Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Mimisms ~ Let's Talk About Depression

Headache, Head Ache, Pain, Head, Ache Depression @ Mimi WritesOnce upon a long time ago, I had a part-time job working for a salesman who lived in my neighborhood. I needed extra cash and he needed a secretary to keep him and his endless sales paperwork organized and accurate. It was a perfect arrangement.

My boss was a funny guy, albeit with a cynical side, who had an unfortunate penchant for near constant migraines. Much of the time he was in terrible pain, barely able to function. On the road to sales calls, we spent lots of time talking about our lives and families, while I recorded data and created invoices. This brief blip on the road of my life would ordinarily seem unremarkable, except for one telling conversation I've never forgotten to this day.

One day I noticed he was particularly anxious. Nervous. Jittery. Unwell. I asked him what troubled him so. He divulged very little and simply replied,
"Mimi, just remember this -
stress'll kill ya."

A few years later, he committed suicide.

Beyond being sad and grieved for his lovely family, I found it oddly prophetic. When I am overwhelmed and anxious, I sometimes hear his pain-filled voice say....."stress'll kill ya." He was warning me to try to learn to control the stress in my own life.  I wish he could have found his way out of that space.
Directory, Signposts, Hope, Hopelessness, Mimi Writes, Depression
What I've noticed lately is this: There are a lot of people walking around with what I call Life PTSD.  They're not clinically depressed, not on medication, and not in therapy. But their situations and circumstances seem to constantly spiral from hope to despair and back again, the likes of which a tilt-a-whirl ride has never seen. In today's world,This Is Your Brain on Drugs has morphed into This Is Your Brain on Life

Cumulative situational depression is a very real struggle. It is rampant in the society we live in today. It steals your joy. It fogs your brain. It hurts your relationships. It tears you down physically in ways that doctors are only beginning to truly understand. There is no way around - only through.

And we need to talk about it.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

It's A Great Day To Walk On The Beach

I'm not at the beach today but I remember this vacation well.

I wrote in the sand.
Exploring the island like a Bohemian...
eating ice cream at 10am....
coffee at sunrise on a blanket with my books...

buying flip flops and T-shirts....
and tossed a few messages in a bottle in the great Atlantic sea

Storms brewed. 
A spectacular sky and a feeling of change on the winds
 and in my life. 

Take a walk with me.
 I'll wear my hat and you can sing on the shore.

Images copyright Mimi Lenox

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday Morning Me

For a teacher, every day is "Sunday morning" in the summertime. And I'm loving it! My body needs about three weeks (no exaggeration) to physically and mentally recoup from the school year. You go go go go non-stop for ten months in exhausting and stressful conditions, working 12 hour days (and more) and that's just ON campus. Off-campus preparations and performances add to that workload. Summertime is collection of overtime pay. The people who know me get it, but really only people in academia know the kind of exhaustion-to-the-bone I'm talking about. 

Week three is here and I'm beginning to feel somewhat rested and ready to embark on a few summer projects before the bell rings in August. After twenty-one years in the classroom, this may be my last August bell. Yay! We shall see how it goes and what's best for me.

I've been couching. Listening to music. Updating old blog posts. Reading. Researching retirement options. Going to physical therapy (a story for another day!) Visiting with my mother and kids. Learning some new songs. 
Mostly couching.

 Baby Beans and I are going on a river trip next week. I've lost my camera. How does one lose a Nikon camera?? I'm sure it's in that-place-I-hid-it-for-safekeeping-that-I-will-obviously-remember-but-will-NEVER-remember. You know what I'm talking about? 

I also need to respond to an email I recently received that gave me pause....So I paused. I will respond when I know what to say.
Meanwhile....gotta find that camera.
And some words.
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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors

Sometimes I worry that age will dictate who I am.
That I'll end up being one of those women desperately trying to hold on to their youth, in ways that don't flatter them. Wearing shorter hair because it's suitable for a woman of that age  (there's that word again), or wearing something that looks ridiculous on the frame of a seasoned woman. Buttoning up plaids and shortening pumps to the cold cold floor, afraid to wear horizontal stripes or show lily-white bare legs in the public arena of judgment. 
I don't want to be that woman.
Once a pencil skirt, always a pencil skirt.

I've played with mirrors and light all my life. Examining who I am and thinking out loud for an audience of blog souls who cared enough in the House of Blogs to offer a hand-up from some dark places I stepped into, who saved me from the comical tragedies I wrote about in precarious attempts to make sense of my world. You let me.

Thank you.

You can't bare your lily-whites to just anybody you know. Oh, the scandal! It takes a special blog breed to accept the timbre of an occasionally out-of-tune skirt.

And that's where I've been lately.
Sorely out-of-tune.
Purposely so. Wallowing in imperfect fifths just to confuse hollow chords into resolving. Perhaps a little angry. A lot introspective. A tiny bit off my game. Riding on the crux of an avalanche, though not permanently derailed. It's that fascination with mirrors you see.... you need them to help you stay centered. 
And honest with yourself.

I snapped this picture when I was shopping last summer.
It was only when I got home that I realized how "divided" I look (ha!) disjointed (no wonder my back aches) fragile.

And how stubbornly, surprisingly strong.
Only a seasoned woman in an aging frame would post a picture of herself with a price tag and no head on her shoulders. Like Minnie Pearl's swinging hat tag or the mysterious old woman in the poem "When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple."

I hate purple.
It's so....well.....old.
Wear red. Or mirrors. Or groovy glasses.

So what if I lose my head once in a while? It gives me pause to wonder what really lies in between? What part of me closes the gap when there is loss or emptiness or fear? Is it wholeness to bare your vulnerability...or self-destruction in the hands of a cynical cruel world? What connects the two parts of me and makes me whole? Is it Spirit? Luck? Destiny? Serendipity?
I should know that by now. 

So, here's the thing.
I'm about to start a new adventure, closing a chapter and turning a page. It's not at all scary.
 As I move forward into the next decade, please God, don't let me wear long skirts or cut my hair too soon. I will wear large sunglasses and play my piano at midnight (sans the glasses) for the squirrels and the raccoons and the owls in the woods, for the people in the audience and the pews in the church and....for me. Just me. I will crank up the volume on my microphone and sing what makes me happy. My broken fingers will fly over keys of memory. Every raw emotion will pour out and drop as water on the ivory, because that is what storytellers do.
And furthermore,  I will sit on the floor in a hippie skirt and flowered jeans (not at the same time), strike matches on a matchbook and pretend I know how to smoke, and write lyrics and stories until my not-so-flexible-anymore fingers are happy with the ache it brings, until I taste and smell and feel what those perfect imperfections mean to me and until my hands burn from some kind of spirit I can't explain.....the One I respect but can't see.

Because I've learned that the most beautiful chords are unresolved.

And this time, Dear God, let the man by my side refuse to hold my hands.

I'd rather he clothe them with kisses and let them fly.
It is not for me to separate the young from the old or the naive girl from the wiser skirt - but to honor both.

Go find your mirror.

I hear there's a sale this weekend.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

An Easter Story for the believer, the non-believer, and everyone in between

Once upon a time I worked for a man who claims he saw an angel

not just any 'ole angel, but one that showed up close and personal
right there in his house
in a dark room
full of light
and spirit
and God's presence
As he retold the tale to me and several others, I've never forgotten the feeling it gave me.

The Retelling: An Easter story for the believer, the non-believer, and everyone in between

I don't know how we got on the subject, except that religion and faith always seemed to be tumbling into our office conversations. One of us was an atheist, one a Buddhist, one a born-again Christian, a strict Baptist, one bitter agnostic, a charismatic who spoke in tongues, a transcendentalist trying to find himself, two scoffing doubters, one former Hell's Angel and one on the fence. We worked together as a team for three years, sharing lunches and elaborate parties, successes and flops.  We were all business every day all day until this day; when the subject turned to the preposterous notion of living breathing angels walking around on earth, and how do you account for sight unseen occurrences or do you at all, and what about the bodacious claim that somebody's "God" bends down occasionally for the likes of humans to intervene in the lives of humans, even to hand out the elusive undocumented miracle.

A few were already laughing at the thought, the Buddhist lady had a wiry sneer on her lips at the onset and I think I saw the tongue talker utter a prayer under her breath. Me? I was poised over an electric calculator, twirling my pencil in my hair, as was my usual custom when it came time to ponder the preposterous. 

I loved to analyze and observe. I loved the debate even more. The room was ripe for the picking apart of beliefs, chapter and verse. And I was about to embark (unknowingly soon) on a journey that would lead me to throw my Bible against the wall in some wild defiance of everything religious. The timing of my presence in that ragtag conclave was prophetic.

I could feel the charismatic getting antsy, the Zen Man just wanted some air, the doubters were circling and motorcycle man desperately needed a cigarette. The only ones stone-faced were the non-believers, who were so sure that such conversation would quietly reveal the true crazies in the office that they didn't even bother to roll an eyeball. Given enough time, one of the believers would trip up and hang themselves on a begat and that would be the end of it. No more ridiculous supernatural discussions for this crew. I wondered which one of us would dare broach the subject with a tale to tell. My money was on the charismatic, who was looking at this point a little like she forgot which begat begot Baalam's ass in the first place.

Until the only one in the bunch whose very nature was reserved and aligned with normalcy, organization, order and precision, the logical, rational, sane one among us, Chamber of Commerce ready, as predictable as a red line pen mark in the debit column of an accountant's spreadsheet, rose to straighten his tie. This towering beautiful man in his late sixties, whose mission in life was to organize the usher's rotation roster each week at the Starched-Shirt-Church-Of-The-Saints, make sure there were suitable flowers on the altar, and tally up the collection plate money, suddenly waxed awkward and unfamiliar right before our collective eyes.

Mr. Predictable sat down in a chair in front of my desk and leaned his head back on the wall. He closed his eyes. So unlike him. He reached for his handkerchief. My pencil stopped twirling. And suddenly those hard-lined angles with all the checks and balances took a squiggly left turn. I saw smudges. All the ink in the room dried up. As he stepped out of the careful box he'd created and deliberately lived in all these years, I think I heard the proverbial pen rip right through verse four of Just As I Am and land somewhere between an impeccably drawn ledger line in the bookkeeping book of boring that was his life. Boring life. Boring religion. Boring book. He was a walking talking Billy Graham revival most days. He even sang like Cliff Barrows. It was only when he began to weep (a sight we'd never seen before) that the atmosphere in the room turned from theological skepticism, I can't explain it. You listen.

There's something about seeing a widly successful man who had the world by the tail, sitting in a starched white shirt, black tie, shiny shoes and salesman's cologne, suddenly break down at remembering. There was something going on with his daughter, he said, and she was distraught. Everyone in his house was distraught. She was lost in her own peculiar way and no one could find her. He told it so well. And before we knew it we were all hanging on every word of the story; the wayward child, the worrisome nights, illness, pain, uncertainty, a parent's nightmare. All told in perfect angst and candor to his friends. A man who had always seemed staunch with a tad of sanctimonious.

Until something else showed up.

And that was long about the time the second set of  tears began to roll down the shiny cheeks of the all business businessman, falling in droplets on the front of his made-for-business shirt...."I went into her room..."
His hands now covered his face. We saw water on his fingers, heard pain in his voice. The smirks were gone at the sight of his courage as his chest constricted and heaved between shallow breaths of tears and the sound of a well grown man unable to speak without gulping for air, the kind of retelling that only happens when you've accidentally opened up a deep well of wound or memory you forgot you had, and instead of drowning again and again you decide in some God moment that it must be time to let down your guard because all you can do God help you is bare it. You let people into your sanctuary of secrets and whether or not they deem it true is no longer your concern. You know the feeling, don't you?

And then I saw...I saw...
He stopped. He couldn't go on. My friend wept and wept in the made-for-business room.
And I felt it. What he saw. Before he said it, I felt it. We all felt it. It was all over him. All over us. In our room too.
As if it had just happened to him all over again. A silence of palpable presence that he'd held in his memory for nearly thirty years. And a gratitude that the God he loved and worshiped would seek to send him comfort and a promise in the midst of one of his darkest days. The presence of the Angel was still fresh in his mind. The events that surrounded his life at that time changed and he was never the same.

His story helped me understand the frame of faith in which he walked. And it solidified a belief I've held most of my life - That you can't argue with an experience. I don't care if you're an intellectual, a fundamentalist, agnostic or atheist, a liberal Christian or a Bible-thumping sainted ball of confusion, if you don't have an experience, a definitive moment in time that you cannot logically explain, to back up what and why you believe in a Higher Power, it means nothing to you but empty words. You can argue from Genesis to John, as we did many times, but none of us could argue with his experience. His long ago unexpected meeting with an angel of light and protection for his beautiful daughter, was still strongly tethered to the present. Quite simply, he knew he was not alone. He knew he would never be alone. And in the retelling of it, I got a front row seat and witnessed firsthand this fundamental truth....that words are only powerful when they're attached to your heart.  It was his experience, that experience, that made all our blubbering banter on the subject of religion 'round the water cooler mean less than a jar of beans. Because when something that powerful manifests itself in your life and changes the situation, it changes you.

Thirty years later it changed us too.

  Richard H. Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass, on the Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois, USA
released to the public domain 
 The Annunciation  - Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, c. 1895.
 Ecclesiastical Angels - Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, c. 1890.
 Two Angels - Tiffany Studios, c. 1910.
Thomas Cooper Golch The Awakening 

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