Wednesday, August 27, 2014

the not much that i know.

20 years. that's how long i've had eyes wide shut (credit to whomever coined that phrase). i've been doing things my way for 20 years. my way has made life both complicated and colorful. my way gave way to three pit bulls who made my heart swell to near explosion and then a son who has both sleep deprived me to near insanity and suffused my soul with a supernatural love that sometimes overcomes me so much that i have to nibble on his chin or his nose or his cheek because little ones are as close to pure as humans will ever be.

i've moved around, slept around (sorry, mom and dad—but i promise that's more about sentence rhythm than literal accuracy), worked around, run around, and skipped around social circles (tripping a whole lot over expectation and intuition). i'm still figuring me out. we all are. although some of us are figuring out our inner selves while also figuring out the external stuff, like work and shelter and love. i fall into the latter category. 

i don't know much about sticking around in one place or with one person or one job. i know a few things. here they are:

1. produced effects: life and love are not like a grade school science-experiment volcano. our efforts can involve all the right elements and still not produce the desired results. we do what we do; what happens, happens. 

2. trying: none of us will ever get it right. we'll be haunted by whether we tried too hard or not hard enough. if we recognize ourselves in the midst of one extreme, we should try to fix it—but not too hard or too little. none of us will ever get it right. it's okay. 

3. shutting up: this can save a lot of frustration if we teach ourselves when to exercise it wisely. 

4. not shutting up: this can change the world if we teach ourselves when to exercise it wisely. 

5. sleep: for those with small children or sleep-disruptive disorders, it is precious. priceless. restorative. 

6. the gut: it's a truth teller. it tells you what's happening in your body. it tells you what's real in your thoughts. listen.

7. scores: not worth keeping. 

8. letdowns: they'll happen so often. we all know to let them go. we should also know how to read the fine print of a letdown: maybe it's telling us to redirect our paths. maybe it's telling us that in some cases, it's okay to reconfigure our affections and affinities.

9. idiosyncrasies: we all have them. how.many.times i've been told i analyze too much. analyze i do. however, the message behind that statement is utterly irksome: if you'd just be less like you, you'd be so much better off. no, i wouldn't. i'd be a different person with different idiosyncrasies. shoo, fly. 

10. awareness: what it is, is precious. what it isn't is an add-water solution. it is evolution. or even revolution. 

be well, little fritters.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

if you're happy and you know it ...

Be So Happy 
That When Others Look at You
They Become Happy Too

i saw this online recently. it stuck with me. or maybe it stuck to me, like crazy glue, because i've been picking at it for days. 

i fancied the idea of being that girl who always exudes happy. i went through my usual be better than yesterday! drill, or perhaps my worse you're not trying hard enough to be perfect! drill. 

then i read that robin williams hung himself

i began to re-evaluate this notion of exuding happiness. which is not exactly married to happiness itself; i'd call them a cohabitating couple.

happy looks like ...

my dad. the ultimate cover singer—with his own silly lyrics inserted—often performing to an audience of two, my mom and me. we playfully remind him how he never shuts up, only to be reminded by him that when he shuts up, it means he's dead and then we'll miss him never shutting up. my dadwhose small stature, prominent nose, and mannerisms make him ever more hometown italian guy as he agesfills many days delivering his baked goods and canned peppers to bank tellers, dentists, doctors, neighbors, church members, friends, and family. and no matter where he is, he never misses an opportunity to say hello to absolutely everyone he has ever known.

my friend. a talented darling who endured depression and more and then found her piece of peace and has clung to it like the kudzu covering the midsouth city where we met. southern roots twist her every syllable into airborne curlicues that are surely infused with the barely-there scent of moonflower, which she so carefully cultivates in her front-yard garden that she shares in beautifully captured photographs. gardening is her bliss, and in her bliss, she upholds the virtues of staying positive. 

then there's me. 

wait, me? a happy maker?

to get to yes, i must remind myself that private me—dead-horse beating, wildly what if-ing, and emotionally indulgent—isn't all there is. funny, saucy, clumsy, animated me is no less a true reflection of the kaleidoscopic human i am: singing cartoon themes in the shower as a kid; walking face-first into a glass door in front of an undeserving ex-boyfriend; singing my souped-up conway twitty/loretta lynn duet at my best friend's giggly request; showing my mom how to drop it like its hot in the dining room while home from college; exchanging witticisms with strange men in bars; posting not-your-average reviews of early motherhood on facebook; busting out the revenge of the nerds rap with my drunk skateboarder quasi-roommate on a neighborhood sidewalk; so much dancing in cars; so many vocal performances inspired by a vacuum. 

happy is ...

real when you see it. it's perfectly human to laugh and to want to make others laugh, no matter how we feel on the inside. that's the easy part. the hard part is sustaining positive thoughts. that takes work. homework, i call it. that's what i said to my therapist in college over a decade ago. looking back, i'm drawn to wonder: on a campus boasting lovely and eye-catching architecture, the building housing offices where souls were meant to be healed was among the ugliest. does that say something about how we view mental health? or maybe it's simply ironic. either way, on the way out of that ugly building, my mind was working hard, processing the knowledge that i couldn't be fixed, that instead i had to live the fix. 

i wish people would stop asking why a man who seemed so happy could kill himself. are they forgetting themselves? are they obtuse? just like we have layers of skin, we have layers of being. some are smooth; others are twisted and torn. who sees which layer changes with time and place—this includes the eye of the beholder. depression wears many faces—i almost typed "masks," and then i realized that's part of the problem. when a depressed person appears happy—or exuberant in the case of robin williams—it isn't a front. the joy is as much who they are as is the sadness. 

maybe some depressed people don't do their homework. i know i haven't always. fortunately, being a poor student of cognitive-behaviorial psychology hasn't been debilitating for me. is that because my sadness isn't bone deep as it was for, say, robin williams? i don't know. what i do know is my desire to find fulfillment is unstoppable. maybe that's why i've never been stopped. you can kick me, but you can't keep me down. that's what an old, beloved friend says. she has more right than most to say it, having battled depression, anxiety, abuse, financial loss, illness, miscarriage, and more. she did what she had to do, with sometimes nothing more than a lit cigarette as her guide through the darkness. these days, her soul is not fully satisfied, but she's resolute on her path

i don't know why robin williams decided to stop. i wish he hadn't. his frenzied humor swept me up and tickled me to the core. his smile reminded me of my dad's. my dad also battled depression, when he was a young father. he didn't tell me this until i moved back in with him and my mom and was faced with my own obstacles as a new mother. 

there is no being happy all the time, not even for those who wear it so well. happiness comes more easily to some than to others. there is no fairness in the distribution of mental makeup. 

i wish for everyone to never lose sight of this: life is worth it. 

embrace your happy. do your homework. and if that fails: lean, lean, lean on those who've got your back.