Posted by: alegra22 | February 21, 2010

conversations in the dark

Tonight on our drive home  my husband asked me, “What’s going on in that oceanic mind of yours?”

My feet propped up on the dashboard, my coffee cup clutched in my hand, I replied, “Oh, you know…birth and death and everything in between.”

“So just the usual?”

“Yep, just the usual.”

“You want to tell me about it?”

No, I didn’t. But to be sociable I tried. “Well, I was trying to work out some major plot points for the next few chapters. I was thinking about being away from Joaquin for two days when I go stay at the apartment (a friend of Dan’s has an empty apartment he has offered to me as a retreat in order to get work done). I was thinking about crying. I was thinking about the winter coming. I was thinking that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a sort of agitation that arises directly from an event that quickly passes. Joy is a result of faith. It grows out of peace. And, I am thinking that I will handle this postpartum hormonal business if I just keep talking about it. Also, I am thinking about the smell of lilacs in the graveyard across the street from the house I lived in when I was a child. The lilacs led to me thinking about Zaviera’s mind and how wild it is. That, and the fact that today is her birthday.”

Dan looked at me and shook his head. “Is that all?”

“Well, yeah. But only within the second that you asked the question. Now I am on to other things. I think in multiple layers.”

“Like the sandwiches I make?”

“Exactly. Only more like the deli sandwiches I used to make in Cambria. Ones that are too big to fit your mouth around in a single bite without half the contents slipping out the other side. Layered like that.”

Silence. Zaviera stirs in the backseat. The lamp posts with their glowing orbs slide their light over our van as we pass through a round about and turn on to the home stretch. Out the window, the new Pak n’ Save stands skeletal, its frame built but waiting on walls. I wonder how it will change the area. I wonder where we will be a year from now.

“Oh,” I say, “I am also thinking about embarking on my own personal lent.”

Because, I think, there is something about the year after giving birth that makes me long to be closer to God.  With this third pregnancy, I have come to terms with the fact that I suffer a certain degree of what might be called postpartum depression. Only, I wouldn’t call it depression. I don’t find myself withdrawing from life or feeling hopeless or unmotivated. It is more like my mind sinks to a deeper level and I feel a little too acutely. I am more aware of death. I mourn the beauty of life.  I tend to become quiet and observant.

As we pulled into the driveway, I thought to myself: I don’t suffer from postpartum depression. It is more like postpartum shock.

I look at Joaquin and it hurts. I watch my daughter pick up a piece of potato and engage it in conversation. I listen to Sol to file away the world in his own orderly way.  And all of these things leave me close to tears. At night I don’t sleep soundly – my dreams, like my thoughts, are oceanic but even beneath all that water, I have one ear tuned to Joaquin’s breathing. I wake up feeling like the lyrics of a Talking Heads song:

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down

I could use that water. Hanging over my head there is a calendar on fire. The days are consumed quicker than I can clean up the ashes. And each day brings me closer to my master’s deadline. I have four chapters I need to write this week and three blogs for various writer’s sites. Plus, I need to read several books. Somewhere, at some point, I need to sleep.

As I got out of the van tonight, hoisting several bags over one shoulder, grabbing two more with one hand and then Joaquin in his car seat, I thought about how three years ago today I gave birth to my daughter. I walked into the house, putting away nappies and groceries, thinking about packing lunches and organizing the birthday party for next weekend. Another scene for the novel began drifting through my head. Joaquin stretched out in his car seat. Dan came in carrying Zaviera over his shoulder. He disappeared into the darkness of their bedroom. I put away boxes of granola bars in the cupboard.

Life and death swirled around me as I remembered the scent of lilacs on a day when I was a child and all of this was just a distant dream.



  1. Your mind reminds me of this burger we used to order at a little out of the way bar. You had to call ahead so they could cook was so big. You wanted to finish it, but there was too much to devour in one sitting.

    Happy Birthday Zaviera!

    • I love it – ‘call ahead so they could cook it’

  2. Your mind makes me feel like mine is a shallow tide pool, transparent and full of stuff no one has ever heard of, with occasional surges of creativity but mostly just sitting there, enjoying the sun.

    But in a totally good way.

    I need to find a friend with and empty apartment.

    • Whatever Ms. Tomi. You don’t fool me with this ‘lalalala my mind is a happy breeding ground for tadpoles’ ;o) ! And believe me, the shallows of my mind are some of my favorite places to hang out! Summer usually allows me to splash around in there. Post-surf, a belly full of mango…and I am happy in an inch deep of sun warmed water.

  3. This is exactly how my mind works: in layers, and covering that same span! My husband always teases me because I’m always thinking so deeply about things at such mundane moments.

    I especially loved this, because I too have been thinking about this difference”…” I was thinking about the winter coming. I was thinking that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a sort of agitation that arises directly from an event that quickly passes. Joy is a result of faith. It grows out of peace.”

    You are spot-on. And I felt the same way for the past year, after my second boy was born. Permeable, is the way I describe it. The world saturates. It’s a gift though–because this is where creativity is… as you know…

    I’m so glad I found your blog. Do you mind if I share it on mine? I know many of my readers would love to discover your perspective and talent…

    • I would be honored to have you share my blog!
      And I am glad to know I am not alone – I loved how you described it as ‘permeable’. Perfect.

      • and p.s. (sorry replying first thing in the morning before the coffee has hit my bloodstream!) I loved what you said about the creativity. I totally agree. I am really trying to channel and sink into the state that i am in rather than fighting it. From past experience the permeability never quite goes away after having a child but it does ease off slightly (but only slightly!)

  4. Your mind reminds me that my mind is filled with pale and insignificant worries and that I should fill it with deeper thoughts as I seek out my company of angels. Raw and unedited suits you well.

    Happy Birthday Zaviera!

    • My mind has plenty of insignificant worries and I know you well enough to know that your mind is full of brilliant, gorgeous creatures and adventurous tides xoxo

  5. I don’t know if you have ever heard of a place between the islands of Jura and Scarba off the west coast of Scotland, named aptly Coire Bhreacain (Corryvreckan). Wiki has a special page for it under “Gulf of Corryvreckan”.

    The article there doesn’t mention that all the oceans and seas of the world end up in that corridor at some point, but it is true. The undercurrent, the tidepool, the rise and fall and swirling of the waters remind me of your thought processes.

    I have been there. It is breathtaking, amazing and beautiful, just like you.

    We think in similar patterns, even though I don’t have access to small children and lilacs in a cemetery…and I have been called “Corryvreckan” a few times.

    • Maggie – I LOVE this. Pure story material. *tucks it away in her beloved metaphor files for future reference*

  6. Amazing! Wow, I love the line: ‘Joy is a result of faith. It grows out of peace.’ Beautiful writing there. I hope all goes well with the work you have to get through.

    • I can get caught up in chasing around happiness and that can make a person miserable quicker than almost anything! Especially because happiness has nothing to do with things I have control over and is always temporary. Thanks for the good wishes on the work to be done…I need it.

  7. Wow. That’s a lot to take in for a Sunday morning.

    This is a really beautiful way to express such a variety of things at one time. One breath, one moment. Enjoy it while it’s there.

  8. Happy Birthday to our amazing and wild little Z!

    We love you dearly and know that your wild woman spirit will always prevail. xoxoxoxoxoxo

    @Sis — beautiful work and exceedingly touching on a personal level because I know the ‘characters’ firsthand. I can relate on the multi-layered mind functionality — my thoughts right now are like many little fragmented ghosts trying to survive in the maelstrom of activity that is my current life – think my sandwich is way too big to bite into at the moment! On Lilacs…our great grandmother used to grow them in her backyard and so, they are part of my memory, too, but in a different way. I planted a lilac bush in my backyard in her memory and in memory of the many joyful hours I spend playing in the magical and secret gardens of her backyard.

    Keep up the great work! You can get it done!

    Love to You,
    Yer Sis

  9. This reflection brought back the time right after my daughter(my first child) was born. A lump was discovered in my breast and back then you went in for surgery, no mamograms. I remember the days of waiting and feeling so deeply that if I were to die, my daughter would never know what it was like to be loved so completely for simply being there. I gave my self over to faith and I realized what it meant to briefly touch on pure joy. Sometimes it takes deep pain and deepest thoughts to reach it.
    Thank you for sharing.

  10. alegra – i’ve been sitting here with ‘alegra’ typed into the response box and nothing else for several minutes. you move me to want to say something anything, to connect. to be able to express how i relate. how what you said resonates with me. about how your writing makes me feel. and i catch myself holding back, time after time because i’m not a writer and i’m afraid to put myself out there. it makes me want to write you privately, like i have so many times in our decade plus friendship and just say ‘i love you i love you i love ; over and over, because that is all i can put words to. but this time, something had made me go public. different than in facebook public. and just tell you in front of your peers that i love you – that you make me think, and feel, and grow , and expand – and you make me a better, deeper person. always. i relate with what you say, and i envy your ability to say it the way you do. i love you my sister.

    • Like you, I have been thinking about my reply since yesterday when I first read your comment – that is how much it meant to me. As things go – I had just been talking about you/thinking about you for the last few days. I was thinking about the ways that I admire you and the things that you have taught me over the years (and yeah, wow, I think it has been about 14 years! Should I have admitted that publicly?) One of the memories that came back to me after I read this was of us cuddled up on the couch watching Matrix together and talking about it after, both of us saying: You get IT. That sums it up. Keep shining my beautiful friend, and please oh please, never hesitate to put those words down because i miss you and it was so wonderful to receive this!

  11. I would be too embarrassed to write what I was thinking about in any particular slice of the day, but then I’m a dude and we are wired a little different. Still, on occasion my mind does stray from dudely things and in those rare moments of more distaff thoughts you’ve inspired me to explore broader sentimental avenues.


  12. Is there a distinction between postpartum depression and postpartum vulnerability/hypersensitivity? Might it have something to do with a person’s threshold for pain?

    Feeling fragile is not always a dangerous thing. If you’re still finding beauty in your fragility, I tend to think you’re still in the safe zone.

    (Be careful though, my friend. If you sense yourself toeing that line….)

  13. (P.S. Intimately acquainted with PPD here; I fear that part of birthing this baby more than anything.)

  14. You write beautifully. Don’t I know the feeling of answering the “what’s on your mind” question without seeming unsociable or avoidant.

    I saw your blog button in Magpie Girl’s sidebar. Glad i decided to click it and find out what here …


    • I am so glad you found me…I love an unexpected connection :o)

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