Monday, August 25, 2014

Pirate Day

     As the college students are starting or returning for the new school year, I get to help several stores this week at local orientations setting up new accounts. I really miss being at school. But even more than that, I'd love to work at a college or university. I think I would really enjoy teaching public speaking or philosophy, my two passions.  It's going to be fun to be on several different campuses this week. 
     On a sidenote, I excused myself from the table I was working out this afternoon to use the ladies room. I walked in at the same time with a young co-ed..  As I was attending to the matter at hand, she cleared her throat in the next stall. When she finished, she said Arghh. Which I thought was weird, until she did it four more times ... Arghh, Arghh, Arghh, Arghh.  Best part of the day so far.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Graham cracker

     The last few weeks have been particularly challenging for me emotionally.  The anniversary of mom's death, countless news reports of children being abducted and molested, children dying in hot cars, dying in Gaza, dying in Israel, dying in the streets of my own country.  So much death.
     I know some of my limitations.  I can't read books where bad things happen to children.  I can't go to movies or watch television where bad things happen to children, where even the hint of something bad will happen.  All these things turn me inside out emotionally.  So normally, when I'm flipping through the interwebs or listening to the radio, and I can sense what's about to come, I turn it off, walk away... refuse to subject myself to it.  I do this because I know what will happen in my head.  There will be horrible visions of my own children or the children of friends and family suffering.  It's unbearable.  It seems as though the suffering is everywhere in the last few weeks.  It's been too difficult to write or be creative when you can feel the collective sadness of the world around you, like the earth is crying out. 
     When I became a parent, my mother told me that she used to have horrible dreams of my brother, sister and I dying in unimaginable ways.  I was horrified, both for her and of the visions.  She told me that she felt it was her cross to bear to keep us safe, that each image of me dying in her head acted as some sort of talisman against the real thing.  I remember telling her that I didn't think it worked that way, but she told me I would understand one day.  I still don't agree with her interpretation of the nightmares, but I do completely understand the claustrophobic fear of anything happening to these three brilliant beings I helped create.  It doesn't ease as they get older, nor does it ease as news reports creep in with the faces of anguished parents.    
     On my way home from work tonight, struggling to get through the traffic, late as usual, I was fishing around in my purse.  Eyes forward on the road, my hand touched on a cellophane wrapper.  I pulled it out -- a chocolate covered graham cracker package that I had completely forgotten I'd put there a week ago. My happiness at that moment was almost indescribable.  So much death in the last few weeks, so much sadness, so much disappointment, and here in my hand there was one stupid moment of discovered joy in a chocolate covered graham cracker.  I opened it slowly, nibbling away at each corner, savoring every moment.  It was almost an ecstatic experience.  All over one chocolate covered graham cracker ... and for a brief moment, a very brief moment, everything wasn't so sad. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Black Dog

     As I noted previously, it has been a bit of a tough weekend, so when I heard about Robin Williams' death, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to mention anything about it.  I've read a number of good articles and early tributes, and I didn't think I would have anything to add to the discussion.  I certainly enjoyed much of his oeuvre. In fact, I found him to be a very good character actor who strove to make his characters breathe, didn't simply rehash versions of himself over and over again.  Of course you could see his comedic side come through in many of his choices, but his characters were unique, and some even exceptional - I can still vividly recall the movie Insomnia with Al Pacino (2002).  His performance stuck with me for a long time, disturbing me.  And everyone of a certain age with a creative bent has a Dead Poet's Society (1989) line or two memorized. 
     When I heard of his death on the way home last night, I was sad for his children and the grandchildren that will never get to know him.  Apparently, his good friends and family knew that he suffered with depression and mental health issues, and although he talked about a lot of his demons in his comedy, it's probably a testament to his acting skills that the majority of the world had no idea how much pain he was in.  I'm sad that he wasn't able to ask for help yesterday, so that someone could take his hand ... and if he did ask for help, that person will have to live with the knowledge that they should have taken it seriously.  I think many more of us have contemplated suicide then would care to admit to out loud.  Couple that with the stigma associated with mental illness in this country, and it makes it that much harder to get the help you might need without fear of reprisal.     
     Personally, we have dealt with depression, mental health issues and struggles with suicide amongst our friends and family.  These topics are nothing to be embarrassed about, and in fact, when hidden within families make it that much harder for you to understand your past, understand why you may wrestle more with your demons then others do.  If you are suffering in a dark place, if the black dog seems to be just at the corner of your eye, please know that you are precious and important ... know that there is a reason why you are here on this planet, even if it feels like that can't possibly be true.  Talk to a friend, religious advisor, employer, teacher, coach.  Please.
     And if a friend or someone you love and value trusts you enough to tell you how much they hurt, how they can see no other option ... please take it seriously.  They're asking you to give them a reason to stay here.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255


Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 9th

     A lot of monumental things have happened on August 9th.  Here's a couple highlights:
  • 1483 - Opening of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
  • 1655 - Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell divides England into 11 districts
  • 1757 - English Fort William Henry, NY, surrenders to French & Indians troops
  • 1803 - 1st horses arrive in Hawaii
  • 1831 - 1st US steam engine train run (Albany to Schenectady, NY)
  • 1854 - Henry David Thoreau publishes "Walden"
  • 1859 - Elevator patented
  • 1902 - Edward VII of Great Britain crowned having succeeded his mother Victoria
  • 1910 - Alva Fisher patents electric washing machine
  • 1930 - Betty Boop debuts in Max Fleischer's animated cartoon Dizzy Dishes
  • 1942 - Mahatma Gandhi & 50 others arrested in Bombay after passing of a "quit India" campaign by the All-India Congress
  • 1944 - Smokey Bear debuts as spokesman for fire prevention
  • 1945 - US drops 2nd atomic bomb "Fat Man" on Japan destroys part of Nagasaki
  • 1969 - Manson family commits Tate-LaBianca murders
  • 1974 - Richard Nixon resigns presidency, VP Gerald Ford becomes 38th US president
  • 2008 - Laurel Sullivan, our beloved mom, dies in Boston
     There are days like today where you just want to wallow in misery, staying in bed or on the couch, watching pointless crap on TV, while children sit on or around you.  But then you get up and go to work, run errands afterwards, try to act as normal as possible around the babies, put the groceries away and carry on.  It's the "keep a stiff upper lip," "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," "learn to move on" approach.
     You know what ... it's disingenuous to your real self and your real emotions.