Saturday, August 12, 2017

Be Better...


...than what we are now.

I watched a clip of Jeff Daniels in the opening scene of The Newsroom the other day. It made a deep impression upon me. In the clip a college sophomore asks a panel, of which Daniels' character is a part, to describe what they think makes America great. The other two members of the panel respond "Diversity and Opportunity," and "Freedom and freedom and let's keep it that way." 

Then Daniels' character goes off.

I won't try to quote the entire monologue here because it's quite long and Daniels' delivery is amazing. Pull up the clip on Youtube. It will be just over eight minutes long. I know. That's a long Youtube clip, but it's worth the time to watch the full scene. The scene is amazing. Enough so that I want to start watching the show that it came from.

Basically, the gist of the monologue is that America isn't great. We used to be great.

That idea really struck me. Part of what disturbed me about Trump's rather unsettling presidential campaign was his rallying cry of, "Make America great again!" My knee-jerk reaction to hearing that for the first time was, "What do you mean, 'again?' We ARE great." However, the more I think on it, the more I realize that America is not great, just as Daniels says in the Newsroom clip. What I found disturbing about Trump's campaign slogan was that I don't want any part of an America that he would consider great. But that's another subject entirely.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that America is resting on its laurels. As a country we're like the 40-year-old former jock whose highest point in life was throwing a game-winning touchdown in high school. And now all he does is relive his glory days.

The story of the United States is quite amazing. We went from being an English colony to being the country that was a world-leader. In less than 200 years. That's pretty incredible. The United States was where everyone wanted to live.

A book I once read had a thought about leadership that went more or less like this: "When you hold your light up for others to follow it reveals your own weaknesses and failings." This revelation gives the true leader a chance to improve. Seeing what's wrong is the first step to correcting the problem. 

The U.S., for all of our vaunted declarations of "Freedom" and "Justice for all" has had problems with slavery and inequality. Problems that are ongoing. It sometimes seems that a lot of us don't want to share our freedom and justice. 

As the Newsroom clip points out the U.S. isn't great. Especially in those areas that are easily quantified and compared with others. You know, literacy, math skills, infant mortality. While we are lacking in many, many areas, I feel and hope that America can be great again.

If we are to become great again, it will be in the same manner we did so before. Our people. We need people to become great by being honestly and truly good people. People who work hard. Care for others. Make decisions because they are the right thing to do, no because it gives them the greatest advantage. 

America can be great. To do so will require us to become great. We need to be better than we are. 

Time to start working on that.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Why do I Identify with The Waitress?


This is an honest question. I haven't quite figured it out yet. 

Last summer I watched the Tonys. I was excited to see if Hamilton was going to run away with each award. Let's be honest. Hamilton is something of a cultural phenomenon and it deserved every award it received. I was hoping that Sara Bareilles would win an award for her work on The Waitress. I bought Sara's albums of songs from the production, performed by Sara herself. I had a strong reaction to the song "She Used to Be Mine." When I finally got around to listening to the original cast album I didn't like it. It wasn't Sara. I finally gave it another chance.

It's amazing. 

I think that in any year where Hamilton wasn't winning every award, The Waitress would have won at least a couple of awards. Jessie Mueller does an amazing job at portraying the title character. All the characters feel real and authentic. 

Here's the crux of my title question. Why do I identify with a musical about a woman in an abusive marriage and is pregnant with a baby she doesn't want?

She feels trapped in her life, like she isn't in control of what happens to her. It seems as though life will never get better. I know that feeling well. I don't feel it so much anymore, but I did for quite a while.

She doesn't feel like she's allowed to dream. She doesn't dare hope for a better life. That was my life for so long. I felt I had to be practical. That I couldn't pursue anything that I wanted to do. Decisions had to be based on what would be best for my life. Nothing frivolous. Sometimes I feel myself sliding back into that mindset and I have to fight to remember that I'm allowed to dream and pursue those dreams to the best of my ability. 

At one point in the play Jenna asks another character if he's happy. He replies that he's "Happy enough." Jenna finds that interesting, but she wants to be more than "happy enough." She wants to be happy. So much of my life is dictated by what I know I don't like. And I'm glad that I know what I don't like. However, I also feel that life can't be lived by the process of elimination. I need to find what I like. And go for it.

Hmmm, maybe it does make sense for me to identify with The Waitress. 

Good to know.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Ongoing Project...


I've  had to transfer my iTunes collection to new computers several times. It's an annoying process. If only because the transfer never brings along the ratings I've given to the songs. 

I use the ratings as follows:

Five Stars are my absolute favorite songs. These are the songs that I never skip when they come on. Also, I tend to have an emotional connection to them. Some examples include You Matter to Me by Sara Bareilles, Oasis by A Great Big World, and Vivre A En Crever from Mozart: L'Opera Rock.

Four Stars are the songs I really enjoy and rarely skip. Usually only when I'm really not in the mood for a particular song. These are the songs, along with the Five Star Songs, that are in regular rotation on my iPod. Some examples include Tennessee Line by Daughtry, Easy Silence by the Dixie Chicks, and Turn to Stone by Ingrid Michaelson.

Three Stars are the songs that I like, but I don't want to listen to on a regular basis. This is the bulk of my collection. 

Two Stars are generally Holiday or Religious songs. I like them, but I want them to have their own rating. 

One Stars are waiting to be deleted from iTunes. That simple. I just don't really enjoy listening to them.

I'm currently working on listening to each song in my collection. This way I can make sure each song has the appropriate rating. Also part of the project will be to delete duplicate songs that have been included in multiple albums. 

If I find any albums that include fewer than half of the tracks on the album I change the songs' album to a generic one that includes all the "albumless" songs of a genre into one collection. I'm getting close to having listened to each song. I'll then work on the eradication of duplicates. Then I'll go through and give each song another listen. The difficult part is that I have somewhere around eight thousand songs. So it will take a while. Luckily I'm able to listen for two to three hours each day while at work. That helps.

It's a fun project. For me anyway. Any surprise I'm working on a degree in Library Science?


Friday, October 28, 2016

This is What It Feels Like...

...to be depressed. At least for me.

The Sun Dispels the Morning Fog by William Posey Silva

Sorry you can't see the painting better. 

When I saw this painting in Greenville, SC, I connected to it. This is what it feels like when I'm depressed. I don't necessarily feel sad. I feel like all my emotions are muted. I don't feel excited about anything. I just move from moment to moment.

I was trying to think about an analogy. I think this one works. 

Imagine you're driving your car through a thick fog. You can see maybe ten, maybe fifteen, feet in front of you. You know that there is a world outside the fog. There are other cars. Houses. Fields. Trees. The sun. However, you can't see any of that. As you drive along, you start to get tense. It's a lot of work just doing this mundane thing, driving. You have to keep an eye on the lines painted on the road. They're the only thing that keeps you on track. Every now and then great, shadowed shapes loom up in the fog. You can't make out any details, but they are terrifying. Cars, not using their headlights, the bastards, zip by, the noise and motion sudden and terrifying. An interruption to the drive. You get quiet, focused on the task. You know that, due to stress, any response you make to the passengers in your car will be harsh. Almost violent. When driving in the fog, it's easier to stick to routes and streets that you know. Driving down a new road is an extremely stressful experience. You can't see the street signs. You can't see any landmarks. The fogged-over road is your world. Nothing exists outside of it. 

The road rises high  enough that you're above the fog. The sun shines. From above, it doesn't even seem like there's fog on the valley floor. You can see everything. You relax. Turn on the music. Maybe sing. Laugh with your passengers. It feels like you can do anything. Looking back, you realize you didn't know just how awful it was to be in the fog. Now that you're out you don't want to go back. Unfortunately, the road will dip and fog will come again. 

I've been lucky. I've never had anyone ask, "Well, why don't you just snap out of it? Depression is just being sad. Decide to not be depressed!" 

If only it were that simple. 

Sometimes, realizing I'm depressed will help me start to rise up out of the fog. I can try to take roads I know will help me feel more light, guide me toward the high ground. Unfortunately, I'm not always near those roads and finding the right path can be tricky. 

I can't control thick fog surrounding my vehicle. I can't control the chemicals in my brain from numbing my emotions and causing me to feel helpless, that I can't do anything. I do have techniques I can use to help me through those times. But using the wrong one can be worse than doing nothing. Ever used your high beams in a fog? It's doesn't always help. The fog can reflect all that extra light right back into your eyes. 

Listening to songs or watching TV shows you enjoy can help. If the depression is deep enough it can hurt. It scares me when I realize that I don't feel a connection to something I enjoy. 

So what can you do when someone you love is depressed? That's probably a better question for Chelsea. I think invitations to do small things is good. Especially the invitation part. Give me a choice. Let me know that there aren't going to be tons of people there, or that there isn't going to be anything required of me. I think if you choose something I've done before, that makes it easier as well. To be honest, each depression is a little different. And it's different for everybody that goes through depression. Sometimes just asking if there's anything you can do to help is helpful. Don't expect an answer right away. Just leave the offer hanging. 

And that's what depression feels like. To me anyway.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fear...


Earlier today I thought of a funny idea that I wanted to write down before I forgot. I grabbed the first notebook I saw and started turning to a blank page. This is the last piece I had written. I don't remember writing it. I think I must have written it in the hospital the day before Mom passed away, but I just don't remember for sure.

Fear

I used to think true fear was Gmork.

Gmork is a talking wolf with glowing green eyes. He appears in The Neverending Story. For most of the movie he's a shadow pursuing Atreyu. When they finally meet, Gmork starts to talk. He serves The Nothing, the force devouring the fantasy world of Fantasia. Every time I watched the movie I couldn't watch that part. I would close my eyes, but hearing his words still chilled my heart. I would stick my fingers in my ears, telling my sister to let me know when Gmork was dead. 

Just two nights ago I watched that scene again, hoping to exorcise the green-eyed demon that had hounded me for a quarter of a century. I thought it had worked, that I was finally over fearing Gmork. 

Night fell. I went to bed. I had to get up to use the bathroom, but I couldn't move. I needed a flashlight to make sure Gmork wasn't there, waiting to open his eyes and leap for my throat.

As it turns out, Gmork isn't fear.

Fear, true fear, is walking into Room 127 to find my mother lying in bed, tubes entering and exiting, violating her appearance. Her head to one side, mouth open in a silent plea for help that I cannot give. Bile flows through a tube from her abdomen, slowly filling a 32 oz plastic mug.

Her eyes struggle to open when I say, "I'm here."

Her mouth works. To say what, I don't know. Her lips are so dry that the skin sticks and stretches as if her mouth had disappeared completely.

Fear is watching her eyes clench in pain, a moaning cry wisping from her throat as she begins to hiccup, the movement tugging at her recently opened abdomen, tearing at stitches that haven't even begun to form scars.

Her left arm begins to lift, her hand flapping uselessly. She wants to lift it to her nose, to pull the tube inserted there, but she doesn't have the strength.

She had a stroke, a big one, in the left hemisphere of her brain. A stroke so big it jumped the divide and spilled into the right half. 

The doctors are worried about swelling. They offer to show me, and my siblings, pictures.

Fear is leaving Room 127 after she has been dosed with Dilotid. Her erratic movements cease and she starts to slip off to sleep.

I tell her I love her. I say I'll come back to visit.

As I turn to exit I feel my heart contract and it has to work harder to beat.

Gmork could wait in the shadows and I wouldn't care. His glowing green eyes and snarling manner of speech no longer matter, for I have learned true fear.

I am terrified that death is waiting to escort my mother away and I'm not ready.

True terror is getting a call at work that says, "You need to come to the hospital. Now."

I know what's going to happen. I also know there's nothing I can do to stop it. All I can do is be there for my mother and my siblings.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Few Words...


...regarding the death of my father.

Is it weird to be grateful? It has been so many years since Dad had the full use of his faculties. He didn't know who I was, though he sometimes looked like he knew he should. I can't imagine it was a pleasant way to live. He had Alzheimer's. Dementia. Parkinson's. And he finally decided he'd had enough. And that's OK. I had long since mourned the passing of my father. The funeral was just a formality. 

It was a nice funeral. There were some family members I was glad to see again. I got to interact with the Mosdell family (the morticians), which is always nice. They were very friendly and were concerned with my well-being. Not just as family of the deceased, but as a friend. It was cathartic to go through the funeral services. I didn't have any responsibilities, which was great as I was very involved with Mom's funeral. 

I loved my father. I know he loved me. 

(Here's the part where I try to process my thoughts about my relationship with my father. This is from my perspective. There were many people, including many of my nieces and nephews and some people who weren't blood related, who had a better relationship with my father than I did. Please don't try to discredit my feelings. They are mine. They should in no way diminish yours.)

I didn't have a stellar relationship with my father. I feel now as though he just didn't have time for me. I think we just didn't have a whole lot in common apart from our familial relationship. Even though we were both avid readers, our books of choice were vastly different. I remember trying to read some of Dad's collection of Louis L'Amour novels. The only one I liked was Lando, and it wasn't a typical L'Amour book. 

Back in February I started working with a counselor. I started off focusing on my grief following Mom's death. As we worked through those feelings, we started talking about my relationship with Dad. That became the focus of the bulk of our sessions. For one session, my counselor asked that I come prepared by remembering a "disturbing" memory. 

In my memory I believe I'm around 12 years old. I'm jumping on the trampoline. Dad is working on a project with Mom. He calls me over as he needs an additional pair of hands. I walk across the lawn in my socks to help. He needs me to hold his drill while he adjusts the pieces he is screwing together. His drill that is all metal. I take it, get shocked, and drop it. Dad gets a little irritated. He picks it up and hands it back to me. I drop it again. I'm crying now because getting shocked is a bit painful, plus Dad is now upset with me. I can't remember how the situation was resolved. Thinking about it now, I can't believe that Dad didn't realize what was happening when I first dropped the drill. He taught science. I was grounded. It's no big surprise I was shocked when he, wearing shoes, was not. 

I discussed this memory with my counselor until I no longer felt it was disturbing to me. I made some progress resolving my feelings toward my father. I moved to South Carolina, then went back to Utah briefly for Dad's funeral. 

After I came back to South Carolina I spent a while trying to scan family documents. I started scanning a calendar that Dad used as a diary, making brief notations for each day. I stopped to read one when I saw my name written. He was talking about supporting me at a Cub Scout ceremony. Then he wrote the following, "When Adam was born I was jealous of him because he took my wife as a mother. He still does. I, however, have lost my jealousy feelings."

My father resented me.

This was quite the revelation. There were emotions and memories that clicked into place. From what I understand, feelings of jealousy and resentment from fathers toward their children is common. I wonder if Dad really had conquered his jealousy. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. That journal entry helped clear some things up. It helps explain why I didn't feel all that close to Dad. 

Knowing that Dad felt that way makes me feel a little vindicated. That I'm not crazy for feeling that there was a distance between us. Is there still some processing I need to do? Probably, but I feel like, as far as feelings about my dad go, that I'm in a pretty good place now.

 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Thin and Stretched...

...but not in the "I'm being slowly possessed by an evil power that dwells in this neat bit of jewelry that turns me invisible when I wear it" way.

I was going to say that I'm tired, but "tired" is an inappropriate choice as far as words go. It implies that I don't care anymore, that I'm putting my head in the sand and refusing to participate in the world. 

No, far more accurate would be "weary." I'm weary. To the bone. 

Word of warning: this post will wander a fair bit. I don't even know that I have a point to make, but I need to write about what I'm feeling.

Chelsea and I have moved to Columbia, South Carolina. I'm excited at the opportunity to study at the University of South Carolina. It's a great school. I also managed to get a Graduate Assistantship. This means that I will only have to pay in-state tuition and that I'll receive some financial aid benefit as well. This is a very good thing.

We've been here a month and neither of us has managed to find a job. Chelsea has applied for a huge number of jobs. Over one hundred by now. I haven't applied for that many, mostly because I need a part-time position and one that won't make me hate myself hasn't presented itself yet. It's getting to the point where I don't think I can be all that picky any more. We'll see. My assistantship starts in August. I'm hoping to get an additional one that will function as a part-time job. We'll see.

I haven't been sleeping well. Part of that is due to the heat. We can't afford to run the air-conditioning as much as would be sufficient to help me sleep. So I'm sleepy quite a bit. 

I'm depressed as well. I don't do well with change, even when it's change that is one I've been looking forward to making. Add in the job situation and it has brought me down. I'm trying to do things that will give me moments of pleasure, like hunting Pokemon on an app for my phone when I run errands around town. I've been playing Magic each week as well. I enjoy that a lot. It feels like a silly expense, especially when we don't have jobs, but I feel it's an important thing for me to do. 

And the world seems to be going insane. 

It's almost to the point that I don't want to read the news or my Facebook feed when I go online. I'm deeply saddened by the senseless violence that seems so commonplace now. I hate that it is commonplace. 

And those that aren't directly affected by the violence just seem to clamor about how it's going to affect their individual rights. 

I don't have a solution. I'm not nearly wise enough to know where to begin formulating one. 

To my eyes it seems as though there is a drought of epic proportions when it comes to loving our neighbor. There is almost no sense of community anymore. Everyone is just looking out for themselves and letting everyone else do the same. 

The current presidential election isn't helping anything. I am so sick of elections where it seems like all people do is choose the "lesser of two evils." When I voted for President Obama, it was because he had an aura of hope about him. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a Congress that seemed to take a childish pleasure in saying, "No," to everything he wanted to try and do. There didn't seem to be any attempt at compromise or to work together. And that is sad. 

The two frontrunners in the current election don't give me any sense of hope. Trump is a businessman who has manipulated the system so he could make huge amounts of money every time one of his businesses went bankrupt. I can't help but feel that he is running for president as an attempt to make more money. His campaign is one of hatred and anger, two emotions that are definitely not needed in the current social atmosphere.

I don't know that I like Clinton any better. 

I have a secret hope in my heart of hearts that Bernie will somehow manage to obtain the nomination. He's someone I feel like wouldn't be the "lesser of two evils." I'm not saying he's perfect by any stretch, but his views tend to align more with mine and I feel like he wants to actually effect positive change.

There's a lot more swirling around my head, but I don't know how to articulate it at the moment. Here's to hoping that tomorrow finds me a lot less weary.