“Yep, thanks, we’re together.”

Yep.png“Um, will this be together?”

This happens to us all the time. Every week. Sometimes more than once a day. Even living just outside of both LA and Seattle hasn’t prevented the head tilt, quick evaluation by baristas, bartenders, servers and doctors. At the coffee shop, grocery store, bar, doctor’s office; people are always asking if my husband and I are together.

I mean, really, it’s my groceries and his? Wouldn’t there be a little bar down between the limes and the bread? Would I be chatting with him so comfortably?  Sometimes we play them a little.

“What him? No way. Creeper, get away from my avocados.”

“Her? I’m not paying for her. She’s been following me around for like 30 years!”

It’s our own multicultural teaching moment. I don’t like to humiliate people, but make them flush with embarrassment a little by holding their bias up for all to see? Oh yeah.

Once, we were out to dinner with all the families from our swim team. We had driven all day from Seattle to Idaho for the big regional swim meet. The kids had their own table and the parents were at one big, ranch style table. The server was matching up couples to prepare our bills; I knew we were in trouble. Tommy’s mom was Asian. Even though she was seated all the way down from us and across the table, her bill was paired with my husband’s. There was no way in our server’s mind that the Asian man and woman were not together. No way.

We have been very lucky as a family. Our health has been good, we have always had enough to eat and a safe place to live. We come from humble beginnings with little assist on the financial launch in life, but my husband is the hardest working man I know, so we’ve done OK.

We have not, yet anyway, had our house vandalized or been told to leave a neighborhood. We moved to the West Coast because in Minnesota we were always the diversity crew on the block, and people would literally turn around to stare at us in the grocery store. Now that our kids are gone, we mostly keep to ourselves. We know the other dogs in the neighborhood and their people, and we wave to the couple who lives next to us. People around us know we’re together.

It’s a funny thing. I don’t believe that a barista is making an intentionally racist statement by totalling my husband’s coffee without looking past him to the white woman standing there. I don’t. But it is a little of our systemic racism poking at us all the time. Sometimes as he orders I’ll touch his shoulder or hand as code for “we’re together” to save time and avoid the hassle. It’s always present for us.

What I wish was that we didn’t have these deep scripts that play out about who goes together and where race fits in our lives. But we do. Me, too. I work hard to root them out, but it is in the air I breathe and the water I drink. It’s deep.

Luckily, I do have this fine partner in life who claims me over and over again, even when the bartender tries to make me pay for my own drink.




A Few True Things: Depression

A few true things.pngI know. Another voice reacting to the ringing bell of depression and death by suicide. Who needs it?

I don’t know. Maybe someone. Maybe you.

Maybe me?

I live with depression. I know you might, or maybe you know someone who does. It’s a real thing. I am not always depressed, but I always know it’s there. I am no mental health expert, but so far anyway, I am an expert at living with this thing for a long, long time. So I’m going to say my few true things.

There are gifts in being a depressed person. It’s hard to see but I believe this is true. Our people, the depressed ones, write the best books and music and create soaring art. We feel the world so deeply that when we can convey this depth, it moves mountains and hearts and minds. I have a depth of understanding and compassion that comes from living on the edge of meaning. It’s a part of me I treasure.

Depression is a liar. It’s a dirty rotten f*ucking liar. It will tell you that your children/spouse/parents/friends/coworkers will be so much better without you. Get a thing that reminds you that this is NOT true. I have a spoon bracelet with a Steinbeck quote hammered into it by a dear person. My friend has a locket with a line of a hymn tucked in it. A physical thing that I have with me helps me remember. Or get a dog. I can never believe, even at my darkest, that my dog will be happy I am gone.

Therapy can help. I did a stint of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that helped. But I’ve also had therapists that were……less than great. If your therapist isn’t a good fit, try again.

Write. Every morning for 10 minutes. Just write. Get a pen that flows and paper that feels smooth (or a random IKEA pencil and a sticky note) and just sit someplace soft and write. During one particularly low point, a poetry therapist told me to just DO this every morning  and I did. I listened. Julia Cameron’s morning pages are a good format, too. There is no product coming from this, it’s just a way to skim off the nonsense that dances around at the top of my mind.

Try everything you hear about. There was one time I could *see* from outside that I was depressed and making terrible choices. So I grabbed every piece of advice that floated by. Take vitamin D3? OK. Exercise for 30 minutes a day? Sure, if walking slowly on the treadmill while watching home improvement shows counts. Eat green leafy food? Yuck, but alright. My depressed tastebuds trend toward tots, not greens. Leave the evaluations about whether it will do you any good or not out of it. Just try.

This one is weird, but it works for me: do one thing. Like…clean the sink. There may be dirty dishes piled on the counter and a floor that desperately needs to be swept, but if I can use cleanser and a green scrubbie and really clean the sink, I feel better. Or fold one basket of laundry. Not all of them, just one. It’s like one little clear spot opens in my brain and sometimes that clarity grows from there.

Give the people in your life a little head tilt/sideways glancing look. Who else is like this? Who in your life would nod and smile a sad half-smile and understand that sometimes you are not quite OK? Tell them. Assemble your team. I think it helps to know we’re not alone.

Do the things. Take your meds. Shush the haters. Wait. Sleep. Give it a day. Please.

You’re not alone. I’m already here.