Saturday, March 14, 2009

Too Sad to Write, or How to Get Rid of Depression in a Depression

Yesterday evening, over Shabbat dinner, our friend Larry pointed out that, while he had greatly enjoyed Saul and Ari’s travelogue, he was disappointed that I had not written in quite some time. That made me feel good that my friends wanted to hear about my ordinary days in addition to the exciting adventures of my husband and son in Israel. I told him that I, at first, was too busy to write because I still have some big looming deadlines ahead of me for my business. I also told him that, in addition to that, I felt too sad to write.

I try to stay away from writing my blog on days that I feel sad. Sometimes, I feel that I am being outnumbered and overwhelmed by an army of enemy soldiers, determined to destroy any sense of well-being I am able to muster, and drag me down into a morass of depression. In my hormonal teens, I spent weeks at a time in various stages of depression. In my, hopefully, less hormonal post-menopausal years, I have learned to do battle each day with all of those little things that get me down. Depression, both in its mental and economic sense, is counterproductive. All worthwhile activity grinds to a halt and is replaced by fatigue, malaise, and a sense of futility—bad karma. Listening to CNN (especially the financial reports) all day in the background can completely wipe out a beautiful, sunshiney day, and to what purpose? Watching John Stewart and Jim Cramer duke it out on the Daily Show this week was a great antidote. Soap operas put out enough bad vibes to make me want to avoid other people entirely. The morning news with its repetitive litany of murders, fires, crooked politicians, and now, each huge failing institution, is enough to make me feel like I am climbing a mountain to get back to any sort of good humor. Every day is a struggle for me, but most of the time, I feel I am succeeding, doing creative and productive work, and making the most comfortable environment I can muster for my mother’s last months of life.

There is a positive way to look at almost anything. While my mother’s health is obviously failing, she is not in any pain, and every day, I am grateful for that. There are so many painful ways to die and who knows if my own end, or that of my other loved ones, God forbid, will be in one of those ways? I am very lucky to have knowledgeable and compassionate hospice people to provide me with support. I have a husband and family who are mostly understanding and supportive, and that is a very great blessing. Many people out there are not so lucky. Two years have gone by since Saul’s major stroke, and he is miraculously almost completely recovered. I am also most fortunate, I think, to have the luxury of being able to care for my loved ones at home in a beautiful environment.

The current economic depression has caused us to have to dodge many more “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” than in the past, but like many others, the change in my lifestyle that I predicted back in October, has also caused me to reevaluate what is truly worthwhile in my life and what is just stuff. The last two weeks have been rough. Right before Saul left for Israel, we remortgaged our home to pay off our credit card and other debt. We were lucky to have enough equity in our home to do so after the appraiser lowered the value of our home $158,000 from what the previous appraisal had been. I have not bought any new clothes or shoes since last summer except one new shirt for Saul to replace an old one that had become frayed. I am much more careful with my food purchases than in the past. I have been giving cash as gifts rather than go shopping. We used to eat out at least twice a week. That has become twice a month. We used to take long drives for recreation. That went out when gas went over $2.00 a gallon. I think that everything was so abundant in our country and credit so easily available that most people never thought twice about frivolous purchases and waste. While we are being encouraged to go out and spend to end this depression, I think all of us have had a sobering lesson in the consequences of greed and waste, and may never again be comfortable with frivolous spending. In the long run, I think that could be very good for our economy.

Baking cookies makes me feel good, so this past week, Adele and I made hundreds of hamantaschen for Purim to give away to our friends and family. Saul and I were not able to get coverage for Mom so that we could hear the Megillah read in services or participate with our community in the merriment, which I hear involved the rabbi and professional staff dressed in costume for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I don’t think we have ever missed this service before.

When we met, Randi’s friend Paula had just lost her father, and, as it turned out, could not assist me in caring for Mom. Adele came almost every day while Saul was in Israel, and slept over for the first couple of days. Laura came to work with me a bit and I made lunch for her, Adele, Mom and me. Laura brought me a picture frame for my birthday that says “Grandchildren are a grandparent’s link to the future. Grandparents are a child’s link to the past.” By a lucky coincidence, Polly, Marianne’s friend who had been Mom’s original hospice volunteer, had a cancellation on the day of my birthday, and I took her up on her offer to cover Mom so that Adele and I could get away to have lunch together at King Buffet, a Chinese buffet we love in Plymouth Meeting Mall. I received lots of phone calls and well wishes on Facebook on my birthday. My friend, Faith, joined me for Shabbat dinner that week so that I would not be alone and I cooked us an elaborate meal of homemade challah, cod lamaize, homemade chicken soup with matzoh balls, chicken satay with snow peas, black and white rice, and chocolate mousse crepes for dessert. Faith brought me a tee shirt that says “Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.” I love it! We have not had so much private time to talk together since we used to meet for long walks around the track at Mondauk Common in Dresher at few times a week. Good friends are a great cure for the blues. Our friend, Irv, called from California, and we talked face-to-face on Skype for an hour. Haley and Eric came to visit Mom before leaving to join Ken and Randi in Hawaii and we discussed their wedding cake which I will be making in August.

My biggest challenge came a few days ago when Jessica emailed a photo of their new puppy. I love dogs, but have really been suffering with my allergies lately. The announcement of the puppy means that my (obviously unrealistic) hope of someday being able to comfortably stay in their home is forever dashed. Saul and I have always prepared elaborate seders for Passover. Preparing for the holiday properly is a huge undertaking which we have gladly entertained since the first year we were married. A couple of years ago, at Jess and Alex’s request, we moved everything needed to prepare for the holiday to their home. Last year at this time, I rode back and forth to Baltimore from Ari’s condo in DC to help prepare desserts before Saul was finished with school and was able to join us for the seders. I was about to undertake the same sort of regimen this year, with the added complication and huge expense of finding someone to stay with Mom, who is not well enough make the trip. Saul and I decided that compromising my health to do the same this year would not be advisable under the circumstances. As I have gotten older, it seems to be harder and harder to bounce back from chest congestion. This last blow when I felt I was finally winning the battle made me too sad to write for a few days. Although not being with my family for my favorite holiday is a real setback, I am looking for ways to turn this around, too. Perhaps, we will take a Passover vacation, although our initial investigation of the subject found prices to be astonishingly and ridiculously high. Coupled with the expense of caring for Mom and our current economic crises, it will probably turn out to be out of the question. Perhaps, I will go to IKEA and purchase, inexpensively, everything I need to prepare for the seders and a week of Passover food here and find some unattached souls who would be willing to enjoy the seders with us. Perhaps I will be able to solve Faith’s problem of having to spend huge amounts of money for kosher for Passover food from the kosher caterers for her family seders. She doesn’t like to cook, and I love cooking for Passover. Before the seders in Baltimore, I used to prepare her turkey and condiments every year along with my own. Perhaps, Saul and I will find an agreeable place to volunteer our services for a Passover seder this year. I am determined not to let this get me down.

Repeat after me, “depression is counterproductive in every circumstance.” Get up, use your imagination, and do something positive and uplifting to turn it around.


Anonymous said...

Pearlstone had a cancellation for passover this week, so they are now accepting short term reservations. Interested?

Unknown said...

Also on the bright side, you have a neighbor with a completely empty freezer and mostly empty refrigerator for storing all the stuff you need... *grin*