Tuesday, August 12, 2014

[Through Stunned Tears, I Say Farewell to a Man Who Helped Shape My Childhood]

I have really struggled to articulate the grief I feel in learning about Robin Williams' suicide yesterday. I only managed four hours of fitful sleep last night, as my subconscious struggled to come to terms with losing a friend I never met and with processing how a man whose life brought joy, laughter, and truth to countless millions could carry such despair that he could not bear to face another day.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching Robin bring to life the character of Mork from Ork via Nick at Nite. It was a long time, even, before I knew what his name was besides Mork. It didn't matter, because Mork was real to me. Hook premiered when I was eight, a year and a half before my mom died, and I can remember being confused about why I wasn't allowed to see it yet (it was rated PG-13), since it starred Robin Williams, as Peter Pan of all people. Then came Aladdin, and over time, more grown-up films that demonstrated his amazing breadth as an actor. There was never a time in which Robin Williams was not in my life--at least, my media life. He really was like a friend I'd never met.

Last night and this morning, I've read through dozens of memorial articles on the internet, and one thing that stands out to me is how people remember his generosity and humility. From surprising Christopher Reeves in the hospital after his accident (bringing him the first laughter since), to smaller stories of his genuine hospitality to anyone he came across, famous or not, to his work for charities such as St. Jude's Hospital, one thing is clear: Robin Williams was all heart.

Some time ago (I can't pinpoint the exact moment anymore), I noticed that, more than most, his eyes always held a twinkle of joy and humor that could not hide the sadness he carried. Frenetic humor or serious role, those eyes always showed a man carrying a burden of heartache. I'd hoped he had the upper hand, but as we know today, he could not fight it forever.

I'm reminded of an episode of Doctor Who, in which the Doctor and Amy Pond encounter Vincent Van Gogh. After overcoming the grave danger of the episode, in an effort to show Van Gogh that his work would eventually become some of the best-loved of all time and bring great joy to countless millions, they bring him to the present, to a showing of his works. The scholar/curator, portrayed by Bill Nighy, not knowing in whose presence he was speaking, explained that Van Gogh,
is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.
After they return him home, clearly uplifted in learning his impact on the world, Amy believes that they must have surely saved him from his suicide. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and returning the gallery, she finds that the events still played out as they originally did in history. She is devastated, but the Doctor makes an important point:
Amy Pond: We didn't make a difference at all.
The Doctor: I wouldn't say that. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey.
[hugs Amy]
The Doctor: The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.
It's an important point that I hope and pray we learn from this story and from Robin's life. Depression is a real illness--not a sulky state of mind, and not usually related to circumstances. A person who is suicidal is not thinking in terms of what will make them happy. They just want to not be in constant pain. This is why it's so important that we not stigmatize those who battle mental illness, but, rather, help them and do whatever we can to find ways to successfully treat it. No one treatment works for everyone because everyone's body and neurological chemistry is different. It's why chronic depression is such an ongoing struggle. I've struggled with depression, though not anything close to that level, since hitting puberty, and there are times, unrelated to events in my life, when I can't get out of the pain completely. I've never been to that point, but I can understand how one would find oneself there, no matter how grateful one is for the blessings in one's life.

Robin Williams, I thank you for your life and your work, and for the way you lived to lift others up. Your humor has saved many through the gift of laughter, and your dramatic roles, rooted in truth and compassion, have inspired more people than you could ever have known. Your generosity and charity have undoubtedly helped to save the lives of many. I am so sorry that in the end, the bad things in your life got the upper hand. The concept of the sad clown is true to life so very often, and in your case, the funniest clown had some of the deepest grief. I pray that you finally have the peace you so desperately sought, and I hope that now you can find the joy that eradicates the pain.

As Evan Rachel Wood shared on her Twitter feed yesterday:
"Genie, you're free."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Once again, it's been awhile since I've updated here, and it's not because nothing's happened. If anything, it's because too much has happened. Oh, where to begin?

Well, let's start with what I'd been writing about most recently: uteruses and vaginas! (Ha.) No, but seriously, I did get in touch with my gyno, and she finally agreed to do a tubal and endometrial ablation. Everything was going smoothly--I even managed to get an IV with only one stick when I went in for surgery on May 29, which almost never happens--and that's when things went wonky.

Did you know you can have too many surgeries? Apparently so, because my throat and airway have so much scar tissue from my 18 (now 19), that the anesthesiologist was unable to intubate me for a full surgery without the risk of damaging my vocal cords. Yup. Really. So, thanks to the power of Versed (a.k.a. Midazolam), I did get the ablation (good-bye endometrium, at least for now, and good-bye period bleeding!), but no tubal ligation. There was still a recovery period, all amidst the job hunt thanks to my teaching hours being cut back so far that I'm, for all intents and purposes, unemployed, at least on a regular basis. I do have a class this fall, but it doesn't begin until October, and I did get a contract for writing/editing for the company I've been freelancing for since last summer, which keeps my head above the water, but it's still poverty level stuff here (or pretty damn close). Anyway, last week, I got Nexplanon inserted into my arm, so I'm back on BC for hormones and, if I ever actually date and end up in an actual relationship, birth control. I'll most likely go on Mirena in a couple of years, since it lasts longer.

And yes, as you might guess based on my political leanings and the fact that the BCs I can actually use are among the four a certain craft-store-that-wants-to-be-a-church-and-still-for-profit-business won the right to refuse to cover, I've been pretty peeved this summer.

On the plus side, I do get to work from home now, so Sassy's getting to be around me all the time, which she loves. She still doesn't get "enough" attention, since it's not exactly doable to play with her and write/edit simultaneously, so we're dealing with some minor acting-out these days. Oh, well.

And of course, somehow, there still manages to be more on my plate than I have time to do. What's new, right?

Anyway, that's the latest, for those of you who keep up with me here.

Stay cool, kids. The Missouri humidity's thriving this week, so I'm hunkering down near an AC vent. Until next time!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

[Hacked... Fixed?]

Earlier this week, I had the unpleasant surprise of discovering that somehow, my blog had been hacked, and some sort of malware script had gotten embedded into the page. I'd changed my password last week upon being notified that someone in someplace like Ukraine had tried to hack my Google account, but apparently, I hadn't been quick enough. Now, I thought I'd fixed it midweek, but this morning, I said a few choice words when I got on to check the date on one of my posts and found that the problem was either back or had never left.

So, I upped my security, reset my template to barebones and recustomized it (unfortunately, it's not going to look the same--I can't remember what all the settings were). So far, so good, since that should've overwritten any weird customizations. I'm also going to get rid of any gadgets with customized HTML or CSS, at least for now, so some of the cool share tools are gone for the time being.

But please, if you stop by the page and it tells you that you need to update your Java, please LET ME KNOW! You shouldn't need Java to read my page. That's sign #1 that something's wrong. If you know me in person, please email me or call me. If not, if you're able, leave me a comment here, or go to my Brushstrokes page and leave me a comment there, and I'll try to fix it A.S.A.P.  Really, if anything seems suspicious, please let me know.

(As if it weren't bad enough to wake up to find out that I'm on my period for the second time in three weeks, which means I have to try to find a gynecologist, and they're notoriously difficult to get in to see if they're good. Sigh. Migraine, anyone?)

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Disclaimer: blunt discussion/rant about PMS/PMDD ahead. Do not read if you consider it TMI.

I have PMDD. I've had it for years. Sometimes, I get a break, with minor cramping at most, and in the past year, I've actually completely skipped at least three months (if not more), which, except for the concern that there might be something causing the skips, has been a bit of a relief.

Well, this week is trying to make up for that. Worst. Cramps. In. Years. I've been fighting to keep my food down since yesterday, and urgh!!!!! And mood swings? I've been in a heightened state of supreme irritation all day with NO TRIGGERS WHATSOEVER. Just a constant state of "pissed." I've kept it to myself for the most part, but it's not helping me to be very productive today.

So, for the next few days, you might want to steer clear. Fair warning. There may be fall-out.

Monday, February 03, 2014

[Stop. Please, Just Stop. Your Words Can Be Poison and Have the Power to Kill]

So often in the comments sections of articles and blog posts, I read comments from people who claim that "talking about [LGBTQI* rights and homophobia] is annoying/pointless/etc." As a straight ally, there is only so much I can say--the story is not mine to tell, as the struggles I feel are sympathetic, not empathetic. But this is not a topic we can afford to leave alone. People die every day because of their sexual orientations or identifications. Then on top of that, our society creates these false dichotomies of feminism/masculinity, equating men and boys who show compassion, a love for music and/or art, and gentleness with being weak, as if gentleness or being a woman is shameful. Here's something to think about: I never chose to be straight. I just am. And think about this: when being LGBTQI* means potentially being isolated, oppressed, beaten, or even killed, who the hell would actually choose that? It's not something most people choose, and I'd dare say that those who do are probably (I know, assumption, but hear me out), by nature, bisexual, somewhere along the spectrum, and it's not as much choice as they claim.

Look. I get it. After awhile, it seems like it's one discussion after another. It becomes a cacophony of voices and debates. But here's the thing: the reason it matters... the reason we can't stop talking about it is because that which changes people's understanding of the "other" is getting to know the "other." By dialoging more openly as we have been in the past two or three decades, the amount of homophobia that pervades our culture has declined. But it's still there, and it still harmful and even deadly. It's got to stop. Bullying, homophobia, false definitions of gender, stereotyping, etc.

I broke down in tears this morning as I read Michael's story:

11-yr-old Boy Bullied for Being A Brony Fighting for Life After Suicide Attempt; How You Can Help
“But now,” Suttle said quietly, “I wonder about why he wanted to come home instead of being with the other kids.  He said to us that the other kids were telling him he was gay for loving Pinkie Pie and they were trying to make him feel ashamed for being gay.  We said that we didn’t care if he was gay or straight; he was our son and we would love him.”
On Thursday, January 23, Michael had another rough day at school.  That night, he attempted suicide by hanging himself.
Michael is in the pediatric intensive care unit in a North Carolina hospital.   He has damage to his brain, his heart, and his lungs and has not yet fully awakened.  There is healing potential, but the extent of that potential is unknown.  His family is holding vigil, praying that the swelling in his brain will go down and the child will become coherent.  A tracheotomy is scheduled for this week.

So let me say this: I don't give a fuck (there, I said the word in writing, in public, for probably the first time in my life) if it's supposed to be a sin or not, even as a Christian. It. Does. Not. Matter. People are hurt and killed, and they did not choose this path for themselves. Even those who are straight but deviate from the feminine/masculine "standards" face this hate. If you think it's more important to declare loving someone of one's same gender a sin than it is to love them as they are, you are wrong, and you are perpetuating hate whether you feel hate in your heart or not. Period. As any writer or writing teacher can tell you--your intention when writing (or speaking) does not matter--what matters is what your words say and the connotations they carry. So please, if you feel the urge to tell people they're sinning for loving someone, for once in your life, shut the hell up and just listen. Be a friend, show grace and compassion.

Look, it's not that clear, anyway, what the Bible says on the topic, due to translation issues and context, so it's not your place to declare something that does not harm anyone else a sin. Your walk with God is yours alone. Mine is mine alone. As long as what we do harms no one else nor robs them of their rights to life and peace, it's not either of our places to place limits on them. No, homosexual relationships are not a slippery slope to bestiality or pedophilia. There is a hell of a world of difference between consensual sex between two adults and forced sex (by physical or psychological force) of one person in a position of power with one who cannot fully give or deny consent. So don't give me the slippery slope as an argument--it's complete and utter bullshit. In another phrase, it's comparing apples and oranges. They're not alike.

Love. Just love. It's not your place to condemn or convict. Michael's story is not alone. Enough is enough.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

[Sweet As Whole - Language Warning: Don't read this if you can't stand swearing]

There are days I'm grateful for Sara Bareilles' song, "Sweet As Whole."

[Major language disclaimer on the video.]

The first verse just says it all. ;)

Sometimes I can be perfectly sweet 
Got this sugary me all stuffed up in my sleeve 
And I'll talk of ponies and rainbows and things 
And I'm just who you want me to be 
Like most creatures down here on the ground 
I'm composed of the elements moving around 
But I grow and change and I shift and I switch 
And it turns out I'm actually kind of a bitch 
But that only happens when I get provoked 
By some piece of shit asshole we all sadly know 
And I sit and I write while reminding you all 
That mean songs are still better than going postal

Thank you, Sara, for a song that is shocking and therapeutic, laden with unreserved snark. Because of you and this song, I can now go to bed without obsessing about "some piece of s**t a**hole" who delights in ad hominem attacks on my personhood, artwork (that he/she has never seen--I just mentioned that I am an artist, which was why I thought a particular prank was a bit too much), or yada-yada-yada... rather than an actual fruitful discussion or respectfully disagreeing. I probably should add this song back to my Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! playlist ASAP.

I'm out! Good night!