Saturday, January 11, 2014

post Christmas depression, what flavor?

"now what? "
many people these days are asking this question silently or out loud, specially the ones who had a busy holiday season starting with a lot of preparation for Christmas and New Year's Eve (in this order or a reversed one for Egyptians and Armenians) then the fun started and they enjoyed one event after the other with big family gatherings, church activities, traveling, outings, huge meals, lots of gifts, days off, and a daily routine of no routine at all.

faced with the regular days and boredom after a busy season of celebration, many people get depressed during January. other people get depressed during the holiday itself and that too has a name and you can google both. 

so when you do celebrate, depression will be waiting for you at the end of the busy agenda, it will occupy the first blank page it finds during the first half of January. and when you do not celebrate then depression can keep jumping back and forth filling the more-than-enough spots on your calendar starting mid December. it will make sure to revisit you during January, don't you ever think that you've had your share, depression is greedy and has special skills of filling up any space you leave available. 

but did you know depression comes in different shapes, colors, sizes, and even FLAVORS? think about the last time you felt depressed (or pause for a moment right now if you don't really need strong long term memory for this exercise) and try to recognize the taste of your depression with the aid of this brief guide:
  • salty: it comes and goes like waves, you can wash it away with a sip of water or any other beverage of your choice, it doesn't taste too bad after all but too much of it can't be tolerated without taking action and fighting back, it's hard enough to swim against the current but swimming in the Dead Sea will have consequences
  • sweet: it's your best friend now, you've known each other for such a long time that when you're apart for an hour or a day or a week you miss it and feel so glad when it's back, after all, this friend is the only way for you to know you're still alive, if you feel too much happiness there's a chance that you're already dead and missed the "Welcome To Heaven" sign
  • sour: it doesn't check if you like lemons or not, you don't get to pick and choose the flavor of your depression, or else depression would be served in ice-cream cones. it's forced on you and you have to get used to the acidic sting no matter how strong. well, you can still balance it somehow just make sure to plan well and select your pills carefully, an ulcer in your heart is no fun either
  • bitter: it's the worst kind because it means that it's deep inside your mouth, will last longer, and nothing can top that flavor no matter how hard you try. this flavor usually is attached to loss... great major irreversible loss... it's capable of engraving more aging lines on your face than the ones that actual time draws over the course of long years
if your depression has one flavor, then you're lucky, because mixing different flavors can get really confusing, trust me, simply because you need a multifunction pill and for the bitter flavor you need "World Peace"...

motherhood is a major cause of depression, if you're a mother and this bit of info. sounds surprising (this is a very well kept secret by the way) then let me congratulate you on the strong and functional support system you're blessed with: available husband, young mother, kind mother-in-law, sister/s (preferably single), neighbors and friends... even if they don't actually cook you a meal every once in a while or baby sit the kids, at least they're there if you needed to talk to someone over the phone or go out (yes, actually being fully dressed with your keys and phone then shut the door behind you)

if you identify with the fact that "motherhood is the most lonely experience you've had" then welcome to the club, you're not required to having had any other lonely experiences, because believe me, I did, and THIS tops them all. depressed mother is not an oxymoron, SUPER MOTHER is 

motherhood depression keeps changing flavors and over the course of 9 months of pregnancy, the birth experience, and the first 2 years of your child's life, you can be sure that you've tried all 4 flavors including the last one, the one that's associated with LOSS even though motherhood keeps telling you that you've GAINED (a human being in addition to some everlasting weight), there's a loss with every gain, you've lost your freedom, your sleep, your shape, your sanity, time with your husband, and the ability to hear your own thoughts... just to name a few...

so how is this related to Christmas and post Christmas depression for me? you'll find out in a minute...

every year i try to create certain traditions for my family that my kids can associate with certain seasons (once we've repeated them a couple of times), a few for the summer, some for the time when we travel and visit family members, and most importantly Christmas and Easter traditions.
the single one tradition that i miraculously and with great determination and hard work have managed to keep for 8 years (even before the kids were born) is the family photo we take at Christmas time (so that we can attach it to an annual e-mail we send to a long contact list of family and friends around the world).
the first 3 years, this photo seemed like something normal and easy to do, but when the kids arrived it became much harder yet even more important to me.

not only the Christmas photo gained major importance in my life, but any nice (and preferably professional) photos we take because i started to get addicted to having nice photos. why? because that's how i could still tell expecting mothers and single girls how wonderful motherhood is: "you get to have amazing photos of and with your kids" i tend to stop here and leave out the rest of this sentence "then when you're down, which is pretty much all the time, you can ruminate over these photos. i.e look at them for as looooong as you neeeeed"...

no one captures your down moments, you don't grab the camera when you're crying your eyes out on the bathroom floor or when you wake up in the morning (after re-defining the terms "sleep" and "morning") and say: "oh i cried myself to sleep so now that i'm awake i should take a picture of myself"... no NIKON or CANON or any top brand camera can shoot long lonely nights, days that seem to have no end, and very i mean VERY deep thoughts and fears about life and the tiny creature in your arms (i told you, it's easier to be lonely alone than be lonely with a dependent extremely helpless mini-human)... no photo has a sound attached to it (this is a different kind of thing called videos if i remember correctly) so it can never detect the volume of your voice as you lose it and start yelling at the kids for a reason so tiny yet mighty enough to unleash layers of depressed never take photos of food stains on the carpet or vomit on the floor... (actually i did take photos of my son's first, you know, inside the potty... and my daughter's too two years later... wait, can i call that a "traditional photo?" it's even better than the real moment because it's fragrance free)... so i've started to look forward to family pictures and pictures of my babies with cute outfits selected and sent by their grandparents, aunts, uncles and dear friends... pictures i take of a completed LEGO shape or a neatly colored picture or a doll so tenderly tucked in it's bed or of them both playing peacefully together (have to get that captured really fast before WWIII starts... again) i call that "selective photography"... only moments that i want to remember because they are so easy to forget and get buried under piles and piles of OTHER moments which tend to be unforgettable... by their harsh nature... sticky, liquidy, disgusting, frustrating.... the etc. etc. moments

and THIS year, we had the most amazing Christmas photos so far. Magui, our dear family friend, a talented photographer did an amazing job, she never says "no way" to any idea i suggest or find online, her attitude is more of a "why not? let's try it" one... so on one day and during a couple of hours this year we tried out different ideas and most of them were really successful... here's an example (she does a great job editing these photos too)

and THIS year, none of our family members abroad could fly to Egypt or visit Alex, we couldn't go anywhere or celebrate the season in a special way, the kids took turns getting sick and my daughter's fever reached 41 C on New Year's Eve, i was already depressed even before Christmas thinking of Syrian displaced children who are literally freezing to death during a very bad snow storm, and those in areas under siege who are literally dying of hunger... so i did have high hopes for the Christmas family photo this year and instead of one we had several great photos, motherhood at it's best huh? ... but after spending so much time looking at these photos and shaking them off to capture the magic dust till the very last spec, depression crept in once again, mine is a polite one, it rings the bell and knocks at the door and everything but when i don't answer it finds its way in, it has a name"post Christmas photo depression" (no you can't google this one) and it comes with a blend of flavors, a triple S and a dominant B (3SB or maybe BS times three!) 

if sweetness is dangerous because feeling too much happiness increases the chance that you're already dead and missed the "Welcome To Heaven" sign... then i don't know which is easier, to keep hearing voices of Syrian children echo in my head crying out "mama ana jou3an... mama ana bardaneh" (mom i'm hungry, mom i'm cold) or the sheer silence of their pure souls arriving at the warm gates of heaven with a bounty of food and love awaiting them...

Monday, January 6, 2014

365.25 Christmases

a couple of days ago i was bored to the point that i needed anything to help me face "the hours", i couldn't read or play with the children yet there were a couple of hours left before my husband comes back home and it's time to put the kids to bed when i'll crash right beside them on what's now called our "family bed" since the cold storm that hit the MENA region ... last MONTH !

so i made the tough decision of watching a movie, i'm very aware and careful of what appears on our T.V screen (practically nothing but cartoon shows, i'm even selective there too) i had to choose wisely because even though the kids will pretend to be busy playing around me in the living room, they'll repeat words from the movie and some scenes will catch their attention every few minutes... i had two options (on DVD): "Four Christmases" and "The Holiday"... because i love the second one so much i hated the idea of a possibility of me not giving my full attention to one of my favorite movies and i decided to watch Four Christmases... it wasn't too long before i discovered what a bad choice this was and switched DVD's

this morning, one of my Armenian friends who is a pastor was wondering if it's accurate to call the 6th of January (today) "Armenian Christmas" and my comment on his facebook status was: "Egyptian Christians (Orthodox and Evangelical) celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January so why not have 365 names for Christmas to experience it every single day..."

this got me thinking about Christmas, aside from the cliche words and ideas we parrot every year, what does Christmas mean to me? on the 24th of December i missed the chance to reflect and celebrate, read this post if you're wondering why, so the great news was that i get to have a second chance while the majority of Christians around the world have started to make plans of how to take down their Christmas decoration, we (Armenians and Egyptian Christians) are just getting started. 

as excited as i was to FULLY benefit from this 2nd chance i quickly realized that i am me... i need more than just a 2nd chance that comes in the middle of THE SEASON, duh... Christmas (1st or 2nd chances) just HAVE to come during the season of celebration... but this defeats the purpose, for me this can't count as a chance because we'd be still busy with events, celebrations, church activities... etc we shower, wear our clothes and smiles, and show up as happily as socially expected and accepted of our family.... add to this craziness my daughters fever of more than 40 C for three nights (including New Year's Eve) and my son's long school vacation... just tell me where exactly is this chance to TRULY celebrate Christmas? unless Christmas after all really means new clothes (for the kids), wrapped gifts (also for the kids, but i wrapped two old yet unused items for myself and two for my husband because you know, kids under the age of 5 still believe that Santa Clause exists and i wanted him to be a fan of equal rights between children and adults), food (ready, simple, complex... just any kind of edible material, btw this year i added pickles which turned out to be a great idea), and tree (which looked like this eventually and won the "best tree" award in 8 Christmases)
(sharpening my primitive photography skills i also applied for the "best blur" award hoping that this photo will win and guest what? it did)
so if i, so far, know of 3 official Christmases that somehow i find myself entitled to celebrate (yes all 3 of them) yet can't find, understand and reflect on the true essence of Christmas then why not have 365.25 Christmases? one for every day of the year with an extra one during leap years, this way we'll get a new chance every morning to celebrate what Christmas really means.

and if you're waiting for an answer to the question "what does Christmas mean to me/you?" that's why you're reading on, then i have to tell you at this point that you won't find one here simply because my only New Year's resolution for 2014 so far is to celebrate Christmas every day of the year this year hoping that maybe along the journey, with some trial and error, i might find the answer, i might even find 365.25 answers when 2015 arrives, i don't know, but for a start i've decided to take some practical steps the first of which is to follow the advise of one of my friends who is committed to writing one thing she's "thankful for" every day, and last night, the thing i was thankful for was a moment of happiness that i haven't realized was there until it was already gone, i had finished brushing my teeth and while i was flossing something reminded me of the war in Syria, i had forgotten about it for a few hours during the day and when i remembered it again, it was too late, the magic effect of that potion i call "forgetfulness and neglect" was already gone and my tongue said good bye to the taste of happiness so familiar yet so remote ever since my country started aching... and me too... that's why a few days ago when i watched The Holiday movie there was a whole new set of depths and meanings to my favorite quote when Simpkins says to Miles:

"I understand feeling as small and insignificant as humanly possible. And how it can actually ache in places you didn't know you had inside you. And it doesn't matter how many new haircuts you get, or gyms you join, or how many glasses of chardonnay you drink with your girlfriends... you still go to bed every night going over every detail and wonder what you did wrong or how you could have misunderstood. And how in the hell of that brief moment you could think that you were that happy. And sometimes you can even convince yourself that he'll see the light and show up at your door. And after all that, however long all that may be, you'll go somewhere new. And you'll meet people who make you feel worthwhile again. And little pieces of your soul will finally come back. And all that fuzzy stuff, those years of your life that you wasted, that will eventually begin to fade."

... and THAT's how much i love my country... Merry Christmas to you all celebrating today and every day...