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."