Monday, March 21, 2011

Yet Another Sad Goodbye

Disclaimer: At the risk of seeming bi-polar (Chim-chim-cherree one day and funerals the next) this is probably going to be a sad post, so my feelings won't be hurt if you delete it without reading it, but please don't get annoyed and hit "unsubscribe"! I promise I will cheer up soon and start posting art and Zentangles again, OK?

I just came back from a funeral in Massachusetts for a classmate from high school. Needless to say - I have an awful lot on my mind. And since I started blogging a few years ago as a way to get "stuff" out of my head... I hope you will bear with me as I dump it and try to start unraveling it all.

One end of the raveled string leads to an online class I recently took with Marissa Haedike called "Life in the Fish Bowl". It was for artists who blog and how to promote oneself online, drawing lines for privacy, all that good stuff. It was very helpful and made me think about what exactly is OK to discuss on a blog (and I am probably going to violate most of it now). And Facebook. Supposedly these are our "friends" who are reading our posts and they care about us, right? And, yet, I kind of hate Facebook. I can't keep up with it all, Twitter too. And I hate feeling like I am being left out. When local "friends" post about parties that I was not invited to... how is that fun? After seeing "Social Network" I vowed to disconnect from FB. But, on the other hand, as an introvert, I don't think I would have any connection or have a clue with what my own family is up to if I didn't check FB every once in a while. Today I am imagining FB like a giant Magic 8-Ball for the Universe. No, I have not been drinking! (I would love a Margarita - though it would probably make my head hurt even more). Magic 8-Ball. Here's an example... I don't check FB every day, but Friday morning I did. A friend from high school (Chris) had posted the funeral info for another one of my HS classmates (Doug) - who was also his brother-in-law. I would never have known he had died. On the drive home today, I kept thinking about how there were so many people there, but no one from our HS class - at least no one I noticed and recognized. (We only had 35 in our class, but it has been over 20 years...) And Doug had been one of the popular kids. I just couldn't understand that, until I realized... maybe no one knew? Another horrifying thought. I guess privacy can backfire too?

Years ago, when Jim Mitchell died here in Warner (he was a radio personality and owned the local bookshop), the town hall was filled to overflowing with people come to pay respects and remember how wonderful he was. I remember vowing to myself that, when I died, I wanted to be MISSED! And, of course, it follows that I needed to do lots of really, really good things with my life. Kind of a tall order, but it is good to have a goal.

This morning, as I drove down to MA, I could not stop thinking about suicide. I know there are a lot of different reasons why a person might take their own life... but the type where people say "This was so unexpected. We never really imagined... But he had everything to live for..." That kind. I understand THAT kind. That's the kind that is almost unpreventable. And leaves the family feeling pummeled by guilt and confusion. Here's the best way I can think to explain it... imagine you wake up to find a small fire burning on your skin. You snuff it out in a panic and hide the burn marks so you don't scare anyone. The marks hurt, but you carry on. But, one day, you wake up to find your entire body is aflame. The pain is unbearable! There is a bucket of water in the room and you know it will get rid of the flames and the pain, but you can only use it once, and then it is all over. You can hear voices in the next room and you could scream for help. But you know that anyone who gets near you will immediately burst into flames too. You love those voices more than anything. What would you choose?

Honestly, the reasons NOT to make that choice, seem kind of selfish and silly. But I will share with you all my reasons for NOT choosing "the bucket".
1. I am too responsible and trustworthy. (Kind of sucks- see "Ella" below)
2. My parents spent way too much time and money trying to keep me alive as a teen (radiation, etc.) it would be incredibly ungrateful of me.
3. I really, really love my kids and would rather live with them resenting me, for being alive, than resenting me, for being dead.
4. I couldn't bear people "consoling" my ex for his "loss". As if.
5. I survived my "expiration" date set by my doctors and truly feel, there must be a reason.
6. There are just so many freaking amazing things to DO!!!!! (And places to go, and books to read...)

So... Magic 8-Ball... why did I happen to see that post on Facebook? Why did I feel I HAD to go to the funeral? There has to be a reason. I was sitting there thinking about this kid I knew 20 years ago and hearing about his life as an adult. Suffering from depression and migraines is plenty bad, but hurricane Katrina literally swept away his life.  I understood, and forgave him his decision to choose "the bucket". But then, when the kids started to sob ... I would have done just about anything to bring him back. Anything.

... At the other end of the string is "obligation"... have you seen "Ella Enchanted"? I love Anne Hathaway, she is one of my heros, and she is just so funny. But that movie made me cry (and laugh). She's blessed/cursed as a baby by a well-meaning fairy who gives her the gift of "obedience".  "Stop crying" and she does. What mom wouldn't want that for her child? But she HAS to do what anyone tells her. And that leads to all kinds of hysterically funny dilemmas... and horrifying ones too. She has to break the curse by following her own heart and it is not an easy curse to break.  Feeling obligated is a curse. But feeling obligated to someone who doesn't love you is worse than death.

Once, as I contemplated yet another possible career change as an antidote to depression and angst.. my ex told me that he didn't think I would ever be happy. I know he is wrong - I have been deliriously happy many times. But, in some ways, he may be right. It's just that we get the reasons for happiness wrong. You think that if you get more money, you'll be happy. Or if you could just pass that test... you'll be happy. Or find the right mate... you'll be happy. And you can't really plan it, either. It just happens and you have to be paying attention and appreciate it for what it is. But when I think back to the things that truly have made me happy... they usually involve laughter and are often couched in some very sad events. For example, when my grandmother died a few years ago (I still miss her every day!) - we were standing around a small hole in the ground on the empty edge of an unremarkable graveyard. The minister signaled to my mom to put the urn into the ground. She walked forward with the tote bag the funeral home had given her with the urn and put the whole thing - bag too! - into the ground. My brother, sister and I all started laughing hysterically! My grandmother would have laughed too! It still makes me happy thinking about it now. Why? My brother lives in LA and I never see him. My sister lives in Bar Harbor, Maine and I don't see her much either. But we all make fun of my mom for being a pack rat. She NEVER parts with anything - she hoards tote bags from conventions... But she parted with THIS tote bag. She buried the bag with the urn. Who DOES that? Our mom. For one moment we were all in the same place - we all got the joke. No one else did. Just us siblings. We were connected. We were happy.

So what in the world do all these tangled bits mean!? Perhaps it just reaffirms my feeling that I am, like Gonzo (the Muppet), an alien from another planet! :-) Maybe it means, I should stop caring what everybody thinks. Stop trying to solve everyone else's problems? Stop answering "Fine." when asked "How are you doing?" I should laugh at the stuff I think is funny - even if no one else is laughing? Dress how I want? Don't smile if I don't feel it? Hug my kids even if it embarrasses and annoys them? Ignore my ex and stop worrying about him ever getting a clue? (that's a toughy!) Write more books, make more art, travel more, find someone new to love (anyone know someone sweet, single and who looks like Aidan Quinn?), more more more....   and since I know you are wondering, and I AM baring my soul here... NO, getting a book published does not make me "happy". What does? Being asked to write a book, coming up with exciting ideas, creating something new out of nothing, being told by Shelley "I never imagined I'd be in a book!" and then coming up with the next idea.... rinse and repeat. Just keep moving, keep trying, keep laughing... As Hannah Montana said "It's the climb."


  1. Well said and I am sorry to hear about your classmate. Some days it is very hard to put everything into perspective and appreciate all that you have. Other days it is all that you think about. Thank you for being you and sharing a bit of "you" with us.

  2. Wow !! What a post Sandy !! All I can say is... YES,Yes and Y E S ! Dance your own dance. Be who you want to be. Don't live with regret at the end of yoru life. Live to the fullest, laugh when no one else does. Make them wonder what you are doing !!! Who cares !!! Now I don't mean run down the street naked....but follow your passion and find your JOY !! I'm doing all of the above. I still grieve the death of my DH... but I'm following a dream. One I thought died when he did. I'm proud of you for putting it all out there. You are amazing and I am so blessed to know you !!! HUgs.. Kristy

  3. Hi Sandy, we had a friend who chose the bucket and we often think that if he had learnt to accept things as being OK and not striving for everything to be perfect he would still be here to watch is gorgeous children grow. To me acceptance and appreciation is more important than perfection! Thanks for sharing!

  4. An Aidan Quinn look-a-alike is a very good choice.....

  5. Dale in AustraliaMarch 22, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    Sandy, best advice is nothing 'outside of yourself' is going to make you happy. You have to make yourself happy, then all those outside things become enjoyable. Like you, I have those up days, and those very low days. I'm not sure I know what happiness is, although I do know how to be happy. Mild depression will do that to you :-((

    Of course Aiden Quinn could 'make' me happy any day, anywhere, and Sandy, we will fight for that one :-) And I'm still looking for 'two' sugar daddies :-)

    My niece's best friend chose the bucket a few months ago. Sadly he planned it very carefully for six months and didn't leave a note. It is so sad for those left behind.

    Thinking of you.

  6. wow... deep stuff... your advice to yourself in the last paragraph is spot on though.

  7. Good advice! hard to follow sometimes.

  8. I am sorry you are so sad.

  9. Sandy , Thank you for sharing some really sensitive feelings. All I can say is, keep hugging the kids, live in the moment, and that happiness is a CHOICE. No one nor anything can " Make" you happy.You are a remarkable human being and I'm very lucky and greatful to be your friend.

  10. A truly inspiring post. Kudos. Happiness lies within and the choice is ours in whatever form is comfortable for us. Thank you for sharing a piece of your soul.

  11. Really beautiful post. Thank you for sharing beyond what's "approved".

  12. wonderful post Sandy, so glad you wrote it, AND shared it. You might find this very short article interesting-on sadness as useful:

  13. Thanks everyone. And, Nancy,that article was very interesting. I had never thought about sadness that way. But I have noticed how most people are more comfortable turning the sadness into anger. I think I do that too when I can't find a more creative outlet. Something to think about. I felt a lot better last night after I had written this post. I was worried that maybe I "shouldn't" have posted it. I did get one private email (so far!) from a reader who was offended and thought I should only write short posts about Zentangle. I felt stung... then angry! Oops. I guess being in the "fish bowl" is a very vulnerable place to be.

  14. Gwen in Victoria, BCMarch 22, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Hi Sandy: I am also very sad for your loss, but thank you for writing what you did; it came from your heart. I wanted to tell you that only YOU know what makes YOU happy in this life. Thank you for being part of my happiness through your infectious creativity.

  15. Thank you for the very personal post, Sandy. I too am a Gonzo...I deal with anxiety and depression too...not always an easy path to follow, but one that can bring you much empathy and understanding...when I read your posts I often think how much I would like to sit and share a cup of coffee with has been a life saver for has taken me to my "happy place". Keep posting what you feel there are many of us "aliens" out here. I wish you many blessings...

  16. You're a brave and shining soul. Don't be anyone but yourself ever! We need more people like you in the world...

  17. It's fun to share success with folks, but it's necessary to share the tough times too -- that's what friends are for :-) Thanks for being brave enough to trust us & break the rules sometimes... that's important.

    You'll find your center again, & those treasured memories will comfort you. Women know when we can't stand alone, & we're stronger because of that.

  18. I am Glad You shared Sandy! Suicide! Well, the first time I heard that word? I know where I was and what I was doing. I was a small child in elementary School and had been paraded down to the school auditorium. Finally, We are at the Auditorium, a mandatory presence required. On the what seemed a monsterous stage in the fourth grade was a TV - Black and White on a Stool! (Big Bucks Man!) They were showing US history! The Principal came on stage. It was another Red Rocket attempt. The Seven were there and The first to go Had been announced. The Principal stated loud and Clear Alan Shepard, was on a Suicide Mission, no family, no children, a Distant person. My thoughts are still cloudy on what or how I put that word into my vocabulary that day! But it stuck. I knew it was a very bad word. When I asked someone to explain it to me. They thought I was totally stupid. I did not know the role it would play in my life. However, that is what My Mother did. It only took Her 76 years to do it.
    She did it, with the help of Doctors.
    She had lung Cancer, they promised Her drugs for the pain. She called Our Father just as She had done so many times before. This time He did not make it in time. He stilled loved the Beautiful Doll like Creature with Natural Curly Jet Shoe Polish Black Hair. Unless, you see those curls for real they are unbelievable. My Mother, was never Happy Sandy, Never!
    You are not such a person.
    You are Happy! Unfortunately, it just cannot be 24 - 7 sometimes.
    You have to wake up and say- I am Happy! And low a Behold! Something happens to make you Sad! Zentangle it away! You are not a Sad person. Never allow anyone to tell you that again. The person telling you that you will never be a Happy Person- Well, they just do not have your energy to Create and to Live.
    People grow Old, but even if we cannot stop being wrinkled and all platinum Blonds-(Gray Hair) Look at the Sun and Be Happy All Day! The Day is a Roller Coaster of Fun.
    I was denied the privilege to tell My Mother Goodbye. Because, I would not pretend she was not the person she was. She was never Happy! Always looking for a cheap Pill to make a Miracle. What a wasted life. She never liked any of Her six children She took no pleasure in their abilities.
    Guess, you do not like that Horn Noise of your Son, Or the Perky little girl. Hug them tight for me.
    Oh, yeah! There were over 300 hundred people in my graduating class, by the time my sons were starting scouts, several of them had died. No, one ever told me. They knew where I was. I was at a scout meet, and this woman started talking to me. Wonder why I did not attend my classmates funerals. All, I could say, Who died? I never thought any of them would die young. It was a very rough school.
    I am glad you went.
    I Celebrate His life with You! The Circle is unbroken and completed. Just missing links. Do not leave any missing links, Sandy.
    Stay Happy!

    ((( Circle of His Hugs)))
    Sherrie Roberts

  19. Hi Sandy,

    I so appreciate your post. You wrestle with experiences, thoughts and emotions that are challenging to ALL of us and you are so generous in sharing of yourself. If "social networking" were more this kind of discussion, it would be such a gift for all of us. I've never met you in person but you truly inspire affection, respect, empathy... and creativity! In short, I want to be you when I grow up! (Although I think I am probably twice your age since for me Aiden Quinn is jailbait)
    Barbara Allen

  20. I think we all expect too much of poor 'happy'. We have elevated happiness to a sort of nirvana state. The problem is that most people don't recognise their happy moments because those moments aren't big enough for them. Happiness lives in the small stuff and when you get enough of those small happy moments then you are living a happy life. It's possible to appreciate the not-so-happy times too by knowing that good can come from it.

    Having and achieving material things or accomplishments never makes for a lasting happiness - they are merely a staging post, a stepping-off point for the next walk along the path in which many more happy moments are embedded like glinting diamonds. We simply have to notice them more often.

  21. May Doug find the peace now that eluded him later in life...

  22. Oh Sandy, I just read your post and felt as though I had climbed into your heart! I am so glad you CAN express yourself and bare your soul to your friends. And that's what we are, all of us who follow your blog and laugh and cry right along side you! For the one private email that said you should only post Zentangle news... that one needs to do some soul searching!
    Please continue to share with us as we all relate in some way and as healing as it was for you to write what you did, you reached others that it touched and healed too!
    I am a newby to Zentangles and will be headed to MA in May for my CZT. I found that in my first works of art much of my life poured out into my drawings..i.e. snakes, broken heart, words, tight tangles, loose tangles, etc. It's like a book in pictures! Anyway, some day I hope to teach others how to express themselves in ways they never imagined and watching wonderful people like you stepping out of the comfort zone, I will succeed!
    Keep smiling

  23. I found my mother's body after she had chosen "the bucket." Years and years of anger, what ifs, if only, why didn't I, etc. etc.

    Found Zentangle... found peace (and quiet happiness). Life is good. Thank you for sharing.

    Bev in Utah

  24. My condolence, Bev in Utah. How scary and sad! Was she sick a long time? Good you found peace for yourself when you discovered Zentangle. Life is good.

  25. Happiness is in the small things that pepper our lives. Those big moments in our lives are nice, but real happiness is your child grasping your hand, a smile from a loved one, the smell of rain or fresh mown grass, enjoying your favourite things, the sense of peace you get when you do something small for someone else with no benefit to yourself. These are the things that get me through my days and stop me from thinking about the bucket because I know those left behind suffer terribly. Small happies are good and they mount up every day, we just have to acknowledge them and be grateful. Hugs.

  26. My hugs to you all. I've encountered some sad things in my life, including my dad choosing 'the bucket' to use the metaphor on this thread. It takes a while to recover from something like that, but you *can* recover. And a key way to do so is exactly what Jane said. Find the happiness in the tiniest of things. The brush of the cat's whiskers against your face as they say hello, or the little churp they give in greeting. The scent of a flower blooming nearby, or the intensity of a brilliant sunset. And finding a community of people who generally raise each other up when the one is feeling down... it makes a huge difference as well.

    Sandy, know that you have touched many lives with the books you've done. Just opening them and looking through them brings me such joy. Then time to actually use the patterns in a way you suggest... it's a whole different thrill. Thank you for giving us access to those little moments of happiness. :)



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