Sunday, November 29, 2009

Feelings! Woe, woe, woe, feelings!

Spoiler Alert! The label for this post is "Subdivisions of Sad". Guess what? Parts of it are not happy. If you don't like melancholia, don't read this one! Mama say bum you out! You have been warned, so no complaining!
When one says "kinda blue", all kinds of things come to mind. Perhaps it's the iconic Miles Davis album and what it means to you. Maybe you snicker behind your hand, recalling some nasty joke by someone like Sarah Silverman, Richard Pryor, or Chris Rock. You know, a comic that works kinda blue. Warning! This next clip is not only kinda blue, it's absolutely filthy and disgusting! I'm not kidding! Offensive on every possible level! Repulsive! Seriously! I use it here only for illustrative purposes! It is not okay! Again, you have been warned!

I think of my grandmother. In the last years of her life, I tried to call her every day when I was making dinner. Often, the conversation was the same. "Hi, Mom Mom!" Even if I was tired, I tried to make my voice sound like I was smiling.

"Mmmm. Well. What are you doing?"

That was about it. Still, she was always pleased to hear from me. I was always glad I had called. It was a routine, a thing that we did, and after she died, even though I wouldn't remember any specific conversation from those calls, I missed making them. Sometimes, however, Mom Mom cut the calls short.

"Yeah, babe. I don't know. I feel kinda blue today. I just want to get back in the bed. I'll be ok. Just kinda blue, that's all."

It is stating the obvious to mention that everybody gets sad, and, since it's such a powerful emotion, it has been dissected, analyzed and discussed ad nauseum. This, however, doesn't dissuade me from adding my two cents, so grab your barf buckets, blog-friends! Here are the seven basic subdivisions of SAD. There are more - I'm not even going to touch on grief - but I'm fragile, so let's just leave it at seven, shall we? In order to fully get in the mood, you may, at this point, wish to play an endless loop of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", one of the saddest songs ever. She keeps her face in a jar by the door! Nobody hears the sermon! It's so sad! It should be played in D minor, the saddest of all keys.

1. The Malaise - The malaise is Mom Mom's "kinda blue", and for others, it's "in a funk". Mom Mom wasn't all that funky. The Malaise is a general feeling of unhappiness bordering on unwell, with a touch of worn down and bored mixed in. It feels like running full speed in a vat of oatmeal. It's downright exhausting, and when I am in it, I often have to take to my bed. It comes on without warning, inexplicably; nothing in particular triggers it, and nothing, not denial, hilarity, nor good news can end it. It's like being caught in a torrential thunderstorm, where the clouds explode open and pour down, except instead of water, you are pelted by Malaise-mayonnaise, which rises, viscous and cloying, and threatens to drown you. It's a huge sinkhole of suck. It gets in your pores. There's nothing to do but wallow in it, which involves some degree of guilt, because you know that nothing is really wrong with you, and your life is good, and you have no real problems, not genocide nor back acne, not famine nor Alzheimer's, not an infestation of nutria nor snakehead fish, not debilitating disease nor crushing loss, nor being sold as a seven year old into the Cambodian sex trade. You have nothing, no reason to feel badly. You don't deserve to be depressed. But...still and all...Malaise you have. And then, one day, as unexpectedly as it comes on, like a gravity defying Wonderbra, the Malaise lifts and separates from you, and you are buoyant again! Suddenly you see colors and have the urge to go the mall, not so much to buy anything (though while you're there already, why not?!), but because you want to feel up all the clothing as you pass by and look at all the people, taste expensive chocolates and eavesdrop on the inane. The Malaise is mysterious, but is a part of life. It could be called The Shit That Happens, but that's not real poetic now, is it?

2. The Weight of the World- The Weight of the World is a doozy. It's when you develop an extreme sensitivity to the problems of others, and you notice despair everywhere, and you get all bummed out. It's uber-empathy. It is, of course legitimate. There is heartache and tragedy everywhere, and sometimes it is invasive. I think the Bee Gees summed it up best in their appropriately titled song "Tragedy"; The Weight of the World is "when the morning cries and you don't know why." Today, for instance, I was listening to the BBC on the radio. They did a long, wacky piece on "Movember", or the month of the mustache, which was amusing, so I was happy. Here is a picture of a dude from Austin who is fully rocking a 70's 'stache though we are well into the 21st century: Anyway, after that they re-capped the top story of the day, which was that Switzerland voted to ban the building of minarets, which are used to call the faithful to worship at mosques. I understand that people have fear of a change that they feel is insidious and that threatens to erode an established way of life, but I found this to be sad news. Just by enacting this restriction, the Swiss, who are known for not taking sides, are ensuring such a change. Just because many Islamic theocracies are oppressive and intolerant, with little or no concern for human rights, doesn't mean that a freedom-loving democracy should adopt restrictive measures that target one group specifically. Of course, the vote was democratic, and the anti-minaret people won with almost 58% of the vote. I googled an anti-minaret campaign poster and I was shocked.

It's so...Nazi-like and blatant. It's scary, and I see it happening worldwide, to varying degrees, but more and more, and with a rabid, unreasonable Palinesque intensity. So I was disturbed. The next story was about the policemen in Tacoma that were executed in a coffee shop. Man! Angry, messed up people out there!

Later I found out that LA Times sportswriter Mike Penner died. That, in and of itself, is not so sad. People die all the time, and I'm not a big sports fan, so I wasn't familiar with his work. Mike Penner was an interesting guy, though. He was a transsexual, and he came out in his column, and then did a blog on his transformation. "I am a transsexual sportswriter," he wrote. "It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words." He did work up the courage to do it, though, and most of his fans accepted him, and he went on to continue his career as Christine Daniels. So, for a minute, I was inspired. That ladyman did amazingly difficult things in order to be happy, and he succeeded; that's so admirable! Then I found out his death was probably a suicide. After all of that, he died miserable and defeated. Wah-wah. Sixty Minutes was about the Congo. If you ever want to snap out of joy or sober up, think about Africa.The Weight of the World begins.

3. The Twilight - The Twilight has nothing to do with ridiculous, cold-cocked, celibate vampires or hot, hairless, teenage werewolves. It's that feeling of not quite fitting in, of being in and out, betwixt and between. It's not knowing what comes next or how what came before led to this point. It's being unsure of what is real and what is fantasy, and wondering if you are the only one who can't distinguish between the two. The twilight is illuminated, but still too dark to see. It's a frustrating haze. It lacks the clarity of conviction or the force of confidence. The twilight is a dense cloud, a fog of thick, gray felt that fails to be comforting or warm. It's a quaint Victorian street that nonetheless evokes Jack the Ripper. It's being afraid to move, because one doesn't understand one's place in space, and there is a constant fear of falling from some unknown precarious perch. The Twilight is not glamorous or whimsical. It's lonely and dangerous. If left unchecked it can evolve into Stinky Girl Syndrome, but that's a disorder that deserves a column of its own.

4. The Wildness - The Wildness is the inability to feel. It's when nothing is fast enough, hot enough, sweet enough, dirty enough... you get the point. Because this vast apathetic boredom sets in, the sufferer must constantly seek some satisfaction by making irresponsible, self-defeating choices. It's a reaction to monotony, but it's misguided, reckless and ineffective. I have only been in the Wildness once, but it was definitely an experience that stuck with me. It was a steady diet of Fuck It Pie and tequila. It was completely selfish and self-absorbed, a mantra of mefirstmorenow. I was bored, hardened and miserable, and I hated myself only slightly less than I hated everyone around me. Oddly, I have never been more popular with men than I was at that time. Go figure.5. The Hangover - The Hangover has nothing to do with being drunk. It's that feeling of total self-loathing and disgust one gets when one is hungover, that nobody-to-blame-but-yourself-will-you-never-learn-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you nag that leaves you a little greenish and shaky. Don't worry, you'll find something or someone else to blame your self-hatred on, and when you do, you'll cheer up. I mostly blame my job, uterus, or close friends and family.

6. Loneliness - Alone, in a crowd,deeply ingrained or just below the surface, denied or embraced, real or imagined - you know it. You've been there. We all have. It sucks. Cue "Heartbreak Hotel", sigh longingly, and nod in empathy.

7. The Sylvia Styron - (For a real downer, listen to this with an Elliot Smith track ) Named after Sylvia Plath, noted as much for her suicide as her talent, and William Styron, Pulitzer prize winning author of Sophie's Choice, a book of almost incomprehensible sorrow. Plath ended her life a month after the first printing of her critically acclaimed semi-autobiographical and only novel, The Bell Jar was published in 1963, by sticking her head in the oven while her children slept in the next room. Sadly, one of those children, Nicholas Hughes, also committed suicide in Alaska on March 16, 2009. (Not to dwell on the tragic, it may interest you in a creepy kind of way to know that Nicholas Hughes father, poet Ted Hughes, left Sylvia Plath -amid some controversy- for a woman named Assia Wevil, who, six years later, gassed herself and her four year old daughter, Shura.)

William Styron wrote a book called Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, chronicling his own depression, which led to suicidal thoughts and eventual hospitalization. In it he says:

What I had begun to discover is that, mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain. But it is not an immediately identifiable pain, like that of a broken limb. It may be more accurate to say that despair, owing to some evil trick played upon by the sick brain by the inhabiting psyche, comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room. And because no breeze stirs this cauldron, because there is no escape from this smothering confinement, it is entirely natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion.

I have never felt this way. I hope I never do. I feel a profound sense of pity for those who just cannot see a way out or the glow of possibility. I understand them, but I hope that, in the paraphrased words of Winston Churchill, when I am going through hell, I can keep going.

So...Happy Holidays, everybody! Despite the enormous bummer tone of the post, I am, at present, very happy and hope you are too. I started this entry a long time ago, but it took me forever to finish it, on account of, well, it was just so gosh-darn depressing! Outta me and all over you, that's what I say! I have decided that really, this blog is mostly for me, since I enjoy reading and writing it, and some of me is sometimes sad, so here it is. I promise, my next post will be more upbeat. Until then, try to recognize and spread happiness, and take the time to check on those who you love. Sappy but sound advice, non?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

RadioLab's Moments

I watched this again and again. The idea that each moment, every tiny fragment of time is meaningful and ripe with potential fills me with wonder, hope and awe.

By the way, if anyone can tell me why I can't seem to embed a video into my blog, I'd appreciate it...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Autumn Leaves

Yay! The new poems from the last Writer's Challenge are here! The challenge (see Nov. 4th's post) was to write a piece using these three lines:

The autumn leaves

don't fall

they jump.

As always the writers who contributed did a fantastic job making something meaningful out of a sliver of an idea. I am so impressed! As always, if you wish to send one in, it's not too late. Do it!

Winter nights get really pushy
They show up early to parties
And stay way too long
They take over, wrapping arms around windows
Chilling partygoers to the bone
Suddenly, we outstay welcome
Not wanting to deal with winter head on, alone
No coffee, more wine please
Where did everybody go?
Taxi? No! I’m just around the corner
Last call, bundled
When will it be warm again?
Will it be warm again?
A frozen walk home interrupted by visions
Spring beckons; another reality
But the thaw seems impossible,
Saved for a new life altogether
Spring belongs to fresh souls
A new pair of wide, baby eyes
With a neck too soft to support the head
A scene on the other side of glass
Blooms and crawls with life
Peering in, we, with strong, but aching necks
Squint at the bright color,
Where are my glasses?
A bio-sphere bubble
A bright sunny place, out of the reach
Of blue, longing fingertips
Our quiet tapping on spring’s shell gets louder
The snow drifts burying us up to our noses
Fists tight with fear and cold, pound then stop
Helplessly marveling at the buds, shoots and tendrils
The bursting green leaves wink at us through the glass
They are on to the joke
While we have missed the set-up, the twist
Never mind the punch line
The trees know things
Leaves understand the score and do what needs doing
they see that grren is temporary
red and brown looms
The autumn leaves
Don’t fall from the trees
They jump
Denying winter the terrible game of keep away
They leave well before the host starts brewing coffee and hints
And we grudgingly learn to step around patches of ice
-Mary Pierce Armstrong

Frozen Heartbreak

The autumn leaves and winter approaches

Roses freeze and lakes become ice

My heart becomes still

I cannot feel

My lungs don't jump with the air that they need

To breathe.

I feel like a flower that grew from no seed

My emotions don't stand, they fall.

Then, in the end

I don't feel anything
Nothing at all.

-L. Franco (Ms. Franco is one of my students)

Skin darkens and cracks
Firm areas relax
Particularly the rump

Liver spot appears
Getting along in years
Becoming quite a frump

Makeup between wrinkles
Cataracts twinkle
Mascara in a clump

Hair looking wintered
Walking cane splintered -
Ambulate with a thump.

Kleenex up your sleeve
Knowing how to weave
Aging is not for chumps!

No wonder autumn leaves
Don’t fall from the trees,
Instead they choose to jump!

-Alisa Richman

The autumn leaves don't fall
They jump
Sailing the currents of the air
Pirouetting through space
Handspring flip-flop twist

They all do it
Reliable lemniscate* of life
Compulsion that defies logic
Leafy lemmings

They are astronauts
Deep sea divers
Leaping into the unknown

At that moment

when the umbilical cord snaps
What are they thinking?

Realizing too late you ran the red light
Oven hissing in the kitchen, lights off, doors locked
Where's the baby - she was just here
Just this once, it will be all right
Bullets heard, but as yet unseen

Have they lost all inhibitions?
Drunken pilots in the cockpit
Shaking for the camera
Lampshades on their heads
Flinging and singing, "I can fly, I can fly!"

Is it wanderlust?
I’m root-bound, they complain
Gotta be free
Escape the family tree
Leave this old stump
Drifting like a dandelion
To see the world

Are they tired of hanging on?
So weary
And then the winter comes
So cold
Can’t take another never-ending winter
Jump and get it over with

Or maybe

All they are thinking is
Right here, right now
In a moment when the sun glosses their veins
An invisible pathway glows



The autumn leaves
Red yellow brown green
wait wait wait
don't fall from the trees
Red yellow brown green
wait wait wait

they jump!

-Christina Morris

I can see the oak quiver in the distance.
The boys ripple off into the air.
When will it be our turn?
The maple stands empty.
Every branch stripped.
Will it be our turn next?
A cry rustles through our top layer.
Voids appearing through the flutter
Is it our turn?
The line at the end dissappears.
Empty spaces rush toward me.
It's my turn.

- Chi Toh

The falling leaves

Like multicolor fireworks

Offer their last bang

To the season

-Elle Bebe

Thank you to everyone who played along! I love this stuff!

*Look it up, why don'tcha?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Passing Phase?

I got a feeling, it's incomplete
I got a feeling, and then it got to me...

I think I am on the cusp. Really it's a scary place to be, because A.) I might have to change, and B.) because I realize that unless I put my money where my mouth is and get off my ass and jam, I will heretofore live in a world of shameful regret. Nobody wants that shit. It's awful when you have nobody to blame but yourself.
I have a friend, Orlando, who once said, "Don't let the beauty of this world blind you from the beauty of others." He's got a point. I have so many things going on in this world that are positive. I have my family, whom I adore. They are everything to me. I have my girl friends, which is new to me; I've been a guy's girl for most of my life. I have students who love me. They compliment me on my ponytail. That's really kind, and sort of a deceptive, desperate pandering, but I don't mind. I have all these people who are pulling for me, hoping I'll make it, praying for my personal fulfillment, and I'm healthy and wealthy and live in a world of opportunity. And yet, I am getting more and more stagnant and depressed. I want to help myself, but I am so afraid to go from the fire into the frying pan. I am confined to the idea that this feeling is just a passing phase, which it may well be. What will I do? Will I leave all that is sure and holy to venture into the unknown and see what's what out there? That's just not like me. What about the garden? What about my parents? Still, I could change, and try something new. I do like a good adventure, and there are a million ways to be happy. I am liminal, with one foot in one reality and one in a fantasy. I ask you, what shall I do?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Writers' Challenge #4

I heard on the radio - I think it was last year- that leaves don't just waft gently from the trees in the autumn, as poets and artists might have us all believe. Rather, they are pushed from the leaves, in a seasonal attempt of the tree to save its branches from breaking under heavy snow. That's why the leaves that are on the ground are all different colors, in various stages of life or death; they "are released" at various times. Ah, nature! A wellspring of fascination, you are!

In celebration, I have a new writer's challenge for you all, and this is it: Write a poem, song or piece of prose that includes these lines:

The autumn leaves
don't fall from the trees
They jump

Oooh! Intriguing, non?

I am very interested to see what you come up with, so come on! Come up with something! Post or email me and I'll put it on the blog at a later date. Happy Writing!