Observations on Sadness.

My dog died in May. May 11th, to be exact. It was a beautiful Monday morning. Well, we said our last goodbye on that beautiful Monday afternoon, but it was that morning when I suspected the end might be very near. It’s not something I really want to get into here though, because it’s one of those circumstances for which it seems there aren’t many words.

Sometimes, there just aren’t any words. Sadness can do that. Take your words away. Pack them up. Close the lid.

Though I don’t have much to say about the experience of losing someone so integral to the last 15 years of my life, her passing has given me other words. Words to generate ideas, develop characters, write stories. Words that shape and give life to other creations from within me.

Sadness can do that sometimes. Transform you into a conduit for other expressions.

And so, here is an observation. It is not about my sweet puppylove. Those memories and experiences are my own, but I know they will inevitably come out in little poems of ideas later. This is an observation on sadness.

It’s a strange feeling, sadness. Really, it’s more like a place than anything else. Like an empty room on the other side of a small, lonely door in your heart. This room is cold and empty of furniture, but heavy with other things. Things that are hard to say out loud. As if words don’t exist for them.

I don’t very much like to go into this room. 

In addition to its strangeness, sadness can also change things. It can make the world an alien place. Almost unrecognizable, but not completely. There is usually a small kernel of familiarity. Just enough to make you feel off-keel. The sky starts to look different. The moon frowns at you, tilting its head in sympathy and the stars dip low like glowing strings of light tacked to the everlasting night. They hang in their own sad way. Even sunlight becomes a stranger. It shines a little differently. Its rays beam through the clouds in haunting shades of white, pulling shadows into long, painful stretches that feel like they’re pressing you down into the scratchy grass with them.

You might even begin to feel a little like a shadow yourself. Thin. Tethered to a figure that once looked kind of like you.

Your heart beats somewhere between a sink and a float and you wonder if the sky will ever look the way you remember it. That simple blue.

You might even catch melancholy glances coming from the trees. They shift their gazes slowly toward you as you walk underneath their shade. Big, leafy, swaying elephants watching you. They know. 

….Our Own Little Sad Rooms….

We tend not to invite others into our sad rooms with us.

They’re not the most comfortable places for others.

No one likes to be sad, and there’s nowhere to sit anyway.

It would be nice to have someone to sit next to on the floor with me, though. Then at least we could lean against each other as we wait. 

That’s the other thing about sad rooms. You can do a lot of waiting in them. It’s a profoundly lonely place, sadness.

But…

Maybe if we keep the small, lonely doors to our sad rooms open, someone will come in….

Sadness and loneliness are old friends, though. Sadness welcomes loneliness. And when you’re lonely, you have a lot of time to think. Things can get…confusing. You start to feel things. Lots of things. They stir. Twist.

….Knots….

Feelings can be like piles of knotted rope inside you; they rarely operate by themselves. Of course, sadness and loneliness work together a lot. So do happy and excited. Calm and thoughtful, those two are often together. Sometimes you can feel calm, sad, lonely, thoughtful and ashamed. Sometimes it’s guilty, embarrassed and angry all at the same time. The feelings get all tangled up with one another and impossible to unravel. At least, my feelings are usually jumbled up, taking forever to figure out, untie the knots.

Sometimes it seems like we’re all so afraid of unraveling. We make the tension worse.

What are we all so afraid of?

Maybe if we all worked together to untie our emotional knots, we could use the ropes… like little lifelines to toss out to one another from our solitary, drifting boats. Or tie them together to reach a little farther.

I wish I could untie my sad, lonely knot and throw the rope overboard. Maybe someone would catch it.

Pull me into shore….

….That’s All For Now….

These ideas have come from me, of course, but they are really the thoughts of a character I am developing for a story.

The ideas are rough and raw, and I am throwing them out there.

It’s been far too long, but this blog has been walked.

Now it’s time for bed. Thanks for reading.

Accompanying sketch to come soon….

Oh, and I officially registered walktheblog.com!

So if you type that into your url search bar, it will connect you directly to this sight. Woot!

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Killing FUN.

I have a new mantra for when I wake up in the morning and am instantly grumpy about life. It sort of heIps. I came up with it myself:

I’m going to have FUN today.

If you’ve been feeling down on life or grumpy, you should try it.

But what is “fun”, anyway? Do grown-ups even know how to have fun? Let me rephrase that. Do grown-ups even know how to have fun without booze? Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t know how to have fun. Maybe I’m just a stick-in-the-mud and need to lighten up. I am pretty fun at times, don’t get me wrong. But I’m also a little moody.

Look around you. How many over-30 people do you see out there absolutely loving life? It seems sometimes like everyone’s slugging around, shoulders hunched, head down, just trying to get it over with. Whatever their it is.

Life throws responsibility at everyone at different times in their life.. somewhere along your way, you have to become the grown-up. It can happen slowly or suddenly. Maybe it’s heavy. Maybe someone you love very much dies and you’re thrust into a strange place of stepping up and being in charge. Maybe someone hurts you. Maybe as a young child, you were forced to see something no child should ever have to see and just like that, the magic of childhood is gone. Maybe it’s lighter- becoming the grown-up can happen when some pimple-faced kid calls you M’am at the grocery store, or when you get checked out at the gym by no one anymore. And don’t even get me started on metabolizing alcohol after age 30. That’s how I know I’m old..older.

I’m not a parent yet. But If you are, I give you the OK to laugh at my naivety in the following diatribe. I am however a teacher, so by default, 40 hours/week, I have to be the adult in the room. Truth? It can suck the last glimmer of fun out of everything, instantly.

In my teacher job, I have to be the responsible one, the safe one, the one who takes care of everyone. Every day, parents put their children in my care- I’m the person who has to make sure no one dies. Ok, it’s very unlikely that would happen in my school setting… because I can’t let that happen. I’m the grown-up.

As a teacher, I have to consciously and actively instill social-emotional awareness, appropriately advocate for the underdog, model compassion for the alpha dog, and support children in their negotiations- I have to try to relate to their 4-year-old issues, and for the record, child drama is hilarious.

I have to make sure the classroom is maintained. I have to be the Cap Cop for our markers. Do you know how hard it is for a child to put a cap back on a marker? Do you know how hard it is for me to understand how hard it is for a child to remember to put a cap on a marker?

I have to be concerned when someone is hurt, even if I talked to them seven times already about not wrestling on top of the block table because someone could get hurt.

I have to wipe noses.

I have to wipe butts.

I have to explain daily that band-aids are for open cuts and blood. Like real blood. Not that microscopic speck on your finger.

I have to give hugs and snuggle even when my body wants nothing more than to just have a little bit of personal space for more than 3 minutes at a time.

I have to explain why it’s necessary to change your pants after you’ve soiled them. As if it isn’t obvious.

I have to plan lessons.

I have to sing songs.

I have to be patient.

I have to be kind.

I have to make sure everyone’s learning. And I have to do this all with a face that says, this is my calling. 

It sort of kills fun. Ok, and that’s my whiny rant. I’m done. And I know hard is hard. My hard isn’t harder than your hard (not taking credit for that – see reference source in uplifting TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSR4xuU07sc

While my job is kind of hard, doing all of this stuff isn’t that hard. It’s just, trying. Draining. Not always FUN. I mean, it’s not rocket science. I’m not saving the world. Or am I?

Wait a minute. I just had a thought. Maybe it’s not about having FUN. Maybe FUN isn’t something to capture and possess. How consumerist we can be, always coveting these intangibles… always trying to find them and keep them like little bugs trapped in our shitty kid bug jars. The bugs always die. Maybe we’re not meant to have fun, for as soon as you lock it up and isolate it, the essence of what made it so fun is lost.

Maybe we need to BE the fun. Find that kid in us.

Hmmm. Saving the world while being fun? Food for thought.

If anyone has any pointers on how to do this, let me know.

I think Dan Siegel may have some ideas:

http://drdansiegel.com/blog/2014/02/07/the-essence-of-adolescence/

In the mean time, I am going to BE FUN today.

Team Human

Oh, hey. Haven’t seen you in a while. How’s it going?

I have decided to bequeath to you a pertinent article I recently encountered on humor. Its pertinence will be explained in a moment. With a background in educational psychology and personal interest in human behavior and cognition, I find humor to be one of the most interesting and, despite its ubiquitousness, somewhat esoteric shared human experiences. I also like to think I’m kind of funny, so I seek to hone this natural and humble gift through researching and learning its mechanics. Truth be told, this blog is like a laboratory for my voice and aspiring comedic writing identity (thanks for being my subjects). I know some of my content will be amusing, and some of it will kind of suck. I’m ready to suck. I’m prepared. Just don’t be too mean about it. And if you want to be mean, just take into account the useful tools for humor I am providing you below.

The Humor Code is on my list of to-read books this year, and the benign-violation hypothesis is one of the theories researched in its contents. It suggests that “three conditions are jointly necessary and sufficient for eliciting humor: A situation must be appraised as a violation, a situation must be appraised as benign, and these two appraisals must occur simultaneously.” It seems all technical and scientific, but it makes sense, if you take away charisma, presence, timing etc. and all the other things that can make something funny.

Here’s a url to the dry, kinda boring academic article: http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/mcgrawp/pdf/mcgraw.warren.2010.pdf

And here’s a url to the author of the Humor Code, Pete McGraw’s blog: http://www.petermcgraw.org/a-brief-introduction-to-the-benign-violation-theory-of-humor/

I know in my sharing of these pieces of literature I’m assuming you’ve the time and willingness to devote to such digressions. But you’re here… so isn’t it a safe assumption that you might find your way over to that random neck of the internet woods? I think so.

And here is one of the many reasons why this information is pertinent. A few days ago, I discovered the malign violation theory in the Humor Code. The malign part negates the humorous or funny component in the situation. Instead of the violation being benign, or harmless, it’s harmful. Here’s an example:

We’ve all fallen victim to the a-hole who thinks they’re funny and is really just an a-hole. You know this person. They made those slightly below-the-belt jabs, completely blind-siding you at that party or at work or wherever. And while you’re trying to figure out what just happened, the individual laughs and moves on from you to the next victim. And the worst part about this situation is not necessarily that someone was cruel and unfunny (which is definitely not cool), it’s that this individual actually thinks they’re funny! (ok, maybe the former is worse) And you know what’s even more of a tragedy? No one has told this person they’re not funny. So they just perpetuate, like a bad virus.

I certainly didn’t tell this person they weren’t funny when I found myself in a kerfuffle of this nature a few weeks ago. Instead of defending myself, I just obliged this wretched person and laughed along with them so as to not be perceived as sensitive or pot-stirringly confrontational. Days later, because of my pitiful submission, I found the juvenile side of myself ruminating- plotting petty and stealthy ways to sabotage them. You know, like smear mud on their face and then scamper away like a little goblin, hiding in the bushes. This is not cool. I know that. I dwelled and ranted to my friends for days until there wasn’t a single morsel left to reenact and deconstruct. I even practiced a series of speeches designed to confront and humiliate this individual the way they did me. But you and I both know these soliloquies were merely cathartic compositions that will never see the light of day, and thank goodness for that. Because the non-juvenile, somewhat-resistant-to-being-a-real-adult part of me knows that’s not the way to go. We’ve got to take the high road.

Let’s pause for a moment. I’m fully aware you might be thinking I’m a bit neurotic and petty at this point. And I am. Ugh. In my head, I so am. But I’m trying not to be. Because it doesn’t feel good. It’s sticky, and icky and shameful and drenched with ego. We need to be on the same team, all of us! Team human! Team trying-to-make-it! Team we’re-all-just-trying-to-be-happy! But when someone else rejects me, it permeates. I reject them, and then I reject me. Because don’t we all in some way measure ourselves just a teensy bit by how much or little we are liked? I’m not saying I’m proud of it. I’m not. But I’m also working on not judging myself for this, for that just perpetuates the deeper issue. I’m working on honesty and compassion with myself- identifying my opportunities for growth and not squashing the inner darkness, but rather, flooding it with warmth and light and love. Too cheesy? Too bad!

So instead of jumping out from behind the bushes and smearing mud on this poor person, I need to remember team human. Maybe, just maybe, that person is trying to be happy, too. Maybe they just want to be liked. Just like me.

In moments like these, I like to think of the good ol’ Dalai. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that is. Here’s one of his sage anecdotes:

“Every single being, even those who are hostile to us, is just as afraid of suffering as we are, and seeks happiness in the same way we do. Every person has the same right as we do to be happy and not to suffer. So let’s take care of others wholeheartedly, of both our friends and our enemies. This is the basis for true compassion.”

I know what you might be thinking. “But they started it!” as my oh-so-noble, young and totally unaccountable students may say. But, if you’re cold, you don’t get rid of the cold by tossing it out, or meeting it with cold. You warm up- with a hug, or a warm fire, or a sweater, or space heater, or whatever. If a plant is thirsty and suffering, you give it water. And if it’s dark, you let in the light.

Negativity and malign violations don’t just go away. They must be countered with positivity, and love. And maybe a little bit of humor.

Mark Twain said, “humor is tragedy plus time”.

Maybe in time, this will all be funny. And for now, I’ll just skip the mud-slinging, and do my best to make that person laugh. Let in the light.

Looks like that’s a point for Team Human.

High five.

The Existential Crisis of the Cursed Blog

I hope you pronounced it kur-sid.

Ok, let’s get down to business. I’ve written and deleted like seven blog posts at this point and haven’t had the guts to publish any of them. Well, some of the deletions weren’t really about having or not having guts, they just weren’t good. Others felt contrived, and then the rest just detailed my friends’ tragedies as entertainment for the sake of a good allegory. More on the philosophy and ethics of what’s “off the table” when you’re a writer some other time. I don’t have the brain energy right now.

So now I’m down to nothing, yet again, and here’s what I know and feel content sharing with you: My blog is having an existential crisis. It’s a mercurial and shifty little thing, and since its inception, it has suffered incessant, immobilizing and existential worries like “who am I?”, “what’s my name?” and “what is my purpose?”. I keep telling it not to think so much, but hear you me, this is easier said than done. So it’s been cooped up for almost a month now and truth be told, the air in here is STALE.

I don’t know… I can’t think straight about it anymore. It’s like a weird, crazy cabin fever. The thoughts and ideas have been brewing for so long now, they’re all jumbled and incoherent, fragmented and nonsensical. Like a drunken child. If you can imagine such a tragic, yet still kind of hilarious (and ok, inappropriate) thing. Incoherent or not, I have to publish something. The blog has to get out there for a bit and take a stroll. Even if its unkempt, unshowered and still in its grubby sweatpants.

I can’t obsess over refining the punctuation, perfecting the quips, and streamlining the metaphors, let alone overall content, over and over again. Regardless, if I want to write and put it out there, I need to just put it the F out there. I mean, if I’m inherently uncensored as an individual, shouldn’t I see what it’s like to be that way on the blog? Is the fact that everything I say becomes concretized on the internet what’s paralyzing me from publishing anything?

Who knows? Who cares? It’s a full moon tonight, and that means FRUITION is in the air. So despite my having rambled about absolutely nothing, I’m still going to publish this damned post. Maybe post #3 will be better. Here’s hoping. But my blog still doesn’t know who it is, what its purpose is, or even what it’s called. It has currently been changed to “Walk the Blog” from “Don’t Hurt Yourself”. I can’t even tell anymore if that’s a clever name that will grow and evolve over time with the drunken-child-like nature of this cursed blog, or if it’s just bad.

Oh, and if you have any better blog names, or just general things to write about, I’m taking suggestions. Help me. And I’m sorry you dedicated 1.74 minutes to this. I hope you reward yourself kindly and generously. You did good work, pal.

I am a Classy Broad.

Dear lovely reader, Thank you for using your precious time to look over my blog. The fact that you’re here is amazing. Call it serendipity, fate, destiny or the Benjamin Button paradigm thing where every step on our separate paths follows a direct trajectory to our inevitable collision. I’m especially grateful for your presence because let’s face it, you could be doing anything else with your life right now, like writing your own blog perhaps. Or clipping your toe nails. You know, meaningful stuff.  Whatever it is you’re not doing that you perhaps could or should, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your attention deficit and subsequent failure to execute said task. Without these important character flaws, we may have never found one another. But here we are. And for the record, I love you just the way you are. Flaws and all.

I will make no guarantees about what’s to come of this. And whether this sticks or not, for the time being I’ve resolved to write more regularly. I can’t get any more stringent than “regularly”. My discipline is like a jumpy fawn. You don’t want to  scare it off by coming on too strong with a blindly cheerful and overly ambitious personal goal. But I’ve also decided it’s not going to be quite enough just to write in the old journal or type realizations into my iPhone “notes” that may never see the light of day. I’ll give you an example. Clearly I’m not going to get anywhere with “You are like a grandma“, one of the deeper epiphanies I arrived at (and felt necessary to record in my phone) after tossing and turning all night over what I am sure is going to be a bunion on my left big toe any day now.*

Nope. If I actually want to do something with my writing, I have to put it out there somewhere. I’ve got to get my toes wet, bunion and all, in the pond of risk and vulnerability. But let’s face it- that’s sort of lame, just tip-toeing around the edge. If I really had any conviction, I’d skip the whole easing-into-the-pond-and-whimpering-like-a-sissy part and just strip my clothes off and jump right in totally naked like the classy broad that I am. I love putting classy and broad together. You know, like: “She’s a real classy brawd, dat one”, thought the engaged reader, nodding to her/himself.

It’s really scary to put myself out there, though. It’s quite possible that you may find my writing boring and trite. Heck, I might find it boring and trite. Just because I want to write doesn’t necessarily mean anyone should be reading it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read through my old high school journals and cringed with embarrassment. I’ve actually contemplated editing the content or tearing out pages and incinerating them to hide the evidence of my dramatic and naive foolishness. But you can’t erase the memories, hopes, dreams and boy obsessions innocent, non-creepy crushes of youth. You’ve got to just swallow your pride, learn to laugh at your ridiculousness, and after many years and a handful of slightly uncomfortable appointments where your therapist makes you talk/sob/whimper to your imaginary younger self in the empty chair across from you and tell her it’s ok and you forgive her and love her etc., you manage to gain some perspective and say to yourself  “Yep, that was me. I pined after that dicky a-hole for 3 years”. Or “yeah, maybe I was a little too slutty that one summer back in 2003, and ok fine, maybe I was a little too slutty from 2003 to let’s just move along now, but dammit, I don’t give a damn! I’m awesome! Always was! And if it wasn’t for all that, you wouldn’t have all this.” If you think it will help, I invite you to picture that last part happening in front of the bathroom mirror with lots of thumbs, pointing and general gesticulation.

I hope I’m a better writer now than my 17-year-old self. And for the record, younger me, I love you just the way you are. My point is that writing and putting it out there is risky business. Jumping in that pond is freaky stuff. Who knows what’s out there lurking at the bottom? Probably just Jason Voorhees waiting to drag me down with him in Friday the 13th XXII: Not Really Dead, Again. No big deal. Horrific outcome or not, I’ve gotta get in there anyway. I’ve got to saddle up and sally forth. It’s time to strip down like a classy broad and jump in. It’s time to get naked and afraid. Yes! You got it! Like that TV show! And the best part? We’re in this together, you and me. And it’s so much less scary when you’re naked together!! (Don’t be pervy. Not that kind of naked. Unless you either a) look like Daniel Craig, or b) are Daniel Craig, then we can get all crazy and throw down. But only if you’re into that kind of thing. Unless you’re not, in which case I’m totally messing with you right now! It’s completely up to you. No pressure) Thanks.

*I’ll tell you all about my grandma tendencies soon, don’t worry. I know everyone likes to be on the up and up with my bodily functions.