Saturday, January 31, 2009

Giving in

So the last week has pretty much been hell for me. Part of it was the trauma of my family leaving, which meant the end of a month and a half of visiting and the beginning of a long stretch with no family in sight. Part of it was letting my advisor know about my ambivalence about my program, and anticipating a meeting with her that will end I don't know how (though I think she's going to be more than understanding and supportive, judging by our past conversations and what others have told me). And money is really starting to become a pressure, as more and more schools adopt hiring freezes and/or send rejection notices.

But actually what really has put me over the edge has been an inability to tolerate my husband (not matter what he says or does - just completely irrational fighting), a growing despair over dealing with my child (who has been in a fussy/clingy phase, almost as bad as when she was a newborn with the nonstop screaming, and we've been getting almost no sleep), and most tellingly, I began to "lose" time - that strange phenomenon when you have no memory of what happened in the last few days at certain intervals. And then the "fog out" periods were causing me to make mistakes that were stupid (like leaving the car lights on and killing the battery twice, and losing my keys for 4 days) and things that could be potentially dangerous (I don't really want to go into a fog while driving my daughter around).

This last issue was symptomatic of my previous depression. And the middle one, I know, is a sign of post partum depression. All this time I'd been watching out for PPD, because I knew I was at high risk. And all this time, no matter how bad things got, I always could hold on to the love I had for her. She was my anchor, my joy, my light. But when that started to fade, and I found myself not exactly wanting to hurt her, but not exactly loving my time with her, then I knew I needed to get help. I lost my ability to get creative and maintain constant chipperness in the face of her nonstop need. She actually is gaining the awareness of wanting her way and reacting very angrily when she doesn't get it...she will look me in the eye and just scream, and I can tell she's not hurt or sad, she is mad. Then she'll smile at J, then look back at me (who is the one keeping her from whatever she wants) and scream in my face. It's really hard not to think she's becoming a brat. I don't know what age they can start being manipulative (I've read it's not until 2 or so), but man, she seems advanced in that area. Anyway.

My insomnia came roaring back too, which sucks when you are up every hour with a hungry infant (well, one that thinks she needs to eat, anyway). And the anxiety, the obsessing over little errors, the all hit really quite fast. But I knew what it was.

So I went to see the p-sychiatrist, and after waiting an hour and a half (!!) I finally got to see him, and he was wonderful and really proactive. He even worked with me to make sure I got my meds in the cheapest way (not through Kaiser) and offered to follow up with phone calls instead of visits if the co-pays were too much for us. He really took care of me, I felt. That went a long way towards healing some of the idiocy I've experienced with the Kaiser people up here.

Plus, bonus! He is referring me to his colleague, a woman who just happens to be an international expert on women's health and specifically hormonal issues. She will hopefully be able to work with me through not only the PPD but also some of my sexual crap that gets in the way of living happily. It's really wonderful that she's there.

Since I have experience on medication, it was easy to just try what has worked in the past, and fortunately it's one of the ones that has been studied well in breastfeeding and is considered safe. And as my doctor said, it's more dangerous for me to be in the state I was in, than for my baby to get 1/1000th of a dose of paxil. This keeps being confirmed for me (paxil doesn't work overnight) - that just about anything is better than my child continuing in the toxic environment that is our house right now. Poor thing wants me, but my arms aren't a very good place for her either.

So that is where I'm at. You blog readers have probably seen this coming for a while; and many of my face-to-face friends will be like "duh." Nowadays this blog imports into Facebook, so there's this whole new audience amassed of old high school acquaintances and new colleagues and random people from around the world...going to be interesting for them to start seeing how bare I lay myself in writing.

Oh and one thing: I do realize there are many alternatives to medication for helping with depression, and I have tried most of them over the last 8 mos - that's why I've managed so far. But please trust me that I knew this time that sunlight, walks, baths, and journaling just couldn't cut it. When your brain starts rebelling on you, you have to take measures to correct the chemical imbalance. I realize advice is always given with good intentions, but at this point, I want to listen to my doctor's advice mostly.

OK, it is a gorgeous day in Berkeley, and I need to get myself outside for a while. Later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Liberals, Schmiberals

I've about had it with the liberals.

I mean, I really thought the conservatives had the market cornered on asshishness (yeah, I invented that word), but I don't know anymore. There is such freaking hubris on both sides.

My colleague Christopher wrote this great note on Facebook about the dangers of triumphalism, centered on the email that's been floating around apologizing for America's "service outage" over the last eight years. Now I'll admit it was kind of funny and cute. These things were...before we "won." Now it just seems obnoxious.

There are actually people (not many, but a few) in this country who didn't vote for Obama, and who maybe are even a bit pissed off that he's president (or at least worried about it). I remember how much it sucked to be on the losing side, to feel completely unrepresented by my government. I'm thrilled not to feel that way anymore. But I still feel the same way as I did back then about the gloaters - it's poor sportsmanship and it's not going to win anybody over to your side. Sure, we can celebrate and feel great about ourselves. But we have to stop short of actually putting people down who disagree with us, or acting like everything is going to be all perfect now, because it's not.

And thankfully, our president knows that and has tried, it seems, to stem the tide of worship towards himself. I have the Michael Franti "Obama" song in my head a lot (it's too damn catchy), but it kind of represents the problem. Not that he's being rude about it - it's a very joyful song - but it's basically a praise song to a human being. Which, to a person who worships a deity, is a bit scary. And is probably also scary to Mr. Obama.

God, he's under a lot of pressure, isn't he? All I can do is pray for the poor man. And roll my eyes a lot. :)

But anyway, back to the annoying liberals. So we were at dinner the other night with people from our new church. And we were talking politics, and J ventured an opinion something to the effect that Obama gets his values from his faith. And wouldn't you know - the people acted offended by this statement! Like only an idiot like Bush could possibly get his values from religion - Obama is way above such blind nonsense. They pointed out that his mom wasn't religious and had a big influence on him, and all these other examples of ways that they believed he was "safe" for the secular establishment. I'm not really sure why a room full of Christians felt the need to defend the secularity of the president, but it was all very PC.

These are the same people who get really nervous when you talk about Jesus being God's son and the way to the Father, or the Bible being true (and not a "conversation" as they like to put it), or that you might possibly need to change something about yourself to live more abundantly into God's love. What I mean is that the main message is "God loves you exactly as you are" and that's really a great message sometimes for some people at certain points of life, but it actually has an expiration date. One day you have to put aside that kind of milk and take on some meat, accept the fact that you might have to change yourself, that God might be calling you to a different way of living - of course, all in order to help you be more you - or be the "real" you if you prefer, or live the most abundant life, or however you want to put it.

I'm finding myself surrounded by people who have no doctrine of sin. It's totally weird, coming from a culture that is obsessed with it. Suddenly there's nothing wrong with anybody - and all the ills of the world are either these big societal issues (war, global warming, economic collapse) which really we can't be blamed for, or they are the fault of the bigots and fundamentalists. I swear, if I hear one more time the words "Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian" followed by some prejudiced blanket stereotype I'm going to scream! They are talking about a tiny fraction of the population of Evangelicals, and they have no interest in learning about the diversity of opinion that is actually reflected in that segment of Christianity.

Weird that I actually became sensitive to that when I was at Fuller. Here I thought I'd head off to "my" people at the liberal seminary, feeling all safe and warm with my other kooky universalist pantheists, and instead I wind up defending Evangelicals all the time!

But anyway, this whole lack of sin doctrine is a real problem. To allow "nice" God to prevail shortchanges the complex and deep relationship God can truly have with us, and it prevents humans from reaching their full potential as servants (of both the divine and the world). At least this past Sunday the preacher sort of touched on this and allowed for the need, sometimes, for change, and then a woman - a recovering addict - got up after the sermon and flat out said that being an addict teaches you that you absolutely must become different sometimes, that you cannot go on a certain way no matter how loved and accepted you are, because you are self-destructing.

And that's really just what sin is, isn't it? Self-destruction? It really seems to be less about offending God (she's a big girl, I think she can take it) and more about hurting ourselves. As a mom, I finally understand how I can love my daughter to pieces and be terrified that she will hurt herself, and I anticipate how some day I will want to strangle her because I'll see her doing something bad for herself and it will make me SO mad that she's using her free will to choose pain instead of happiness. I don't think God gets mad at us for sinning, but I think he probably is disappointed and hurt and angry when we reject the life he so wants us to have, the life of harmony with the earth and communion with one another and relationship with divinity.

Ah. I'm just not a bay area type, I suppose. Maybe I'm a closet fundie. Or maybe I just can't stand fundamentalism of any kind: conservative or liberal. We have to keep our minds open to the other side; we have to always know we can learn something from them. We have to acknowledge our own complicity in what's going wrong in the world, in our communities, and in our hearts. And we have to strive to change, to do better. But most of all, we have to live our lives out of love. Not out of fear, or hate, or anger. Only love will help us reach across divides. Only love will help us stop labeling, stop stereotyping, and stop blaming.

I know "they" do and say things that hurt us. I know "they" are intolerant. I also know that the height of hypocrisy is to only tolerate those who tolerate you and call yourself tolerant. Wouldn't it be great to move past "tolerating" one another?

I don't know; this is all jumbled up and not nearly as eloquent as it sounded in my head. But if anything resonates for you, I would love to hear that.

Now I need some cookie dough.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama Foodorama

Here is a wonderful blog that links two of my personal passions: politics and food!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Economic downturn

No, not in the country, in my LIFE, people. We need some security. I'm trying with all my might to just "faith" my way through this, but our savings just keep going down every month, and there's no work on the horizon, and I really don't like where we're headed when we have the baby to take care of. It's amazing how things like health insurance, food on the table, not becoming homeless, and even keeping a little savings going all become so important when there's a little one depending on you.

We aren't in the most dire of circumstances yet, but I'd rather just skip that part altogether. Every few weeks there's another scare - like when we were informed this week that J's $400/month student loan payments would start up again (fortunately, we got them re-deferred, you just have to reapply every 6 mos). Or there's a disappointment - like the zillions of schools who've sent us letters saying: "Due to the current economic situation, the position advertised is no longer available."


We even considered moving in with one of our parents. Now you know how desperate things could get.

J actually found a perfect, perfect lead this weekend. Of course, he missed the deadline. But he's applying anyway, because it's so freaking perfect for him. But it's not the first good fit we've found, and so far, nobody has even responded to any of his apps, much less interviewed him or anything like that (except of course the "we can't hire anymore" schools).

This is a really hard time to be looking for a job, to state the totally obvious. So I'm going to put the word out on here, because hey, lots of people read this blog, and maybe somebody knows about something, or can keep their eyes open for us or whatever. Ideally, he'd like to find a full-time teaching position. But as the months wear on, I'm sure our search will diversify (for instance, he's really interested in ministry and recently mentioned a church-secretary position he'd found). One-year appointments are OK. Anywhere in the country - and most of the world - is OK.

For his qualifications and teaching philosophy and whatnot, see here:

Thanks for your support and for keeping us in mind and in prayer.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Heaven & Hell

Last night while I was waiting to fall back asleep after one of Maggie's wakings, I suddenly thought of something: heaven is going to be populated with human beings.

I know it seems obvious. But think about this: all my life I've kind of had this assumption that everything would be perfect in heaven. But how could it be, when it's all full of humankind? The Bible (if we go by that, which actually doesn't have that much hard data) talks about us getting new bodies that don't decay, but it doesn't say anything about new souls. If our souls are who we really are - and as near as I can tell they are fairly sick in this world - then will they instantly be healed, or will we have work to do in the afterlife? I mean, God is perfect, but why do we assume humans will be, even in God's presence?

I never read the Left Behind books (I got about 50 pages in the first one and had to stop for fear of losing my lunch), but I did scan the last page of the last novel, and I remember the characters were in heaven and were saying something about how their past differences didn't matter anymore in the light of God's love. I would hope that would be the case, but why are we so sure? Plus, in the novel's world I assume all the "sinners" have been destroyed by that point, so maybe all the Christians living together is assumed to be just perfect.

But wait just a damn minute - since when have Christians living together ever been able to get along?! I mean, even with Daddy God looking over our shoulders - literally - why do we think we'll suddenly be all sweetness and light to each other?

This all kind of arose because I was thinking about whether I'd continue to be sarcastic and snarky in my afterlife. Will we have the capacity to say hurtful things to one another, even innocently? How could we not - I mean, if we're not going to be puppet-mastered by God, then it seems like mistakes (if not outright sins) could still happen.

I'm totally flabbergasted by all of this. It's so against everything I've ever thought, yet it kind of seems possible. I'm not talking about direct defiance of God (although we have actual precedent for that taking place in heaven - see Lucifer's story), but just being our regular ol' broken messed up human selves. Is that possible in heaven? And if so, is it even heaven anymore?

Or I am so trapped in the idea that we cannot overcome our brokenness that I am neglecting the hope that, in the presence of God's love, we will perhaps instantly change into better people? Will the abundant life come easy? I do not know. I don't know who has thought about this stuff. I just don't quite believe that we would instantly change...even the change that is supposed to happen "in the blink of an eye" is physical, from what I understand, not psychological or spiritual. Or is it? Maybe I'm forgetting or missing something.

All this afterlife thought has come up because I came to a head with some relatives during Christmas about our differing conceptions of hell. As you may know, I'm not even sure I believe in hell, at least not as a literal place. I jive with CS Lewis' idea of it from The Great Divorce, that it's the turning-in-on-yourself of humans who cannot or will not accept God's love and therefore are doomed to myopic self-centeredness for eternity. I also love the image from an Orthodox church in Orange County, which has as its ceiling mosaic Christ the Judge in the center, with those on one side turning towards his glory with joy and awe on their faces, and those on the other side hiding their faces and grimacing in the presence of his love. I could see how being stuck with God for all eternity, if you didn't like God, would be a sort of hell. And I can see how being stuck with yourself could be hellish as well.

But the whole devils and fire thing just doesn't do it for me. I realize there are metaphors from Scripture that are (mis?)used (literally) to support these images. I just can't imagine that Matt Groening - or, God help us, Trey Parker & Matt Stone - have really given us the true picture.

Being a universalist - or at least an optimist (see also here) - I can really only conceive of hell (if it is necessary at all) as a kind of holding pen for those who aren't ready for God's presence yet, for whatever reason (their own or God's). And since I figure God's love, mercy, and patience are eternal, I have the optimistic view that everyone eventually will come around. I realize this is not orthodox. But I don't think it lessens the seriousness of sin, or the importance of God's sacrifice on the cross, or any of the other protestations people make about why hell is important.

Anyway, I was going to write all about hell, but at this point, I'm way more interested in thinking about the reality of heaven - the way it could be if it weren't full of angels, but people. And not only people, but Christians. (ha ha) Seriously, what do you think about this? If the way we treat one another here on earth is any indication (we could start and stop just with my denomination...or even, my own personal church experiences!), it's going to take a while for heaven to be very heavenly.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Reflections on Christmas

I have some posts formulating in my mind, particularly one on hell that I think I need to put out there. However I have been away from home three weeks, and it's taken all my energy just to keep my many photos uploaded. You who have friended me on Facebook know what I'm talking about.

So in the meantime, I am linking to a post from my husband (who, by the way, needs a job in a philosophy dept, so keep your ears open) on Christmas. He's not entirely fair to the discussion with his in-laws (my parents) - at least not how I remember it. But his point is interesting. Check it out - as always, his blog continues to be the place to find the deep and careful thought that I was capable of before I gave birth...(and he always interacts with comments, hint!):