Tag Archives: Monday

So, that’s a Panic Attack…


Oh my goodness, people.

I was in charge of blocking a scene today. One whole scene and musical number, one hour of rehearsal, all mine.

I was bold. I was confident. I went over it. I went over it again. The director called. I told her I had it.

And I totally and utterly bombed, failed, miserably, absolutely miserably.

I’m not sure what happened. For one thing, the stage was much smaller than the one in my mind. Everyone was terribly squished. And then after I blocked their song I realized – they’re just standing there.

It was the most uninteresting thing I’ve ever seen.

And my chest starts to tighten and they’re looking at me as they say their lines and their parents are all lined up against the back wall watching me.

And a voice in my head says, “Barbara, I think you’re supposed to be telling them something right now.”

But I can’t open my mouth.

And then the voice says, “Oh my gosh, you have no idea what you’re doing.”

And then the voice begins calculating, “You have volunteered to be the assistant director and you know they have no director next year. You have as good as doomed yourself to this sensation for the next ten years until baby graduates from fifth grade …”

The voice was very unhelpful. My mouth had gone dry and I wanted to cry. I’m pretty sure what I had was a panic attack.

The director was there. She stepped in. She was having trouble reading my expression. She kept saying, “I don’t mean to step on your toes here.”

I shook my head. It was all I could do. Holy hell!? Was that a panic attack.

The director was very kind. She appreciated my “framework” and filled in the details. She fixed it. And she gave me a pep talk.

It is now 7:30 and I am curled up in bed in my pajamas. I will be watching a French movie and falling asleep soon after. Nothing else is getting accomplished today, nothing.

And tomorrow I’m preparing the crap out of my script for Wednesday.

And here comes the unhelpful voice, “But you thought you were prepared today.”



A friend from Mom’s group gave me this book to read called, “Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning” by Rebekah Lyons.

I don’t normally get sucked into this type of book. But I totally did.

It’s a woman’s story about uprooting her three kids in the suburbs to move with her pastor husband to the city. I felt an immediate kinship. Of course, she moved to New York, which is a significantly higher level of urban than San Francisco.

One page in particular jumped out at me.  The emphasis is hers:

“Even more shocking is the number of women suffering depression. The more I dug into the problem, the more I realized its vastness. I discovered that we as women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression. One in four women will suffer some form of depression in her lifetime. From anxiety attacks, as in my case, to mood disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and so on, women are under siege. And the majority of women who are wrestling with depression fit nicely in the twenty-five- to forty-four-year-old age bracket.

We aren’t depressed because we are getting old; we are depressed in the prime of our lives.

During the years when we ought to be making some of our greatest contributions to others and to the world, we are stuck. Caught in a quagmire of confusion, hardly able to put one foot in front of the other. What is going on? And why now?” –Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons p.67

It’s no mystery to me that my best energy is required to foster new life, namely my beautiful babies. But sometimes I feel like I’m undergoing a long slow death of self while I’m busy making sure this mothering life gets done.

I wonder whether this “death of self” is healthy or unhealthy. I do have moments where I feel fully alive. But is it so inconceivable that I feel like that all the time?

Most of my days are spent with a nagging sense in the back of my brain that something is being left undone, something more than the laundry and my to-do list.  Is there more resistance at play than just my full mommy schedule?

I know I am more than a mother.  I know the world needs something from me outside of my useful womb.

But how? And what? And when?

The Cheerio Incident…


Are these baristas flirting with me? No, they’re just being friendly. Barbara, I think they might be flirting with you. After three kids and six years this particular sense is a little dull.

I narrow my eyes shrewdly. I try to locate the ancient muscle once used for this sort of interpretation.

Why on Earth would the baristas be flirting with me? Do I not look like I came in with three kids? They’re going to be embarrassed when they realize. I mean, my kids are way on the other side of the coffee shop, but I’m pretty sure my current outfit screams, “Mother of three!”

He knows my first name because he made my coffee and he wields it now a little boldly. Am I on Facebook? Yes, I say dubiously. What’s my last name? I consider shutting him down with a, “Misses …”

But I don’t. I walk away with great purpose to the table of unsupervised children in the corner and claim them.

This perception of mine is a little rusty from disuse and I have to think about it carefully, parsing all sentences. I conclude that I was being flirted with. I was being flirted with in my Mom jeans and an old stained T-shirt. Maybe I do look good today? After all, I showered.

At any rate, whatever warm fuzzy feeling of flattery is slowly working its way up from my toes is shut down about knee level. There is a Cheerio incident.

I summarily pack up the children. I make a discreet note of Lake Cheerio to the cashier and slip out the back.

In light of events I recalculate. There was no way they could be flirting, which leads to the only other logical conclusion…

I am a narcissist…

In Mom jeans…

Who overthinks things.

Also, they work for tips.

The end.



Well, today was the sharp pinch finishing off my dreamlike weekend.

Did I mention that I like quiet?

Sometimes it is so loud.

I spent it all this weekend. Everything I had. My body’s tired. I’m overstimulated with artistic input. All I want to do is crawl into a dark cave and rest my overexerted five senses.

But I have three children.

And today was band practice day. So, instead, I listened to the new hit song, “Baby in a Rainbow” with my son accompanying on lap harp-

–on repeat.

Maintaining house amid boxes while still missing important pieces of furniture is difficult. It’s taking more time from my day than I would like. I’ve been away from my keyboard, too much to process and not enough processing.

I can’t quite reconcile this part of me with motherhood. Perhaps no mother can. Perhaps motherhood has done this to all of us. But, now, whatever the reason, every night I have to do this:

As soon as they’re all in bed I sit down in the dim nearly-dark at my computer. The first thing I do is mute my computer and turn the ringer off on my phone. Then I dim the brightness down on both until they are as low as they can go. Then I sit alone and “ride the day down into night”.

It is almost night now. I have the windows open to let in the ten degree drop that always happens in San Francisco at this time of day. There is a line of faint yellow light enunciating the unromantic silhouette of the apartment building across the courtyard. I can see through my kitchen window the light in the bedroom of our neighbor unit has been turned on. Since my kitchen window is open I can hear the movie they are watching. The baby fusses a few more times and then grows quiet. I take a deep breath. I hear a curse word from the movie, the distant problem of someone facing what could only appear, to him in that moment, to be reality. I still smell the chili I made for dinner, which reminds me of the jobs left to do for the day: bring up the load I left in the dryer, put away the leftovers, do the dishes.

If things you experience become forever a part of who you are then right now I feel a little like Velcro with smothering layers dangling, hanging on by odd threads. And now in the dim I must be still and go deep and meet myself for a moment in the middle. I will be still here for a bit longer and listen for a foghorn, maybe, letting the layers settle gently and a little firmer into my being.

How I wish I could pause on occasion like my computer and allow things to load.

Processing, processing.



I knew laundry was going to be expensive in the city. And we make a lot of it.

There’s one coin-op machine in the garage of our four-unit building. I’ve been here for two weeks and have done seven or eight loads already. And I’m just treading water.

The game changed when James noticed me run a load through the dryer twice. I explained the process by which I could, usually, avoid this, running the loads after each other and letting the wet things carry over into the next dryer cycle. James asked me if I couldn’t dry the things around the apartment. I tried to paint the picture of a zillion miniscule kids’ things hanging all over the apartment ongoing and into eternity.

He told me to try the wash-and-fold two blocks down.

I am loyal, deep into my DNA, but my natural resistance against trying something new was silenced, in this case, by the intriguing idea of someone else washing AND folding my laundry.

Thus, my next city adventure stretched itself out before me.

The weather was sketchy on Monday and I spent the morning watching the sky as I emotionally prepared myself to literally drag my dirty laundry through the streets of San Francisco.

At length, it was time. I managed to pack both laundry bags of kids’ clothes on the big stroller, one hanging out of the bottom and one sitting in the seat. For good measure I threw the kitchen towels and bibs into one of the bags. My daughter walked and I put my son in charge of pushing the baby in the small stroller. And off we went, me with a passion stemming mostly from the adrenaline of embarrassment.

My three-year old daughter was shouting something at me as we went down the block. She finally caught up to me and pointed out the trail of kitchen rags back to the door of the apartment. We gathered them back quickly. My five-year old son who talks about farts all day long couldn’t even hide his disgust as he handed me a bib decorated with a smear of dried banana browned to a point more closely resembling something like mucus.

We got to the end of the block. It was at this point that it started pouring buckets of rain.

We ran back to the entryway of our building.

Not to be deterred, I loaded everyone and everything into the car.

We drove the two blocks to the laundry. There was no loading zone. I started considering how far I wanted to carry the laundry in the rain and how far away I could park and still leave the kids in the car.

I circled the block four or five times getting honked at by cars who could sense my equivocation. I finally convinced myself that it wouldn’t be totally irresponsible to park across the street where I could see the car from the window while I did my transaction.

I proceeded to parallel park. Suburban Barbara has not had much practice at this. It’s hit or miss. This time was a miss as I corrected, corrected again, pulled out and tried again from the beginning, all within viewing distance of the laundry shop where I can see the man behind the counter watching which, if you recall, was one of the benefits of this particular spot in the first place.

And when I finally drag my laundry in and fling it up on the counter, he looks at my bags and inhales sharply through his teeth.

“I’m sorry. We don’t do wash-and-fold.”

“Well, uh, do you know anybody who does?” As if my sole purpose of walking in was to get a referral.

“Yeah, there’s this place on Clement and 32nd.”

At this point, whatever embarrassment there was over carrying around bags of dirty laundry has given way to the velvet steel of my determination. I cross the street in the rain back to the car. One of the handles of my laundry bag breaks.

We drive to 32nd and Clement and, behold, there is a ten minute parking zone right in front of the big windows. This time I totally nail the parallel parking. No one was watching.

I drag the laundry through the rain again and into the establishment with the humble appellation of “Jim’s”. I put my laundry on the counter. I feel honesty is best for everyone at this point.

“I’ve never done this before,” I say.

“Ok,” said the lady behind the counter a little warily.

“How does it work?”

“I wash your laundry and you pick it up.”

“I just pick it up.”

“I fold it for you and you pick it up, yes.”

“How much do you think this will cost?” I ask, gesturing to the childrens’ entire wardrobes.

She weighs my bags. As she ties them closed I wait for her to notice the slimy banana bib and reject my clothes. Perhaps wash-and-fold places have standards? How presumptuous of me. I feel strangely vulnerable, so intimate is this new relationship. I watch as it is literally placed on the scale to be weighed.

But she doesn’t hesitate; she taps the weight into her calculator. Here is the price. It’s not unreasonable.
“You’re going to wash and fold my laundry?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she looks confused.

I feel like I must. Yes. I must. “What is your name?” I ask.


“Michelle,” I repeat it back to her and roll the name across my palette. My eyes may have glistened.

“I’m Barbara,” I say.

We shake hands, but it feels more like a hug.

I dare to ask, “And it says something about pick-up and delivery?”

“Yeah, where do you live?”

I tell her.

“Oh, yeah, you’re close, five dollars.”

“Five dollars?”


“And you’ll pick up my dirty laundry, wash it, fold it, and bring it back to me?”

“Yes,” she’s smiling now. I am very entertaining.

Michelle. I say the name again in my head, the name of the most beautiful woman in the world.

“Thank you, Michelle,” I take a business card as she hands me my pick-up slip.

“See you tomorrow,” she says.

Little does she know that it has never been folded so fast. The laundry won’t know what hit it. They had it easy with me, but Michelle obviously means business. Won’t my kids be surprised when they come looking for their clothes in the laundry basket and instead find them, gasp, in their drawers?

Would you believe that at some point during this transaction the clouds had parted and I stepped out into brilliant sunshine, made doubly brilliant in wet reflection?

I was so inspired I could think of nothing but this quote from my least favorite Shakespearean play,

“O, Brave new world that has such people in it!”

This whole adventure took little more than a half an hour. And, yet, the largeness of this moment was not wasted on me. My laundry paradigm was forever shifted.

I looked disdainfully at the coin-op washer and dryer in the garage as I pulled past them and realized that I would have to come up with another use for my laundry basket.

The only downside is that I am now without excuse. I guess I’ll finally have to change the sheets.




Michelle and I are now fast friends. When I picked up the clothes we chatted on about my children as if they were not waiting just over there, watching me from the car window. She apologized for the large bag she had to use to give the clothes back to me but, “It’s a lot of laundry!” she said.

Yes, Michelle. Yes it is.

And this morning we had a cozy chat over the phone before I sent a few more loads with the pick-up man Jim himself.

There’s something in this about love being born out of service rendered or service received. Maybe something in the image of taking in a stranger’s dirty laundry and giving it back to them folded nicely with respect? I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

At any rate, it’s something for me to ponder until I bring her the sheets.

A lot of laundry.

A lot of laundry.