Friday, December 5, 2014

Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella (To Be Used In A Britney Inspired Beat Down)

I’m almost done reading Amy Poehler’s “YES PLEASE” and it’s a fantastic read. She’s honest and hilarious and inspiring and wonderful. And it tickles me to no end that both she and Tina Fey use the same expression when recounting situations where they were powerless to do or say anything in the face of life’s assholery. They both said all they could do was “smile like a flight attendant.”


Which leads me to this blog.

I’ve mentioned in this space before that when I was really in depression’s death grip that I was told to “SMILE!” at work on a fairly regular basis. And although the passengers I see are all shapes and sizes, genders and ethnicities, a true cross section of what America is comprised of, the demographic of the person instructing me to fix my face was always the same: the middle aged or older white dude, usually dressed in Dockers and a casual Friday polo shirt, often sporting a smug look of their own.

Really, I get it. We all want our customer service professional to be warm and receptive and greet us with an expression that indicates that they have nothing on their minds besides fulfilling our every want and desire. I also take notice when my cashier at the Trader Joe’s seems a bit surly. But I also recognize that perhaps my cashier may have just broken up with her boyfriend or girlfriend, she may have had to report to work after holding her mom’s hand while she went through chemo, or she may just be concentrating REALLY HARD on ringing up my dark chocolate peanut butter cups correctly and THAT IS HER AUTHENTIC FUCKING FACE for that moment in time. She doesn’t need to put on a show for me, as long as she is doing her job. I often want to say to the dudes who have all the face advice that they shouldn’t worry, that my bitchy resting face does not mean that I will not be quick like a bunny to get them that Dewar’s and water and some more nuts. But I don’t say it, of course. I’m too busy pouring the Dewar’s and water, aka DOING MY JOB.

Why do I think it’s only this select group of dudes that always have to share their two cents worth in regards to turning my frown upside down? Not totally sure, but it appears that the rest of the population, aka everyone who is not a middle class middle aged white dude, are busy leading their own lives, lives where they understand what it feels like to be marginalized to some degree. Perhaps everyone else just inherently understands that although the airplane certainly leans towards being pink collar, it’s not a geisha house and that telling someone else what to do with their face is some privilege flavored fuckery.

My intent is not to use this space to go all man hater on you. I recognize that most dudes I come in contact with are perfectly pleasant to be around. Perhaps you’re thinking I should lighten up. Perhaps I should and perhaps I will. I mean, these folks don’t mean any harm, right? Agreed. But might I suggest that the next time you encounter someone and feel the urge to tell them to SMILE, that you instead offer them something to SMILE about. Tell them they have a great haircut or whatever seems like a genuine and positive observation to make. Say “thank you” like you mean it, and take your peanut butter cups and be on your merry way. BE PART OF THE SMILE SOLUTION, NOT PART OF THE SMILE PROBLEM.

Just a thought. Enjoy your weekend by sporting whatever kind of face suits you.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Let Us Give Praise (WITH THE CAPS LOCK ON)

Happy Pilgrim Invasion/Let Us Herd Like Sheeple To Get A Cheap TV We Don't Need weekend. So much of social media this week has caused me to feel sad and powerless (Quick! Where's the HIDE button?), but I do enjoy the part where we give thanks, so here goes.

I'm thankful for the usual things: my health, my work, my friends. But what's helped me be more grateful than ever is that I'm no longer oh so depressed.


It would look a little something like this.

As far as my health, I am going into the holiday season and another Chicago winter at my highest weight ever, but I'm otherwise I'm pretty together. I have a weight loss wager in place that involves me riding a bike for 20 miles if I don't reach my goal. I don’t like to lose and I don't particularly want to ride a bike (although I will do so cheerfully if I must), so expect a slimmer me soon.  And if I slip on a patch of ice in the meantime, my bootie will provide a soft place to land. ASSTASTIC BRIGHT SIDE.

As far as my sky hostess work, it's greatly improved. I seem to have perfected a half smile that lets the general public know that I am finally with the goddamn program. So no more "Smile!" or "You look tired." I've been working better trips, in fact earlier this week I had a day where I slept late, wrote up a storm, walked five miles, ate a chicken burrito naked on my hotel balcony and took a nap before reporting for work at 8 pm to end up in Vegas, where I proceeded to get a margarita served to me by a guy in his underwear. That kind of adventure makes up for all the days that I've spent cleaning up barf or stuff like this. 

I also go to work with a keen ear. I listen and observe what goes on around me and if it’s of interest, I scribble down what it evokes for me as a listener. Observations about different cities, about interactions between people on the airplane, specifically when cultures clash. I am no longer a mere flight attendant, I am a reporter. No, better than that, I am a SPY. SPY WORK IS COOL.

As far as my writing work,  I’ve been rejected by quite a few online publications recently. Any writer that submits anything knows that’s the price of putting yourself out there. I WILL NOT GO AWAY QUIETLY. (Behold my SHOUTY CAPS!) Due to my residency in Bummertown, I wrote sporadically for my monthly writing class and only performed in a handful of shows last year.  I recently agreed to do more shows in the next few months than I did in all of 2014, and the writing has subsequently picked up some speed. I now write quite a bit on my computer when I’m at home, I have Google docs on my phone so I can edit projects on when I’m on the train or at work, I write on drink order pads at work if my phone isn’t handy. Last week I found myself writing something I didn’t want to forget on my hand.  Sometimes I get discouraged that my words are more in line with More magazine than punk rock, but I'm hoping my true voice is a quirky swirl of both. Patti Smith is 67, after all, and she still rocks.

I still don’t know what I’m going to be when and if I decide to grow up. But I’m in good company on that score. I know very few people who have anything figured out right now. I don’t believe that’s an accident; I think I’m intentionally surrounding myself with people who are always striving and struggling to make their lives better. IT IS THE GRIT THAT MAKES THE PEARLS AND OTHER WEIRD OYSTER METAPHORS.

I strongly believe that to continue to grow as a writer, I must strive to lead the most interesting life that I can, and write from that knowledge. Because getting published and being in shows is wonderful, but always trying to be better at this is the most important thing to me.

Best wishes to you on this holiday. I'll end with something I didn't want to forget to tell you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Waving, Not Drowning

A little over five years ago I moved to Chicago all full of notions about finally exploring the great unchartered territory that was “being myself”.  I had no real plan except to do anything and everything that struck my fancy, emboldened by a favorite quote from Andre Gide, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.”

Since I set sail to figure out what floats my boat upon moving to Chicago in 2009, I've had three different residences, I’ve taken any number of writing and storytelling classes, I’ve written some pretty good stuff, I’ve written some complete shit. I volunteered at a bookstore and hated it, I was a lackluster camp counselor for a bunch of teenage girls, I was a flustered and ill prepared presenter the next year for a different bunch of teenage girls, I ran three half marathons, I dated some people, I hooked up with some other people, I fell apart at the seams emotionally on about 96 separate occasions, documenting some of that in this space.

After five plus years of floating towards my future so called life, I have to admit, I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing. The trial and error of it all is some exhausting shit. I keep thinking, “I know I consented to lose sight of the shore for a very long time, but some days I AM DROWNING OUT HERE.”

Mid July marked the tail end of a depressive period that seemed to last an eternity and made every day feel like an endless procession of thankless drudgery uphill in cement boots. I recognized that I was in bad shape; physically, emotionally, all around. After months of saying I could turn it around, but not doing much about it, I continued to limp along doing the mandatory minimum to keep the boat afloat, all the while applying copious amounts of booze on it all to quiet the constant screaming inside of my head. I stopped talking. I stopped listening. I was at my all time most irritable, culminating in a passenger at work attacking me personally after I barked him that it wasn’t safe for him to use the bathroom. I offered him a stone faced apology as he told me repeatedly what a despicable person I was. It was an unprecedented and excruciating encounter for me, professionally and personally. I took some time off, only to return to a hostile co-worker, a 2 am wake up call, and the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life.

I stayed up most of that night, distraught, in shock. I bought “Reality...What A Concept” on vinyl as a 13 year old and played it until I memorized every word. It was one of my first tutorials on how to be funny. I was floored, like so many of us, that someone so talented and beloved could feel so desperately alone. It was also a reminder that depression is a disease that can also be a death sentence.

I didn’t wake up in a pool of my own vomit, but it was rock bottom enough for me.

I knew things had to change. Immediately.

I started running again as much as my feet would allow. When I couldn’t run, I walked. I started waking up in the morning and immediately GETTING OUT OF BED AND DOING THINGS. I made sincere apologies. I forgave people. I changed my work schedule so it was more conducive to having a better attitude. I began writing about things that were difficult. I went to story shows with kind hearted friends. I started taking Uber cars instead of the El train to make getting around less of a drain on my precious time and energy.  I stopped drinking entirely for awhile. I now am far more mindful about it, recognizing that using it as a crutch is all too often a hobbling act of self sabotage.

I’m pleased to report that things began to sail right along once again. But still, no sign of land. And even with things being more positive, I still get overwhelmed and exhausted by the feeling that I'm endlessly adrift.

But there have been some signs of progress. After a few weeks of running, I was able to run five kilometers without a walk break. As my Nike Plus app cheerfully reported that I did it averaging a twelve and a half minute mile, I immediately thought, “Ugh. You used to be able to run four times that far at a ten minute mile pace.” But then I told that voice to Shut. The. Fuck. Up. I had just run further than I had in a long time, after only a few weeks. That was worth a few snaps.

And with my newfound clarity, I had to admit that the last five years I’ve spent at sea not knowing what the hell I’m doing have been infinitely more satisfying than the 43 years that came before them, where I just stood on the land thinking I had it all figured out, smugly judging everyone else’s efforts with my arms crossed. That deserved some thunderous applause.

These were realizations that provided much needed relief.

But I also needed a sign. Everyone could use a sign now and then, right? Just a little sign?

It came, unexpectedly, at work. I went up front to the cockpit as one of the pilots had to use the bathroom and it’s our procedure that a flight attendant needs to be in the cockpit with the pilot who is left flying the plane, assumedly so if the shit hits the fan, I can help land the plane like Halle Berry in Executive Decision.

(If that ever happens I promise to recount it here in the BEST BLOG POST EVER)

It was late, we were tired and oh so ready to be in Same Old City With A Different Name already.  The first officer and I stared out into the vast abyss that is the night sky at 40,000 feet in awkward silence until a blue flash came across the windshield. Then another. The pilot turned to me and asked, “Have you ever seen St. Elmo’s Fire before?”


“It’s plasma formed by electricity,” he told me.

“It looks cool,” I said. He nodded.

We enjoyed a few more minutes of the light show, then I went back to work.

As I am a supreme dork with a mind that refuses to stop processing useless information, I had to research St. Elmo’s Fire after seeing it. I knew it was more than a bad Brat Pack movie with a terrible theme song, I knew it was a weather phenomenon, but I didn’t know much else.  I learned that St. Elmo’s Fire was named for Saint Erasmus, the patron of saint of Mediterranean sailors. Although some sailors thought the colorful balls of fire were a bad omen, many thought it was a sign of salvation from their saint, particularly since St. Elmo’s Fire occurs most likely when the storm is nearing its end.  

I took it as a sign that I have weathered the worst of the storm and perhaps I should begin concentrating on the joy of sailing. That I should embrace being in transition, and all the wondrous opportunities that still await me. That I should steal from Anais Nin's vision of being a mermaid, having no fear of depths, just a great fear of shallow living.

I'll let you go before I break into the chorus of "Come Sail Away" by Styx. Because that would be fucked up.

Enjoy your autumn, all. Hope to see you somewhere soon.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Treasure In The Trash

Tonight I will cap off my glorious birthday week vacation by telling a story at a wonderful show here in Chicago. (, check it out) Alongside me will be my trusty story buddy, Jill Howe. Earlier in the week Jill gifted me with a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing" and I cannot put it down. He recounts writing the first part of "Carrie" and throwing it in the trash can, proclaiming it to be complete crap. His wife found the pages, shook off the cigarette ashes, smoothed them out and read them. She insisted that he finish the story, as she told him, "You've really got something here. I really think you do." He did finish the story, of course, and eventually it opened every door for him, after he sold it for $400,000.

A quote from the Stephen King book I keep returning to: 

“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy: you can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.” 

The story I'm telling tonight at the show was pulled out of the trash by Jill. Not from an actual trash can, but from that piece of my mind where I put things I believe to be of no value. She convinced me to do it at the first Story Sessions show in April of 2013, I subsequently used it as my writing sample to be considered to go to Italy to study with Wally Lamb. 

Jill has a birthday party every year where she asks people to read stories. I missed her birthday last year as I made that trip to Italy, but I wrote this piece for her the year before. I share it here in hopes that it will encourage you to show and tell someone how much you love them today. You never know when your support will be all that's needed to change the course for another, to help them to get over, to get well, to get happy.

ODE TO JILL - A Year In Whiskey and Words

I met Jill not so long ago, on April 10th of last year at Hopleaf. Yes, people, I took the time to look that shit up.  She was, as always, friendly, talkative, one might dare say she could be described as chipper.  As I don’t speak chipper, I was immediately suspicious of her motives.   What did she want from me? I continued to run into her at story shows and in short order we became quite smitten with each other, in that Laverne and Shirley kind of way. Her plucky Jane Austen became the better half to my cantankerous Dorothy Parker.  Against all odds, really, considering the fact that she lives on the complete opposite end of the city from me and she’s technically young enough to be my daughter, if we were residents of Alabama.  But we had so many fundamental things in common, like loving T.S. Eliot and tater tots and reading too much into things. I met her at a particularly pessimistic time in my life, when the weather in my head was perpetually made up of black clouds. I was going to story shows as some sort of research project in understanding the human condition, an area where I was struggling to find hope.  I wrote about the absurdities that were my personal life at the time as I wasn’t sure what else to do with myself. The highlight reel of last summer’s train wreck included: going on dates with conspiracy theorists, polygamists, germaphobes, and corporate bankers who like Nickelback.  In hindsight, some pretty flawed decision making.  Jill would always tell me that it was fine if that’s what I needed to do as it was simply where I was at for the moment. I was insistent that there was nothing else to hope for, that my only joy could be derived from chasing cheap thrills for story fodder. When she got older, I figured she’d wise up and come around to my way of thinking.  

Through all this, we drank whiskey and talked about what’s wrong with the world and and shook our fists mightily at the sky and wrote a bunch and we shared some E.B. White infused highs and some Tennessee Williams style lows.  She brought me flowers and sent me sweet cards and drove me all the way home even though it is the dictionary definition of out of her way. She greeted me with waffles one morning after I decided to drink Jameson for dinner and woke up with a screaming headache on her couch, I thanked her by breaking her coffee mug. That’s the kind of stuff brown liquor makes you do. After a long, hot summer full of these sort of shenanigans, I found myself exhausted. On September 11th I decided for a myriad of reasons that I simply could not go to work; I just couldn’t fathom getting on an airplane. I was wiped out from a whole season of having a shitty attitude.  I made plans to do what any good Chicagoan would do under the circumstances, I would get drunk at a White Sox game.  On that same day I received an email from Jill entitled On My Love For You, with the following quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it's these things I'd believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn't all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything” 

 I took a screen shot of the email, which I keep on my phone to this day.  The White Sox lost to Detroit that night, but that email combined with a baseball helmet full of nachos made me feel a whole hell of a lot better about the world and my place in it.

Through the fall we kept on with the stories and the writing and whiskey and fist shaking. I wrote a piece for a show we did together where I defiantly asserted that monogamy was an outdated concept that could seriously suck it that evolved people should give up on. Jill suggested in the most diplomatic terms that I might want to soften my stance on that score as not only would I alienate nice, normal people who still believed in such lofty ideals, but moreover, I MIGHT NOT ALWAYS FEEL THIS WAY. I begrudgingly complied, in the spirit of compromise, thinking, wow, when she gets older, she will realize how right I am.  

Over Thanksgiving, Jill took me to her family celebration.  It had been a very long time since I had a genuine sit down turkey dinner with a whole table filled with people wearing sweaters that were made for photo opportunities.  Her family was friendly and talkative, on the verge of chipper, which I was beginning to comprehend as a second language.  They asked me how I knew Jill, I told them I met her in prison.  It’s nice when people who live in a Norman Rockwell painting greet you with a Knob Creek and apple cider and accept you without question. It was then it finally sunk in there was genuine joy in surrounding yourself with people who treat you with respect, who believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Those who bear witness to your mistakes and your sorrow, and react with patience and flowers and rides home and waffles, understanding that you are not defined by your black cloud, it’s just where you are at for the moment.  Such people can change the way you think and they can make you so happy to admit that you were the one who was wrong.  No matter how far gone you think you are, that sort of divine love really is the beginning of everything.

Well, Shorty, it’s your birthday.  We’re gonna party like it’s your birthday.  If I could, I would buy you a pony, if I did, knowing you, you would ride it around your apartment.  You’ll have to settle for this instead. Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”  Let us go and make our visit. Here’s to Jill, chivalrous heart, unconditional believer, storytelling superstar.  May your future always provide you with wonderful things to write about, and if you get stuck, pour some whiskey on that situation, story problem solved.

Photo credit: Happiness capturer Eric Cain

Monday, August 4, 2014

The State At 48

I recently spent thirteen hours in Raleigh, NC, in a newly renovated Four Points Sheraton off Highway 40, next to a Hooters AND a Bojangles. Jealous, I know you are. It was uneventful, except that every service person that I came in contact with, the sparky desk clerk, the van driver, the older cashier with a terrible limp at the Starbucks all said the same thing when I asked them, “How are you today?” They each replied, “I’m blessed.” I found it especially charming, as Yankees don't use expressions like that.

I have not written for this space in quite some time as I generally only post here when I feel particularly inspired to share something meaningful, an insight I feel might be helpful to others, a story with a positive message. The last few months I’ve spent stewing in my own juice, simply struggling to get by. But today I turn 48 fucking years old, so I figured I’d make a point to cobble a few words together.

TBTYA (Throw Back Thirty Years Ago)

YIKES. Orwell's dystopian vision of 1984 isn't as scary as this 1984 hair.

Even at my advanced age, I often channel that moody girl with too much eye makeup, drunk on wine coolers, dancing with a mopey smirk to the Smiths on heavy rotation. In many ways, my 48 year old life style isn’t too different from your average 18 year old. I currently live with roommates, I am struggling with my weight, I have no major responsibilities, I am prone to bouts of heavy sulking (although I’ve traded Morrisey in for Leonard Cohen. UPGRADE!)  To top that all off, it's summer, so I’m sporting my usual hormonally jacked up sun mottled face, a condition that gets worse every year. I am on week 34 of 42 weeks of Invisalign. Wearing a mouthguard made of teeth shifting plastic in my piehole for 20+ hours a day has guaranteed that if I’m tired or I’ve had a drink or two (let’s be honest, one or both of those states is most of my waking life) that my speech sounds like I suffered a minor stroke. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that I’m coming into 48th tour of the sun suffering from a bit of an 

This all brings me down a bit, hence the stewing and pouting. But I’m slowly sensing a shift happening, and I’m doing everything I can to keep that momentum going. I could choose to focus on what I no longer have; a creamy complexion, a flat stomach, a love interest, the ability to function without sleep, an automobile, a job that values my personal space, feet that can run without pain, clear enunciation, a mindset that allows me to smile and shut up in the face of life's fuckery. All these concepts are in the rear view mirror for me, some temporarily, some are most likely gone for good. But to lament these lost blessings seems like a misguided waste of spirit.

I choose to look at what I do possess, right now, on this day, on this morning. I celebrate that am physically and emotionally well, that I have enough money and flexibility to come and go as I please for the most part, that I live in a house with people who always have my best interests at heart, that I am surrounded by friends who bolster me, who find my signature blend of hope encrusted cynicism refreshing. And I have this, my most cherished jewel. My writing.

In the last four years, I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought was possible in terms of writing. There have been projects that are considered to be under the traditional “success” umbrella; reading a story with loving Story Sessions friends at City Winery, dabbling in fiction for a WBEZ podcast (, having Wally Lamb, a writer I’ve admired since his first book was published, offer me words of encouragement about my work. These accomplishments write my name in the sand, briefly exclaiming I WAS HERE! These are the stuff of Facebook “likes”, the kind of things my mother can tell her friends that I’ve done, thus proving I'm more than a sky waitress. But writing to me is so much more than those treasured moments, writing has provided me with an unprecedented feeling of being HEARD. It has been life altering for me to interact with people who make themselves available to listen or read what I have to say intently. I am continually touched by the kind souls who attempt to understand me through my stories. The most meaningful gift I can ever receive is the trifecta of your time, your eyes/ears, and your mind, and staying worthy of that will forever motivate me to keep writing.

I’m not exactly sure where my words will take me in the future. I feel like I’m living the E.L. Doctorow quote: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog, you can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I'm only focusing on the projects that are right in front of me that make me feel whole. My only clear goal is to keep working diligently, looking ahead through the headlights' beam, trusting that I can find whatever trip I’m destined to make by that light.

So here I am at 48, a little tired, sun dappled, not so toned, with a mouth full of plastic teeth. How do I feel? Absolutely, positively, extraordinarily blessed.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, people. I'm on a quest to see friends all around the country these days. I hope our paths cross somewhere soon.

Photo credit: black and white photo by Jill Howe (

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Welcome To the Winter Of My Discontent

I haven’t had much to say here in awhile, as I’ve been busy. SO BUSY. If you trust Facebook, you’d be quick to assume I’ve been busy working, writing, doing story shows, and preparing for a writer's conference in Italy next month. These things are indeed happening.  But much of the focus of this blog has revolved around what lurks beneath social media image crafting, so I’m opting for full disclosure upon my return to E's World of Nonsense.

I’ve been busy being depressed.  Not sad, not bummed out over current events. I have been struggling with depression, in the medical condition sense of the word. It’s taken up much of my precious time since mid-September. For every moment like this:

there are have been countless hours of this.

Not a new dilemma.  I’ve written about it here before.  It crept in slowly, as it does.  It started from the bottom up, literally, with my feet.  They started to hurt when I ran, then when I walked, then all the time.  I saw a specialist who diagnosed me with Morton’s Toe and Morton’s neuroma, basically wads of pissed off nerves in the balls of both of my feet.  I stopped running as per the doctor’s directive, which has been my most effective method of keeping my funk at bay.  I substituted bourbon and pasta and sulking, stuff that depression uses for fuel. Then I embarked on a difficult story.  Mixed with the worst winter Chicago has seen in 30 years wreaking serious havoc on my air travel job, it’s been a grind.  I went from being in the best shape of my life to wearing the largest size uniform I’ve ever had the displeasure of owning, the seams currently screaming for mercy.  So the feet, the work, the weight, the story, the deep freeze. But if it hadn’t been these challenges, it would have been different tests, to be sure. That’s life, as they say. (Just who the hell are “they”, anyway?)

Much has been written to attempt to explain depression. I’m sure every depressed soul has their own take on it. For me, it feels like there’s a radio in my head.  One day I notice that it only plays sad songs. Like a classic country jukebox, like Elliott Smith’s worst laments, like Leonard Cohen at his most hopeless. I cannot change the station. It permeates my thinking, this soundtrack. Some days there are irritating songs, reminiscent of the Jonny Greenwood score of the latter half of “There Will Be Blood”, just disturbing atonal screech. This pounding in my head makes it hard to concentrate, to see things clearly.  After awhile the nonstop funeral dirges are punctuated by a message.  The message is I CAN’T.  I can’t get out of bed, I can’t return your phone call, I can’t finish this story, I can’t go to the store.  Thank God I don’t have children or pets or house plants or anything else that depend on me for survival. This particular depressive episode for me as been all about short term, task-oriented thinking.  I cope by convincing myself to do ONE THING AT A TIME. First, I will get up. Okay, now what? I will make coffee. I will put laundry in the washer. I will do triage on my To Do list, anything that is not required can and will wait. If I do something above and beyond, like paying a bill or some other task that other people in their right mind do all day without thinking about it, I throw myself a little party in my mind. YAY ME! I am currently acting like my brother who suffers with severe OCD; I have an ongoing dialogue of everything that I’m doing while I'm doing it, my every move an internal discussion. This has made my day to day operations exhausting, and sometimes I go to work looking like I've already done a 12 hour shift. This nonstop assembly line going on in my mind has zapped my energy. My concentration is compromised. My social anxiety is exacerbated. I leave every encounter sure that the person I’ve talked to, or emailed, or texted hates me. I'm positive that I have said or written the wrong thing, and I know that people can see through my dead eyed stare that I am not right.  Then pretty much everything looks like this.

(photo from the bathroom stall at Seattle's 5 Point, I see somebody gets it)

 I went to my writing group a few weekends back and my short term tasking was so acute that I had to talk myself through crossing Berwyn Avenue at Ashland in steps.  Halfway across the intersection I had to stop and give myself another pep talk. CROSSING A STREET was a TWO STEP ORDEAL, people. Holy crap. Time for a cool change.

The next day I was listening to my iPod, trying to work in some actual music to the melancholy mix in my head. On my iPod is an MP3 of me telling a story at a show in June of 2012, recorded by the show's producers. It is the only such item on my iPod, and the odds of this story getting shuffled up are almost 1 in 2,600 currently. On any other day I would hit “skip” immediately, in search of a good song. But I decided to listen to it. It is a story of moving to Chicago and struggling with depression, about how I spent my first summer here drinking wine in my downtown apartment in a dirty bathrobe, unable to do anything. I took comfort in hearing that I had been in this place before. That even with my task related thinking, I was actually DOING THINGS this time, even if it was all about arduous pep talks along the way. I recognized that I’m much better at being depressed, and I gave myself some snaps for that.  YAY ME!

I reaffirmed my efforts to steer the ship to calmer waters. I’m trying to eat some vegetables with the starchy brown comfort chow. I’m taking it easy on the caffeine. And the booze. Overdoing it on the bourbon creates more problems than it solves in this mindset, and on a recent trip to the doctor I promised her I would discontinue “pulling a Faulkner”, as she calls it. We also revisited the idea of me taking antidepressant medications again. She said she would write me a prescription if that’s how I wanted to handle it, which I really don’t. She agreed, telling me, “You’re a good Irish girl, you’ll always have a bit of the abyss in you. Make it work for you, it’s good for your art.”  Thank God for competent medical advice, with an extra dose of sass.

I will exercise. I'm frustrated that I can’t run 5 miles like I could before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t walk a mile to the store or do a little yoga or dance to Van Halen Pandora for a meaningful chunk of minutes. I will read. I will write. I will rest. I will go to therapy. I will not take 30 BuzzFeed quizzes to figure out who I am. For better or for worse, I KNOW WHO I AM. I will be patient and kind with myself. I will surround myself with people who believe in me. I have faith that I will feel better.

When I finished telling that difficult story this last Sunday night to a wonderfully supportive audience, I felt lighter. The radio not so loud, the soundtrack less morose. I felt some control over the volume knob. I’m taking some time off from work and from storytelling shows while I get out of the fog. I’m eagerly awaiting a package that will have nine stories that I need to read, nine stories from the nine people I will work with in Italy next month. Some funk killing stuff on the horizon.

This is difficult information to put out there. I choose to share this struggle here for a few reasons. If you’ve suffered from depression, perhaps this might make you feel less alone. Mental illness is cloaked in shame and secrecy and denial, and I’d like to use my voice to try to change that. For others, please know that I’m not looking for sympathy or suggestions. I’m doing what I need to do. If you’re out in the world and you run across someone who seems to carrying some weight, be kind. This is not the time for teasing or tough love or “snap out of it.” After a good handful of strangers at work suggested that I should “SMILE!” and the ever popular “You look tired”, I was bolstered by a gentleman who stopped on his way out of the airplane lavatory and said simply, “Thank you so much for all your hard work today.”  I sensed he knew that it took me a lot of pep talks just to get there.

Peace out for now. I intend to write more soon. I'm only putting one space after the period now. YAY ME!

Fun drawings stolen from Allie Brosh's ever brilliant and amazing Hyperbole and a Half.
Guts and Glory show photo credit:  the incomparable Jill Howe