A note on mental health awareness month.

May is coming to a close, and with it, mental health awareness month. Are we all aware? On my part, I haven’t acknowledged the significance of the month in this space, though many of you have followed this blog because of my mental health posts.

For you who don’t experience clinical depression and can’t begin to understand it, here’s a scenario that might help:

You’re in the locker room at the gym when your ear catches a song on the radio. The song brings a sense of nostalgia so vague, it’s a mere tease. You can’t identify the song. It’s maddening. You listen hard to catch the lyrics, but the T.V. is on, too, and its volume is louder than the radio’s. You struggle to block out the sound of HGTV’s Fixer Upper so you can focus on the song. Shazam isn’t an option because the song is too faint; all the app is going to tell you is that it doesn’t recognize Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines. In a near-panic, you hear the song beginning its end, fading off in a flock of lyrics. You catch one expression – just one – which yields nothing on search engines. After long moments of failed attempts, you toss aside the useless expression. You’ve long since forgotten the song’s melody. Then you can’t even remember what it was about the song. Others try to help, begging you to describe the song so they can tell you what it is.

The song is soon irrelevant, anyway, because all you remember is the experience of wanting to know something and being unable to find the answer. It seems like much ado about nothing, except it isn’t… it isn’t about nothing. It’s about everything.

This is what depression can feel like: a fruitless search for an answer to an unknown question.

In the end, nothing matters. You’re compelled to give up because of this one mysterious, amorphous thing. It all feels meaningless, and the feeling is contagious to everything in your life and in your world. You begin the exhausting fight against the downward pull, which you can’t explain or describe, either. You’re left with the cliché of the abyss.

It’s a relief when a doctor figures out that there’s something awry in your brain. You start taking medication, and it helps. You sit and interact with professional listeners, and that helps, too.

Depression demands answers. It’s also hard for those who don’t experience it… it’s hard to be outside of it looking at someone who’s locked within. Those who chastise the depressed (just snap out of it, etc.) make themselves heard more than those who feel compassionate. The result? Stigma riding on the back of this medical condition.

Unfortunately, stigma speaks louder than compassion. This is why mental health awareness month is important. Compassion needs a louder voice. It needs to be attached to depression and other mental health conditions more firmly than stigma… and awareness can give it a chance.

 

 

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A ghost eye is lost in plain sight. (Coraline.)

Imagine that you’re alone in the house when you suddenly hear a feminine voice. It says, “a ghost eye is lost in plain sight.”

This happened to me last week. I was in the kitchen, and the voice came from the living room. I recognized that silky voice, and I knew those strange words… I’d heard them several times before. The speaker was Beldam, the aptly named evil crone in the animated film Coraline.

“A ghost eye is lost in plain sight” is the second part of a line that begins with “In each of the three wonders I’ve made just for you.”  

I went to the living room as I remembered that I’d started yet another re-watching of Coraline two days previously, and that I’d paused it. How did it un-pause itself after two days? Not only was my laptop in sleep mode when “a ghost eye is lost in plain sight” floated into the kitchen, but it was shut… and when I woke up the computer, the Netflix tab wasn’t even displayed. I found myself looking at a different tab. Tell me that’s not creepy.

Computers behave inexplicably at times, so there’s no point to the question of how this could happen. There’s no answer. It’s just a weird glitch.

The incident kind of threw me, though, as I think it would anyone. When you’re alone in the house and you suddenly hear Beldam intoning “a ghost eye is lost in plain sight” from the other room, it gives you a bit of a start.

Coraline has to be one of the spookiest non-horror films I’ve seen. Candy for the horror junkie! It’s one of my favorites.

Apropos of nothing, here’s your sometimes-Tuesday selfie (in which I demonstrate slouching on the couch):

 

Sitting on the couch is one of my many skills.

 

I’m thinking I should finish watching Coraline soon so I can shut down that tab. If I shut it down and I hear “a ghost eye is lost in plain sight” coming from the sleeping, closed computer again, I’ll have to wonder.

 

 

Shellebrating World Turtle Day! (Desert tortoise update!)

Today I come bearing a few throw-back pics of my scale-baby, because today is Geronimo’s day! May 23 is World Turtle Day, sponsored annually by the American Tortoise Rescue.

 

 

In the year and a half that we’ve had him, our rescued native (Sonoran) desert tortoise has brought bottomless love and joy to our lives. I never would have imagined that I could bond with a tortoise, but here we are.

 

Snuggled up to mommy’s leg

 

How it happened was simple: Geronimo joined us when a friend said he had a desert tortoise who needed a home.

We love animals. We have a large yard that’s geographically and botanically diverse in all the right ways for a native tortoise. How could we not take him in? Callaghan brought him home, and I completed an official adoption procedure through the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Tortoise Rescue Adoption program. Geronimo has since taken complete ownership of our yard, which is now his yard and which he patrols on the regular.

 

Hello.

 

We got Geronimo during hibernation season, and we didn’t know the first thing about tortoises, much less non-hibernating tortoises. Our crash course came courtesy of his doctor, the coordinator of the tortoise adoption program, and the internet. None of those resources could teach us about our particular kid and his personality, though. He taught us about himself over time. In tortoise time, that would be overnight.

We had to keep him warm in the house the first two+ months; it was like baby-sitting a toddler 24/7. We turned our entire dining room into a pen for his winter home, and so we learned that desert tortoises are climbers. It was all of the toddler clichés: he got into everything; I couldn’t turn my back on him for a second; he peed on me; he was a picky eater (until we learned what foods he loved); I was exhausted trying to watch him all the time; I’d sit down to work on my novel and then immediately have to spring up at the sound of something crashing to the floor. Every day was an adventure in keeping Geronimo safe and out of home-destroying trouble.

At sundown, we fluffed up the hay in his big wooden crate and tucked him into bed. We melted as we watched him gather up the hay and snuggle against the rolled-up towel we’d given him.

We learned that Geronimo is rambunctious, loving, gentle, and hilarious.

 

Hello.

 

At 21 years old, he’s just a baby!

 

First soaking after hibernation!

 

All we had to do in the yard was construct his burrow. Geronimo did the rest. We didn’t know that he would dig himself an underground burrow at the back of the burrow we made for him. So many moments of alarm and is this normal? Is he going to be okay?

We learned.

Geronimo’s favorite things: Romaine lettuce and fresh hibiscus flowers. Our outdoor laundry room. Summer rainstorms during monsoon season. Us, and people in general.

 

Spring grasses and weeds

 

Above all, Geronimo is ancient desert magic… he has an instantly calming effect on everyone who meets him. He is a true son of the Sonoran desert, and we feel privileged to be able to care for him for the state. Arizona celebrates you, kid!

 

 

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity! (Minimalism, post 16.)

It was continued home-improvement adventuring that left Sunday’s laundry undone, but I got right into that laundry yesterday. It felt like a good way to start Monday. I didn’t want to drag last week’s laundry into the new week.

Another thing not getting dragged forward in time: three boxes of books!

This is the minimalism post I thought would never happen, guys. This is the one wherein I report that I’m getting rid of a chunk of my book collection, not just a box or two as I’d done previously. From Day 1 of my minimalism journey, I’ve both wanted this and not wanted this. Behold the plot twist chez moi:

 

destination: donation

 

Only after separating out these books did I realize that yeah, they weighed a lot, physically and metaphorically.

It was just a matter of releasing my insistence on keeping all of the books, more than the books, themselves. I had this pre-determined course of action (e.g. inaction) regarding the books, and I finally decided to ask myself why. I could find no good reason for my obstinance.

What I’ve got left are two full shelves of books from end to end in my office closet, along with these stacks of books remaining from my large, stand-alone bookcases:

 

keeping

 

The exercise grew easier as I went. An exhilaration built up in proportion to the growing pile of books to be donated. The question I asked myself with each hard decision: Do I really need this? I know about the significance of Mary Lamb’s accomplishment, so do I need this copy of Tales from Shakespeare? I have a body of this writer’s/poet’s work in a larger volume, so do I need this extant publication? Do I need these classics for any reason other than they’re classics?

Many of these books entered my life during college and grad school, including anthologies and textbooks of literature, poetic theory, and philosophy. I’ve also kept related required readings. The wonderful thing about being an English major and creative writing scholar was that our required reading was largely comprised of novels and books of poetry. I loved most of them. I learned a lot as I read and studied them. Of course I had to keep them! But all of them?

Some books, my reluctance to let go came from what they were. I had this nerdy and pompous idea that everyone should have them. I went back and forth for a day and a half over The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and The Iliad, then decided that I didn’t need to hang onto them because where the ancient Greeks are concerned, I’m more interested in thought than mythology. I’m keeping Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, though, for reference. I’m keeping Aristophanes: Four Comedies for “Lysistrata.”

My decision to keep all of my collections of short stories (from classics to contemporary) sometimes came down to one work within. For instance, I’m keeping Melville’s Billy Budd and Other Stories for “Bartleby” (referenced in the title of this post).

In contemporary fiction, both literary and pop, I have a few collections: Nancy Drew (a pile that I’d purchased at a garage sale in Los Angeles in the 70’s hard-covers published in the 50’s and 60’s) and picture books from Hawaii. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. I’m keeping all of Harry Potter, as there are only seven books in that collection. I’m keeping Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series along with my favorite horror novels of his.

As for Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels? I have them all, and I wanted to keep them all… but there are 23, and while I like every one of them, I like some more than others. Actually, I discovered that I had 28 Reacher books, because I had duplicates of five of the novels. Something I wouldn’t have known! Five duplicates taking up space!

When I went to prune my Reacher collection, I ended up keeping:

  • The Affair
  • Gone Tomorrow
  • Bad Luck and Trouble
  • Worth Dying For
  • Persuader
  • Tripwire
  • Nothing to Lose
  • Without Fail
  • Make Me
  • Past Tense
  • Never Go Back
  • A Wanted Man
  • Night School

 

The Reacher that stays.

 

Plus No Middle Name, a recent collection of Jack Reacher short stories. The first three novels listed are my top three favorites, which might have something to do with the fact that they were my first Reacher novels in the order I bought them from La Fnac in Nice. I discovered Reacher in France, as I’ve mentioned before.

By the time I was finished going through the books, I felt as though I’d escaped a tyranny of sorts. This might seem a dramatic and bizarre way to regard the collection of books I’d so fiercely defended in my minimalism efforts, but I think the tyranny was that of my own stubborn self.

My bookshelves and I feel much lighter now. It’s delightful.

 

 

Weathering. (A sort of fitness update)

I was going to post a fitness update tonight. Instead, I greet you with a weather report. I can’t help it. I sat down at my desk with the warm dusk wind blowing and our patio wind chimes loud in the best of ways, drifting through the open door. I’ll say it again: there’s something truly mystical about this desert, something incalculably powerful. Tonight I’ve been distracted by the wind animating the trees I can see from my office window… our two palo verdes, our date palm’s fronds, the mesquite across the street. I’ve lived in this desert for almost 30 years, and its magic still startles me.

There wasn’t much to report in fitness news, anyhow. Weight-training class (Body Pump): I increased more of my weights today, and that wasn’t even the plan! Kickboxing (Body Combat): it continues to be a different experience at my second gym, mainly due to the A/C and fan. Long over are my days of drowning in a pool of my own sweat as I drive home. Cardio (Step): I haven’t been going. Sunday morning workouts just aren’t fitting into my weekends, and that’s okay. I’ve been doing my 10-minute version of cardio every day here at home, so there’s no cardio deficit in my workout week.

Finding alternate ways to work out usually isn’t a problem. I’m thinking of the time years ago that I went to my then-boxing gym one evening to find it closing early for some reason I can’t remember. I remember what I did instead, though, and I remember it precisely because of the weather that night.

I drove east through a gathering storm so I could make the evening T’ai Chi forms class at the dojo where I occasionally trained. We did the Crane Chi Kung form, which was my favorite of the Chi Kung animal forms. It was a time during which I preferred Crane to the other animal forms, energetically speaking. Crane is powerful, graceful, and deadly. The Crane form’s expansive movements and deep stances felt good.

Wind actually echoed in the darkened sky as the temperature dropped, and hail began to hit as we practiced Crane. In the next hour, there would begin a heavy rain that would fall throughout the night and a few hours into daylight. There would be thunder and lightning.

It was all quite unusual. Later that night, I turned on the television to watch the weather report – this was during a more analog time – to see that it had actually snowed in Phoenix! It was March, and so rare that such a storm would visit Arizona in the spring, or even in the winter. We’re used to sub-tropical monsoon storms in the late summer.

It was March, and the icy edge of that storm sliced through the Valley like the edge of a crane’s wing through water.

 

 

Long sleeves until 120F.

One of those large black bumblebees has been hurling itself violently at my office window on and off for the last two days, and I’m starting to worry for it.

In today’s fluff, I bring you another episode of “Selfie Request Fulfillment.” My minor obsession with background and lighting almost got in the way of this. We’re soon to paint all of our interior walls, you see. It’s hard to notice anything pleasing about your surroundings once you’ve finally made a plan to change them to your liking. It is for me, at least.

We bought this house complete with a fresh paint job, a beautiful paint job done with a color that inflicts a sallow glare onto everything in the path of a camera. When I take pics of food or objects, I fiddle with brightness and contrast on my phone to get the thing to look like its proper color. When the subject is human, I don’t do anything to the pics. I lack the patience for it.

Anyway, I figure that as long as I’m aware of how fortunate I am to have walls to paint, I can wish for them to be a different color without a twinge of first-world-problem discomfort.

Here’s yesterday:

 

Long sleeves until 120F

 

That newly thumb-tacked tapestry behind my desk will be moved to another wall after we’re done painting, as I have a different tapestry meant for that space. Looking at this pic, I can’t help but notice that the walls themselves don’t even look like their own color! The warm glow of the wall seen in the upper-right corner is an impostor. The bit of wall revealed in the bottom-left corner of the pic is more accurate… it’s not just a shadow.

The agony of visual deception! Fetch me my smelling salts! I shall retire to my chambers until the walls are painted, though I could make do with a simple fainting couch.

One morning in January, I sat in the living room convinced that there was a bull in my front yard, the ass end of which I could see from the window. I blinked. The bull was still there. I blinked again, and the bull was still there. After blinking a third time, I beheld a sheet draped over our young citrus tree, wrapped loosely and partially cascading. My husband had arranged this to protect the tree from low overnight temperatures. I was mildly disappointed to see that the bull was merely a tree wearing a sheet.

Thanks again for hanging out with me here, one and all!

 

 

Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse, 3

You know what makes my day sometimes? Missed Connections on Craigslist. I love this collection of writing, these strangers posting missives to one another.

It’s the entries’ titles that interest me, because those are the hooks. When I come across an entry titled “Asparagus Whisperer,” I smile. Not enough can be said of spontaneous smiling! When you’re alone at your computer and you smile out of amusement or affection, it’s genuine. A heartfelt smile intended for no one is a gift to yourself.

I went to Craigslist Missed Connections today and was rewarded, I guess, by the season… people seem to have been especially inspired by each other lately.

So here – I suppose this really has become something of a series! – I’ve collected my favorite hooks gleaned from about a month’s worth of Missed Connections entries. Credit goes to these strangers who unwittingly stopped by to drop bits of poetry for me to gather and combine.

I’ve probably explained this before, but again for you newer readers: I don’t change anything in these entry titles, save for obvious typos, as “(sic)” would muddy up the poem. I don’t add or change punctuation or caps. All I do is quickly skim through the entries and pick out the titles that intrigue me in some way, and I copy/paste them into a Word document.

 

Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse, 3

Hello, we met in the psych ward.
you switched to pharmacology after seeing a psychic
“They” say tue change purse has all the answers

Punk rock dude on 7th ave and indian school.
Serving up delicious pie
From Albuquerque to Vegas via Phoenix

Roadrunner
Cruisin 7th. You took money for the show
Looking For the Classic Beauty at White Mountain Dispensary on 4/20

Asparagus Whisperer
Missing that comic book girlie
Studying Spanish

Thoughtful woman who stopped at the Clean Freak
Looking for Michael the Bearded Bartender
Silver Cadillac on cave creek

Looking for my up, up, and away
Missed and missing still

Woman crying in car
I was at the movies alone – you were too.

 

La Fin.