the relief and joy at coming out of the darkness is always worth the time spent in it.

PS. I pulled out my sketchbook and drew the girl while I could still remember all of the details and while I drew I thought about what it meant.  Sometimes I’m the light I cannot see.  Sometimes I’m bathed in the glow of another.  Sometimes I wait in the darkness with you and remind myself that light still exists even when it’s gone from sight.

Thank you for being my light in the darkness.  Thank you for moving the dangerous things from my path.  Thank you for walking beside me even in the dark.

You may not always feel it, but trust me, you are a beacon touching farther than you know.  In the way you make people laugh, in the way that you show love and kindness, in the way that you are unapologetically or apologetically who you are.

You are a light.

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen.

PPS. I’ll probably put this in my shop when I have time but you can print it out for free for personal use, or hand it to a friend who needs it right now if you like.

Sometimes the darkness can be beautiful. But sometimes it’s a real bitch. Depends, I guess.

Hi.

I’ve been a little missing lately.  Not just here.  I’ve been missing a bit inside my head, which in some ways is good because my head is not always fun to live in.

I don’t know if the depression I’ve been dealing with off and on for the last few months has just worn me down, or if it’s one of my auto-immune diseases flaring up, or if I’ve just been lucky enough to get mono AGAIN, but whatever it is feels ungood.  And I know that “ungood” isn’t a real word, but my head is where I keep all my good words and it’s not working well right now.  The rest of my body is following suit and so now I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to do to feel better.  I’m taking my meds and getting light therapy and eating well better and taking vitamins and trying to be active and all the other bullshit that you have to do when you’re sick but you aren’t sure where or what the sickness is, so you have to do all the due diligence because otherwise the doctor is going to just wave me away because someone as broken as I am is sometimes expected to be miserable.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t want to be miserable.  I would like to be happy.  And sometimes I am.  Today I feel better and I can concentrate enough to write this.  This sounds small but it’s not.  It’s big.  And I’m taking it.

And I’m not alone.  I’ve seen so many people lately reaching out for help and I’m not sure if I just think more people are struggling because I am too and I’m more sensitive to it, or if there’s something in the air or in the stars that has made this year more difficult in general.  I’ve seen people I love doubt their own light and feel broken.  And maybe they are, but broken doesn’t mean worthless.  Broken hurts sometimes but it is also what makes us different.

Last night as I was going to bed I noticed that I’d let most of the lights burn out in the chandelier and I couldn’t replace them.  Not just because I was too tired but also because I don’t own a ladder that tall.  So the few remaining lights that still flickered on cast a strange shadow on the wall and in a way it was really beautiful.  Like an unconscious mural that painted my house with invisible hands.  And it was striking.  And strange.  And dark.  And haunting in a way that is (literally) a little hard to see and also a little hard to ignore.  And it seemed like a perfect analogy for how I was feeling.  If my head was working better I would be able to wrap this up more succinctly, but if I wait until my head is less broken I might wait forever.  And then you’d never see the strange, dark loveliness that comes out when things are little bit broken.

dark bloggess

Broken can be beautiful.  I’ll remind you of that if you remind me back.

Every day is Mother’s Day

I wrote this 10 years ago but it still perfectly expresses how I feel.  Mother’s Day is fraught with all sorts of weird emotions and I’m so lucky to still have my mother, who loves me and a daughter I adore.  Most people don’t get both and so I feel undeservedly lucky each year these two things happen.  I send out love and peace to those who are lucky enough to celebrate with joy, and to those who face the day with bittersweet memories or anger.  Or both.  Because we’re human and complicated and never quite end up with the perfect greeting card life that we imagine.

Originally published Houston Chronicle ~ May 2006

“Don’t buy me anything for Mother’s Day. Every day is Mother’s Day.” ~A direct quote from Nelda Dusek (my mother)

You wouldn’t know it from looking at me but I have a rare blood disease.

It’s called Antiphospholipid Syndrome and there isn’t a lot known about it other than it can cause blood clots, strokes, and miscarriages. I didn’t even know that I had it.

My husband and I had gone to the doctor expecting to hear our baby’s heartbeat and instead were told that it had died. We were devastated and I didn’t leave my house for a week. When my second loss followed in the next year I demanded that my doctor test me for everything in the books. That’s when I found out I had this strange disease which can worsen during pregnancy and makes carrying to full -term nearly impossible without treatment. My doctor recommended baby aspirin to thin my blood but after a third miscarriage it was clear that I needed something stronger to give me more of a chance. They moved me to a blood-thinner that I had to inject directly into my stomach 1-2 times each day. My stomach became a patchwork quilt of bruises. Six months later the pregnancy test finally turned pink. I upped my dosage of daily injections and made fast friends with other sufferers on the high-risk BabyCenter message boards. I cried with them as they continued to miscarry and felt jealous but hopeful as a lucky few gave birth to little miracles. I watched a best friend go through many rounds of failed fertility treatments and watched her support me even though it must have been torture to see my belly grow bigger every day. I had such severe morning sickness that I was put on a drug typically used for chemo patients. When I was about 7 months along the baby stopped moving and I was terrified. I drank sugary orange juice, listened to loud rap music, desperate to get a response. When she finally moved I was so relieved that I laughed and cried at the same time. During labor I didn’t really mind the pain. I was just so scared that she was going to die that it was all I could concentrate on. The moment I heard Hailey cry in the delivery room was the first time I allowed myself to believe that I might actually be somebody’s mom.

People always tell me that the 500+ shots I had to take to have Hailey will one day make great guilt material and that I should demand rubies every Mother’s Day, but I don’t see it that way. I did all of that for me…so that I could be allowed to be Hailey’s mom, to be the one to kiss her boo-boos, to comfort her when she’s teething, to get woken up at 3am and to see that smile that no one else gets from her but me. Every time I check the BabyCenter message boards I’m reminded that I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’ve realized that my mom was right all along. Every day that I’m allowed to be a mom is Mother’s Day.

The first day I met Hailey

The first day I met Hailey

 

*******

And now, the weekly wrap-up:

Inside the TARDIS you'll find Jenny wielding a sonic screwdriver, Neil Gaiman in a monkey hat, Beyonce the giant metal chicken, Hamlet von Schnitzel, Juanita Weasel in a Traveling Red Dress, Nathan Fillion holding twine, A TARDIS in the TARDIS for time traveling when you're traveling in time, Wil Wheaton collating paper, and a Wolf Blitzer at the door.

These are a few of my favorite things.

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 Renee Charytan’s book called If You Give a Mommy a Glass of Wine. a satirical parody for all the imperfect mothers out there who work hard, try hard and occasionally make mistakes.  It’s like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but with more booze.  And who can’t use more booze?  Check it out here.

Every Friday night. And Saturday night. And every night basically.

Every Friday night starts the pictures of friends who are out at parties and dinners and with more friends and strangers.  I love to see them dressed up and happy but a tiny bit of myself looks at those pictures and feels like a loser because my anxiety disorder makes me run from crowds and there’s no way I could ever do what they’re doing.

It was worse when they still asked me to come with them and I’d beat myself up all week while telling myself that I should and could totally go and then I’d feel that lurch in my stomach and back out at the last hour.  And I’d feel relief and regret in equal measure.  Nowadays I’ve said no so often that I don’t usually get asked.  Which is a great comfort and also a strangely bitter sadness.  Some friends still tell me when they’re having a get-together, or invite me with a kind side-note of “I know you won’t come but remember you’re always welcome”.  Some have given up on me ever coming to their parties but never give up on me personally and still make time for me in quiet moments, or house-calls when I can’t leave the house.  Some text because they know that my fear of the phone will keep me from answering even when I want to talk.  Some come to my room at conferences because they know it’s too hard for me to leave the suffocating but safe quiet even though I desperately want to go to see old and new friends just outside my window.  And some are gone.  They’ve given up on me and I can’t blame them because being my friend is not easy.  It takes work and patience and sometimes people come to the realization that I’m not worth it and they disappear.  It’s hard, especially when it’s someone you love.  But as they drift away, others come into your life.  Others like you.  Others that aren’t like you but who appreciate having a friend who asks for so little time or effort.  Others who will get on google chat with you so you’ll be less alone while you’re quietly playing solitaire.  Others who live on twitter because it’s safer than real life…who will be there with you at 2am when you can’t stop the voices in your head.  And that is a wondrous thing.

And then it’s Friday again.  And the pictures start coming in of your friends out at clubs and concerts and restaurants, and I sit home and feel a perfect mix of glad and sad that I’m not there.  And I play music that reminds me that I’ve chosen this life…or it’s chosen me.  And that it’s okay.  Better than okay.  It’s good.  Even when it stings a little.  The sting reminds you you’re still alive.

I’m still alive.  So are you.  Find the life you want and make it yours without apologies.  Whether it’s loud or quiet or filled with dancing or books, or a combination of each.  And I will be happy for you when those beautiful pictures come into my feed of the amazing places you are.  And I will try harder to be happy for me that I’m where I am too.

PS. This is one of the songs that I listen to when I start to feel bad that I’m never going to be comfortable in crowded spaces.  It might help you if you’re the same:

Dear me (and everyone else): Maybe just try not to be such an asshole.

I’m having one of those days where shit on the news makes me worry for humanity even more than usual, and then I remind myself that, in the end, there are far more good people in the world than bad.  Many are quiet and act silently and work magic even without knowing that the good they leave behind will grow into something larger.  Those things don’t make the news but we feel them every day…when someone smiles, or cares, or shows us a kindness we think we don’t deserve, or gracefully turns people who are bent toward hate and destruction in a direction a little closer to love.  It’s slow work.  But it’s good work.  Important work.

I’m friends with such a broad array of people and some make me frustrated and sad, some refill my cup each day by reminding me how much more we can be, some are unwitting examples of who I want to become and others are unwitting examples of who I am so grateful that I’m not, and some give me laughter and hope and inspirational sloth videos remind me that there is joy and silliness in the world that makes it worth living in.  We’re all at different stages and that’s okay.  You’re okay.  You may be hateful or angry or bitter or sad or confused or tired or abusive but the wonderful thing is that you will change.  You will.  Even if you don’t want to.  Life makes you change.  The bad thing is that you may change into someone worse.  The good thing is that you have the power to choose where you want to go from here.

Today.

Right this moment.

Just a tiny bit.

Ask yourself, what can I do right now to be kinder…to myself, to others.  And then try.  You won’t always succeed.  I won’t either and I’ll probably fail more often than I succeed, but the conscious effort to turn anger and indignation into compassion can make such a difference.  It’s a habit I’m willing to try to make for myself.

PS. That doesn’t mean I’m not still dangerously unpredictable so if you’re intentionally an asshole I still might accidentally stab you in the leg a few times before I calm down and remember that it’s always better to stab people with kindness.  Mostly because kindness is more likely to actually change assholes, and also because Victor found my hidden drawer full of emergency bail money and used it to pay the electric bill.  I can’t go back to jail, y’all.  So don’t be an asshole and then I won’t be an asshole and then other people won’t be assholes and then no one gets stabbed and I can use my bail money stash for things like donuts and ending world hunger.

Depends on how much I can save up, I guess.

PPS. From the Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary:

Be the sloth you want to see in the world.

For David. For you.

I’ve been carrying this around since yesterday and I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about it, but if it affected me then maybe it will affect you, so here goes.

There’s a guy named David who you probably know, but probably also don’t know.  He’s been part of our community for at least the last seven years.  You sometimes see him in the comments.  He encourages me on Facebook.  He’s always smiling.  I never spent any real time with him but I knew him well online and as part of this amazing community.

Sunday he told his online friends that he’d been diagnosed with cancer and that he wouldn’t survive it.  He said it in a Facebook post that was alternately horrible and inspiring and he ended it with this:

“Much love to you all, and thank you for your friendship. Above all, don’t take tomorrow for granted. Live today as if it counts, because it truly does.
Enjoy every sandwich.”

And then, yesterday, he was gone.

He’d be mad if he knew that his passing caused sadness because he was all about joy and laughter, so I’m passing his words on to you only if you use them for good.

Whether you knew him or not, listen to his words.  Enjoy life.  Laugh.  Play with dogs.  Do silly things.  Be great.  Be you.  Do something for yourself.  Do something for others.  Walk barefoot in the grass or build a snowman or read a book or adopt something wonderful into your life.

Go right now and make a decision to do something fun or silly or glorious that you hadn’t planned until you read this, because it’s the best way to honor the passing of those we love who want us to be happy, and also the best way to honor the life we’ve been given.

Enjoy.  Every. Sandwich.

Amen.

PS. Today I had a german brisket hoagie covered with fried pickles.  And I made myself enjoy every bite.  It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

Thank you, David.

And thank you for your friendship.

 

DNA. What is it good for?

This isn’t a funny post.  It’s just me talking.  My sister and I do genealogy stuff for fun and we’ve gone through libraries and records and websites and cemeteries, but a lot of time we hit dead ends.  It’s fascinating to pull up the lives of these people we never met and try to figure out who they were and what they were like, but so often there are bumps because of estrangement or missing records or because relatives refused to speak about ancestors for strange reasons.  And sometimes for understandable reasons.

You’ll find stories you don’t want to find.  Hints that show that your ancestors may have owned slaves or may have been slaves.  Records that show that your ancestors have been forgotten and hidden, and you wonder if those roads were closed because they wanted to escape from who they were or if they wanted to escape from the line that would produce you.  You find that your family stories are sometimes hard to verify and sometimes you get more information than you want.  You read about your not-so-distant ancestor who died in a mental institution from “extreme psychosis” (or more likely, died as a result of the barbaric treatment of that psychosis at that time) when she wasn’t that much older than you.  You find ancestors with hidden pasts and ancestors who had brushes with notoriety and ancestors who had names like “Moonbeam” and “Sour Mash” or who had no recorded name at all.

When I did my DNA test I’d hoped it would give us more info regarding our Native American ancestors but they’re so far removed from me that I assumed that their DNA might not show up, and it didn’t.  What I didn’t expect was the small but measurable amounts of African, Jewish Iberian and Middle Eastern that we can’t explain.  My father (and all of his ancestors as far back as I’ve been able to check) are 100% slavic so I expected more than the 21% Eastern European that showed up on my test, but each child gets semi-random amount of DNA from their ancestors so I suppose it makes sense.  More confusing is the 19% Irish that I haven’t figured out yet.

For Christmas I sent my grandparents and my parents DNA tests because they’re just as fascinated, and my grandmother really wants to research the Native American bloodline that her mother refused to speak about.  I’ve found a lot of Native American branches from different parts of her family in the records I’ve uncovered (many within several generations of her) but her DNA test showed no Native American, which surprised me.  But it showed the same confusing Iberian markers, and a very heavy Irish background that seems contrary to everything we’ve found so far.  But why?  Is it because the group of Native Americans we’re supposedly related to haven’t been DNA tested?  Does that branch not exist anymore?  Are the records wrong? My grandmother’s DNA was such a surprise that I suspected that maybe she’d mixed up her results with my grandfather’s but I got a message from Ancestry today that my DNA is a match with hers as a “close relative” so it has to be hers because my grandfather isn’t blood related to me.

So what does it mean?  No idea.  Maybe it means that it’s important to tell your story while alive so that it can be passed down.  It means that DNA results are confusing and might have a lot of weirdness in them.  It means that you should know that your ancestors were real people with flaws and with brilliance and with lives that were shrouded in secrecy.  It means that finding the immigration records of my great grandparents when they fled from “The Kingdom of Bohemia” are almost impossible because their confusing slavic names were recorded in a million different ways.  Ditto with the Native American ancestors who married into other tribes and sometimes had very different names for each tribal affiliation.  (My favorite relative so far is The Squirrel King – leader of the Savannah River Chicksaws – who had an amazing name but a very sad life.)  And sometimes it means that a road you’ve been chasing is a different one than you thought…one you may never find because sometimes a secret is kept forever.

I’m looking forward to my parents getting their results in because it might help me better understand mine but I suppose I’ll never entirely know where I came from.  But I know who I am now and I suspect in some way I’m made up of the lessons learned by my ancestors, even if I’ll never know them.

So I’ll keep looking, but I’ll also keep remembering that I am more than my past and that it’s my job to leave a better record for the next generation…both of successes and failures.  Because that’s what makes us human.

PS.  This is me, according to my DNA test:

33% Great Britain

21% Eastern Europe

19% Irish

17% Scandinavian

5% Western Europe

1% Italian/Greek

1% European Jewish

1% Iberian Peninsula

1% African

1% Middle Eastern

100% Weird

 

family