Tag Archives: life

Mother, Wife, Demon-slayer

6df30ac8a387944ff5579c32f2641adb[1]“Life is filled with big questions – Fate or Destiny? Heaven or Hell? Love or Attraction? Reason or Impulse? Beatles or Rolling Stones?” – Stephen King, Bazaar of Bad Dreams

“To be, or not to be –that is the question” William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III sc 1.

I LOVE Shakespeare. Love him. As in a total, squealy fangirl crush (and not just because he was played by Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love) I’ve seen pictures. He was…mmmm. What’s the word I’m looking for? Less than attractive (Yes, I know, that’s three  words). Hey, we’ve all seen the pictures of the old dude with the big balding head in the weird old lady collar.

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I took Shakespeare courses in college, tutored other students and read his works “just for fun”. Yeah. I was THAT kid.  My friends and I spent hours pouring over every play, interpreting and debating the meaning of every scene and  soliloquy – but none more so than the infamous passage from Hamlet, Act III Scene 1.

So why am I bringing this up today? Well, first of all, Heath Ledger would have turned 38 this week, and (ICYMI) Spike released a trailer for the new I am Heath Ledger biography.

Secondly, a friend decided “not to be” earlier this week, and it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing to do). I’ve spoken before about my battles with the EIC and depression, but I will continue to talk about it until the stigma surrounding mental illness is a thing of the past.

Robert, like Heath Ledger, was a brightly shining star – a beautiful-from-the-inside-out incredibly talented creative soul who seemed to move effortlessly amongst us mere mortals. I was in awe of his talent and imagination, his quick wit and genuine warmth. He was not only a talented artist and inventor, he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He appeared to be comfortable in his own skin, and I assumed that he was free of the destructive voices and demons that torment most artists.

Shows how little I know. What do they say? “Appearances are deceiving”? “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”? (or, as Steve Martin puts it “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.”)

They say that stars who burn the brightest burn the fastest. No, I do not know who “they” are, or why this appears to be true. I assume it has something to do with the limited amount of fuel and the speed at which it is burned, but I’m not a science guy (TBH I’m not a guy at all, although I could be. I met a bartender who spelled his name T-R-A-C-E-Y on St. Patrick’s day, but that’s neither here nor there).

I’m not a science guy, I’m a creative.

Creative brains are weird.

Greater minds than mine have debated whether the stereotype of the “tortured artist” is legitimate. It might be a cliché, but, judging by the Facebook comments from his friends and fellow performers (“I’ve battled depression for years” and “depression has been my constant companion” to quote a few), it’s legitimate. I know that all the artists I’ve met have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. I believe it is because we are encouraged, as artists and performers, to break down our walls and express our truest self. Shedding our protective layers leaves us open, raw and more vulnerable to “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Please note – I am not a trained professional, nor do I play one on TV.  I have, however, been battling inner demons for decades. Feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila):

First – Depression is an evil, scum-sucking mother F-r. He travels with his BFFs Hopelessness and Despair. This terrible trio will cheat, lie and steal. They will tell you that nobody cares about you and that nobody wants to listen to you whine. They will take turns sitting in the middle of your chest whispering horrible lies into your ear until you’re nothing but a quivering, weepy mass of snot.

Knowing that Depression is a liar doesn’t fix things. Trust me when I say that knowing something intellectually doesn’t stop me from sliding all the way to the bottom of the pit of despair.

Every single time I find myself at the bottom of the pit, I think “What the hell am I doing here/I’ll never get out.”*  I have, however, recently learned to recognize the symptoms of the spiral before depression gains traction. I wish I could tell you what they are, but they’re different for everyone. Hopefully it won’t take you forty-something years to identify yours.

Secondly (or maybe this should be first) fighting the demons only makes them stronger, and is incredibly exhausting. Strangely enough, giving them a chance to voice their opinions renders them powerless. When the voices start whispering, I take pen to paper and write down everything they say (in cursive, so the words can flow). I write without rebuttal until they stop speaking. Believe me when I say that a person (or inner demon) who is allowed to vent without interruption will eventually run out of steam. What you do next depends on what works for you – you can respond to them, verbally or on paper, you can shred the papers, burn them, or use them to line a birdcage. Eventually you might find the strength to do the one thing that banishes them – laugh at them. Demons are like the boggarts in Harry Potter – hiding in the deepest, darkest corners of our mind, filling us with mind numbing fear, and disappearing with the first giggle.

Most importantly, if you (or a loved one) is struggling with depression or have run out of cope, ask for help. Yes, help is a four letter word, but it’s not a foul one. Don’t wait until you’re stuck at the bottom of a cold dark pit. Call a friend, call a family member, call a stranger. You can dial 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If you don’t want to call, you can even send a text.

I was going to end with the inspirational “Don’t You Quit” poem, but it’s a little pithy for me today. I’ll leave you with Dylan Thomas instead.

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* Well, that’s not exactly true. My first thought is “Wow, it’s dark and cold down here. Next time I should bring a space heater and a booklight”.

Giving Thanks

thks6zppwwTomorrow is Thanksgiving – or, as we call it in my family, Black Friday eve 🙂

Like many who celebrate the holiday, our little threesome (no, not THAT kind of threesome) will gather together to eat too much,  drink too much, and watch too much football (as if there’s such a thing).

Every year, before diving into our loaded plates, each family member is invited to state one thing for which they’re grateful. Because I am a cynical/sarcastic sort, I usually pipe up with something along the lines of “I’m glad I’m not a turkey….”

This year will be different. This year, when it’s my turn to speak, I will raise my glass and tell my family that I am thankful for “almost”. No, you didn’t read that wrong.

al·most

 (ôl′mōst′, ôl-mōst′)

adv.

Slightly short of; not quite; nearly: almost time to go; was almost asleep; had almost finished.

Those of you who know me well (and those of you who don’t, but have been following my blog*) know that this year has been a rough one. TBH the past 2-3 years have been “less than pleasant”. In the past several years, I almost lost my daughter, almost lost my husband (twice), almost lost my house and almost lost my mind (which is bad, because it’s much too small to be wandering around lost and alone).

BUT

As they say, “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades“. My family has  experienced so many blessings these last few years – we have received so much love and support from friends, family and even casual acquaintances , that I can’t help but be grateful.

They also say “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – and it’s true. We have emerged from this year even stronger.

BUT

Thank you Life, for my lessons. I’m strong enough now.

I have two questions for you, my loyal listeners (I was going to say “readers”, but it doesn’t flow) – Who are “they” and what are you grateful for?

*Thank you for following me! You are one of the many things for which I am very, very grateful

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image courtesy of 28 days of gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

How to Adult

14322559_10208457641376300_3302490184261649212_n1 I don’t know what a dult is, or why anyone would want to be one, but welcome to lesson#1 of an occasional series

My coworker just insulted me. She called me a four letter word, and it pissed me off, but I’m pretty sure the HR director would laugh if I filed a complaint.

She said I was “nice”. If that’s not an insult, I don’t know what is.

I am not a nice girl. For one, at (mumbles quickly) years of age, I am no longer a “girl”, no matter how bad your vision or how low the lighting. And as far as “nice” goes, I am many things (smart, funny, sarcastic, cynical, bitchy and brutally honest*) but I am not nice, no matter what people say.

All of my life people have said “you’re so NICE”.  I’m usually quick to respond with “No, not really”.  What I am is polite. My mother was from the south, and it appears that her southern manners have rubbed off on me. She taught me how to behave in public – to be kind to strangers as well as friends, to say “please” and “thank you”, to hold doors open, and to respect my elders (yeah, that last one didn’t stick). I may know how to behave, but I have always been more Disney Villain than Disney Princess.

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image credit to Hayden Williams

I know what you’re thinking (I do. It’s because I’m psychic. Or psychotic. I always get those two confused) – what’s wrong with being nice? Let’s start by looking at the definition, from Miriam Webster:

adjective \ˈnīs\

Popularity: Top 40% of words

Simple Definition of nice

  1. giving pleasure or joy : good and enjoyable
  2. : attractive or of good quality
  1. : kind, polite, and friendly

adjective po·lite \pə-ˈlīt\

There are, obviously, worse things to be called (I’ve been called those things too, usually by people who have issues with strong, independent, opinionated women). I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being “nice”. What bothers me is the fact that being kind and polite has become so rare that people assume that someone exhibiting those qualities is a nice person**. I am not one of them. I’ve met some genuinely nice people – their kindness is not tinged with any sarcasm or cynicism. It’s weird.

Over the past week (hell, over the past year) it’s become apparent that we need to be kind. We need to treat each other with, at the very least, respect and dignity. We need to stop focusing on our differences and find some commonalities. We need to be less angry and more forgiving. We need to be nice to each other.

Yeah. I said it.

We need to be nice. Especially with Black Friday coming up next week. Trust me, there are worse things you could be.

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*Seeing that I’ve made more than one person cry when I was “just being honest”, I’ve come to the conclusion that honesty is NOT always the best policy

** There’s also this:

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And now I miss my mom, and my Okie relatives:

The Game of Life

th5I’ve done it again – allowed the four letter word known as Life to knock me off the writing track. It’s not that Life is a bitch (and not just in a strong, intelligent independent way), or that she cheats when we play her game. Life is a rollercoaster, and getting off track can be bad. Nobody wants to ride the coaster off the rails, especially when you’re rounding the top corner.

My life has been busy, and uneven, but no more so than usual – so why did I stop writing? (And, right on cue, the EIC pipes up with “Because you’re lazy!” Thank you so very little, Evil Inner Critic).

I blame S&H*. Stress and hormones melted my brain and kept new ideas at bay, caused me to lose sleep (boo!) weight (yay!) and hair (boo!). They also caused me to crave beer, salt and sugar, but that’s neither here nor there. Whatever the cause, I found myself spiraling, once again, into the pit of despair.

I spent a long time trying to figure out what “caused” my depression, and then it hit me. My life hasn’t changed, but our world has. I know that change is inevitable, but things do not appear to be changing for the better. This election (don’t forget to vote!) has brought out a level of hostility, racism and sexism that knocked me so far off track I thought I’d woken up in the past and found myself trying to collect green stamps again.

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I used to say that I was raised to be color blind. I’ve been assured by several people that “color blindness” is just not possible, so I won’t say that, but I’m not sure what else to say. I was raised by parents who chose to focus less on the external (race/sex/sexual orientation/religion/career) and more on what type of person the individual was. I was raised to believe that every person is entitled to an opinion, and that everyone’s opinion is valid, even if it differs from mine. I was raised to believe that we should be able to discuss and debate our opinions in a respectful manner. Yes, the debate might get heated, but it should never get ugly.

And it has. Our world has become an ugly place, filled with ugly people saying ugly things to each other. It breaks my heart. I could blame the media – in the race for ratings, they have chosen to focus on images of violence and hatred. I could blame the election – this race this year has been particularly nasty. I know that politicians are human (although it’s entirely possible that they’ve been replaced by the aliens from They Live), but I believe they should be held to a higher standard than most. The name calling and chants of “Make American Great Again” or (mockingly) “Make America Hate Again” do not inspire respect for either candidate. Mostly I blame myself. I blame myself for being naïve.

My parents raised me to believe that the world was becoming a better place – that people were overcoming their perceived differences and uniting in a way that gave me hope. Hope that my mixed-race daughter wouldn’t have to deal with the hatred my mother witnessed as a teen in the south (please note – my mother was Caucasian, so racism didn’t necessarily have a direct impact on her life). The violence and hatred she saw caused her to caution me against having children. I assured her that I had no intention of having children, but that, if I changed my mind, racism was “a thing of the past”.

I am no longer naïve. I am broken hearted, angry and sad, but not naive. The hatred/anger/prejudice that I believed was long dead is alive and kicking, like a cockroach that somehow managed to survive a visit from the exterminator.

Make America Great Again? I agree with Amanda Blanc – Let’s try making America kind again instead (image credit to Amanda Blanc)

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*Stress and Hormones, not the green stamps we collected in the 60’s

So tell me – how do you write when your brain has melted or is filled with fog?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case of Emergency….

imagesCAO5Z6TQMy girlfriend is going through a really sucky period right now. REALLY sucky. If the situation were reversed,  I would be curled up in a ball under my bed, which would be difficult since it’s on the floor. She posted this yesterday, and I had to share. Because she’s awesome, and is handling this with sense of humor intact. Plus her post has some really good advice. I hope that you never need it, but just in case you do….

Hello My Name is Eeyore

imageChuck Wendig reminded me that May is Mental Health awareness month. This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is – Life with a Mental Illness (yes, there’s a theme). If just one person benefits from my story,  I’ll be happy. TBH even if nobody reads it, I’ll be happy, because I’m writing again.

I have struggled with depression for most of my life. I have no doubt that my mother used alcohol to self-medicate for depression. It’s possible that her mother did as well – but, seeing that I rarely saw my grandmother express ANY emotion, I can’t be sure.

I consider myself fortunate, in that my personal demon is mostly situational. When life is going well, I sometimes get the blues, but I can cope. Unfortunately, Life is a BITCH and she likes to hammer us with repeated losses and then dump us, battered and bleeding, in the Pit of Despair without Wesley to keep us company.

18 months ago, I hit my low point. I wound up curled in a ball on the floor of my Honda, sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t do that anymore (and not just because I no longer have the Honda).  It’s not that Life has become kind. In the past 6 months, my husband almost died, my coworker did, one girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my other friend ended up in ICU. No, these aren’t my personal problems (although I would have taken my husband’s death personally), but I have a soft heart, and tend to grieve with those I love, and (sometimes) with those I don’t.

My girlfriend is deep in the hole. She asked me how I cope. “You seem so happy, even when you go through a rough patch”.

I was trained from an early age that emotions are something best kept hidden (thanks Grandma!). We need to slap on some lipstick and hide our broken heart.

The bad news is that suppressing our emotions leads to a whole slew of issues, including (but not limited to) eating disorders, cutting, alcohol and drug dependence, increased depression (goody!) and physical illnesses (yes, stress CAN kill you). The good news is that the idea that you should “fake it ‘til you make it” actually carries some weight. When you get up, shower, put on makeup and clean clothes and pretend that you feel good, eventually you do.

I have learned to ask for, and accept, help. It’s the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned. I am very lucky, in that I have an amazing group of friends who let me vent when needed, and who are quick to provide a shoulder, chocolate, or wine when necessary. Even my husband has learned to “listen and nod” instead of trying to fix my “problems”.

I talked to a professional. Yes, I have a wonderful support team. Sometimes you get tired of complaining about the same old stuff to the same old people. Besides, these people are just sitting around waiting for someone to talk to. Keep them off the unemployment line!

I took a pill. No, not the pills that Stevie sells on the corner. I filled the prescription my doctor gave me. I am not a fan of “Better living through chemicals”, but I’m a huge proponent of using whatever tools you have available to dig your way out of the darkness.

I learned to go outside. Some people like to run, some people like to go to the beach. I have found that it doesn’t much matter. Depression wants us to lay in the dark, under a supersoft blanket, eating cookies and surfing through 300+ channels. Going outside is a teeny tiny step in the battle, but it’s an important one. Please note  – do NOT forget to put on pants before you go outside. My neighbors may never forgive me.

Lastly, I listen to music. Music speaks to my soul and makes me feel all the feels. Just this morning Johnny Cash reminded me that when you’ve got the blues, you need to Get Rhythm.

 

So tell me, what coping mechanisms do you use, when Life leaves you feeling overwhelmed?

The Game of Life

unnamed[1]My 15 year old played The Game of Life the other day*

“It’s really fun – we should get it.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Life is nothing like life. Life is a lot of things, but (mostly) life is a four letter word.

 

Those who know me know that I swear like a sailor, like a shipload of sailors, like a fleet of sailors. For those of you who don’t know me, welcome to my world! I’m Tracey, and I’ll be your guide. I grew up in Camarillo, home to the old and insane.** Being neither, I moved away to seek my fame and fortune in the wilds of Los Angeles (I didn’t find fame or fortune, but I did find a big bear who followed home).  Being both, I returned to Camarillo. I live with two kids (the one I birthed and the one I married) and no cats, because they make me sneeze and wheeze. Plus, they’re cats.

Where was I? Ah yes, swearing. I’ve been a fan of four letter words since I was young and thought I knew it all. Now that I’m not and I don’t, I have learned some brand news ones, which I would love to share with you.

Today’s word is life

From Miriam-Webster

Life noun \ˈlīf\

  • : the ability to grow, change, etc., that separates plants and animals from things like water or rocks
  • : the period of time when a person is alive
  • : the experience of being alive

That’s the dictionary’s definition.

Life is so much more. Like most four letter words, it’s messy and foul, and I often find myself using other four letter words when it doesn’t go the way I want it to. It’s also amazingly beautiful, if you know where to look.

I think I’ve discovered the secret to life – she’s a BITCH (Beautiful, Interesting, Terrifying, Childlike and Hard) who wants us to grow and change. She’s a fierce teacher, who will knock you down if you’re not paying attention. She’s also an amazing companion who can take you for a wild ride, if you let her.

I made the mistake of letting Fear scare me away from living last year. This year, I’m getting in the car, taking the top down, and letting her drive.

I think Vivian Greene put it best:

viviangreene

So, tell me. What life lessons have you learned? Did you choose to learn them the easy way or the hard way?

 

*Ok, it was last month. Time is a wibbly-wobbly, timey wimey thing

** Camarillo used to be home to Camarillo State Hospital (now CSUCI) and Leisure Village (Leisure Village is still there. I live down the street)

 

 

Life and other four letter words

thCAIX8RTOWhen I first started blogging, I had every intention of writing on a regular basis. Of course, we all know where good intentions lead us. I anticipated struggling for stories, but I did not think that my biggest roadblock would be….life.

The past three months have been hard (to be completely honest, the past 3 years haven’t been a lot of fun). In the past few months, I’ve lost several friends to cancer, and I am on the verge of losing another. Last month I almost lost my daughter. I know that loss is part of life – and that they are both four letter words. I also know that if this cycle of loss continues, I may never write again. The loss eats at me, tearing little pieces of my soul away. I’m trying to maintain my sense of humor, but it’s become work (which is yet another four letter word). I have a potty mouth, but life, loss and work are my least favorite four letter words. I’m tired of all three.

My question is – how do you write when just signing on to the computer is a huge effort? How do you write when all you want to do is climb under the covers and watch telenovas (which is weird, since I don’t speak Spanish)? How do you write when you’ve lost your funny, and where do you go to find it? imagesCALL7SS5