Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Precious normal

Wow, I've gone even longer than usual without posting, and now the prospect of updating you on everything that's been going on makes me wish I'd checked in a lot sooner.

First off, of course, Mom has visited since I last wrote. She was here for 12 days attending the Principal's Institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, thanks to a grant from a nonprofit for Texas educators. All her expenses were paid—airfare, tuition, a room at the gorgeous Charles Hotel, a lot of awfully nice meals with her grateful daughter…. In other words, Too. Effing. Cool.

Then, on the Sunday before last (which was her only full day off—have I mentioned before that Harvard doesn't kid around?) we took the commuter rail to Concord, home of transcendentalism, revolutionary war history, and the founding of the lovely hippie church Mom attends in Austin.

It was serene, verdant, quaint, and wonderful. I found it bizarre how different the landscape changed from Cambridge and Boston in just that 30-minute train ride. Sure I come from Texas, which has 15 or 20 different ecosystems all in the same state, but they also take 15 or 20 hours to cross.

Anyway, fast forward to three days later, when we were beyond stoked to be together for the July 15 opening night of the new Harry Potter movie. The affection Mom and I share for children's literature, especially by our hero J.K. Rowling, has made these releases a kind of pilgrimage for us in past years. How miraculous it seemed when, despite living 1900 miles apart, we happened to be together for this one as well.

Also miraculous: the dinner she, Russell, and I shared beforehand at a tiny, hip downtown Italian restaurant called Teatro.

But Mom headed home the next day, and life is back to normal now. If plugging quietly away at various legal memos while your boss is in Africa and your summer runs headlong toward Law Review competition results and the start of a new semester at Harvard can be considered normal.

Speaking of Harvard, the results of the electives lottery are finally in. Meaning I finally have a fall schedule—and a full one, too, since the system keeps assigning courses until you hit the maximum of 15 credit hours. Of course, I’m not thrilled about a schedule entirely made up of electives, so I’m still crossing my fingers I’ll get one of the two Evidence courses on whose wait lists I’m ranked pretty high. This leaves a lot in the air, but I’ll be sure to post my schedule once that changes, which will hopefully be soon.

Also big in my life right now: the third season of HBO’s The Wire, courtesy of Widener Library at Harvard (though only after a wait list nearly as long as the ones for Evidence.) Russell and I are completely absorbed and expect to be finished well within the week we’re allotted by the library. Funny, though, how the school impacts my life even during summer break.

Finally, I'd like to point out how much we’ve been cooking out lately. The grill in the courtyard really beckons in the cool, mostly sunny evenings we’ve been having. Most recently, we experimented with tofu and vegetable kebabs in a spicy Asian mustard sauce I based on something I always ordered at a restaurant back in Austin. Russell and I scarfed down 10 between us—I call that success!

Well, I hope all your summers are filled with the same happy, near-normalcy as my last few days. Law school, not to mention some of the unfortunate junk that’s happened since, reminds me of how precious that is. We’ll see how long it sticks around.

Friday, July 10, 2009


So I came up with a punny way to post about two recent experiences at once. Here goes, and we'll see if it's as cute as I imagined it.

I saw my clinician (which is apparently what she's called) at Mental Health Services again yesterday. Just as before, the chemistry was a little bit like:

Get it?? I'm comparing her to the fireworks we saw over the Charles on July 4!

Kidding aside, the woman is my new hero, and her comforting can-do seriousness is a big part of how much better I'm feeling. Although the light box, the 48 hours of natural sunshine we're having, the ongoing visit from my mom, and the big white seagulls flying past my office window shouting "MINE? MINE?" don't hurt.

Hope all of you are doing great as well. Lots of love coming your way from Cambridge. And plenty of interesting, non-mental-health-related posts before long, too. I swear!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

End of the tunnel

A lot has happened in the week-plus since I last posted, enough that I feel a little guilty for not writing sooner. I’ve seen the greatest fireworks of my life, for instance. And I’ve been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I have no clue how to portray this as the positive thing it absolutely is, except to say that if you periodically felt exhausted, hopeless and overwhelmed at the tiniest obstacles, and sad for no reason at all, it would be your dearest wish for someone with a prescription pad to tell you why.

This happened to me last week, after the sunshine I’d written about here was long gone and I was having a really hard time again. Everywhere I went, I trudged. It felt like a different person was at the controls of my emotions, making lousy choices with no relation to my life or who I am. Fed up and partly inspired by this woman, I marched up to the Mental Health wing of Harvard University Health Services for a walk-in appointment.

For too long, I had been reluctant to see someone because I wondered how many hours we would have to play tell-me-about-your-mother before they believed that I was healthy and happy aside from this reaction to the rain. Now I wish I’d gone much sooner, because the answer turned out to be… about one and a half. After a brief intake appointment and a single, perfect session, I was literally sent home with a prescription phototherapy light. It’s a loaner until my own comes in the mail—free of charge, of course, thanks to insurance. Proof, once again, that Harvard does not kid around.

This may be the most personal I’ve ever gotten with this blog, and part of me is sorry for the overshare. But the moral of this story—if you feel crummy, TELL SOMEONE—just seemed too important to keep quiet. I also wanted any of you who were worried by the tone of my recent posts to know that things are looking up.

So to balance out the drama (and prove that I am in fact functioning) here are some nice, everyday details of Cambridge life!

Both Russell’s office and mine were closed Friday, so after a leisurely breakfast we trekked out to the Target in Somerville. We needed some things, like a new alarm clock and a specific size of fluorescent lightbulb, that our tiny neighborhood grocery store doesn’t have. We also replaced about half our bathroom towels. I thought picking out colors was super fun. Russell disagreed, but can’t deny that the bathroom looks awesome now. Isn’t that how it always works?

Saturday, we cooked out on the patio with great success, despite extra uncooperative charcoal. Then we headed for the Charles River to watch fireworks. We joined thousands of people (and Cambridge is the less crowded side!) sitting on blankets, listening to Neal Diamond sing with the Boston Pops, and then watching some of America’s best fireworks literally yards from the boats where they launched. I have never oohed and aahed harder in my life!

Tired as we were the next day, with my mom’s visit and the one-year mark of our tenancy approaching, Russell and I agreed to a huge clean-out of the apartment. I bleached half the bathroom, polished everything I could reach, and literally spent time on my hands and knees wiping out dusty corners with Windex. Russell took all the rugs outside for a good shake. And our Mr. Clean Magic Eraser—buy yourself one right now, I cannot recommend them enough!!—made the kitchen counter look like it had never touched food.

The place feels so amazing now that Russell and I can’t stop remarking how worthwhile all the effort was. It’s like a fresh start, something I’ve also received at work because a beloved administrative assistant just retired and everyone, sensing my need for sunshine, insisted I move from my cubicle into her giant-windowed office.

She has great style, and a lot of her belongings are still around, making the place already feel like home. Even on cloudy days like today, my new city view manages to lift my spirits. All things considered, it seems the universe is finally conspiring to help me get well.