Things are gonna change, my dear.

27 Jan

I thought it was the cold weighing me down, the incessant, doesn’ t matter how many sweaters you wear or how high you crank the heat cold that’s clinging to my bones lately. I thought maybe it was sunlight, a lack thereof, a lack of sleep perhaps, sick children, sad children, not sleeping children. I thought perhaps the spectre of my job disappearing very soon was eating at me.

It’s all of those things. Maybe it’s none of those things. But I’ve got this low level depression building in my chest, and I can’t remove it, clingy like plastic wrap, stubborn in it’s whispers. I’m grateful it’s not the “jump in front of a bus” kind, that it’s more of the type of depression average people get, sadness, an inability to get excited or do anything. I feel like a little hamster stuck in the corner of the cage-I can see the wheel-it’s over there and pretty and WEEEE! it would be fun but damn, I just can’t work up the energy or will to care.

It’s emotional atrophy almost. Spend a few days not caring, a few days unable to work up the will to finish that bloody green blanket, unable to do more than the least amount possible, answering the phone becoming difficult. Then everything contracts. You’re fine on the outside, but smiling almost hurts, like your hair when you’re down with the flu. Finding a kind word takes a deep breath and thought. It’s just…a second more effort for everything.

I’m not complaining. I just realized on the bus this morning, I’m not just tired. I’m sad. Sure, I’m handling this whole losing my job thing with more grace and calmness than even I expected, but I’m numb almost. I worry that this sadness will morph into more, and I sing when I can to banish the darkness. I’m waiting for the shoe-I shouldn’t be this calm to a stressor so large as losing a job after 8 years.  I should be something more, right?

At least though, I’m still mostly ok. The 10% sad can be buried under everything else, made better by sweet touch and words, ignored while life is lived, and smiled at in mirrors. After so long, it’s so simple and pure, to just be sad, to just be touched by life and really feel it without the overlap of voices muttering.

Strange that sadness might be showing me the path where I get better.


Vivian has been having nightmares the last few nights, where she comes flying from her bedroom sobbing, reaching for me. She wouldn’t tell me what they were about. Last night I asked her to please tell me today, if she could, that I’d like to help her chase the bad things away.

This morning she tells me she’s afraid that her Daddy and I will die.

I’m not big on lying. But, I’m also not big on making a 5 year old cry. So I chose the middle ground, much as my parents did, long ago.

“No one is going to die until you’re all grown up, with kids maybe, and we’ve pooped on your carpet. No one is going to leave you.”

Do I believe this? No. I know full well that this can be a brutal lie, that parents can and do leave, or die. But, I think it matters when a parent says “I will never leave you.” Because none of us ever want to, even if circumstances change and force the hand.

I reminded her that what happened to my mother is rare, an odd freak occurance, and that it wouldn’t happen to us. But that also, my mother never really left, and lives in my heart, and in the air around us, forever. That she loves me, and even her. That parents don’t leave.

We ventured further down the path of what happens at death, what I believe, what others believe. I explained that some people, including her grandmother, believed in heaven, and hell, but that I didn’t believe it. Then from her mouth comes:

“Mommy, baby Jesus isn’t real is he?”

I tell her he’s a story some people believe in, that I was raised to believe in. But that I just don’t.

I talk a little more about life being a circle, that life, like seasons, follows a path of change. That death is change, and even though I miss my Mommy dearly somedays, she’s here, somewhere, with us, inside us.

“Does this make sense Vivian?”

“Sorta.” she mumbles, “Can I go to J’s after school today?”

She skips off ahead of me for awhile, processing I’d imagine, forming her world view, slowly, until it comes back to bite me in the ass in 2 months or 6 years.

So many people are horrified when I talk of speaking to my children of death, or sex-but these are two certainties in our lives, two changes, events, continums we cannot alter. We will all die, some sooner, some later. We will hurt-so why not begin the conversation young, when it’s relatively simple, and yet not so simple, because death, it’s never a quiet movement, it’s not as simple as the change I describe, it really is as a season, the color dropping from us, falling to only our bones in a silent concerto.

I believe we continue, and death is not so sad. And I never want my children to fear this one last act.

20 Responses to “Things are gonna change, my dear.”

  1. daisybones January 27, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    I applaud (loudly!) the way you deal with religion with your kids. I hope I can answer the Bird’s questions with such openness and honesty.

  2. thordora January 27, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Thanks man. 🙂 That Parenting Beyond Belief book is damn cool, and they have a workbook out now I want.

    I do need to admit that when she said the bit about jesus, the little Richard Dawkins in me was all like ‘YES! Score one for critical thinking!”


  3. Laura January 27, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    That’s beautiful. Your girls are so lucky to have you – I really admire your willingness to tackle the tough questions instead of just brushing them off with an easy non-answer.

  4. Cynthia Page January 27, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    I think your approach was admirable. Thoughtful answers to tough questions. I’m big on the “circle of life” description myself. Someone is dying, someone is being born, seasons change and time marches on. The lives of those we loved have influenced us and thus live on.

    Luckily, I have only had to explain this in relation to a pet fish.

  5. bromac January 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    I felt this sadness last week. It is scary because you don’t know if it is a preface of worse to come. Hang in there.

  6. Ameroux January 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm #

    The phrase “emotional entropy” jumped out at me. I had never thought of it in those terms, but it makes perfect sense. It’s also great writing. You’re very gifted, Thor Dora.

  7. Eden January 27, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    “The Lion King” has been VERY beneficial in getting Zoe to understand about death. She said just the other night about Jake (the dog) having died (we were talking about him & in the car at the time). She wanted to know why Jake died. We said that he was very old, he got sick, he couldn’t get better and he died. Then she said, “Is he part of the circle of life?” I said, “Yes. Daddy buried him in the backyard where his body can nourish the grass that the deer come to eat.” That made her happy and that’s all there was to it. No tears. Just fact. Sometimes she’ll say that she misses him but she’ll add some line from The Lion King.

    I haven’t taught her any religious stuff yet. I do mention “magic” from time to time but that’s it.

  8. bromac January 27, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    For the record, if it helps, mine got better without getting worse first.

  9. nylonthread January 27, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

    People are horrified that you talk to your kids about death? What do those people do with their own kids? Lock them in rooms with sunshine, lollypops and Noggin cartoons playing all day? I’m certainly not one to dwell on death, but it’s winter, the season of death, there’s death all around. Where are the flowers? Where are the leaves? the green grass? We have photos of loved ones placed on our walls, and both kids (same ages as yours, Thor) ASK about death and dying regularly. My own mom was playing a zombie game with my son this morning. I can’t imagine what people are thinking when they can’t handle talking about life—yes, death, illness, love and sex are all important parts of life— sex to children. It’s safe to say that all living things die and kids get it to a point.

    I hope you reassured Vivian as much as she needs to send the nightmares away. Maybe it would help to give here a sense of proportion? How many of her friends have dead parents? None? Well it’s just about as likely, statistically speaking, that her parents will die while she’s a child. Then find her a sturdy-looking plush toy, place it in her bed and tell her that it will send her nightmares away (worked for my kids! but Viv’s a smartie & might see right through).

  10. nylonthread January 27, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Damn all those typos. I found at least three, sorry about that.

  11. bromac January 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    Nylonthread, my daughter is three and we just had to put down our 13 year old dog. I did not choose to tell her Loco died. I am not afraid of death nor will I shield my child from death. I just think 3 is too young. It is a very personal decision. So, I guess that is what people, at least myself, are thinking when they don’t tell their very young child that something is dead and not ever coming back. If she were to ask me about death, though, I would talk frankly with her about it; it is an issue I will let her approach me with.

    We told her that Loc went to live with the old dogs; where he could run and play and have someone to pet him all the time. Interestingly enough, when I picked up his ashes yesterday, there was a card with a story called Rainbow Bridge in which old and sick dogs live together and run, eat, and love as much as they want. Hey, maybe there is a place like that and my “story” for my child is really the truth.

  12. Cynthia Page January 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    I’m not judging your decision, bromac, but I do have a question. How do you explain people who are no longer alive? I often talk about my grandmother – naturally my daughter wanted to know where she is. Has it just not come up yet?

  13. Sol January 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    Dora, I’m so lucky I found your blog because you set a great example. Both dealing with your sadness and with your daughters. I think they are also extremely lucky to have you as a mother.
    On other news, hang in there, Spring is just round the corner.

  14. thordora January 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    Thanks Sol. 🙂

    Bromac, your time will come. 🙂 I’ve waited, for the most part, for the subject to come up. And it does. 🙂 Ros doesn’t really ask, but VIvian is curious.

  15. bromac January 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    No problem Sol. I was hoping my communication would be processed without inciting a riot 🙂

    My grandmother is the only person who has died since my daughter was born and she was less than a year at time.

    With Loco, I just didn’t think she understood what death was, so I didn’t want to push explaining it to her if another, gentler, explanation would suffice.

    Come to think of it, she has asked on several instances when Loco is coming back home. So, perhaps I didn’t make such a good decision after all. Hey, we’re all learning, right.

  16. March January 27, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    I too think you handled it great… I’ve had the question a couple of times in a variation of it, mostly when the husband has been gone, that usually prompts a series of things.
    like you say, it’s best to be open and honest about things, just because we hide/deny them does not mean they don’t exist or will happen. it’s best to just be open about it.
    when we’ve touched the subject, and she tells me that she’ll be sad if she does not get to see us /someone else anymore, I talk to her how it’s ok to be sad and how even while sad about it you can be happy and can go on.

    which book is that you are mentioning? Parenting without belief? who wrote it? sounds like a good read.

  17. March January 27, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    and the sadness… you might just be “mourning” the job you’re about to leave behind, maybe you’re in the stage of grieving what has been and will be no more. change is scary, but do remember that letting go allows you freedom to become a new you. it won’t be easy or simple, but a better future is out there to be had. I strongly believe that. it’s ok to be sad, it’s only human. I think you’re being healthy about it. good things will come. good things will come. sending you all the good vibes in the world.

  18. Marcy January 28, 2009 at 12:02 am #

    I have no idea whether it was wise or not, but yesterday afternoon I told Amy I was sad because my friend died. She thought I meant dived, and I had to explain — I wish I remember what I said. I do remember remind her that she’s seen dead bugs… She didn’t seem especially concerned.

    A few minutes later, while we were in the bathroom having her use the potty, she was crying all the sudden, and I asked why, and she said she wanted to die. I think she meant dive. Or something other than what die really means. I told her she needed to wait.

    It’s such weird territory.

  19. Sara January 28, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    I think you handled the conversation very well.

  20. crazymumma January 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    I have taht mid winter lassitude as well.i just cannot be bothered….

    and i like how you talk to her. I talk to my children similarily and I have been admonished for it. Its a pity, because i think they can handle it.

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