The Big Lie

I am just coming out of a depression. I don’t remember going into it, instead easing into it as if it were just a change of season.

I reminded myself that I was not feeling depressed. There was no self-flagellation, no remorse, no desolation. That was the big lie — that my reclusive behavior, my flat affect, and my resignation to being (in my eyes) a failure wasn’t depression.

Photo by Kat Smith on

Telling my colleagues that I was fine if they asked me if anything was wrong (and they asked me at least three times) was another lie. I am known in my workplace as being bipolar, and thus I feel I have to be on my best behavior lest they think I was going to the hospital again. I told my colleagues again and again that I was doing great, and maybe I even believed it because the temporary bubble of positive attention (that I felt I didn’t deserve) buoyed me. But then I fell back into the grey of my life this last winter.

It’s only now that my mood has risen with the Spring that I discovered how low I had fallen. I have depressive tendencies in Winter, but I didn’t expect to have fallen to the place I was this winter. The scale said I’d gained weight; I didn’t pay attention to my looks. I did very little. Too many times, I accepted negative self-talk as the truth about myself.

What could I have done differently? First, I could have caught the mood change sooner. I need to find some signs of the doldrums before they become depression. Second, I could have been more honest with myself and others, and maybe I would have accepted a medication change. Third, I could have been better to myself, but only after the first two were in place.

Bipolar Disorder is a weird disease, seeking balance in a body that wants to go to extremes. In fact, I am watching now to make sure I don’t tip in the other direction toward hypomania with its endless elation and debilitating restlessness. This is my life, and it’s not that bad. Maybe the biggest lie is the stigma I surround myself with that isolates me.

Post-Finals Life: Mindfulness or Mindlessness?

Some people spend years in Zen meditation to reach what the professor has attained at the end of a school year: An empty mind.

My brain is empty. I am no longer looking forward to the end of the year — it’s just there. Next week I will sit in office hours looking at my gradebook and giving exams. I will grade the exams. And then I will be done with the semester and … nothing. My mind will consider “What’s for lunch” an unsolvable calculus. My only emotion will be relief. If I even have an emotion; many times I just sleep for 23 hours straight.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

I’ll have a week of numbness to get over the oncoming train, which is the end of the college school year. Not so much mindfulness as mindlessness.

And then there will be summer semester and 20-some interns to supervise. But at least my days are more relaxing most of the time.

I Can’t Wait

I can’t wait till the school year is over. Have I mentioned that I can’t wait?

The students and I have made this journey for the year, broken into two semesters, and we’re tired. The semesters culminate in final projects and exams, and none of us are at our best. I remind myself of grace and the fact that I was once a student, and not one a teacher would ask for.

Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on

I have 75 students in classes and about 6 interns each semester. We all have our issues that weigh on us. Some of my students have issues with depression or anxiety or other mental health concerns. Many work at least part-time besides going to classes. Some have learning differences and need accommodations. A few have family issues that pull at them. People have died in their lives — some too young. All of this at the same time as an educational experience.

This summer, I will supervise somewhere between 14 and 20 students. But it’s a different experience. Summer is more relaxed for me because I lead the internships mostly from home over the computer. I don’t have a lot of exhausting face-to-face time (as an introvert, this is so big) and no meetings. I think it’s more relaxing for my students as well, as their performance anxiety is less in an internship where they’re learning by doing. My students are still working at regular jobs, sometimes even full-time, so they’re still under stress.

I can’t wait till summer, and it turns out I don’t have to wait long. I have the rest of this week, and then next week is finals. I’ll have a bunch of grading, and then I will be done. I will turn in grades Monday the 8th and then start my interns with a presentation on Wednesday.

Wish me luck.

Happy International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day!

National Today is a website which introduces the reader to the myriad declared days that grace the national and international calendars. Some of these holidays seem directly related to food industries (National Pickle Day is November 13) while others put into the forefront of people’s minds for a good cause (National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 23-29). But today I’m here to write about International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day and how to celebrate it.

The day started with a Howard V. Hendrix, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, who called people who published their work for free on the Internet as ‘pixel-stained technopeasants’ and stated that no writer should do so. Jo Walton, another writer and member of the SFWA, encouraged writers to do exactly what Hendrix disdained. And a holiday was born. (National Today, 2023)

Isometric alphabet. Black and White abc. Volumetric letters. Vector Illustration

I don’t know the details, but this sounds like a more modern debate between self-publishers (which I am) and those traditionally published. The debate seems to be whether self-published works are legit because they don’t have an industry gate-keeping the publication process. But those who have been mistreated by the traditional process look at the issue differently.

Turns out I’m a pixel-stained technopeasant and I didn’t even know it. I even write in the fantasy genre, so I am one of those pixel-stained techopeasants of which Hendrix spoke, although not an original technopeasant. I have published in online contests and journals which, although they had a gatekeeper, did not pay. Most Internet journals, in my experience, do not pay, just as most print journals do not.

How, according to National Today (2023) does one celebrate this day?

  • Read a blog
  • Publish for free online
  • Post a social media post

Here’s the free creative work:


There’s a push to ask you for your name,

And a pull ‘cause I have no right to know,

As I stand in the corner of the venue

With nothing in my mind except the color of your eyes.

There’s a push to sift through every word

And a pull to flee from disappointment

Still I remember and I polish all your words

And call myself the author of their shine.

There’s a push from the devil on my shoulder,

And a pull from my shreds of dignity

And I’m standing on one foot while juggling cats

And I don’t want what I want,

I don’t want what I want.

Exciting and Positive

I want something exciting and positive to happen today. The word ‘positive’ is important here, because I know people who would welcome a disaster as ‘exciting’. I may be involved in emergency and disaster management, but I don’t like that kind of excitement. So, I’m specifying exciting and positive.

I see excitement as something that will come into my life by an external happening. One thing I’ve noticed is that, at age 60 (almost), excitement doesn’t come from hard work. Hard work yields … more work to do. I imagine this revelation at a game show, where the emcee says, “And for your hard work you get … more hard work!” I don’t mind doing hard work, but it’s certainly not adding up to exciting. Or positive1.

I guess I’m looking for an opportunity. Or the Bluebird of Happiness dropping something good in my lap. Something to break the monotony and turn my emotions into something happier instead of ennui.

Photo by Tina Nord on

  1. Moulage gives me positivity.

Mine to Remember

That which is mine to remember, I cling to on grey days like this…

Photo by Lum3n on

Venturing into the attic as my father worked to restore it. The entire neighborhood late for school because my cat is having kittens. A gully washer sending rain cascading down the steps across the street. The hospital with its old wood panels and cordovan leather. The evening when I played in the street with my neighbor and my sister. Fishing in the park with my father, the first time I threaded a worm on a hook. When I finally got a boyfriend.

Going off to college unprepared and coming home again. Going back and staying there even through summers and Thanksgiving breaks. Growing microbes in Petri dishes and cooking pound cake in the food lab. Classes I skipped to sit on the Quad and watch people. 

Walking to my graduate classes barefoot and scandalizing my professor. Skinny dipping at the St. Joseph’s Sportsman’s Club on a skinny September night. Watching Star Trek with my friends. Losing Thanksgiving Break to a class project. Walking across the stage to get my PhD.

Exploring my new home across the country, walking everywhere. Being betrayed by a husband and breaking up. Spending a week in an inpatient facility that saved my life. Falling in hopeless, chaste love with a rock band. Moments I felt like the sky was falling down, but I persevered. Driving to the Adirondacks to camp by myself and feeling freedom.

Moving back to the Midwest to be with someone I thought was the one — he wasn’t. Buying a house as an act of solidarity with single professional women. Learning how important laughter was to a relationship. Driving for miles and miles before getting to the next town. Watching coffee shops pop in and out of existence. Finding the right man and marrying on St. Patrick’s Day. Watching my mother die nine months after our wedding. 

Appearing in a dunk tank for charity. Traveling to visit interns across Missouri and across state lines. Getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder and spending a few days at the hospital. Recuperating. Being moved into a bigger house. Spending a pleasant day with my father while he was in hospice.

And now I sit in the greying afternoon, having reviewed almost sixty years of life. All these memories are mine. I cling onto them as the things that define me.

Springtime and Tunnel Vision

It’s Spring, but I’ve hardly noticed.

I have noticed plants coming up in my front garden. An almost miniature rose, some lavender, and some that surprised me — mitsuba and bee balm and anise hyssop. The front garden needs some more plants, which I will plant in May. The fuki is taking over the side yard, and I’m worried about its prowess. I guess I’m not as oblivious as I thought, although I’m missing such things as kayaks on Colden Pond at the college, driving by student parties on Main Street, and taking a class outside because the classroom’s too hot (never mind, I did that).

It’s also the end of Spring semester — two weeks of classes and half a week of finals. I’m dealing with a flurry of interns and a last hurrah of grading and then finals and then — a much more relaxed summer.

Not that I have nothing to do this summer. I will wrangle somewhere between thirteen and twenty interns, presenting an orientation via Zoom and visiting them at their internship sites. But my home will be my office and there will be plenty of time to write.

It’s been a tiring year. Although it’s nice that Spring is here, I can’t wait until Summer break.


My head feels floaty right now. I spent the morning writing at Starbucks, drinking coffee to keep the ideas coming. One thousand words later, I had met my writing goal and gotten enough caffeine for two days. Now I really want to do something and nothing at the same time.

It’s a rainy day. It would be nice to take a nap. But no, my brain is taking a trip across the universe. It wants to DO something, but it can’t keep still long enough to focus on something. It wants to FURTHER MY CAREER, with no notion of what that would take. My brain wants to make a BIG AUDACIOUS GOAL, but not complete it. It WANTS RESULTS, but is in no shape to plan.

Photo by lil artsy on

Why do I do this to myself? Because it’s coffee, wonderful coffee. I have a sense of amnesia, not remembering how things went the last time I drank too much coffee. So I drink coffee, drink more coffee, and drink even more coffee until my teeth are humming.

The coffee is wearing off. I know this because I just fell asleep in the middle of writing this. Now I’m staring at my screen, wondering how much time I lost to the unauthorized nap, and I think it’s been about a half hour. The buzz has gone away, yielding to a glimpse of what it’s like to be a zombie: I’m awake, but with no volition.

Not good. I want to make something happen, create something. Spend this rainy evening more productively. Wait! Maybe more coffee?

Now, the Mid-Life Crisis

I suppose it’s a little late to have a mid-life crisis. I didn’t have one at forty — at forty, I barely felt thirty. At fifty, I felt rebellious that anyone would think me old, because I didn’t feel old. Now, at almost 60, I’m horrified that I’m now old enough to be my students’ grandmom (if the generations had babies really early, that is)

A lot of things have changed. I no longer feel that sense of possibility that I felt, even in my fifties. I don’t feel that my life could change for the better at any moment. My life is stable, with no magnificent giddy highs. I don’t know what I think of that, because magnificent giddy highs are fun. Or, at least, they were.

Photo by Krivec Ales on

My Big Audacious Goals are not so big or audacious. I miss the ability to dream big. I feel like I don’t have the sweeping vistas in my head to make big goals. My goals are more realistic, more grounded. I achieve them, but with little fanfare.

I will find something of worth at this stage in my life. Maybe my writing will become more grounded and need less editing. I may be less distracted by pretty things. Perhaps I will make deeper goals. It’s just that I’m shocked by the change and wonder where it’s taking me.

It’s Raining and I Want To Take a Nap

We’re having a slow thunderstorm here in Maryville, MO. The heavy clouds hang overhead, darkening the sky. From the clouds, an ominous rumble emanates. It’s almost seven-thirty, and morning appears to have fled. A streak of horizontal lightning jolts the neighborhood.

Photo by Martinus on

I sit in my writing place, on the loveseat in the living room, near the window, and I want to take a nap. I close my eyes to think about writing this piece and I fall asleep sitting up, just for a moment.

This is the opposite of who I want to be. I want to be awake, dynamic. I want to write beautiful prose. I want to get many things done —

Who am I kidding? I want to take a nap.

It’s the perfect day to crawl back into bed, ignoring coffee and work to do, and turn off the light. I feel like I could sleep for twelve hours and wake up happy, or at least less blah than this weather has made me.

But I have promises to keep (Thank you, Robert Frost) and coffee to drink (Thank you, Richard). I have to meet with my boss and hold office hours and attend a faculty meeting. I might have time to write on my WIP (Work in progress, in author-speak). I’ve already done some grading (I get up very early). Tonight will be soon enough to sleep.