Cathartic Brain Drain

Writing is therapy for me. This is how I manage my thoughts and order my feelings, how I tally my emotions and file it all away. I think my thoughts and feel my feelings, and then writing helps me formulate what it all means to me and in getting the words on the page, I’m able to drain it all away and move on from there.

All that is another way of saying, get ready. Things might get messy.

Oh don’t get nervous. Not really messy. There will be no public running of mascara in this space. But today was a very, very hard day and the way I need to sweep and dust and mop is to sit here and let the words flow. It’s that whole writer thing versus blogger thing. Blogging feels much more like: what is the message I need to share today? Writing is: I. Must. Get. This. OUT.

Here, in this space, writing is what this next little season in my life is about. That might also mean I close comments because ironically, I get all shy feeling when I write like this and there’s that complicated mix of “someone left the sweetest comment!” and “only thirteen comments? Why so few?”

So, today. Rough.

I think I mentioned this before but I’m noticing in this season of watching my mom suffer so, that I can handle all that just fine but don’t throw me any curve balls. For some reason I’ve had a few lately. It’s the kind of thing where I wonder if I’ll look back a few months from now and laugh at the circumstances that pushed me to the limit or if I’ll say “wow! No, seriously, that was stressful no matter what.” Funny little things like a slight change to one carpool I’m in and it all suddenly felt overwhelmingly EPIC. And some communication with a friend that I totally misunderstood that I took really hard.

Today I also got caught up in some Internet drama — which I rarely do, honestly. I’ve been really lucky that my worst experience with on-line pettiness has included one man a few years ago telling me to give up writing and either have another baby or join the Junior League (did not join the Junior League but opted to have that baby) but please just get a life (the man actually later apologized! And we exchanged some heart-to-heart emails) and someone writing that the show I am on needed a style consultant which, while a little hurtful, might be true (wonder if she’d be willing to hire one for us?).

But I realized at the end of the day that I was thinking about that on-line situation (that involved some people I really love, not me) and that it was depleting me, much more than it should. Perhaps much more than it would under normal circumstances.

Add to this the fact that I didn’t have much to do today — nothing to complain about, I agree! — but I opted to use my “free time” (while Isa napped, and then continued to nap while Henry had some down-time) to watch a movie. A two hour movie. The Joy Luck Club. Have you seen it? Not a real laugh-a-minute.

So lower and lower I sank into my solitude and quiet and dangerously pensive place of sadness and fatigue. Watching a movie about moms and daughters and thinking about my mom. About half-way through the movie Henry got home from preschool and as I was outside getting him from carpool, my mom and dad got home from a long doctor’s appointment that involved getting fluids and working to get on top of some infections (stuff that I realize is standard issue with chemo). But there was my mom with mask to help avoid further infections and head scarf and just looking wiped out. And I hated it. I know she’s a fighter and all that good stuff, but my gosh I hate this.

And then, dumb old me, went back to watching this emotionally gut-wrenching movie while a) thinking about my mom and b) thinking about Internet drama and c) thinking about my feelings and d) thinking a little more about my feelings. All the while eyeing a fern on my front porch that looked dried out and me worrying about that as well. Is the fern dying? Am I watering too much? Not enough? Why is this movie so sad? It’s all so terrible!

The thing I’ve noticed with me is that the more I “lay low” the more incredibly capable I am of “laying low.” Which means, when I spend two hours of some very good and appreciated down-time, then I want more down-time. This afternoon, I started getting this bratty attitude towards anyone wanting anything from me. “You want me to push you on that swing AGAIN? I’d rather sit in this chair here and think about how I’m feeling at the moment if you don’t mind.”

Now if this sounds a little worrisome, I entreat you to please not diagnose me with anything. I do appreciate the care and concern, but this has been going on for one day and the point of this post is to not admit this problem as much as get over the problem. In other words, I share to get it out and move on. I write to clear my mind, to empty the trash (so to speak) so I can just quit with all this thinking thinking thinking. Thinking is way overrated. Who’s up for some retail therapy?!

So there we go. No nice tidy finish, no cutesy lesson. Today, it’s just me filling the page of this moleskin to empty the space in my head.

(But hey! Thanks for reading. I appreciate your love.)


  1. We commenters out here can’t offer a whole lot of substance always…but know that your words were so well understood…

  2. Hang in there, sweetie ! You have a lot on yor plate right now, and having a “down” day is totally understandable. Some days, I think if one more person wants one more thing from me, I’ll just going to scream. And then we move on, because that’s what we do. Hope your day is better tomorrow.

  3. You don’t know me from Eve, but you, your mom and your families continue to be in my prayers.

  4. Some days are always worse, or better, than others. Hang in there.

  5. Getting it out is good. I can definitely identify with that feeling of having so much going on inside my head that I need to spill it out into something. Have you read Harry Potter? This is where a pensieve would really come in handy. Today was also really rough for me, but more in a numb sort of way than the lots-of-thoughts way. Amidst dealing with an overly tired and cranky 21-month-old, I dropped my five-month-old baby on his head. He’d just peed all over me and I wasn’t holding on very tight and he arched his back and twisted… and he fell four feet onto our wood floor, head-first. I just felt sick. We all made a trip to the ER where, thankfully, we learned that the baby’s just fine. But I feel awful. And the toddler didn’t give me any breaks — threw tantrums so wild that he has marks on his forehead from hitting his head against the crib railing. And then the floor. I started this day by saying, “Lord, grant me patience.” I end it saying, “Lord, have mercy!” I hope tomorrow is better, all around. Certainy I hope your mother feels better. I’ve been praying for her.

  6. You’re in our prayers nightly.

  7. As soon as I saw “Joy Luck Club” I thought OH NO. I have a tendency to melancholy too. It helps to get outside. Barring that, do something energetic like clean. It’s just hard when you’re already low.

    I’m a nurse and I work with cancer patients. It’s really really hard to be family to a cancer patient. Families suffer a little more invisibly and don’t have the here-and-now physical suffering and fatigue to take their attention from the more existential stuff. (I’m not in any way saying that it’s easier to be the patient or that they don’t suffer. Just that the family sort of suffers along with them in the shadows.)

  8. I think you hit the nail on the head with that retail therapy idea! Seriously, when I am in that place, sometimes a change of physical location is really helpful, especially if I can find a friend to go along. You fit thing, you, might enjoy meeting up with someone for a run (endorphins!). Where I live, I might do something a little off the beaten path like take the kids to the zoo. Now that the trash is out, good luck finding your positive motivator. I know it’s just one good idea away.

  9. I have been reading your posts about your mom and was in a similar place last lent with a friend who had cancer. It is hard and it is so true that the big issue seems to be able to be handled, the little stuff, not so much. I often felt like I needed a sensory deprivation tank. Hang in there, accept people’s love, care, concern and help. I found that people who didn’t know my friend were a big help to me. And have a margarita after shopping!

  10. Perhaps you are already doing this, but I want to encourage you to be faithful to your prayer time through this suffering and grief. Even if you’re drained and have nothing to say, continue to “show up.” The Divine Healer is present now for you and your mom, whether you can perceive His presence and consolation right now or not. How very much you are loved! I will offer prayers and sacrifices for you today, Rachel. God bless!

  11. Thanks for sharing both the inspiration of life and the discouragement of life because life is not one-sided and I know I need to know that others feel both sides as well. Authenticity makes a great writer, in my book.

  12. Rachel, I know you can handle all of this. Reading your book and your blog everyday, I know how strong and blessed you are. I know that life can be tough. There are days when I want my little guys to grow up fast so they can take care of themselves, but then I realize all that I will miss: the easy hugs and kisses that they might not want to share when older, the artwork that is just for me. Gosh I am tearing up right now thinking about it! Needless to say, we all really care about and pray for you and yours each day. Reading your words reminds your readers that there are triumphs and tribulations to any family and that by turning to God like you do, we are stronger. God bless you! Sorry if I rambled. 🙂

  13. Prayers for all of you as you go through this. It’s not an easy thing at all. And, I find, sometimes, it’s good to just wallow around. But, you’re right. Then we need to buck up and get on with life.

  14. Look at me I’m number 14, it’s not just 13! I love the Gist and am praying for your mom and family. God bless!

  15. God bless you! The pattern of self-wallow is one I can certainly identify with. Why is it so hard to just get up and move on sometimes? Ugh.

    May God’s peace be with and revitalize you! Got get ’em!

  16. Praying for you! When my daughter was going through cancer treatments, I was surprised to find that things felt harder after the immediate danger had passed and we were in the long slog to bring her back to health. I think sometimes the intense times can be *so* intense that we literally can’t process it until later. I can remember getting into an internet argument, too, about the time life slowed down and I was starting to process everything that had happened, and the stress of it all just about broke me. So silly to think about now, but at the time I was just the camel and that was the straw, heh. Anyway, I think anyone who has watched a family member suffer can sympathize totally with what you are saying. It’s a good thing to hear some voices from that side – the ones not in immediate physical pain, but emotional pain.

  17. another Julie says:

    Even though you say you can handle your Mom’s illness, it is using most of your emotional energy and depleting you. That’s why the little stuff gets big. Be kind to yourself. I loved the Joy Luck club, but if that kind of drama pulls you down instead of giving you strength, avoid it.

    Know that thousands of people are praying for you, and yes, keep up your own prayer life; especially reading the Psalms. I’ve been praying the Hours four times a day with the Phyllis Tickle books and every single day I’m given the Psalms that I need that day, whether to challenge, encourage, or comfort and strengthen. God is good!

  18. Catherine Carlson says:

    My oldest is 7 and I’m pregnant with my 5th. Last night as I dissolved into tears while fixing dinner, I thought “I wonder if that Testosterhome Mom ever gets to this point?” Knowing that I am somewhat normal helps to soothe the raging hormones just a bit. Here’s hoping we both get some retail therapy soon!

  19. Thinking of you and your family during this challenging time, hoping today is feeling a bit brighter for you. Blessings–

  20. Thank you so much for sharing. I am so glad I came across your blog. Just love your posts…they are so real. Hang in there and know that you and your family are in my prayers.

  21. Rachel I LOVE this post…and so get it…especially about the lay low part=more laying low. And then what I usually do is get mad at myself for laying low and then that doesn’t help and blah blah blah. Sleep helps and stepping back from all the ickies (like the drama) and then giving the house a good mop.
    I pray for your mom…I just love that picture of her that you posted awhile ago…she is stunningly beautiful and even while having her head shaved there she is, smiling away. Now that is a WONDERFUL, STRONG woman.