Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bleak House

I'm about to do something that might not be too safe. I like to present myself to the public of the world wide interwebs as a person of clear mind and outstanding character, a girl that laughs in the face of adversity and walks with a spring in her step. I certainly don't want to make anyone uncomfortable or come across as melodramatic and lame. I have been known to be both of those things, and I do not wish to propagate that personality aspect with this particular blog. I just want to be honest, and I just want to share. Maybe someone out there needs to hear this. I don't know. I could certainly use it.

I suffer from a delightful disease that was once called "depression," but has now been upgraded to "major depressive disorder." I guess that sounds more medical. Maybe because so many people like to whine about how "depressed" they are, the mayo clinic (or whoever's in charge of that sort of thing) decided it might be easier to give it a more technical/medical sounding name. It IS, after all, a medical condition. I have a history of it, and I come from a long line of afflicted who, if not properly diagnosed because of their generation, were terribly misunderstood. It is, as they say, in my blood. And this one is heavy.

I bring it up now because I seem to have slipped deep into a bout of it over the past few months. It's a funny feeling watching things slip out of your grasp, sinking, but spinning uncontrollably. I could not tell you, if you asked, when it started, or give you an outline of my descent. The pictures are never that clear. That's what it is: a fuzziness in your brain, a cloudiness, that fogs the reality, the logical order of every day life. Maybe it happens in slow motion, but a blind slow motion, not one during which you see all the little nuances of every single move made. Slipping into depression is like sinking slowly underwater. It's comfortable, yet suffocating, calm, yet terrifying.

I feel it in my whole body. Every muscle aches. Sometimes I think I can't even move under the weight. Every single decision I make throughout my days, is tossed up against this wall that I watched building around me, yet said nothing. It's a heaving of myself into each task, and it's exhausting. Sometimes I have to convince myself that I have to talk. I have to will myself to communicate. I have to fight myself to keep from crying.

And sometimes I do cry. I cry until I laugh at myself because I know exactly where I am. I made it home a few days ago and sat myself back in the far corner of my house, and I cried out loud, "I don't want to be sad anymore," and then I laughed, and I breathed, and my dog licked my knee.

And it's no one's fault. It's not even my fault. It just is. Just hovering there, completely unrelated to the earth's rotation. Simply a wire or two in my brain that is malfunctioning. But it's very lonely.

I suppose that's why I'm writing this. Depression is terribly lonely. Sometimes I don't even want to be with people because it feels more lonely than when I'm alone. Because I have no idea what to say. Because it takes so much energy to keep from responding to "hello" with "I'm so tired of being miserable." I can't find anyone talking about depression online except doctors talking about how we need to talk more about it. To whom? Who among us is able to take on, even for a brief moment, the cross we, the depressed, flail beneath? Who would we want to do that to?

Yes, I take medication, and, yes, I am a believer. Sometimes it takes work, to find the right drug and the right dosage, and sometimes everything changes, and you have to go back to square one, but it's worth it not to feel this way. It's worth it to have hope that the world isn't quite ready to write you off. I'm also a believer in therapy. NOTHING feels quite like having an hour a week during which to talk while someone listens. So few people really listen to each other. So many people need someone to listen to them. Someone that takes the weight for just a moment, and then helps you grow strong enough to bear it yourself. The weight is always there. We do have the capability of carrying it, and that's a relief.

So, I hope someone reads this, and feels relief. I hope someone stumbles upon this, and it soothes the dull pain of waking up to depression again and again.

Even with medication, depression is a tough road to travel, but it doesn't last forever. It can't. As soon as this room becomes too dark, a light will find its way in.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How To Be a Feminist Runner

Many of you might consider yourselves to be runners. Many of you may consider yourselves to be feminists. But, do any of you consider yourselves to be feminist runners, or have you ever experienced a truly feminist run?

The feminist run begins at home. Mental preparation is of the utmost importance. I like to listen to the Tron Soundtrack. This is feminist because the girl in the movie is a sexy fighter. I am preparing myself for a sexy fight: me and the road. Ladies: you must wear a sports bra. Your body must be solid. You can wear a skirt. You have the choice to exercise your femininity while running, or you can wear shorts, but sometimes they ride up. How can you focus on the fight for equality while you are pulling your shorts out of your butt? I recommend a good layer of corn starch between your legs. The thighs of the maternal are big and powerful. They also chafe. Don't let this defeat you.

Step out into the night. I always run at night because I live in a small town, and I can. No one bothers me. If you live in a place where you don't feel safe, but you still want to run at night, carry some mace...or a gun. Not everyone is a feminist. No one takes advantage of you! No one crosses you!

Choose music that speaks to your soul as a woman in charge of her own destiny and riles you up (this is key). I recommend: Aretha Franklin's "Respect," Ladytron's "They only want you when you're seventeen," Metric's "Help I'm alive," or anything Liz Phair prior to her brush with pop fame. If you like, you can also listen to incredibly degrading, hard-core rap. I find this to be just the ticket when needing that extra push to keep running. Nothing makes me want to bulldoze someone like listening to a rapper degrade his woman.

Do I need to buy an arm band for my iphone? No, you do not. I put my iphone in a sock, and I lodge it safely between my shoulder-blades inside of the back of my sports bra. Make sure the sock is good and absorbent. You don't want the phone getting moist.

Finally, end your run with a song that lifts you up and makes you feel like you've won the fight and can do so again and again. I like Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory," but, "Born This Way" works really well too.

"I'm a dude. Can I be a feminist runner?"
Yes, you can. Follow all these instructions, but leave out the sports bra and skirt bits...unless you really like wearing skirts. There is nothing wrong with that. Skirts are awesome. Instead of thinking "manly," "misogynistic" thoughts, think empowering thoughts for all human beings. Listen to "Born This Way" at least once during your run. Maybe twice...and definitely Madonna. Then eat some chocolate ice-cream and call that lady you've been thinking about. Tell her how awesome she is. And, ladies, if that's you he's calling, thank him. Then, return the complement. Everyone is awesome.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A New Home

I took a class in grad school on the Literature of the American West. It was taught by a Canadian and was probably my 2nd favorite seminar in grad school next to my Emerson class. I didn't love it because the books we read were astonishingly good. I mean, we read James Fenimore Cooper, for crying out loud (He wrote The Last of the Mohicans and the rest of the adventures of Natty Bumpo in the Leatherstocking tales. That's right. Daniel Day Lewis's ACTUAL character name in The Last of the Mohicans was Natty Bumpo. So sexy). No, I loved the class because it opened up the idea of a broken history to me...the idea that the American hero was a myth, and the atrocity of that myth is just as important in upholding American culture as the myth itself. There really were no heroes, just people...that took a chance.

We read a book by a woman named Caroline Kirkland, A New Home, Who'll Follow. In this book, Kirkland tells the story of her move to the great western frontier of Michigan. Michigan. But it's not drama and romance, nor is it bravery and heroism. In fact, she writes more about the hilarity and ridiculous culture and manner of the people she encountered in the land her husband informed her she would be living. By the time the book was published, everyone in town knew who wrote it and hated her for it because she refused to write heroes into corners where heroes did not exist. She wrote what she saw and what she experienced, not what the rest of America expected.

I think about her and her book, which I hurriedly read during my lunch hour before the class, when I go out in Dahlonega, when I bump into locals and listen to their stories, or when I read their stories in my conversations with other people, or when I just watch...and occasionally join in on the life that is Dahlonega, GA.

Warning: From this point on, the names have been changed to protect the innocent (me), but my guess is, if you're reading this, and you're from Dahlonega, you know who you are and who I'm talking about.

I began the evening at Shenanigans Irish Pub with professors. Mostly gay, all southern. I could listen to a cd of those people talking about their lives and their jobs and the other people in their lives for hours. I had to lean back, cross my legs, and fan myself while I sipped red wine and let the sounds of the south dance around my ears. I went from Shenanigans to The Historic Holly Theater to watch a show I had directed. Great fun. Nothing feels better than FINALLY relaxing to watch a play you've been blocking and coaching and tweaking to some semblance of perfection for the past month. The old people loved it. The young people loved it. It was okay for me to let loose.

So, from the Holly, I walked to everyone's favorite bro bar: Johnny B's because American Anodyne was playing, and the show was guaranteed to be a hit. Should I tell you what I was wearing? It seems insignificant compared to the antics I lovingly witnessed. I was wearing a dress from Banana Republic that my mother had bought me when I was 22. I'm pretty sure she had no idea at the time that I would be able to fill it out as well as I do now. The dress, a military chic, hit my curves like nothing I've ever experienced. My hairdresser and I had decided, earlier, that I had to wear heels tonight, no matter what. So I did, for six hours, until it didn't matter what was happening below the boob line. I put on my sandals and danced with Dahlonega until the bartenders kicked us out.

It's funny when a town like this comes together. You can spend night after night, month after month, seeing the same people frequent the same bars, grow weary of the familiarity of it all, but nothing feels quite like a night when it all comes together. When the locals overrun the bar most frequented by fraternities. There were beautiful women, in beautiful dresses, with a slight sheen on their skin from the humidity that the bar tried desperately to combat with large fans mounted on the walls. Nothing cuts the humidity in the south. Nothing. And there were men, in jeans and t-shirts, cowboy boots, and hippie sandals, drunkenly gazing at the women, looking for a way into their world.

There was Brian Scheltz, who, even if you've never met him, has a personal motto that you'll never forget: "I'm Brian Scheltz, I do what I want!" He hit on me early on, and finished off the night dancing with a beautiful, voluptuous woman in one hand, and a pitcher of beer all to himself in the other. Ever seen a bear (straight) dip a woman and kiss her passionately during the move? You should meet Brian Sheltz.

Then there was Brandon, a skinny boy that works at the local superstore, manages actually. You see, everyone in town has a weird feeling about Brandon. They figure he must be gay, but he keeps hitting on women. All I know for sure, is that the boy can dance, and there's not a woman on the dance floor that won't lovingly give him a moment of their time to shake hips and knock knees.

Of course, Riley, who had performed the ceremony at a wedding that hitched up two well loved locals, was dancing like a fool, with his dress shirt off and his very own pitcher of beer. Apparently, his final words in the wedding were, "And now, by the power invested in me from the internet, I now pronounce you man and wife." We danced. He instructed me to set down my wine so that we could dance like they do in the movies. It's hard to do that with a guy that can't quite see straight.

Everywhere I looked there was a picture to be taken, a moment to be captured. Students, teachers, locals, transplants, dancing and drinking together and raising a glass to the music with its roots in the deep red clay of the mountains. It was worth a bit of a sweat.

I finished my evening on the balcony of the new Chow at school, alone. The panorama from the west end of the drill field is breathtaking, even at night in the moonlight. I could see the silhouettes of the hills and mountains in the distance, against the deep purple of the night sky. A cool breeze hit me from the east, and I looked up at the moon to feel, all at once, terribly insignificant and incredibly imperative at the same time.

It smells like trees here. It smells like cut grass. And the people want you to find a reason to stay. And, sometimes, you do too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Talking it Out

I wish I could tell you that things were great or things were terrible. I can do neither. Things are neither great nor terrible, but they still seem to be weighing on me a great deal. I'm in a blank, still, muggy place that shakes me to my core while at the same time boring me to death. Sometimes I think I'm losing my mind. I'm just going to be honest. Sometimes I think I'm going insane. I feel like I'm too busy to think straight whilst getting absolutely nothing done. When my therapist cured me of perfectionism, she left me with this unique ability to be satisfied with mediocrity. Yes, I no longer explode over the tiny details, but I don't seem to hone in on them ever either. I feel content yet stifled to be sauntering through my days.

Do you know what I'm saying?

I'm also feeling the weight of being alone these days. I sit at home, surrounded by my animals, and I think, "I'm incredibly lonely." The only contact I feel I have these days is with people I'm telling what to do, and people that are telling me what to do. I'm losing my ability to have a rational, normal, inspiring conversation with anyone. Oh...and nothing inspires me these days. And that makes me sad.

Am I losing you?

Maybe...maybe...for the first time ever...I feel age. I don't feel young, fun, or energetic, and that is daunting. I probably haven't eaten enough today, and that is part of the problem....but...even when I do eat enough...when I eat a lot, I feel dragged down. I kinda wish something super awesome would happen to just knock me off my feet. I could probably find it myself, but that would require motivation and inspiration...BLURG.

Perhaps...just maybe...I need a new goal.....Oh...wait...now I'm a little bit inspired....