Each Day So Long It Feels Like a Month

“Is the phrase ‘Slough of Despond’ from Harry Potter or what?” I holler to my husband, who is folding laundry four feet away.
We both half-wonder why I’m hollering, what with him standing right there and all.  But, then again, it’s been that kind of day.
A hollaback-at-your-knickers-folding-husband kind of day.
In that moment, I was, actually, as much moaning as hollering.  I was mollering–making wounded noises like a beaver with its foot caught in a trap, considering gnawing off the source of its angst and lurching towards three-legged freedom within the dark cave of a dam.
“I don’t even know what you mean when you say these words ‘Slough of Despond‘,” my avowed responded, balling up a pair of socks.  “What are you talking about?”
“There’s this phrase ‘Slough of Despond’ that’s running through my head, and I was sure you’d know where it’s from.  However, I guess we’re lucky you have a handsome mug…because your brain certainly isn’t paying the rent.  So ‘Slough of Despond’ isn’t a Harry Potter reference? Like you’d know, pretty boy.  Well, hell.  Who coined it, then, if not La Rowling?” I yodeled over mountain-spring-scented heaps of clothing.
“Why do you even ever act like I’d know what you’re talking about? You’re hardly the most sensical redhead on the block,” the delight of my life tossed back.
“Okay, so it would seem I’m making shit up again.  I’ve got to hit the Google and input ‘Slough of Despond.’  Hand to heaven, I wouldn’t know a single thing without the Google these days.  Today alone, I’ve turned to it to find out how many seasons of Project Runway there have been, how many flavors of lip smackers there are in existence, what the name of that ski-jumping Swiss guy is, what alternative therapies to chemo are, what contingencies my car insurance covers, and which Scandanavian town my family members are named after.”  With that, I trotted to the keyboard and input “Slough of Despond.” 
Turns out neither the eponymous Harry Potter nor his namesaked Swiss ski jumper had anything to do with it–but, rather, it’s a turn of phrase from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a tale that moralizes the weight of sins and guilt. 
Frick.
As usual, Google has spat out head-turning information, but ultimately my cast has gone awry.  You see, when, over a mound of clean underpants, I badgered my husband, I was searching for a phrase that could express how boggy I’ve felt this past week.  Here I thought I’d been mired down in the Slough of Despond.
However, my issues have little to do with guilt or sin.  My issues are more of a seasonal, desolate, Februarian nature.  They’re more about feeling trapped and choking in a brume of quiet despair.   
With the Slough paved over, I have to try elsewhere to find an idea that captures feelings of being backed into a tight corner and ready to start clawing.
Scritch.  Scritch.  Scratch.
Perhaps the sensation is more resonant with Victorian women and hysteria.  That must be why I’ve been repeatedly recalling, this past week, my first reading of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” back in high school, an experience that took place on the second floor of Billings West High School, a moment when I sat up straighter and thought, “My bangs may not be as pouffy as I’d like today, and the strap of my overalls keeps falling down in only a limp approximation of Come On Eileen, but that’s somehow irrelevant in the face of this poor Victorian woman’s powerlessness and culturally-induced insanity.  What the hell, poor locked-up protagonist lady:  let me stretch out a quivering fingertip alongside you and trace the winding pattern of the lines in silent communion.”
Indeed, something about this late winter month–coupled with the kids having a week off from school, topped by Paco having had a fever (two weeks ago), a double ear infection (last week), and then waking up with another fever yesterday (on his tenth day of a ten-day course of antibiotics)–creates in me a soul-sucking feeling of desperation.  Doldrums, if you will.
Queerly, essential to this cloying sensation of “I beseech thee for just one small sanity-saving grace, my monarch Victoria” is an overlay of “but, truly, even as I struggle to catch a full breath, aren’t I lucky?– for at least I have a corset and some of that new-fangled indoor plumbing”; that is to say, without certainty that my life is somehow profoundly fortunate, I wouldn’t have the leisure to wail about every pip of internal strife.
These last few days, laced too tightly, I am gasping for air.  Nothing is wrong, per se, but every hour feels like three.  I’m tired of all of us being in the house all the time, trying to figure out what to have for the next meal, folding yet another damn load of laundry, filling and emptying the dishwasher.  Certainly, I’ve tried to mix it up.  I’ve taught Girl to play Mastermind and Chinese Checkers.  We’ve had friends sleep over.  We’ve watched Olympics.  Groom has framed some pictures.  I went to Pilates and yoga and then I swam and ran and skiied.  I’ve played four simultaneous Scrabble games on Facebook (most noteworthy play of the week took place in a three-way game:  I had just the right letters for “menage,” and that’s just good old-fashioned Midwestern Protestant irony).  I’ve read 420 messages in online classes, graded 75 activities, and told students how sorry I am that their a) mothers died; b) computers died; c) cars died; d) enthusiasm for the class died.
Nevertheless. 
I feel like I’m swimming through grey fog, staring at my family and thinking, “It’s 1 p.m.  Whatever can we do to get to 5 p.m.?”
Yesterday, we enjoyed brief respite from the fog when we dragged the kids to a neighborhood park.  At first, the kids had to sit and stare sullenly into space.  That’s why we have kids, right?  So they can give us reflections of ourselves?

Because Girl is a champ, she got out on the ice (first time in two years!) and took some turns.  She only complained every seventeen seconds about her ankles hurting.  But then she’d get back up and go around again.

After shadowing her for about five minutes, I looked up.  Nice clouds.

Then I looked at Paco, who’d gotten over his Crabbies long enough to start mining for ice crystals and burying the plastic bowling pins we’d brought along (even in a funk, I know how to pack for my kid).  Hey, nice clouds above him, too.

Paco excavated a fossil from a previous ice age.

After excavating, every good archaeologist needs to take a moment to peer into The Pin.

He saw deep into the past, far into the future, and his vision told him…

…that it had been February for some time, and it would be February for quite some time yet, and the hours would continue to tick slowly by,

except for this one, which, thanks to skates and clouds and bowling pins,

actually did feel like only one instead of three.


Comments

Each Day So Long It Feels Like a Month — 20 Comments

  1. If it makes you feel any better. What you are feeling is normal. That's why "a track worn by a wheel or by habitual passage" is not the only definition for "rut." I suggest you daydream about the time you wil spend abroad. But more importantly I need to know why you googled "alternatives to chemotherapy."

  2. I recognize the "slough of despond" second-hand from Little Women. Alcott used it as a guidebook for the girls to follow in the story. Maybe you remember it from there, as well?

  3. Oh how I hate February. It's the November of winter.

    It's a metric month: every minute has 100 second, every hour has 100 minutes…

    And on a funnier note, I actually got one of your compatriots to believe that we had also gone metric with time in Canada, and that the 100 minute hours thing was true. Such a naive little American he was.

  4. EVERYONE is suffering this February. Except for me. I had a great day Saturday hiking through the woods while Mr. T tried out my xc-skis. Then I skied again yesterday. This month is so lovely without the complications of resolutions or gift-giving like the other winter months. Now, talk to me in March when cabin fever sets in and then you'll hear a Mr. Hyde roar.

  5. Well, "Slough of Despond" was familiar, but not the Little Women reference (thank you, Middle Aged Woman!), no clouds here today, so a good day-off walk is in order. Them was some lovely shots of your kids enjoying theirselves amid the purty clouds…
    But "alternatives to chemotherapy" lit up the screen in a big way. Too big.
    Signed,
    Concerned on the other side of the country

  6. egads … winter is so long eh?

    It is so insane that February is like the shortest month yet feels like the longest … ever.

    We did however notice the days staying lighter longer … ahhh sun how I miss thee!

  7. I was almost feeling like I might like to live in snow country when I saw Kcinnova's pics of her families igloo.

    Thank you for curing me of that desire.

    I must advise you not to Google the weather for San Diego today.

  8. There are so many of us out there, aren't there? February-haters, that is. I thought January was rough and yet, you are right, every Feb hour feels like three. I love that you can still write with humor through the gray and fog.

  9. Oh, Silly Jocelyn, next time you need to google something, ask me instead — my husband doesn't call me The Answer Grape for nothing, you know. I could have told you Pilgrim's Progress was the original source and that you probably remembered it from Little Women, where they likened each edge of the sheets they were hemming to one of Bunyan's imaginary places.

    Happy news: the chemo hat is done! and blocked! Send me your address so I can send it to you.

  10. For those who are concerned (perhaps even moreso, if you've read Kmkat's comment about the chemo hat being done): 'Tis not I who has an issue with chemo, in terms of my own health; however, the idea of willfully toxifying one's body is feeling very personal these last weeks, as one of the Female Friend Loves of My Life battles cancer for the third time–with this go-round marking her first meeting with chemo. She started last Wednesday…

  11. Such pretty clouds… I guess I shoudn't tell you that my tulips are coming up outside my window.

    Good thoughts going towards your friend…I was wondering what I had missed when I saw the comment about the hat…

  12. Oh, I know that slough of February well. I hope the sun comes out soon.

    BTW- Yes about the Penderwicks, right??? Birdsall reminds me of Edward Eager only without the magic or the fawning "I'm not worthy to touch Edith Nesbit's shoes!"ness.

    Have you read The Watsons go to Birmingham, 1963? You might want to read it first as the subject matter's heavy, but it's one of my most favoritest booke evar.

  13. Surprisingly enough, I haven't had a really bad case of the mid-winter drabs or blues or SAD -whatever you care to call it. Frankly, I like the thought though of "Slough of despond" -regardless of its true meaning. I think it would apply best though to poor long-suffering daughter Mandy here and her issues with the FM (f*****g moron – that's her own personal abbreviation for that issue.) It might possibly explain better (than the explanation he gave her last night) for telling the people he is now working for that the reason he couldn't start work for them this past Monday was because his wife was having surgery. Yeah. Surgery! About which she had nary a clue too! That's the in-joke of the day -perhaps for the week, maybe even the rest of February – the imaginary surgery! Gotta love at least some parts of the lunacy the FM does provide at times, don't 'cha?
    Oh -and for myself and the despondency stuff I usually experience this time of year -no I'm not exceedingly happy over all the white fluff stuff we keep getting but since I don't generally go out much -other than to walk Sir Muttley when I can -it doesn't seem to annoy me as much as it did in past years. And those walks with the dog have even shown a little teeny-tiny bit of changes taking place –a few items of clothing have re-appeared that I can now squeeze into once again. Loved the clouds in your pics too -see, finding good in a cold winter day on the ice -also a very good thing, is it not?

  14. How much snow can you guys take!! When it all thaws, I think along with Paco's bowling pins, there will be discovered missing little old ladies who went chasing their bladder-stretched cat in the middle of the night, the ever-frustrating "other sock", homework that escaped being eaten by the dog, missing library books,phone numbers of the neglected and rejected love-lorn…snow that deep must hide secrets!! As to the formula of dealing with something like that, our cabin fever is borne of heat waves and dust storms as you know, the longest duration of which is..don't know…would have to Google it.

  15. I still like "slough of despond." It works. It's poetic. And yes, thanks to google for being their to rescue us from our "slough of amnesia."

    Well wishes for your friends receiving cancer treatment.

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