She (Part Four)

She held her breath
To keep the fire alight, let it grow
But it grew — it consumed —
And she didn’t even know.
She was charmed by the light, and ignored the catchfire,
Tried to warm her hands in the heat of desire.

Now this breath she releases —
She now sees the reasons —
She’s here, still alive,
But she finds she’s in pieces.
Still fittable, still doable, it’s a puzzle, she knows,
But we see her surprise, as she thought she was whole.

Better now than at the end of your rope,
Better now than with any more growth.
Dear, you’ll find in your pain a strength, and a hope;
Just don’t look back, back is nowhere to go.
Let your feet move you forward,
Take your time, take it slow.

She’s scared, she’s confused,
She’s embarrassed, she’s bruised,
But she’s there, and she’s moved
To continue, be new
She will light up the world on her own set of terms,
And her flame will keep flowing, that old flame will burn.
And the breath she releases will help her discern,
This light that remains
Will be only hers.

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Power and Control

I think it’s starting to get better.

I feel I’ve become that person now, the person who flaunts her problems to get people to read her blog. Well, if you read it and feel that way, then click away. You’ve only wasted a few seconds of your day. And if you don’t feel that way, then revel in the fact that I think it’s starting to get better.

I say this while still feeling kind of shitty, but there are days when I feel completely normal. Usually those days are paired with a slamming, hangover-from-happy day, in which it feels like the previous day could not have possibly existed; but at least those happy days pop up every once in a while, right?

There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to these days. I’ve tried to find a correlation, and a lot of the time, I’ve failed. But then, correlations tend to be evasive, especially for a solution that you’re still not entirely sure where the problem stemmed from initially. Some of you have mentioned that a lot has happened in the last several months, and sometimes it takes time for things to surface in our subconscious. This is true, and a consideration. Maybe all I had to do all along was to ride it out. It’d just be nice to know how long the ride is.

It’s also slightly frustrating to experience something and never really know for sure what it was. Is it grief? Emotional exhaustion? Which event triggered it? Why can’t my body just be like, “Hey, I’ve got a map that connects these dots for you”? I am admittedly a bit of a control freak, and like to know what the hell is going on with me.

Another frustrating thing is that I have worked really hard in the past several weeks to continue eating a decent amount of calories — I have not always been successful, because I was not blessed with the ability to binge eat when depressed, but I’ve been working hard, damn it — and I’m still losing more weight. The last time I went to my primary doctor, I asked for help gaining weight, because if I ever got sick I would be screwed, and she replied, just try to eat more, you’re fine. Fuck doctors, you know? So now that I’m sick (it’s a mental health issue, but that is still a health issue), and drinking two Ensure Plus’s a day in addition to trying to eat meals, I’m at a whopping 94.5 pounds. Which really helps with depression, seeing as how I think about that number and want to cry. And crying makes me not hungry, and not being hungry makes me eat less, and eating less means that DOCTORS ARE THE WORST. But I’ve always known that.

20170718_201318But it’s starting to get better. I’ve been working out a lot of things in my life, because it gives me something to think about. And I’ve been working on some new projects, one which is exciting and coming along quite nicely, and the other which will probably not work, and feels a little vain, but I’m working on it nonetheless.

And I’m taking things one day at a time — I’m still on this ride, whether it feels like the end or not. I feel like most of the time, depression feels like a thing to conquer, but at this point, it’s become more of a thing that I must learn to adapt to. Not because I’m expecting it to stick around forever… It could be here for another ten years, or it could be gone tomorrow. But if it is still here in the morning, it’s better for me to not treat it like the end of the world. It will become what you make it, and I have to accept the power that I have in that sense, and step up to the responsibility that I inherently have in not making it worse.

The Artist’s Dilemma

Yesterday, a friend asked me if he could sit with me and read part of the manuscript for The Fields out loud.

The Fields is the novel that I’ve been working on for… about forever, now. I got the idea for the story back in high school, but didn’t come back to it until the spring of 2010, when inspiration stuck again. In the split second after my friend proposed the idea to me, my initial reaction was to silently panic — after all, I don’t typically feel comfortable watching someone watch a film that I’ve made, because it just feels a little weird. But actually, since it’s not a finished product, it ended up being really beneficial: I was able to get a glimpse of how someone reads the story, with different inflections than I intended, or not understanding certain parts of a chapter.

And it was also really nice to experience someone getting into a story that I’d written. I got to see him meeting these characters that I’ve gotten to know really well over the past eight years, and ask him what he thought of them. I stopped him after three chapters, because the new draft that I’m working on still needs some work in chapter four, but I still got to watch my friend step into Narnia, so to speak.

I’ve written several drafts of this manuscript over the past eight years or so, and in that time only about four or five people have read through and finished a whole draft to give me notes. I’ve probably given the story to about thirty people.

For artists, more than any profession, their work is a piece of themselves. Even if it isn’t auto-biographical, there’s always something that connects to the artist’s thoughts or ideals or backstory; so it can only be assumed that those who partake in or ingest their work on some level will understand the artist better as a person.

Obviously, you won’t always be able to see all of your friends’ work, especially in the theater world, and especially in the improv world (oh, the conversations I’ve had with improv friends who have been frustrated about people never coming to see their shows). Perhaps with writing, too, depending on the length of the piece. Hypothetically, with shorter works, like painting or poetry or blog posts or film, it becomes a little easier to see an artitst’s entire body of work, just because it’s a quicker and less expensive task… but “hypothetical” never translates well into reality. In college, my close circle of friends never came to the school’s film festival to see the short films I made — instead, I had to plop a laptop in front of them to get them to watch the rough cut of my senior thesis project. I felt a little hurt, but I also got it — there were other things going on at the time, things that I didn’t dare compete with.

But it is a point of frustration when your friends will not watch or read your work, especially when it is not just something you are participating in, but something that has literally come straight from your creative process.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. And I think that’s the point… It is incredibly difficult for us to incorporate others’ narratives into our own. It’s not that we don’t want to… it’s just that that’s a lot of narrative, and you can’t possibly catch up with everything. Surely they understand.

Still hurts a little.

Sometimes I won’t tell people about a thing I’m working on, because then that way I can’t get upset if they don’t come to see it, or want to read it. Or I’ll tell people they don’t have to come. This is the artist’s lot in life: to downplay their accomplishments so that they don’t feel so bad when they go unnoticed. I’ve gotten yelled at by friends before for doing this — apparently, you can’t force your friends to care, but you also can’t prevent them from caring, if they do. Which is kind of nice.

I’m getting better, I think (I hope), at being more assertive in requesting from friends the act of duty that surfaces when you finish a project. I don’t require that they like it; I just ask that they take it in. And to be honest, there are people who I care more about seeing my work — I of course want as many people to see it as can, but obviously the people that I’ve gotten close with are first priority in my mind. I want their honest opinion — something that is hard to get, since most people just assume you want them to tell you it was great — and in some respect, if no one else sees it, I’d be fine, as long as the people I care about did.

I want to clarify that this is in no way an attempt to guilt-trip you into seeing your friends’ art… it’s just a gentle reminder that there’s always another way to get to know someone, and those who do put in the effort are rewarded with a strange kind of intimacy… the opportunity to get to know someone by seeing them through a sort of refracted memory,  or the interpreted baring of their soul on the canvas of their choice. Maybe you don’t think it’s great; that’s okay. Art is a way to express ourselves, and that expression is best received by others.

Half Life

A couple of years ago, I started working on a project with a few women that since then has kind of fallen to the wayside. It was a really cool project, but as a lot of you know, things get shuffled around due to scheduling conflicts, etc, etc. Today, I stumbled across the first assignment we gave each other, and that was to write a letter to our Half Life selves — taking the age that we were then, dividing it in half, and voila. What would that girl be doing, what would she be feeling right now? What would you like to say to her?

This is what I felt I should say. Because, you know, I don’t want to give too many things away and ruin Half Life Sam’s life by making her second-guess every action, I decided to be pretty vague. Which I’m sure some people would appreciate. But it was a very moving exercise, and I’m glad that the ladies I was working with pushed me to do it. Maybe one day we’ll return to that project.

– – – – –

9AE2E849-F711-4C04-926E-5D121FE53BFB-2386-000002820232FFA3Dear Half Life Sam,

Hey you, freshman in high school, with your terrible sense of style and your mortification at being the center of attention. Right about now, you’re about to go to high school. You’re about to join the volleyball team, and take up leadership at youth group. You want to be an actor, or a writer. The amount of filled journals and composition notebooks that lay strewn about the house has not yet reached the description of “out of control” — hang in there, eventually technology will be on your side. You’re just a few short years of discovering that filmmaking combines your passion for writing and your passion for acting — which is really just a passion for creating, because you don’t actually like memorizing scripts, but you do love putting on a new skin to discover new worlds. You’ll discover that soon. Not your definition of “soon”, because “soon” to you is still what’s coming up this weekend, but “soon” as it is defined by adults, which is just time slipping through your fingers.

There are times coming up that you will not enjoy. Part of that is just the inevitability of high school, and part of that is stuff that you will never want to include in the life story you tell people. There is a time coming very soon when you will be very angry at your mother; but you will never hate her, and your relationship will move past the things that occur. Remember that trust is something that can break, but also something that can mend. And while you won’t be able to understand it right then, you will understand it later: forgiveness is a virtue that is so hard to put into action, but you do it for love.

You won’t keep your pride for very long. You may not recognize this, but right now you allow your life to be led by superiority — disguised by love, but still, underneath it all, it’s the joy of being able to cause exclusion instead of being affected by it. In time, you will learn that there are other ways to love the world, and the compromise that you feel it would be right now will not be so much a compromise to you later. Your world views will change drastically, and you will be terrified of the process, but you will come out just fine.

Remember that the world is not as black-and-white as you think it is, and try to maintain your sense of wonder. I wish I could warn you of things to come, and point out things about you that you won’t realize until it’s too late — your inability to see the worst in people is simultaneously remarkable and terrifying, and you will find that learning curve to be painful. But just know that with all the shit that goes down in your life, you will still have some great times. Be strong, young one, and guard yourself, but don’t let that get in the way of loving yourself.

Love,

Sam

Things That Seem to Help:

  • Writing.
  • Sleeping.
  • Being with friends. 
  • Listening to sad songs. Even if they’re different kinds of sad.
  • Watching sad movies. Even if they’re different kinds of sad.
  • Closing my eyes. Taking a deep breath.
  • Listening to other people’s problems and worries.
  • Dyeing my hair.
  • Cutting my bangs.
  • Looking in the mirror. Seeing my cute hair.
  • Watching birds.
  • Feeling sunshine.
  • Feeling the wind, sometimes.
  • Crying.
  • Stretching.
  • Hugs.
  • Laughing out loud.
  • Massaging my face (or at least my body thinks this is helpful. I haven’t decided whether it is yet or not).
  • Lying down. Being horizontal.
  • Making things.
  • Watching people I love do things they love.

All of these things are things I already do on a normal basis. Eventually, when this all blows over, this list will return to its original title (Things That Make Me Happy).

What It Feels Like

Depression is a weird thing.

It makes busyness a blessing. It is not that difficult to understand why I started feeling it as soon as I decided to take a step back and remove some of the obligations in my life. Right now, I’m struggling with the decision to maintain a balance — let myself have some free time, but not too much that it becomes unbearable. It’s incredibly tempting to pile things back on, just to distract myself. It’s really easy to do that, but it certainly isn’t healthy.

I don’t know exactly what to say to describe my current state of being. I want so badly to ascribe these feelings to things that are happening in my life, because some of them are really good scapegoats. And it actually does help to know that I can release some of these feelings via those happenings, and use them as an outlet. But my mind is too rational to place the entire weight of my depression on exterior events.

I was able to do that a couple of years ago. I’ve only felt a sort of extended depression twice in my life, and the first time it was a very different thing than what I’m feeling now. It was a panicked, my-life-has-changed-and-I-don’t-know-how-to-process-it depression, one in which I would fall asleep crying, because I couldn’t possibly do anything else — it was an overflow of pain and confusion. I’d had these emotions before, but in little cups that I sipped from… this was a burlap sack, from which the emotions seeped, spilling over the top and leaking through the sides and the bottom, yet somehow constantly replenished from the inside. I felt like I was out of control. I also knew that it was caused by life events — and I didn’t know how to fix it other than with time, and time was not being friendly.

But this time, it’s all in the sternum: a feeling that won’t go away, a constant nagging that just exhausts you. It’s not an overflow; it’s leeches. All energy and joy is sucked out at a constant pace, and all the happy things I can think of doing will only bring me that energy back for as long as I’m doing them, and then the slow drain continues. It makes me appreciate the welling up of emotions that external events bring, because at least those events give my pain purpose — it’s still hell, but at least I can slap a name on it. When you are being sucked dry, having a sudden overflow can feel rewarding.

I would like to say this before I get too far in this post: I’m not writing this to make people feel bad or sorry for me. I’m not writing it to evoke declarations of how “courageous” I am for writing this, for being honest — I’m not fishing for compliments, or looking for people to tell me that I really am a swell individual, thanks for writing that. I’m writing this because it helps to write it. And I can’t comprehend feeling this way and not trying to analyze it.

I’m frustrated that people can’t talk about depression like this. Sure, we talk about how depression sucks, and how we struggle with it, or how we pulled ourselves up out of it — we talk around it, but we won’t talk about it. Maybe I only talk about it on here because I can’t afford therapy, but still, talking about things helps. And if everyone has the capability of depression — I’m not talking about sadness, because that’s the result of depression, I’m talking about the chemical imbalance that is waiting to happen inside all of us — then maybe we should talk about it.

We should describe what it feels like, and we should try to dig deeper and understand where it’s coming from. Sometimes getting a better understanding of something really sucks, but in the long run, it’s extremely beneficial. We all feel it different ways, and we all deal with it in different ways, but wouldn’t it be great if we were able to find a commonality throughout it all? It is common for those suffering from depression to feel alone, but in reality, it’s almost the complete opposite. Perhaps we worry that talking about it will bring down the mood in the room — depression is depressing, right? But that’s the thing — we know how easy it is for everyone to relate, so we don’t want to tip the scale.

But let’s tip it. Explore it. If it enables you to have a better understanding of who you are, then you have nothing to lose.