What depression is like for me today

This is week two of being pretty depressed. And I realize that I’ve been depressed for a long time. I lose track of how long. There are phases. It’s been a lifetime. Years and years and years. It ebbs and flows and sometimes I’m not even that self-aware of it because it’s so normal. And then there are times when I feel happy and realize how depressed I’ve been. I will have a moment of inspiration and feel alive. And depression is not just about being sad, a lot of times it’s melancholy, hopelessness, and lack of energy. It’s a very weird thing to live with. It can be dark, beautiful, and not always painful. Sometimes it’s like being under water and everything looks like that. And it can be many shades, not always gray. And I realize that this is part of my existence. I don’t think it will ever be cured and I’m not sure that’s the point. Understanding would be nice because pressure and judgment don’t help at all. Love and empathy are everything. It’s not because you need attention, it really is life blood when you are sinking like a rock. And with all I’ve learned, I will never tell anybody that happiness is a choice, they should be grateful, someone has it worse, they just need to do this or that or look on the bright side. I will just be there and be a friend and not instruct. I won’t tell them what to think or what they should do. I will just accept someone else’s feelings without having to control them. And I don’t have to understand everything to support someone. I don’t need to project my life experiences onto someone else or make it OK. Sometimes the most powerful things we can do are validation, apologies, and showing up. Telling me not to live in the past minimizes my pain. Comparing me to someone else is disrespectful. You don’t have to have the answers. Nobody really has the answers. Unconditional acceptance is wisdom. I’m glad when someone listens.

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Nurse Kathy & Receptionist Mary

While Baby Imani was in the hospital, we got to know Nurse Kathy – a woman with a heart-shaped face and heart-shaped life. Close to retirement, she was still as joyous as someone just beginning a career of her dreams. Her smile shone from her eyes as she worked. When I met her for the first time, she hugged me, pulled back to smile directly at me, and then embraced me again. It made me feel warm all over, and safe – like everything would be OK because she was there. Along with her beautiful smile, she laughed from the inside, with her head back, and sang or hummed as though she didn’t have a care in the world. I needed her validation, after having been abandoned during my pregnancy, and before that, losing everything when I left home and church. It was a wonderful surprise at a time when I had almost nobody.

“Hi, Bridget! Look at your little angel, I put a bow in her hair,” Kathy said. Drawing closer to the isolette, I peered in at my tiny baby attached to tubes and sensors under three banks of lights. Her miniature face was covered with an eye guard attached to pieces of velcro stuck to the sides of her head. And on the top of her fragile head, still recovering from birth trauma, adorned by a sparse coat of jet black hair, was a bright, pink bow, set in Vasoline.

In that moment, we were honored as a family. Kathy gave us a gift, symbolized by a plastic bow with a dab of Vasoline. My daughter was treated like she was special, and worth loving by not only me, but people who would meet her. And I as her mother was regarded with respect, as I was presented with my decorated child. Kathy moved us beyond what we were thought of by judgmental society to a position of grace. Here in this NICU on the University of Minnesota campus, I was more than a teen mom, and Imani was more than my assumed mistake. We were important.

When I visited Imani every day, Kathy was often there. Sometimes she would be changing Imani’s diaper, or cleaning her up, singing as she did. Like every visit, I parked in the hospital lot, took the elevator up to the 4th floor, and was buzzed in to the NICU through the double doors. Mary was at the desk during the day, and we chatted while I signed in. She would one day mail me the records of my sign-ins as a keepsake. All day, she greeted parents, family members, and professionals, as though each one mattered to her especially. Her imprint on me is lasting because she made me feel welcome. There were not many places in the world where I felt welcome in my situation. But Mary. Mary made me feel welcome. With people like Kathy and Mary, we would make it.

Reflections on my daughter going to college

I’m both ready and not for my daughter to leave for college. I know she’s going to the best place, a truly wonderful place, where she will be able to spread her wings and fly. And I will be able to work on my empty-nester bucket list, that has been in the works since I became a mom at 18, and enjoy some of my own newfound freedom. I’m excited because I know that she will be able to chase her dreams, meet so many people from around the world, and expand her world. I hope that she will find her sense of home and community. All of my motherly worries are wrapped up with joyful anticipation into a giant knot of mixed emotions in my stomach. This moment is what I have prepared her for all these years: a successful launch into adulthood. It’s a time that has always been very abstract, that never felt like it would really happen. But now that it’s here, I attempt to process it. Although I know that this won’t really begin to happen until I watch her walk away from me – with more permanence than waving goodbye on the school bus to kindergarten, the first venture to camp, or those early play dates. She will be back, but it won’t be the same. In my heart, I know that she will carry my love with her, and it will be a light to help her find her way in her life and lead her back to me. She will always be my sweet, funny, curious, precocious little girl who taught me about love and life. That is why it is both so hard and beautiful to let go in such a big way.

Miss Frigerio

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With my third grade teacher, Miss Frigerio, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when I was in her class, described what it was like, and who had already passed away (in a nursing home) in her 20s when I went back to visit just a few years later. I remember the love she showed her class and all the personality she put into teaching. When we consider stem cell research and investing in other medical treatments, we need to think of people like her, who died too soon, were dearly loved, and had so much left to give the world.

Single Mothers Redefined

I met with Imani’s high school counselor today for some business related to her college applications. She said that she would not have known about a lot of her activities if I hadn’t told her because she is so humble. I told her that she doesn’t like to talk about herself. I do that for her, a little too well maybe. Then she said that I’ve been a remarkable role model for my daughter, accomplishing so many things as an independent woman. It kind of took me by surprise because I’m used to feeling like people think I’m inferior as a single mother. But she put a whole different spin on it. We should treat all single mothers this way. She didn’t try to tell me that she knows what it’s like, and make it about her. She just focused on our story, and honored us in a very dignified way.

Being In Bloom – Musings…

Being In Bloom

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Compassion

Chapter 2: Courage

Chapter 3: Contemplation

Chapter 4: Grace

Chapter 5: Love

Chapter 6: Legacy

Chapter 1: Compassion

Empathy is not only right and good, but strategic for our own preservation.

Thank you to all the good people in the world. You’re the only reason that many of us feel safe to open up. And that is a gift.

A lack of compassion is the root of all evil.

If someone can see the person in you that they love no matter what is happening in terms of circumstances or the external, that is truly powerful, wise, and authentic.

It takes courage for your friends to stand by you at times. I understand when they can’t. It’s beautiful when they can.

I love people who care, have heart, and stand up for principles, no matter the risk or consequence. You are the ones who change the world. Thank you!

Women sometimes like the idea of powerful women when it is they who are on top, but are not necessarily ready for the idea of other women succeeding and being powerful in their own unique way. Let’s celebrate many brands of what it means to be powerful. If we are sincere women leaders, we can.

If you’re exposed to enough people, you don’t see anyone as different.

I know what a sincere heart looks like.

We can remember and acknowledge people that we appreciate for who they are and what they do, and for putting their heart into making the world a better place.

I’m not less because of how I think, feel or express myself, or because of what I have been through. I’m a survivor and I’m proud of it.

The world has changed, thanks to loving, courageous people who created safe spaces to share, express, and be, as ourselves.

A friend is someone you don’t have to hide yourself from, but who makes it safe and good to emerge as you are into a loving space.

As I was driving through the night, I stopped at one of many gas stations. I explained that I was going to try to make it back and hoped I would be able to stay awake long enough to do so. A man working at a gas station said that might not be a good idea and he didn’t want to see me get into a wreck, so he offered me a safe place to park my car and take a nap, wake up call, and a cup of coffee. After camping out for an hour and a half, I felt ready to get back on the road, and I wanted to avoid rush-hour traffic because I knew that would make me even more anxious than nighttime driving. This man is one of those ordinary heroes that nobody knows about and probably would never consider himself one.

Chapter 2: Courage

Ode to my parents: 
We took a vote in the family. Instead of building a house in the desert, we were moving to Minnesota. It would be bittersweet leaving Arizona. My earliest memories emerged there. The world that I first saw. What I first opened my eyes to. My mother gave birth to me in Minneapolis, but my parents decided to move to Phoenix when I was a baby because they had so enjoyed their honeymoon there. What a romantic beginning for a family. A young couple in love with their new baby girl.
It was magical. My mom and dad doted on me. I was very loved and felt special. They delighted in the things that I did, and treated me like they had not only wanted me, but were even happier now that I was there. They cuddled with me, read books to me, sang with me, and took me everywhere. They were so proud.

“Bridgie, show grandma how you can say the alphabet!”

“Bridgie, walk silly!”

“Bridgie, tell us again about the dream you had!”

They were very sweet. Every child should enter the world to such a grand welcome. I’m not sure where they learned how to be so amazing, but they made life so good that I would go back and relive it.

Thank you, Mom and Dad! I love you!

I’m so tired of women feeling like they have to be skinny and pretty. How about powerful? Smart? Accomplished? Bad-ass? It is so sexist that we are expected to look a certain way and be the ones to give up everything. So glad we have some role models that aren’t fake beauty babes in the mags!

A girl who isn’t afraid of science, being smart, and expressing her opinion on something controversial – that’s what’s hip!

Sending love to all the sad people who need it most. The mean and angry ones also because deep down, they are hurting. Much of our negativity is rooted in pain and comforted by love and compassion.

I was once a young single mom with a sick baby, living in subsidized housing, walking to work, and getting a holiday meal from the food shelf. Now, I’m working to help people like me. That’s the beauty of America. Help your neighbor, pay it forward, be American.

Chapter 3: Contemplation

Being poor is not immoral, but shaming the poor is! A society that kicks people when they’re down, instead of trying to understand how to solve systemic problems that contribute poverty in the first place, needs to engage in some deep, long overdue self-examination.

My daughter received a letter in the mail from her good friend who moved away. This morning, she had a letter of her own to send in return. When we got outside to the car, which takes a while with a walker and partial paralysis, I asked if she wanted to put it in the mailbox, or if she would like me to. At this point, she was holding onto the door handle with her walker off to the side, getting ready to get in the car. She smiled at me, gestured to leave the walker behind, stood tall, and said, “Just hold onto my arm, mom.” So I gave her my arm and she proudly started off, each step increasingly confident. We were surprised by her agility. Sometimes she needs a lot of support, and each step can be an achievement. But this morning, why, she delivered that letter herself, putting the flag up, and going back to the car. What could have been a very ordinary exercise was instead a delightful one. What could have been a moment to wish things were easier became a proud one. That set the tone for our day – a little trip to the mailbox. I hope you have a nice moment to set the course of your day, too. Or redirect it.

Chapter 4: Love

Love is all around us.

My Grandma doesn’t know me anymore, but we shared such intimate moments today. We sang together – “Jesus Loves Me” – just like when I was a girl. After a couple verses, I got too choked up to continue, so I just watched her beautiful face carry on. She sang for the next hour, wherever she went, her eyes so bright, her smile so joyful. It was breathtaking. And when I left her to her dinner, after she settled in for a few minutes, I kissed her and said I love her. She sweetly, almost still singing, and without hesitation, said “I love you” back to me. And as I walked away, she called, “I love you!” Our seniors are such treasures. We need to spend more time with them before they leave us. Their time is short, and precious.

I still get to snuggle with my daughter like I did when she was brand new. I told her at bedtime that I love her always and that she is forever my baby. I cherished the moment, knowing she will one day grow up…but, not today, not just yet. I know I will run out of time to have such moments, but they will be gifts in my heart, and there will be more, different moments waiting ahead. I hope she’s having sweet dreams, knowing how special she is to me. I will sleep happy, knowing she’s happy.

There is nothing quite like a sunset at my parents’ home in the country, and a dinner with the family. Cozy and warm inside a house filled with the aromas of spices released from cooking, the chatter of our clan, the babbling and crying of babies, and the ambiance of good energy and happiness.

Chapter 5: Grace

Tonight, after work, I waited for a long time at the store behind a woman who was buying a lot of toys. I figured she was gift shopping, so I amused myself with looking at tabloid magazine covers and items I wasn’t the least bit interested in. When she had finished her purchase, she proceeded to put every single toy into the toy drive box on the counter, leaving only a gallon of milk on the counter to take with her. It was none of my business, but I was so delighted by her generosity that I blurted, “Wow, you’re donating all of that to the toy drive? You’re a sweetheart!” She responded with a modest answer about how it was no big deal and that she had saved money on her total bill, and then left with her gallon of milk. Right under our noses, people do so much good – like it’s completely ordinary.

Freshly-fallen, very fluffy snow. I love how it hangs on the branches of the trees.

We need to do a better job of loving each other in this world. Less hate, more love. That is all.

Take care of each other.

Our hearts are wells of both sadness and joy, which would not exist without each other.

When I was a teen single mom with a medically-fragile baby, I told myself that I would use my experiences to help others, and that kept my spirits up. This year, I went further into politics to make a bigger difference, fully mindful of where I’ve come from. I am doing what I promised myself I would do. It’s happening right now.

My daughter told me this morning that she likes her limp because it’s like a dance that tells part of her story.

Chapter 6: Legacy

I am being tested in every which way right now. Yet, I feel like a graceful tree dancing with the hurricane winds. Seems that every adversity until now has taught me well. I can remain whole, I can breathe, and I can smile. I am not afraid, weak, or retreating. I am only dancing.

Hold your head high.

Love yourself.

You are original art.

I was at a park in Minneapolis today when a preschool class swarmed the playground. I noticed a darling little girl at the bottom of a slide. While thinking to myself how cute she was and wondering her age, I noticed that she had a physical disability affecting her legs. She was totally inconspicuous because nobody treated her like she was ‘disabled.’ When the class was rounded up, she fell in line – just like everyone else. These preschool teachers ‘get it’ and may not fully realize the level of inclusion they are practicing. Fabulous moment.

When one dream dies, breathe life into a new one.

My life is rich because of the people I’ve met and the people I’m lucky to know.

And when all is said and done, the trail we leave behind us shines brightest where we sprinkled kindness.

Love’s Familiar Hand

As she had done for sixty years
She reached for his hand
That familiar clasp
It was reassuring, known
With time, soft, wrinkled, more beautiful
And she reached, stretched
But then she remembered
He was but a memory
Like a faded dream
Blurry vision of joy
So she breathed his name
Called to the past
Whispered to longing
And was still with what remained

Ode To My Parents

We took a vote in the family. Instead of building a house in the desert, we were moving to Minnesota. It would be bittersweet leaving Arizona. My earliest memories emerged there. The world that I first saw. What I first opened my eyes to. My mother gave birth to me in Minneapolis, but my parents decided to move to Phoenix when I was a baby because they had so enjoyed their honeymoon there. What a romantic beginning for a family. A young couple in love with their new baby girl.
It was magical. My mom and dad doted on me. I was very loved and felt special. They delighted in the things that I did, and treated me like they had not only wanted me, but were even happier now that I was there. They cuddled with me, read books to me, sang with me, and took me everywhere. They were so proud.
“Bridgie, show grandma how you can say the alphabet!”
“Bridgie, walk silly!”
“Bridgie, tell us again about the dream you had!”
They were very sweet. Every child should enter the world to such a grand welcome. I’m not sure where they learned how to be so amazing, but they made life so good that I would go back and relive it.

Everything About You is Beautiful

Everything about you is beautiful

Absolutely everything

I love your contagious laugh

Your soulful eyes that reflect so much kindness and love

The way you gesture when you speak

How you make me feel so warm and happy

You have the cutest nose

And perfect, kissable lips

Sensitivity of an artist

Intelligence of a scientist

Heart of compassion

Wit of a comedian

Words that you speak to me are gifts of your soul

You sparkle on rainy days

In the dark, you’re my light

In my universe, you’re the brightest star

When I awake in the morning, thinking of you gives me joy

Waking up next to you is heaven

And falling asleep, wrapped in your love, I am at peace with the world

I love you so much

Everything about you is so beautiful