Friday, November 15, 2013

The IPhone Has Not Changed My Life

The iPhone has not changed my life yet. Or perhaps I should say it has not changed my marriage. Or even, that no matter how smart the new phone, it has not made me any smarter. 

You be the judge. 

The most anticipated feature of my new phone was the GPS feature. I am hopeless at finding my way places. (For details on this, please see topical section "A Life of Losing" at right.) And not only am I often lost, I hate, hate, hate being lost and experience primal fear and hostility while lost. My beloved husband usually bears the brunt of this, as it is he I used to call to look up directions for me when lost, being GPS-less. Please, technology, rescue me!

Well, this week, I drove to the wilds of residential Orange to purchase a desk for my daughter, found on Craig's List. Jeff, being Jeff, had typed the directions into my phone for me the night before and set up the route, a feature I had not yet learned to use. I made it to the house only having to make one u-turn and this because my six year old daughter was repeating the directions to me from the back seat. Being six, she didn't do it very accurately. 

All was well until I knocked on the door of the rather questionable-looking house until no one opened the door. I texted "Wendy," Craig's List seller, and told her we were out front. The door opens. A man missing most of his teeth answers. "A desk?" he says, puzzled. "Let me go ask my wife." He returns a moment later. "No, I'm sorry, we don't have a desk for sale."

I return to my vehicle, where Wendy has texted to say that she is out front of her house and I am not there. I check my written directions. I check my iPhone. There is a two-digit discrepancy in the address. I text Wendy and tell her what happened. I call my husband and tell him I would like to strangle him with my bare hands. Lovingly. He says it's easy to search for the correct directions. 

I say really? How could it be? You can't even type in the right address. Children in the back seat look worried. I growl at my phone. I can find  directions to the place I am already, from the place I want to be (hardly helpful), but can't figure out how to flip it around. I growl at my phone again. I go back to old ways: I call my husband and have him give me step by step directions to navigate around a street in Old Orange that has been cut up, disjointed and put back together in mystifying ways. 

I arrive on the correct block. Small children, a large black lab and a smiling father approach my car, waving. Hurray! This must be Wendy's husband, come to greet me. I begin to apologize, to explain, to disparage iPhone's non-intuitive system after all, to ask to see the desk. 

"I'm sorry," says the smiling father. "I have no idea who you are." 

I look at his address. It is two numbers off. I get back in my car. I cry. I make a u-turn. I check the address again. I park in front of the correct house (two doors down from smiling father) and see that the family and their dog are still watching me. 

Wendy and her husband come out of their garage. They are so lovely and gracious and well groomed and sympathetic as to the ills of technological navigation, that I want to beg them to take me inside and make me a cup of tea. Or possibly adopt me. Instead, I pay them $35, and allow them to help me load the desk into my trunk, from which I clumsily extract three blankets, a beach umbrella and two dirty folding chairs (humiliation upon humiliation). Wendy's husband assures me the situation is actually funny. I tell him it will be in an hour. 

I drive away, apologizing to my children for losing it (both literally and emotionally) and thanking God that neither of the three strangers houses I just went to housed a serial killer or even a grouch. 

What is the moral of my story? I'm not really sure, friends. I think it's a long way of saying either "Wherever you go there you or" or "A good carpenter never blames her tools." Or her husband. 

In the meantime, the story has in fact become funny to me. And I think I have learned how to use my maps feature correctly. I also learned how to use my voice dial and voice texting function. Did you know your iPhone voice function can correctly spell supercalifragilisticexpialadotious and distinguish between the would and the wood in "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck" tongue twister? I checked. If I ever get lost again, what a comfort this will be. 

Stay tuned for more adventures in technology. You can be sure there'll be plenty.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What I Preach

I don't know if all teachers, speakers, and pastors have the same experience, but I am not allowed to say anything from the stage that I am not asked to live out within a week. 

In October I was hired to address a group of young mothers at a church in Oceanside, in which many of the women are military wives, and have husbands stationed at nearby Camp Pendelton, or currently deployed oversees. Their speaker coordinator asked for my talk "What Can Postpartum Depression Do for You?" my least popular topic. Really, who wants to get a morning off from their kids and listen to a talk on anxiety and depression? But I'll drive to any group that asks me to talk about this, because the statistics on women who suffer from depression in our country are staggering (about one in four with be diagnosed in their lifetime).

I try to approach the subject with order, humor and a light hand. I have well organized slides, funny stories about breastfeeding on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, and practical tips. 

But it didn't work out that way, on that day. From the moment I began to speak, a woman in the back of the room burst into tears. About 15 minutes in, someone at every table was crying. As I spoke about risk factors and causes of anxiety, I realized that the military wives could probably put a check next to every one on the list. And somehow without making a conscious decision to do so, I set aside my clever outline and instead laid out my raw experience before them: my fear, my pain, my confusion, my brokenness. And eventually, my rescue.

I didn't get to be a wonderful, funny speaker that day; I didn't feel great about my entertainment value or my skills on stage.  But instead I saw that through me, God gave these women an opportunity to share their pain with each other, and shine light on what had been a source of shame for so many of them. In the group I sat with after my talk, the women on either side of me shared that they had both experienced severe PPD, and neither of them had told anyone before but their mothers and husbands. 

I don't know if I got through all my points on "paths to healing" that day, but I did get to the first: Come clean and tell someone what you are going through. And boy, did those brave women take that step. 

I got to my second major point too, and this one I was called on to practice: All of us mothers need to stop trying to do everything alone. We need to accept that each one of us has both physical and emotional limitations, which are unique to us. We are foolish if we aren't willing to ask for help when we have -- or, even better, before we have -- come to the end of our rope. 

I spoke in two different groups that week in October, each over 50 miles from home. I was sick with a nasty cold, but I pushed through with prayer, cold medicine and adrenaline. By the drive home through Camp Pendelton I was both sobbing with sympathy and snuffling with mucus. I had totally lost my voice by dinnertime. 

By the next morning, I had a migraine, so painful it was difficult to stand. Ignoring my own advice, I drove myself to Sophia's soccer game. On the way to the Olivia's game, I almost couldn't drive. I went home instead, crawled (literally) to my bed, and called my neighbor in tears, begging for Excedrin. She offered to go buy some for me (God bless her), but instead I called my mommy. And she came right over. She brought me food, drink, and medicine. She went to Target for me and bought Kleenex, bread, milk and toilet paper (all of which we were out of because I had been too sick and busy to go to the store). 

She patted my hand and sat with me until I went to sleep. I hardly ever let my mom take care of me like this, even though she wants to do it and is excellent at it. In fact, part of why I got PPD six years ago is that I didn't ask her to help me when I had acute bronchitis and a 10 day old child. She respected my boundaries, but at that moment my boundaries were bad. I needed help.

Meanwhile, my husband had the kids with him for Olivia's game, and another game he had to referee. He got them lunch at a drive through. They were tired and bored, but they made it. Mommy couldn't take care of them, but they survived anyway.

Here's what postpartum depression did for me. It stripped me of the illusion that I can make it through motherhood (or life in general) on my own. I can say that now with absolutely no shame. In return, it gave me the comforting knowledge that there are a lot of people in my life willing to stand by me when I can barely stand. I have a lot more of them now than I did five years ago, and most of them are willing to call me when they are sick, desperate, sad, or all three. I'm so grateful! All our children are also reaping the benefit of this village of imperfect moms, a small army of "aunties" and Mrs. So-and-sos that care for and love them. 

Most of all, I'm grateful to be able to share the most precious piece of my story: that when the only prayer I could pray was "Help me!" God did. He comforted me with scripture and His own gentle presence; through my husband and my friends; through medication and therapy. And ultimately, He called me to share the experience with other women. 

So that whether they ever suffer from a clinical mood disorder, or just experience the emotional ups and downs that are part of being human (especially female), they can experience freedom from perfectionism, come out of isolation, and know what it is to love and be loved just as they are. 

Ultimately, this is always the subject on which I "preach." It is for freedom that we have been set free. I'm beyond thankful that there are women willing to listen. God bless you all.