Monday, August 18, 2014
Happy Land does not exist. Please take a moment to screech and wail at The Universe.
Life is not designed to be a broad clown's grin accompanied by cotton candy, balloons and ass kissing 24/7. Americans are preoccupied with happiness and the pursuit of that state. Probably because the word has been abused to the point that the true meaning has been lost.
Happy: Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
Happiness: The state of being happy.
The reason this fleeting emotional experience has shape-shifted is because of:
The Pursuit of Happiness: A fundamental right mentioned in the Declaration of Independence to freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes you happy, as long as you don't do anything illegal or violate the rights of others. *
People have gotten hung up on "a fundamental right" while completely missing the "live life in a way that makes you happy...just don't do anything illegal or violate the rights of others." There's also that other word, which should be uppercased just so someone pays attention, PURSUIT. It is defined as "an effort to secure. attain or to follow".* Which sounds like a golden carrot dangling just out of reach.
I offer this in the ongoing series on depression because it is one of the fundamentals of understanding why we live the way we do.
Striving for a perceived unattainable is life diminishing.
There are amusement parks built for the specific purpose of entrenching a belief that Happy Land is possible (at least while standing inside the gates after forking over ninety-two dollars). What isn't shown in the advertisements are kids screaming for a toy on gum laden floors, the vomit spewing toddler just off a merry-go-round or the mother losing her shit in the bathroom. So Happy Land is crap. The idea it can be sustained longer than any other emotion, without the aid of drugs natural or man-made is another fairy tale keeping humans busy, pissed, overwhelmed and filled with despair and failure.
Someone is blowing smoke up a LOT of asses.
I suggest cremating the golden carrot. Scatter the pixie dust so that it can no longer dictate how to live. Instead, operate with another approach, one that ought to be taught in schools and mentored in homes.
"Live life in a way that brings contentment...as long as you don't do anything illegal or violate the rights of others."
Peaceful coexistence with all aspects of life. Which means work at something that brings satisfaction to you as well as others, live among a tribe who are or could be your friends, see nature in the environment whether it is a flower bursting from a concrete path or an ancient oak in a forest, hug family members to express humanity, listen to people as you would want them to listen, view each vibrant life as useful to the experience of ALL and give thanks daily for the wide range of emotions humans are accompanied with, because each of them are useful in this wild and wacky world.
The human rainbow spectrum isn't only skin and physical expression, it is also mood and state of mind. Emotions can switch on a dime, influenced by hormones, the weather, beliefs, events, and perceptions. Complicated beings cannot create in a one-dimensional box of happy because it neuters possibility.
Imagination runs free in a meadow of the encompassing ALL.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
A living being has a survival instinct knit into their DNA. That's why it is impossible to hold your breath until death occurs. I know this because I tried it on several occasions and couldn't stop breathing long enough to even turn a modest shade of blue. When a life force is able to circumvent this adversity to extinction by committing suicide, other members of the pod become frightened, grasping for answers.
"Were they depressed?"
"Could I have stopped them?"
"Why would someone who had so much kill themselves?"
Death, especially the kind ordered in an express line goes against the screaming banshee will to LIVE. Dying should be avoided at all cost and yet...
People drive and text or drunk and distracted while knowing this may kill them and others. Some humans eat to excess, smoke with cancer, play football, jay walk in traffic, dodge train crossings, shoot up dangerous drugs, stroll questionable alleys at night, speed on the highway, have sex with strangers, motorcycle without a helmet, pollute the planet, drop bombs into neighboring countries, play games with nukes, poison the only water for miles, utterly encouraging death or at the very least, poking it in the nose.
I don't have an appreciation for non-conscious choices. For myself, I avoid them with a fervent passion because I lived the life of the three monkeys, hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, for most of the first four decades of my life. Those damn monkeys almost became the death of ME. In the natural world I see evidence of choosing, not half-assing into death. For example squirrels are born in a particular neighborhood. They grow up with cars,roads and humans. The bushy rodents are very agile while tree hopping, utility line balancing and dancing in and out of each other. I find it particularly preposterous that so many squirrels are trampled by tire treads. Some of them stand stock still in the middle of the road as a car approaches. Repeat the story and input raccoon, deer, possum, chipmunks and turtles.
Are they looking for a quick way out?
There are birds that fly in front of airplanes, automobiles or into industrial fans, fish that get hooked over and over, herds of zebra that weirdly leap from a cliff and the intentional beaching by whale pods. In some cultures, there is a belief that animals decide to offer themselves to a hunter. They are not dragged to death, instead they choose. I read about a four legged lover who also claimed to be clairvoyant. She visited a slaughterhouse for cows expecting to be overwhelmed by a collective bovine fear. Instead the woman was met with acceptance. The animals transferred to her the experience of honoring their purpose and the natural end to this life.
What if everything is about the conscious state of choosing?
My father-in-law died from the effects of COPD. For the several years left after his diagnosis, he chose not to actively participate in making his lungs stronger. I don't know if he did this with awareness, but the end result was the family surrounded him while he struggled with his last breaths. This vigil went on for hours. He didn't die until everyone left the room.
From my perspective, no one human on God's green Earth has a clue what goes on behind someone else's eyeballs. There is no stopping a person hell bent on destruction or death. Living is a very private choice. Which is the whole point. Each life plops onto the planet accompanied by free will. What they do or don't do with the opportunity is up to the individual. No father, mother, sister, daughter, brother, son, friend, doctor, famous comedian's or storyteller's fan, owns the life or death decree of a loved one or entertainer. There is only ownership of self. Other's choices are in their own backyard, leaving the end result only to them.
Choice is singularly individual.
A day begins, waddling on until the moon rises, while an awake human ponders each second of breaths, alert to rhythms and subtleties. The dance is complicated, yet not. A collection of simplicity intertwined in splendor, shifting from beginning to end.
Friday, August 15, 2014
When I realized I had depression, which wasn't until a therapist "labeled" me, I was surprised.
"Doesn't everyone feel bummed out about life?"
I asked this of the first counselor I paid to listen. Her response surprised me again.
"Not to the level that you do."
25 years later I remain skeptical with that answer. At the time I asked a follow up question.
"How do you know?"
She gave me statistics for several minutes, but it never really satisfied my question.
How does anyone KNOW the common state of the human mind?
Back then I couldn't argue with the learned woman, I avoided lengthy discussions about mental health. I wasn't overly fond of communicating about anything. Two decades and a half later, I am in a profession that puts me up close and personal with lots of people, so today I'd challenge her opinion. After all, that's what it was, her opinion. From my perspective humans are in varying states of awareness on any given day and that colors who would or wouldn't acknowledge the sadness quotient of their lives. Wide awake people tend to shout their ups and downs. I haven't met a one who hasn't had a thing or two to say about the depth of their valleys. Of those, all would have gotten the big D label. Which leaves individuals living in a state of have to lists. The people who's mantra is, "You live and then you die, in between it's just a grueling ordeal." I'm gonna guess they wouldn't walk out of a therapist's office without a tattoo as well. Sprinkled in that mix are those who talk about happiness in thrilled whispers.
"Oh god my husband just got a raise, my kids are amazing, we're going to Bali, we have the perfect house, car, friends, bank account."
Ask them a pertinent question about the world at large and the answer ranges from, "I don't know", to "I don't care". I'm not stating everyone awaits a depression diagnosis. I'm pondering whether or not a label generates more than segregation from the "happy" collective. At 29 getting the big D moniker made me feel more isolated than I already felt, which is saying a lot. What brought me from "out there" to active participant in the global tribe is an unmarked road.
I tried the traditional route of medication to treat my slide into a a long black hole. It took the darkness and made it grey, which at the time was a productive start. Adding talk therapy gave me a place to vent and introduced coping strategies on difficult days. But big D turned into little d with an asterisk when I went for non-traditional or untried approaches. Untried is assumed since some of the odd experiences are so utterly preposterous I can't imagine anyone else went through the same doors. However, the world is quite large, with a mammoth population, so perhaps I haven't met the others as yet.
I went to a shaman, had my aura read, did a cleanse with disastrous results (you have been warned), had several somato-emotional releases through CranioSacral Therapy (it works, take my word for it), talked to ghosts, expunged misguided energies wreaking havoc, drummed healing, cleared past life traumas, purged dysfunctional relationships (which may not sound strange but it was),conversed with a voice in my head, done several soul retrievals (I think more of my parts are still out there to get), been surgically maimed, had ridiculous experiences with a dresser, a mutilated duck, a mouse, an exploding Buddha, several dogs, an eagle and had to noodle through a window the size of a postage stamp with a very large ass.
I'm sure I have missed a few of the party games, but you get the point. I walked the road I found, not the one laid out by well meaning and caring know-it-alls. This journey is written down in the book I'm writing so as not to forget each and every turn I took getting to neutral. Which is where I am with little d* depression. Neutral is the best place for me to be with a world and mind that from time to time gets mayhem filled.
There is darkness to be sure. The fact I notice means there is also light. The neutral space in the middle experiences both and on a clear day I see forever.
Yeah, a head bob to Barbra Streisand and that movie.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Living in every moment is ridiculously hard always. Not only due to the difficulty in turning off the drone of do lists or the what seems unnatural art of breathing in the exact second. It is the most grueling endeavor mainly because every moment is not divine. This planet is full of disease, mayhem, hatred and banality. Humans are crude, mean and frightening. There are freak storms killing thousands, elephants trampling their young, bombs going off in neighborhoods, planes falling from the sky and deaths of well known strangers.
We could all pray for a day of kumbaya, rant about peace or scream for humanity during inhumane and insane situations. These all expel energy in the pursuit of something that does not exist, an Earth without pain. Which is why living in every moment is ridiculously hard always.
There is so much that is out of human control. No one rotates the planet, brings the Sun up or down, blows the wind through trees or curls a wave into formation. Blood unconsciously flows through veins, while skin sheds and hair sprouts. We people are singularly specks in the Universe operating without a forecast. It is the nature of life. Which is why living in every moment is ridiculously hard always.
Hiding from truth is sustainable, I did it for decades. It's possible to wake up every morning forgetting what has happened and is happening. Most beige minutes don't amount to much to remember. The ones that do can be forgotten with very little effort. My emotional Richter scale crawled between one and two, never really amping up to earthquake status. Spirit rocked and rolled from time to time, attempting to bring mountain ranges to the surface, because it was in the crevices that my depression was born. Which is why living in every moment is ridiculously hard always.
The day Spirit outfoxed my blindfold maneuver was the last day of beige. She coyly set up my meeting with a shaman who knew a thing or two about waking people up.
"What is, IS."
Nothing additional needed to be said. A lot more happened to define that statement. I stumbled in the new reality light with a wonderful therapist, a dear friend and several other gurus, as the title of this blog states. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't nice. The journey was weird, fucked up and devastating. Which is why living in every moment is ridiculously hard always.
Kumbaya is a lovely song to sing around a campfire with a scout troupe. It is however a profound waste of energy in this vibrant, ugly, beautiful, scary, wild world. Exploring the facets of our crude diamond, while keeping a peaceful center is the only option that is of useful purpose. Accepting the reality while endeavoring to be a sparkling joy droplet is why living in every moment is ridiculously hard always. In that space of awareness it is possible to cry and laugh at the same time.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Arriving on this planet, spit from the other place, I was comprised of a physical body, an active questioning mind and a joyful spirit. I didn't pop out of the birth canal depressed. At five, I ran giggling madly through my grandmother's garden, grabbing heads of hydrangea flowers. Wonderment oodled from my pores watching her humongous gold fish lumber through the abalone shell encrusted pond. At six, something awful happened and even then I didn't believe in joy-less living. Life moved from kaleidoscope to beige in minuscule droplets. Teaching moments I can now see in a rapid fire memory view finder, clattering past on a backward moving train.
"We don't do things that way Debbie."
"Good girls shouldn't talk of those things."
"God don't like ugly, so don't be ugly."
"This is right and that is wrong."
The lessons of life were passed down from generation to generation to generation, while I questioned and wondered until that was taken from me in slaps and pinches. I didn't come to this party depressed. I was taught that life is a soul sucking, demeaning struggle of endurance. Only those who had been taught the rules of the road would have the ability to drag themselves across the finish line. Those rugged individuals would then be granted access through the pearly gates to heaven.
"Do this the right way."
"Be a good girl."
"We know best."
I saw people who were hideously unhappy, put a smile on their face in public. These life concierges groaned through daily life, while passing the misery baton into bright little minds. New to planet Earth, I accepted their dictums, adding them to the trauma backpack. Up to that point, my depression muddied the waters, but not enough to overwhelm my pool of joy. Wonder beads still sparkled in the sun at infrequent intervals, during acting class, smoking pot with my best friend, making love in my first loving relationship. After childhood graduation, heading into the big world to care for myself, it became more difficult for light rays to hit joy drops. I ended up working in restaurants out of convenience not passion, paying the electric bill mostly on time, but groaning under the weight of the task backpack.
By the time I welcomed two small joy filled humans I was in full blown depression, ready to begin the baton hand off. I had mastered the to do list because I was a good girl.
"This is right and this is wrong."
Fortunately when my little pods of love hit five, I remembered who I really am.
What the fuck am I doing?
I looked at the backpack, opened it up and set it on fire.
I'm gonna live.
The intervening 15 years have been full of heartache, controversy and joy droplets. Today the pool sparkles on any given day, while I splash with lumbering gold fish and hydrangea blossoms.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I guess I'm lucky in one genetic respect. I'm a girl who survives depression and not a boy. The sad stats are that more men than women complete their suicide. More women think about and attempt killing themselves, but males are more successful. As a teenager I thought, planned and nearly went down the death avenue. In adulthood severe depression reared again when I experienced several miscarriages, lasting through a successful birth to culminate in full blown postpartum depression. That story runs throughout this blog/book for the primary reason that I intend it for others who chemically or historically missed out on the sprinkles on their cupcake.
Depression is not best described by labeling it a disease. It is a disorder that encompasses body as well as mind and has the ability to make a human believe it also infects their spirit. Most physical ailments do not do this. Some of the other mental "diseases" also give the impression of impacting an individuals spirit. But spirit cannot be harmed. It is the only aspect of self that is unchanged by the physical, mental or living world. Somewhere inside of me resided this knowledge at 17. Consciously at 47 I endeavored to prove the idea that my spirit rose above the clutter of my historical depression. Now 53 years old, having traveled a mythical odyssey over shards of broken glass and old woundings, I am able to label this hypothesis TRUE.
Robin Williams suicide knocked me sideways as it did millions of other people living with or alongside depression. This brilliant man who made me laugh until I peed my pants took my long considered avenue of death. Only those who haven't gazed lingeringly at that option would say something judgmental about his choice. I didn't live in Mr. Williams life. No one else did. In my small square of the Universe I am honored with my own choices.
Those I choose consciously and those I don't.
On any given day the options litter my steps, this way or that way, eat this or not, be awake or sleep. The selections range from the dramatic, breathe or don't, to the less obvious, which job will bring joy or who will surround my days. But each of them are about living or not. Because conscious choices of quality rather than duty are the whole point. Decisions full of obligation are not owner-owned. They are shoulds and have tos. Spirit, the unharmed being behind my eyeballs, wants peaceful co-existence with my physical/mind self. She waits patiently until I understand this. Her essence perfumes my tasks with joy if we are aligned. If we are not, my body and head ache with aggravation, depression and sadness at our perceived separation. Coming to the realization that wholeness is a perception and a reality has brought me serenity. The tripod of body-mind-spirit IS. I intend to live in IS wherever that takes me.
Good bye Robin Williams. You are already missed.
Friday, August 1, 2014
Occasionally life imitates art and not the other way around. Oddly positioned events follow in the wake of creative offerings. I've been presenting just such a class on meditation. At each initial gathering, I asked the participants a question.
"What do you want or need to control in your life?"
The responses have been the same regardless of the ages of the members.
"What my kids do!"
Conspicuously one is always left unsaid.
"What about death?"
When I say this, the faces still and their breath freezes in an instant. Death is the ultimate thing humans are deathly afraid of. We want the final curtain to remain closed, dreading our own or the demise of those we love. This particular exploration is one I've undertaken in varying degrees. A few years ago, after a bout of doctor screw up pancreatitis, I contemplated death for weeks. The pain was of an intensity I'd never before experienced, which is saying a lot since I gave birth to twins, one naturally and one via a scalpel on the same day. Eventually my pancreas stopped digesting itself and the question of dying was left for another day.
Early one recent morning I found a mouse I'd been nursing, in the final moments of life. The baby rodent had come to me by way of Pi our rat terrier. The events that led to his presenting the critter to me are known only to him and that's probably for the best. For ten days my daughter and I hand fed "Henry" every two hours and he seemed about ready for release when he stopped eating. Only a day later Henry lay on his side near the food dish, his body moving oh so slowly with his last heartbeats. I'd not been overly fond of the idea of tending a mouse. I don't care for them much in the wild or in my pantry. But holding him while he nursed from an eye dropper, his mannerisms reminded me of two other babes I'd rocked at 2 am 20 years ago.
Shit. Don't die. Go live in the woods, find other mice and have mouselets. Don't die.
Henry took a few tiny breaths and stopped be-ing. Sighing heavily, I took his little body to our shed, not sure if he was really dead or playing the part. Leaving him for the day, I hoped he'd be gone when I returned, having solidly duped me with a frozen act.
Melancholia settled on my shoulders as I rode my bike north on a designated path, while death trundeled alongside.
Should I have let him go sooner?
I'd considered releasing him two days earlier when he was weened off baby animal formula. But he seemed so small and the wide world so big.
Did I do enough?
What is enough?
The beautiful summer day was undisturbed by my thoughts, nature carried on despite my sadness.
When I die what will become of my children?
Will they know all that I want them to know?
My thoughts moved with the rotations of the tires, swirling in sync and propelling me for several miles. At a major intersection I waited for the light to change. This crossing is complicated by high speed traffic in one direction and in the other a non-designated walk signal. The light turned yellow, slowing traffic in both directions, while the cars opposite geared up to turn. I needed to make it halfway before the drivers forgot a biker was on the road. Engaging the pedals I moved into the intersection as a construction semi ran the red light barreling into the crossing at 65 miles an hour.
Oh my God.
This is it.
My legs continued to move, the neurons had yet to receive a message that forward progress meant certain death. Simultaneously the spokes twirled and a sudden force of pressure leaned into my chest holding me in place, as though someone's forearm was against me, stopping my movement. I sat suspended in time and space.
The truck and I kissed each other back end to side as the pressure released and my bike spit forward.
Stunned, I continued biking, turning into a quiet wooded section of the path.
I should be dead.
Am I dead?
I'd seen a movie about people who were in motion when they died and kept doing what they had been doing in spirit, while their body was left behind. The sunny day ignored my question. Coming behind me from the intersection I heard sirens.
I am dead.
What the fuck?
I said hello to a passing biker and am offered no response, neither verbal or physical.
I'm a fucking ghost or a fucking something.
Better keep riding.
Another mile, another human and again no acknowledgement. It's a given that people from Illinois are notoriously unsociable to strangers, so I keep trying.
I nearly shout the next rider into a neighboring county.
"Oh! Yes. Yes it is a good morning!"
The man smiles broadly. I stagger my bike to a stop as he continues on his way, having graced me with life. Falling into a nearby bench, sweat and tears mingle on my cheeks. Gasping a little I call my husband to share the news and we both let the enormity of the story settle before saying good bye. Birds chirp in uncoordinated harmony, bees interrupt their melody and the rhythm of nature slows my heartbeat.
Who or what came between me and a tire sandwich?
There is no answer that will cover that question. Because to know for sure, I would need to have experienced rubber treads squishing me beyond the possibility for an open casket.
Surprisingly I wasn't afraid when it seemed I was dead. Fear didn't arise even when I caroled greetings at strangers hoping for a gift of acknowledgement. Shock and disappointment over not finishing the things I wanted to finish and all the words left unsaid and unwritten crashed down upon me in waves. There were stories I'd never told, ideas that had yet to be brought to the surface. My husbands hand still wanted holding and all the next experiences the young people I'd birthed needed to share. It is the unspoken, little thought of To Do List. Not the stupid gotta clean the bathroom and buy laundry detergent bull shit that consumes days of time, but the heart full offerings waiting in the wings.
Breathe dear girl, breathe.
In the wake of my living realization, melancholia still nestles on my shoulders, alongside memories of a wee mouse who never ran free.