Breakfast in Bed, by Mary CassattI have not been in the mood lately.  First a little down, then a bit flat, then vaguely emotional. Certainly not flowing with creativity. Nothing serious. Just a stale discontent which gets in the way of doing what I want to do. So, I have missed several weeks of posting on my blog. This has disappointed me.

I have also found myself surprised by tears this week. A Taylor Swift song actually made me cry the other day. Could that be a clinical condition? “Why You Gotta Be So Mean” brought up images of the woman I had just had a counseling session with, who struggled with her children to survive years of domestic violence. Then I cried at the Huntington Library upon viewing the Mary Cassatt painting “Breakfast in Bed.” In the mother’s gaze, Cassatt precisely conveys the anticipated loss as the child looks out to the world. I am that mother years later – children off to college, concurrently relieved and sad.

It seems fitting that the post I have been unable to get going on for the last couple weeks is entitled “Not in the Mood.” How can I write about the state of being unable to write, when the condition itself logically prevents it? Virginia Woolf said, “Nothing is experienced until it is described.” So, Maybe I am only now experiencing it … because I am finally describing it. Such an unnerving enigma.

What stands in my way?

Is it distraction? There are so many other things to do. Things that are important that I don’t enjoy doing. Keeping up my house and running hills. Things that I do enjoy doing but that are not important.  Following Facebook and watching Colbert Report. Yet my soul knows it is essential to keep writing.  It is a thing that is important and a thing that I do enjoy doing. It helps me know myself and share myself with others. It allows me to metabolize my experience. But, I need to show up to the page.

Is it fear? The questions pass through me like they do anyone who struggles to create. In writing I am making myself vulnerable. Do I have anything to say? Will it be any good? Will people read it? What if people read it and it is no good? What if people don’t read it and it is good? Damn double binds! Risk looms on both sides.

Is it stress? So much is changing in my work. My job is being re-fashioned as the agency converts to electronic health records. Computer proficiency is not at the top of my resume! And now a position that I have felt confident and energized in for eight years feels simultaneously difficult and mundane. I am not shining these days; rather I feel like the special ed. kid in the back row struggling to keep up. I am tired, frustrated, and self-doubting.

Is it loss? My children have both been away at college for a year now, and I think I have handled it well. Yet, there is a quiet grieving taking place. It seeps out at unsuspecting moments. This grief has a capricious quality: rather puzzling because the empty nest has brought considerable gains – for me, for my marriage, and my ability to pursue other interests. But there is a subtle vacancy that comes and goes. It invades my dreams – lately dreams of babies born, babies lost, babies found, babies growing up only to regress again … bizarre but enticing. Dreams of becoming some mythic marsupial mother – my young stepping out of my pouch and having their walkabout, then tucking safely back in. Amid the soothing rhythm of my heartbeat, their appetites become wet again for foreign lands beyond my reach. They happily trot off, not looking back. I wait. I wonder. I worry. I turn to God, a shameless beggar …

Having now written about these moods preventing me from writing, I discover, that like many things in life, one does not have to be in the mood to write. And I received a delightful surprise: now that I have done it, I am in the mood. Writing about one mood was a stepping-stone to a better mood.

And not just to write. I am approaching something. I am not sure yet what it is. But, yes, I feel a stirring. On a gut level I know it. It is earthy and rich and good and will lift me up and stretch me. As I move through these many colored moods I discover a new and pleasant place. I sense opportunity. I am open.



  1. I can so relate to you, Lisa! Uwe and I are just about to launch into a new adventure, my sons are both pursuing their dreams and couldn’t be finer young men,Uwe and I love our time together. But a piece of me continues to struggle with my place in all this. Most days are wonderful but there are days when I hyper focus on the times I wasn’t patient, the moments I missed because I was distracted by things that didn’t matter. It brings tears to my eyes. I want those days back. But my solitary walk this morning was beautiful and calming.

    • Hey Pat, go easy on yourself. You obviously did an amazing work as a parent. Forgive yourself for any shortcomings – your imperfections probably actually helped your kids be more resilient anyway. I definitely relate to the regret though – I certainly would gladly redo at least one year if I could – the year of my depression, which I can imagine was devastating for my children. We all got through it though, and are possibly stronger in some ways, as a result. Grace abounds!

  2. Beautifully written, Lisa. I hope that you continue to show up (with your pen in hand) for your blog. It’s the chaos and loud noise
    abruptly halted with deafening silence, that brought me to tears. We anticipate their growing-up from the moment that our little ones are born — but it catches us by surprise and leaves us aching for our arms to be filled. Your children are blessed to have such a loving, engaged mother.

    • You understand perfectly Teri! Yes, my arms long to be filled, but I have many years of memories to cherish. And many years to come, of enjoying what my children will be and do. I was never one to cling to my kids or want them to stay young for me, so this feeling caught me off guard. There is a certain kind of surrender that makes it all a beautiful blessing. They are God’s, not mine.

  3. Debbie Cassettari

    Mitchell has been at college over a week now, and the house is still too quiet. Having both “boys” gone has good moments and sad ones, too. It is nice knowing they both are enjoying school yet the evenings are sometimes too quiet. I am looking forward to filling my days with new adventures and getting to the myriad of items I’ve been putting off. Onward and upward!

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