Let Me Re-Introduce Myself to You by Answering 20 Questions

It’s been a long while since I wrote simply for the joy of, well, writing. I need a fresh start. This is a way to relieve the tension and get back to my natural self. Nice to meet you all over again.

Wild Wind-Blown Self Portrait Near Lake Joanis, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“Wild Wind-Blown Self Portrait at the shore of Lake Joanis”

What did you eat today?

One cup and a half of rice and cream of mushroom soup, washed it down with Vanilla Coke. It’s now late at night, I forgot to have supper, so I have to make up for it by making a quick tuna fish sandwich! I tend to skip meals whenever I get manic creative like I did today. Yes, I’m kicking myself in the fanny over it. But, to be fair, I’ve been on a treatment called Bydureon that has significantly reduced my appetite, so it’s made me extra forgetful when it comes to eating!

What have you done today?

Slept in too late, that also meant I took my medication later than usual (I’m talking about my diabetic meds) so that gave me a combination of a belly and headache, so I spent the first half of my wakefulness in meditation, stretching, easing my body back to a natural state of composure. This is what happens when my chronic fatigue attacks my system, so I compensate. I move slow, have done so for as long as I can remember, but now I accept it instead of beating myself up for it.

Next, I answer to the call of my cats who are ever mindful to help me stay awake by tending to their every need and desire. I not only just feed them, I clean their bowls, make sure their water is fresh, check the litter boxes three times a day (otherwise they will complain, loudly), and the best part is cuddling them. Today my elder cat, Calie, wasn’t feeling well, she’s got a hair-ball problem, so I massaged her belly and throat, prepared softer food for her, and made double sure the water and food bowls are free of dust.

The biggest chunk of the day I spent at my COLOURlovers profile site where my digital coloring obsession helps me relax and forget about the troubles of the outside world. It’s a part of my daily routine. Whenever I get stressed out, I’m there almost too much!

Tonight I am house cleaning, taking out trash, clearing clutter, and preparing for a late night visit with a good friend. She and I planned to collaborate on art projects while I put in a load of laundry. Unfortunately, didn’t work out, so we had to re-schedule, which is just as well considering I still have more cleaning to do before I can really make my place presentable. Ugh!

Name a few friends and what their talents are:

Saumya: Multi-talented, so I will name the one talent she has that’s my favorite (actually, I don’t have one favorite, so I’m just picking the one at the moment) — her ability to create intricate drawings where there’s images seemingly within images, like paisley maps that lead to “mind’s eye” hidden things but each time I take a look, I see something different within each drawing.

Michelle: Watching her drawings and paintings develop is like seeing flowers open fast forward, and they don’t wilt.

Nicole: She’s a true visionary, someone I can really relate to and can communicate with on a psychic level, but even when we can’t seem to connect in the “real” world, she has this earthy, motherly quality that soothes everything out. I can truly call her a “soothe-sayer” because as both an artist and healer, she can apply both at once in her efforts to bring someone a calming truth.

Trent: He drums like he was born out of a different era, yet also can drum in any style of music, or genre. What he is best at is rockabilly and jazz. His specialty is really keeping that nice, flowing beat… I can’t describe it as well as you can hear it. You have to hear him live.

What is your star sign?

Capricorn with Leo rising!

Can you play an instrument?

No. But I can sing. I took vocal training as a child and performed in semi-professional church choirs while growing up. I hated the travel, the church retreats, and constant auditions for solo and duet ensembles I didn’t get to be a part of! Yet when I did get to be, I did it like a Diva. Now I only sing on stage for karaoke contests, or just to surprise friends. I perform Stevie Nicks songs the best, my favorites songs to do are Enchanted, Talk to Me, Stand Back, and Edge of Seventeen, just to name a few, yeah, I could make a HUGE list. However, people who really know me often request I sing Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.

What has been your work experience mainly been in?

Retail hell.

Considering we’re only a few days away from Black Friday, I am VERY glad to not be experiencing that anymore!

Have you ever been to uni or done any courses?

I spent what seemed like decades in college obsessed with achieving my BFA in Studio Art, emphasis on Drawing and Painting, with a minor in Writing. Originally what kept me in classes so long was I double majored in English and Fine Arts! I soon realized I had to cut down those classes and focus on Art since that was where my talents truly were the best. I didn’t graduate and went on to just achieving a degree in Life Experience!

In fact, it really does feel like I spent my entire life in universities. My mother worked at Cardinal Stritch University during my grade school years, so after school I was “enrolled” in a life drawing class while Mom was at work. Instead of going home alone, it was great to take a bus to the university and engage in creative pastimes like that, really had a major influence on me. Later my Mom went to Central Bible College where religious studies also had a major impact on my life, but not in the way my mother would have hoped! By the time I was of age to get into college myself, university life was already a part of who I was and it’s my “church” in a very real sense.

I miss being in classes. I still feel a deep loss not attending. I have constant dreams where I think I’m late or didn’t show up for a class, and I’m missing out on it “all”, or I need to catch up. I also still feel like I am in my 20’s!

Are you in a band or do anything creative?

Hell’s belles, wish I could of been in a band, gods know I practiced like I was in one when I was a teen! But, no, that didn’t happen.

As for creative… I got that going on up to my eyeballs and beyond! Art’s my bag.

What is your favorite planet?

Planet? Planet sch-man-et! THE MOON!

Last film you watched?

The Shadow of the Vampire — I love my vampire movies. I’m also a HUGE fan of actors Eddie Izzard, John Malkovich, and you can’t beat the amazing Willem Dafoe as the classic Nosferatu!

What have you discovered about people?

Anyone I know, and love, can pass away, or leave, at any time, without warning. So make every moment count. Make sure everyone knows they are loved. Even when they refuse to believe you are their friend, or that you love them, still extend to them love. Just as often as people change their minds, they can change their hearts as well. Forgiveness is liberating, perhaps even necessary for survival.

What clothes are you wearing?

A turquoise and forest green batik sarong I sewn into a poncho, pair of black trousers, no socks, no bra, feeling like an all natural woman.

Are you a jeans and t-shirt girl or dresses and skirts girl?

Bah! I weep if I have to wear jeans. I love to wear dresses as long as they are semi-formal and exotic. And skirts, yes, skirts! I rather wear flowing things than tight, hugging my legs and thighs things.

Don’t even try to make me wear shorts in public. I think shorts are the ugliest things women wear. Get yourself into a skirt or pants, a romper even, but not shorts. And jumpers? Puh-leeeese!

However, you will only see me wear shorts to bed. When you’re a woman going through menopause, shorts are the best thing to wear at night. Never thought I’d EVER wear turn to wearing them for anything until I got the sweats.

Denim or leather?

LEATHER.

But I feel like I should be more kind and point out I don’t condone harm towards animals, even though I do have a leather couch that I know wasn’t made from the hides of cows who committed suicide. I also own a coyote fur coat, a gift from a friend and my father. I honor the animals and thank them for their contribution to my well-being as much as possible. We all nourish other living beings in this life and death and re-birth cycle. Someday my body will return to the earth, and perhaps will contribute to another’s life in this cycle as well, gods’ willing. I don’t know yet. Or I may disintegrate in an instant. Should I even think too long about this?

Why do I feel guilty over my humanity whenever I think about how leather is made?

Oh, I look back at my couch and suddenly start to imagine the moo-ing moans and death cries of the cattle when they lined up for slaughter… ouch. Stop it, Val.

What was the last song you listened to?

This is sad for me to say, but I don’t remember! This means I need to listen to more music again. I get into a silent mode. Last night I was content to listen to the geese outside, and then became very concerned when I heard a blue jay cry out in alarm just after dusk. I get to be a watch dog for my neighborhood woodland, the flora and fauna mean a lot to me, so I worry sometimes when I hear something strange like that.

Lately I am watching more movies, so the last songs I heard were instrumental soundtracks. However, to be specific, last time I heard an actual song was from Pink Flamingos!

The Trashmen : Surfin’ Bird ( 1963 )

Probably one of the most annoying songs ever created, but the “Papa, ooma mow mow” lyrics are perfect for the “singing asshole” scene during DIVINE‘s birthday party.

How many pokes have you got on Facebook?

You know, I’m slow to social media, always have been. Never understood how “pokes” work. So whenever someone pokes me, I don’t poke back, and I never poke anyone! It also took me FOREVER to get the hang of Twitter as well. I even wrote about how much it frightened me.

What things frustrate you?

People and money.

What political party do you support?

Liberal. I lean to the left. No particular party.

What is more important money or love?

Love. Because when you got love, the money follows, it really does. You might be able to “buy” someone’s loyalty, but when push comes to shove, people who love you will stick by you when you’re broke and sick. I know this because whenever I am broke and sick, I’m not that way for long, and my friends aren’t that way for long, too, so supporting each other with or without money, you can’t buy that. Love glues us all together.

You get invited to see your favorite rock star, what do you say?

Ha! I’m either speechless or over talkative at first, but the conversation will be mundane, which may be refreshing to the star. I don’t want to gush all over them because I think it’s just stupid and everything they’ve all heard before over and over again. I also know they are jet-lagged, or weary after a performance, so what I have to say will depend upon the circumstance of the chance meeting. I will dance according to the music played. But chances are, I’m awed speechless, or speech-full silly, so I should let them talk, tell me a story I can repeat for bragging rights later for me to tell to my friends. I collect stories of chance meetings like that, not autographs. Maybe I’d take a selfie with them, if they feel up to it, but even that will feel rude.

Fame can turn people into assholes. Being popular and successful is a job. Very stressful. It can get ugly just as much as it can be rewarding. When you’re famous people think they can say whatever they want about you, uncensored, sometimes even to your face, and this means my “heroes” have to wear thick, heavy armor. When I meet them, I know I’m not meeting the “real” person inside, it’s still a part of their performance. I know this because I’ve met and worked with several famous people, seen the life behind the stage, so being careful and kind to a performer goes a long way. I can’t just walk up to some star and think I’ll be their best friend over night. Even if that star was someone I used to know, went to school with, or was a friend of a friend’s friend, I don’t have the right to call on them willy-nilly.

Also, I no longer have any heroes, no one to look up to like I once did. I don’t believe in heroes anymore. There’s just people who are good. Good at what they do and doing good in the world.

We don’t need to put anyone else on a pedestal above us. Appreciate someone who deserves it more, like your mother, or the people who struggle to save refugees. Or just appreciate yourself. Yes. Do that! Great way to end this tonight. See you again soon!

My Harrowing/Hero-ing

Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red” photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

When I take action to control my life, I’m told I’m being manipulative. When they say I do not inform them of my life plans, it means they wanted me to ask their permission. When I decide what I want to do, it’s not done against anyone else’s will. When I ask for help, I am not asking for everything. When I ask for assistance, I am grateful, because there are things I cannot do for myself due to abilities I lack. I ask to be useful in return.

…and here’s where it gets personal.

It is not my fault when my help is refused. I am not your burden when you took me on as a “project”. I am not a project. I am a person, and I grow, I learn, and despite disabilities, in order to be happy, I have to help myself, do for myself, and not subsist on the crumbs public assistance assumes will leave me healthy.

I never ask anyone to break their back for me. I never lifted a hand to swipe away your bread for mine. I never got this depressed and sick in order to live lazy. When I volunteered at places I loved to work at, with people I loved to work with, it’s not my fault they turned me away because they thought the work was too hard on me, or maybe they thought I became a burden, too? If I cannot even volunteer, what use am I?

When I lost friends, those so-called pals told me they dumped me because they wanted to remember me as I was before I lost my health. But I am beyond pleasing them showing how crazy that made me feel. And when I could not fulfill deadlines for projects of my own, my passions were dying, I felt my fire flickering, my heart burning… What does it matter if I fail or not when I am considered this burden?

I cannot be a burden. It’s too heavy. I have to lose this weight. Not in the physical sense, but as in this weight of expectation. No more will I let my father tie me to the ground and shape my body into nothing but fat. No more will I let anyone sink me into mud whenever they give me looks of disgust like that. I am not this weight. My body is more than fat and meat. I’m not this heavy thing, yet…

I can be an anchor.

I intend to take action to control my life, and, yes, that is being manipulative because I am cutting off these strings to be master-less. I intend to live my life as I’ve always lived, really: as I choose, by my own power, whether or not you feel it’s what you think is proper or not. I do not need approval or acceptance. I never did. I don’t exist to take advantage of anyone. If I can, and I do, I support others in return with the abilities that I have that you do not. What I can do no one else can, and in that I have great value. Let me shine. Let me be my best. Let me produce.

I am a creatrix.

I should not subsist on crumbs, or favors, or public assistance alone. The shame of disability is a shroud created for me once diagnosis rears its ugly head and all the medical expenses pile up, keeping me a slave to an insane little budget, but how else to live when I have to maintain this balance? I no longer fit the mold. Since I cannot do as all the rest, what use is there for me? Do I forfeit all my learning and talent and remain in my closet drawing pretty pictures no one will see? So what shall I do? Wait to die? For years this body has rested underneath the burden of being a burden, practically the word alone “disabled” is enough to shame me into permanent instability. I am not disability itself. I am my own person. I am myself. Don’t mock me or tell me I’m this burden on society, or that my illness means you’re obligated to nurse maid me to Hell. I am not a crippled child who needs to lean on you in that fashion. Who said you had to work for me? Or fix me? It’s not your job.

While on disability, I’m not unemployed, I am working for myself.

When I choose to stand up for myself, I am not putting anyone down. When I decide to try something new, I am not abandoning help. When I ask someone to let me go, I am not asking them to dump me. Stop beating me up for being me. Quit hurting yourself taking responsibility for me. I never asked you to take my job. That’s always been up to me. Someday you won’t ever have to worry. It’s okay to think like you do because you really think it’s because you care. But it’s not helpful.

I am strong. I survive. I work my way through many tough things. But even when I am alone, I realize my survival has been the sum of many peoples’ assistance through many years. Even in my solitude, I am not an island.

I want you to know, I am not this so-called burden. Each time I’m called that, I think I die, and sometimes I thought I did, but each time I bounce back, I know it’s a lie. I grew up angry. How many women like me are told the same thing? How many lose their lives trying to work their way out of being a burden? How? Why?! I suppose I’m to feel guilty for everything they did for me when I couldn’t do anything in return, and they knew I didn’t have the means, so why did they decide to make me a burden? Does it feel good to stab themselves for picking me up when they knew I was too heavy? Because I’m not stabbing them. Just like they accuse me. I don’t do anything! All day, oh, yes, I sit here and project nothing. Especially not that.

Once you realize I am not a burden, you’ll be on to calling someone else the same thing. By then, I hope, I will have forgotten the sorrow of it, yet for now it is not a nothing, it is something I choose to toughen me up. I do not like getting like that. I like being soft, but like so many of you have told me,

  • “it builds character”

.

(not addressed to any one person, or organization, but written for all the women like me who are striving for independence while living with a disability)

We Carry Them With Us, Always

I don’t know where to begin, except to start at the trail of my tears, and trace back to a place of calm, somewhere where I can recount a time when maybe there was a time when I sincerely felt solace in this space.  I cannot find it now except in this inner temple where I carry you.

The Island in October, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“The Island” photograph by Valentina Kaquatosh, October 2015

And when I speak of you, I do not talk of one single person whom passed beyond this life, but of the several I last spoke to, or seen, if only in a dream, and now remember as if still awake in that dream.  I try to think of poetry, to form my words into something divine so my memories of you can float up into a heaven we can all recognize you in, someday, yes, that dreadful word someday I speak it like it will be tomorrow.  When I type it a bit of thunder rumbled outside my window.  Imagine that, thunder on Samhain!  What solace can be had this midnight with a thunderstorm?  You know how I am with storms.  My heart trembles and my skin goose pimples as the rain falls as if it were made of pure electricity.

Outside tonight the Halloween revelers are all a scream, running for shelter, their individual bonfires flooded out with the down pour as one more thunder strike silences everyone indoors.  A peace falls again, darkness swells as the rain tumbles with the thunder, thunder growing more gentle now even as it swells in intensity all along the clouds.  The rush of the wind makes me feel like I can hear your voice better now, telling me to call it a night, “go to bed, find a pillow, cry into it, or watch a scary movie, maybe take a shower, wash it all away like old make-up” and the rush becomes a fever.  There is heat all over my face.

I can’t help it.  I carry you with me everywhere I go.  I always will.  But you are not a burden.  You weigh nothing, yet only the sorrow is heavy, that is why I have to cry it out in doses, dump all these tears as much as I can and pray, at this moment especially, the Thunderers take it as my offering tonight.  May my salt leave my eyes, stop stinging my sight so I can finish writing these words, release my sorrow-burden and go on pretending everything has not left a mark, and all will be as if you did not die.

I know some of us say we do not die but we change from one life to the next and in this, yes, we must acknowledge death!  Accept death for what it is!  Do not hide sweet death and shy not from darkness…  but why, why take you so suddenly?!  What cause has your death sweetened for this life?  Those who say there is a plan for everything and that this is the work of God are mistaken.  No master plan is behind this.  Nature is random.  Only people put a riddle, rhyme, and reason to it all.  Poetry.  Yes, forever the poetry.  If only life were poetry!

We’d live forever if you and I had wrote our days long-hand poetry.  What epics we’d be now.

In this end, the poetry still leaks, strays away from me, repeats, even when I am at my loss for words I am poem-ing — perhaps that is how I carry you all — I poem you with me, always.  Like starting from a trail of tears to leaving a tiny, dry, dusty trail of glitter behind me as I reach the end of my lines, reaching for my solace.  On Samhain, forty minutes before midnight, my only strength in lighting candles, petting cats, about to watch an old scary movie, a black-and-white one I never got to watch with you, but one of you would appreciate the most.  I feel a smile somewhere in the darkness like an embrace.  It lifts me up a little at my waist.  Blood rushes back to my feet.  My finger tips tingle back to life after a numbing-stabbing of pain when I was at my bursting of tears.

I am not alone.

I’m not alone in carrying you with me.  You can be with so many different people now.  You need for no cell phone or internet.  Travel isn’t a bitch anymore.  Your body is only emotion, imagination, perfectly mobile in every meaning of invisible, impossible, and beyond understanding.  You can fit into anything, can take the shape of everything, and be the talk of everyone like you never were as a person.  No one need measure you by scientific means, or record you on video, or track you with any devices.  You’re gone in the sense that no one need touch or see you if they don’t need to, or want to, and even if they do, you’re there in the sense you never could be when you were.  As a story, more than fiction, but in this I can back that up with my poetry reference.

But in my times of solitude, where I am in my place of believing experiencing you out of your old body, it is another burden to sleep in the closet.  Sometimes, however, it is nice in the darkness.  It can protect me from the garish light, stop a migraine cold in its tracks, and heal me during times when a crowd is an assault to my senses.  When all I want to do is curl up with you, it would be nice to share what you have to say, yet the worry of the words…

perhaps only poetry is the way?

— in memory of Dylan, Joyce, and Shawnus

Restoring a Stradivarius

I haven’t posted anything in a long while because, it seems, each time I have this year, someone has passed, and/or someone criticizes me for being too emotional. So I have turned to reading more, finding comfort in the words of others, and building stamina in the realization we are all together in this awareness of beauty and infinity. No one thing is a small thing. The following is a poem by one of my favorite authors, Iris Orpi… each time I read her work, I feel that kind of kinship — the observance of timeless joy in each thing, no matter if you can only touch it with words.

Rampant and Golden

Kiss me along the rays
of my inner sun.
Call your serenity after
the ocean blue of my soul.

Remind me again
that I am infinite.
I have cast my future
in faith and fever dreams.
I have a lithe spirit,
but the rushing of days
and the dragging of nights
have taken with them
parts of my song.
If you can please
sing it back to me so I can
remember the words.

Love me
to the limits of awakening.
Lay your head against the night
whose stars are my eyes,
whose fragile stillness borrows
from my dark, silver-edged fears.
Get lost again in the city
peopled by all the ways
I am beautiful.

And I promise to belong to you
like I have always belonged,
deeper than the skin
and larger than these four walls.
.

RedWind_MihaiDascalescu.
“Red Winds” by photographer Mihai Dascalescu

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Simply Grateful

Today I am grateful for all the things I over look, take for granted, grateful for the ground underneath me staying still and solid, for the sky above me remaining calm, that I am in good health and so is my cat, Velvet. Even though I have zoned out today, letting time skip in a blur, I am letting tomorrow come as I would unfold a new and unexpected gift — because everyday I’m alive, even if I’m sore or lonely or sad, is a day to celebrate! Even if I have no place to go tomorrow, I plan to dance out the door and face any little adventure available to me with great knowing gladness.

This is the conclusion I come to most usually despite the nights I weep over the friends and family who have died, or left, and sometimes in their absence I have to pinch myself to remember to refresh the experiences of joy that they brought into my life. It’s far too easy to beat myself up over the losses. I’m not sure why my body and mind misbehaves like that when I’m most tired, weakest, vulnerable… most usually when I can’t sleep, or haven’t slept, and the days and nights of insomnia blend into a kind of non-existence. There are times when living the Solitary Life can cage me into a shadowy, hidden place, when my introversion doesn’t serve any purpose but prolong depression.

Last week, as part of an independent living community volunteer service, a peer counselor invited me to a house run by people like her. It was a way for me to get out of my shell again, and I have to tell you, I did panic a little! All of the panic immediately faded when I recognized women from downtown. It’s a relief to know I’m not the only woman in town dealing with menopause, grieving, and depression, etc., and the plus side is none of them were the judgmental type. All of them were used to dealing with the same things I deal with, some of them trained nurses and “travel buddies” who assist people like me with communicating with other people. What a relief to discover resources around and about where I live! The only con is we have limited volunteers. But it could be worse. A neighboring city isn’t as open-minded as mine, treating such “club houses” for the mentally ill community as troublesome. *makes frowny face* Whatever.

I once wrote about there needs to be a shrine on every block, or in every neighborhood, well, I want to revise that and say there needs to be places of refuge in every city for people who have emotional and mental distress. In these places we should be able to let ourselves cry, volunteer our time there to be shoulders to cry on, and provide ears to listen to other peoples’ concerns and problems. There should be kitchens and stoves for free that we can stock for anyone who needs a break, or who ever wants to brew a hot beverage or warm up a hot dish for people who need a little home style comfort.

Because not all of us have that kind of social interaction with others. I got through months without it. When I don’t see people so often in that ordinary way, I get all kinds of homesick. I miss my mother. I miss her home cooking. I’ll never get her kind of care ever again. There are no substitutes for her. Just as there are no substitutes for anyone else. Each loved one I’ve lost is a gem!

And I used to shine so brightly when I had more of those gems in my crown.

But as I write that, I cannot ignore the brilliant new gems in my life whom I should polish on a more regular basis instead of neglect while I fall into my darkness. I don’t want anyone to feel like I don’t listen to them more than I do voices who put me down in the past.

However, it’s a slow process to turn off the repetitive memories and words of those whom I could not reach a resolution with.

I will not talk about any one relationship, but there are three people I wish would have talked to me in person, face to face, in order to erase all the assumptions that ultimately severed us. But, then again, to even request contact would mean to them, I’m assuming, that I’m not able to let go, that I’m still unhealthy and manipulative, and whatever. I’m “meh” at this point. I just want my passion back. I don’t know how to get it back. I only know how to go on living… and dancing.

When I get moments of release, I eat them up! Early this morning at 4am, I had this incredible surge of energy and started to just dance, dance, DANCE. My cat, Velvet, chased after me, so I grabbed a ribbon and lashed it around me so we could dance together. Moments turned into an hour. As I got my wiggle out, it was good to just let my cares go, to work myself into exhaustion, and drop into my pillows again, anxious for the evening.

Because I slept all day, and now that night has come, the woods and cool, wet night air is heavy with that wet bark smell, I feel all cares are gone. That there is hope for my passion to creep back. Velvet is a doll, she tilts her head up, prances around me, anxious for me to get off the computer so I can go to being her giant cat toy again. She hasn’t taken the place of Mr. Snuggles, but she does the same thing he used to do: remind me to unplug from all the bad memories and PLAY!

And so I plan, just like I wrote at the end in the first paragraph, even if I have no place to go tomorrow, I plan to dance out the door and face any little adventure available to me with great knowing gladness.

I’m Not Laughing, But I Will Smile for Robin

When I heard about his death, I knew it wasn’t a joke. Yet, like the song, it seemed like he “started a joke that sent the whole world crying…” Oh, Robin, sweet Mr. Williams, I wish that one smile of my own could have kept you alive. But no matter now that I’m not laughing, I will smile for you.

There is always hope. Eighty percent of us who seek treatment for our depression don’t kill ourselves, yet the strongest risk factor of depression is suicide. Yet we can’t ignore that fifteen percent of the clinically depressed end their lives. Many of those also suffer from substance abuse problems. I’m not writing this as if this were some book report. Feel I need to provide some bright facts. *grumbles*

I know too many people who have died at their own hands. The first death I ever witnessed was a suicide. He promised me and other friends that he’d be everyone’s worst nightmare.

And promptly aimed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

In
front
of
me
.

He was only 17 years old, and since the age of 14 he battled addiction. He wouldn’t be the first person I knew who committed suicide, but he was the first and most violent.

Robin Williams disappeared just as violently as that boy I used to know. Those blue eyes of his sparkled with tears as much as laughter. Robin always reminded me of the kind of guy that’s the life of the party, but parties end, and he, like so many who suffer from depression, I can see turned to drink to keep that feeling of euphoria flowing… self medication they call it. I think all addicts are mentally ill.

I’m no addict, yet I can understand the despair that drags someone to the bottom of existence. I suffer from manic depression. In fact it is something that keeps me from writing, but sometimes it really gets me obsessively writing! I have not updated my blog since I was critiqued harshly for writing too many posts that were my purest expressions of grief. I felt obligated to be of great cheer to write, yet as William S. Burroughs wrote, “A writer lives the sad truth like anyone else. The only difference is, he files a report on it” and that is very much like me. Like many, many other people.

We’re all lonely and sad together on this one planet, aren’t we?

Oh, I’m not unhappy all the time. At other times I’m a pure joy jumping with glee and I can barely contain it! Over the last few years I’ve written a lot about my emotional pain, the scars of my personal grieving process over the loss of my mother and friends I boldly display whether or not anyone is reading, and not all poetry I produce is about one person or that thing that made me sad. However…

What I’ve learned all my life dealing with mental illness (in my family and my own experience): people judge you for everything you do and say once you’re under that label, you will lose friends constantly due to behavior you can curb and can’t control, and there are times when the pain is so intense no one else can possibly gauge how you feel or help you with just words.

All one can do is keep going, which makes things all the more difficult because even though everyone likes to say “help is available” or even we like to tell someone glum the bland statement “You need help” and the ever so useless “things will get better”, they don’t have a clue how to go about helping anyone, or themselves. Not unless you open up. AND even then not unless someone is there to listen. To just be there to listen! I’ve often been asked, “How can I help you?” whenever I’ve felt so down I might as well be crawling.

The answer is fairly simple: “Don’t do anything but be there.”

Playing a supportive role takes doing nothing and comes with a lot of “don’t do this” rules. Like don’t judge. As well as one very important “be” and that is: be gentle.

You thought I was about to say “be understanding” didn’t you?

Being gentle to someone in pain takes a special kindness, far better even than attempting to understand. When someone is in physical pain, or suffering from a bleeding wound, would you be tough with them? Soothing the illness helps ease. We want to transform “disease” to “ease” — the depression can’t go away, no one can make it disappear, but we can make the ways we endure it easier by simply helping each other reach peace.

But.

What happens when “being there” is not enough? I don’t think I can answer that for anyone else, yet even I find myself trying to come up with answers for and why and because.

So I write like I do when I think out loud to myself.

The path to emotional wellness is also a physical health issue fraught with so many ups and downs, I’m surprised anyone survives it. Few folks truly feel inclined to believe a person who eventually turns to suicide to end their constant suffering (not that I’m condoning it, mind you!) justifiably did it to truly end their true suffering.  What many don’t realize is that depression is long term suffering, especially since any kind of depression isn’t just simply explained away as a case of the blues.

I believe when suicides happen, individuals are in deep pain as serious as with any disease. Robin Williams was an actor whose struggles to keep sober and to combat his constant manic ups and downs wore him out. Even though he loved his family and friends, I am thinking that most likely he just wanted that constant pain to end. I’m sad that he died and lost the fight, just like I am broken-hearted over anyone who finally succumbs to any other fatal disease.

Because, believe it or not, depression kills. Depression, more so than experimenting with recreational drugs or what-not, leads people to numb their pain with alcohol and other substances. Whether or not you stay alive, it kills you, eats you up. You can have every luxury in the world and still have that unreasonable, unexplained black emptiness erasing you inside.

I don’t need to list suicide statistics to tell you how much of a problem this violent way to end life is in this country, especially among men, impacts so many families and friends. It’s a kind of death that continues to cause far more pain than any other passing, mainly because it is unnatural for a living being to turn against one’s own need for self-preservation. A person may decide to act on their need to end their pain, but the body itself will still fight on instinct to survive everything you put it through.

I’m no stranger to suicide attempts myself, but it’s never the longing to die, only to end pain that was at the heart of every attempt I ever made. Just so we’re clear, I am not telling you I’m suicidal now! But Robin’s death brings up all those dark memories, and makes me think of people who are suffering as I write these words, and I weep many nights just thinking how helpless I am to fight against my own depression, let alone help anyone else with theirs. Yet it is because I’ve suffered, I know there is a need to lend a shoulder to cry on for someone else, even if they may not actually be crying out loud.

It’s not an easy thing to witness someone in pain as you stand by, but if you knew how good it does to help that other person stand on their own, you’d do it time and time again.

I think it’s the basis of strength.

There are times I wish I could turn back time… or be there for just one more person before they shut off the clock.

So what keeps me ‘ticking’?

Most times I am outside of myself, aware that there are lives all around me not in pain who are simply alive, and it is that life I am grateful for being there. Animals especially surround me everywhere I go. This summer’s filled with life in my neck of the woods.

And I have many, many beautiful pictures to show you… coming soon.

I’m coming in out of the darkness.

Who’s Afraid of the Devil?

I grew up Evangelical Christian, and in my mother’s house we had more than a healthy fear of The Devil. That fear was especially keen during the early 1980’s when day care sex abuse hysteria, also known as “the Satanic Panic” (because all of the allegations of satanic ritual abuse that went along with the molestation allegations), made everyday life for a kid full of the potential to get raped, or murdered, by devil worshipers who could be anywhere. It was all over the news, talked about at church, but what was most heavily emphasized was about the sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. Any thoughts about it made you subject for the Devil. You could invite Him in with just one horny mind. A campaign of shame was hammered into our thoughts to prevent us from getting curious about it, or daring to give in to the natural urge teenage and young adult bodies manifest as they grow. The more we were told that the seat of evil was in our pants, the more it raged. Even when in love, the guilt of heavy petting ruined perfectly innocent relationships. The Devil was everywhere, right in our underwear.

Without getting into all the hoopla of the Book of Revelation (I refuse to quote scripture here because I have an aversion to the Bible, not because I disrespect Christians, but because it’s a religion I don’t identify as my own, and I feel disrespected whenever anyone uses Biblical scripture to defend their beliefs to me because one should not use a book to give me their personal testimony), I’ve always wondered why sex was such a taboo and not a celebrated thing. You would think that people who revere life even in its earliest stages would also be pro-sex! Because how else will we get those babies? Babies come from sex. More specifically, babies are born out of women’s bodies. It’s a woman’s body that is a battle ground in regards to religious morals about sex. You can’t have life without sex, right? So how did sex get so molested? The Devil made men do it. He got up into women’s bodies and made men’s lust evil and twisted so babies come out unhealthy. At some point, I suspect, the Devil was born from the belief that still-borns, sexually transmitted disease, and sexual abuse all originated from one supernatural enemy — a scapegoat to pin the blame on for the sins of men who couldn’t control their urges, especially ones that brought them down into animalistic and brutal practices.

I don’t believe the Devil as molester and rapist was ever a pagan god, or even any god’s adversary, but a personification of the feral side of human sexuality — the kind people greatly fear will take over their bodies while in the throws of lust and euphoria. When we’re naked, we are really stripped down to our true human animal skin, and when it comes to sex, we behave as we truly are, throwing ourselves back to nature.

Getting back to everyday, modern society here, I notice correspondences between symbols, numbers, and the common iconography that people associate with their fears and desires, how we use these images to create good luck and even invite bad things to happen to us. One thing I see repeating throughout pop culture is the Number of the Beast — 666!

I’ve known people who will actually defend the so-called power behind this number, adding so much of their fearful energy to it that they create their own reality of “evil out to get me at every turn”. Why do that? No wonder some people put no stock in other forms of positive ways to fuel their own power and turn to other people for spiritual help. They simply cannot believe that number won’t have any hold on them, especially when I point out that not all cultures on earth consider it unlucky or associated with the Devil.

In light of today being International Women’s Day, I know that the number 6 has a much more benign meaning in Numerology… The number 6 relates to feminine sexuality, family, fertility, domestic duties, womanhood, and home. This makes me wonder if that number has a connection to a fear of the Devil as being a fear of sex, especially as a fear of women having control over their sexuality and being independent of men.  My feminist views aside, I must consider the other meanings of this numerical conundrum.

In Kabbalistic Judaism, the 666 number is representative of the awesomeness of all creation because the world was created in six days, and there are six cardinal directions (north, south, east, west, above and below). Also if you add the numbers 666 together they equal 18, the number of life, also known as the Jewish “Hai” or “chai” which means “living, alive”! It’s customary in modern times to give monetary gifts in the number of 18 because of that spiritual significance.

The number six is a lucky number, and a triple six is a triple trinity. Trinities are really considered special in many religions, most representing the three main forms of gods and goddesses, including the Christian God, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. All trinities also represent three stages of life being youth, middle age, and old age, the emphasis on life, not evil or death. You can put whatever power you want on a number, or any type of sigil, and it can work a miracle for you depending upon how hard and well you believe…

I read somewhere once that the number 6 was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite. I believe that the number 666 may have originally been a sign not of “the beast” but of the lust men have for women, or the lust people have for sex, and that the number represented wild sexuality, something that was later considered evil because it related to the temples of the love goddess where ritual prostitution was practiced, and eventually abused. From there it must have grown, especially with the advent of more conservative religious thought (yes, even the Romans before Christianity frowned upon  some lecherous behavior) into a major misongynist hysteria that manifested with the mythos of the Devil, especially when it involved the prostitution and rape of young people. What once was a sacred institution became a den of debauchery, where people used religion as an excuse to disguise their true intention to exploit the innocent. Hello, slavery!

Just like so many religious institutions today. We trust our clergy, no matter what god devoted to, to be perfect representatives of our god, trusted to help and educate the innocent in the ways of that god. But can we not see how tempting a position to apply for that makes an already perverted “beast” of a person to want to be in? I can imagine it was the same for followers of Aphrodite to use the excuses of religious worship to take advantage of people, especially ones who were taught that it was okay to be a sexual slave in the name of the goddess.

Such behavior leads to un-wellness — centuries of it — and it’s no fault of any god/dess, or even any Devil, and no one need put a number on it either. 666 triggers all sorts of distortions and demons in the mind, even people who aren’t religious are unnerved by it, as if human beings have conditioned each other to see those three 6’s as three human figures buggering one another — come on, you can see it — and that means we’re all going to meet our doom, or that we have dirty minds.

Thinking beyond numbers and symbols, getting to the heart of their meaning and how they can be used, and realizing no thing has any power over myself except what I give it, helped me grow up. And I’m a Witch, I love the magic of these things, you’d think I was a messed up crazy person over all this, but being what I am is the heart of being wise — we practice the craft of it.

How I survived the satanic panic was that good common sense won out over fear. Faced with other people’s ignorance and all the over-the-top claims of satanic abuse every neighbor and their mother had to the point where anyone, including myself, who wore black was suspected of being a Satanist, somehow I developed patience and tolerance, and I took the time to learn mercy and forgive. And, *gasp!* I even made friends with real Satanists who shared with me their stories, set me right, and really helped me appreciate the world we live in.  Anything that could not be answered logically by my mother and other authorities, I turned to the library for help, and that place became my safe haven. To this day libraries are like my church, book stores a spiritual warehouse, and my own reference library at home is like having a chapel at arms-length.

Where did I get my confidence and wisdom to appreciate our differences? You’ll laugh when I tell you that I swear it came from the gods! I escaped into my mind and imagination. I had visions, inspiration, poetry to read, heroes to dream about, and, no, that’s not pathetic, that’s using my mind.  It’s a good thing.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the lessons from my childhood, but I’m also grateful to not live in that atmosphere anymore, to not fear sex or be in constant anxiety over the world blowing up, or even being afraid of eternal damnation if I should die (because no one was ever sure of getting to Heaven due to the multitude of sins one could commit without the reassurance of constant absolution). Besides, I’ve always suspected that “the Beast” already lived and died. He was quite possibly Nero or any number of naughty Roman, or other ancient bad boy leader in power at the time the Book of Revelations was written. No matter, I don’t make the Bible my book of choice as to what choices I make in my life.

The real devils are real people who have the nasty problem of seeking power and control over other people, sexually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. They take advantage of our innocence and vulnerability. They don’t come out of the dark wearing horns and black capes and they don’t use magic or cast curses on us.  The real devils are far more direct, brutal, bloody. They don’t rape us as part of satanic rituals, nor seek to sacrifice us to the Devil. They charm us into sacrificing ourselves to them. The nicest people are the best murderers because they take advantage of our desire to be nice, not just come at us when we’re vulnerable. I shake my head when I hear people claiming demons are inside them or following them around when we have living people who don’t have to have a devil in them to be completely devilish.

Don’t fear 666, or the Devil, or sex, or preach against all the things young people will naturally do due to being human, and don’t tell anyone they’re possessed by the Devil even if they are selfish and naughty — be sensible and guide them to be wary of real dangers in life. Teach yourself and others to have self esteem, to be physically strong and fit, and to read the psychological signs of people out there who may hurt us.  Lead by example.  Live in love.  Be blessed and give blessings in return.

Can I get a Blessed Be?  *giggle*  Or how about an Amen?