Tag Archives: lifelessons

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”.

Hippo Gnu Deer

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Image courtesy of Sandra Boynton

Happy New year and welcome to a brand new me!

I know what you’re thinking – really I do. Not because I’m psychic, or because (thanks to Miss Sally’s magic mirror) I can see you*. It’s not even because I’m a mom and moms know EVERYTHING.

I know what you’re thinking, because every year, when people would say “Whooooo hooo! New year – it’s a fresh start!” I would roll my eyes so hard that I was afraid they’d fall out.

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And then 2016 happened. It was an extreme rollercoaster of a year,  filled with highs, lows, marriages, births and near death experiences.

To be honest, 2016 wasn’t terrible for me. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t horrible. We (“we” meaning my family – I haven’t started using the royal “we” – yet)  made it through with sanity and sense of humor mostly intact, which is more than can be said of some. Again, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. We survived.

After five years riding Life’s rollercoaster, I’ve decided that survival is not enough. Surely I can do something more than just survive another year. Yesterday I started listening to “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. She opened with one of my favorite quotes:

If you want crappy tings to stop happening to you, then stop accepting crap and demand something more.” – Christina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy

It occurred to me that in order to make some changes in my life, I might need to actually make some changes in my life. No, you didn’t read that wrong. For the past few years I’ve tried to make changes in my life by wishing and hoping, praying and swearing. Some things worked better than others (swearing always makes me feel better, especially when I’ve cracked my toe on the corner of the sofa), but they’ve only brought me so far.

Maya Angelou says it better:

“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”

I’ve decided that this year, instead of setting myself up for failure by making impossible resolutions (“I will cut out sugar, alcohol and caffeine, walk every day at lunch and have more patience for stupidity.”)I will try making small changes**.

I’m not quite sure what changes I’m going to make yet. The fact that I’ve recognized that I need to make changes feels like a big enough step for today. I’m with Bob. Baby steps to a new me.

*Romper Room was one of my favorite shows. For some reason, no matter how close I saw to the TV, or how loudly I screamed, Miss Sally couldn’t see me.

**I hate change. Change is hard. But I’m willing to try.

So tell me – are you making any new year’s resolutions? Have you broken them already?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other F-word

Confession[1]I have a confession to make. Seeing that I’m not Catholic and am extremely adverse to sitting in small rooms talking to strange men, I will make my public confession here. As soon as I can work up the nerve. Ok here goes –

I swear. A lot.*

This should come as no surprise to those of you who read my blog. Just last week, I admitted to swearing like a fleet of sailors. It certainly comes as no surprise to my friends and family. I have been swearing since I discovered the power of four letter words while I was in high school. My family and neighbors were regularly…..entertained (for want of a better word) by slamming doors and foul language screamed at the top of my lungs. I am (slightly) embarrassed to admit that my language hasn’t improved much since high school.  I will say, however, that I no longer slam my bedroom door (but only because my door is hollow and refuses to slam in a satisfying manner).

I use the F-word more often than any Responsible Adult should (which is not really a problem, since I admit to being neither), especially now that I am a suburban soccer mom who is raising an impressionable young teen. It is what it is. I find satisfaction in using the word, whether because it still holds shock value, or because I can’t find another word that expresses my feelings of impotency and frustration when dealing with the struggles that come along with this crazy rollercoaster we call life.

I think that I am finally giving it up for another F-word. It’s not a four letter word, but it does share similar qualities. People talk about it all the time, usually in hushed tones. Like my favorite F word, it makes people uncomfortable. Unlike my favorite word, this one’s power comes from something more than shock value.

I’m talking about forgiveness

From Miriam Wesbter:

forgiveness

noun for·give·ness \-ˈgiv-nəs\

Simple Definition of forgiveness

Popularity: Bottom 50% of words
  • : the act of forgiving someone or something

  • : the attitude of someone who is willing to forgive other people

I was amused but not surprised to find that the popularity of forgiveness is less than 50%. It’s a rough one. I would like to be able to say that, as an enlightened and loving being, I am quick to forgive and forget. I would like to be able to say it, but I can’t (well, I CAN, but I would be lying). I have been reminded, repeatedly, that forgiveness is powerful, life-changing, and very important to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

I have learned that, if you refuse to listen, Life will knock you down until you do – so this time, I am listening. I hope you do, too. Don’t forget the most important part of the lesson – forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, it means remembering and letting go

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*I was overjoyed to find out that Classysassycrazy shares my fondness for four letter words