Between her husband in hell, among spectres,
And her mother on earth, among flowers.
Her nature, too, is divided.  One moment
Gloomy as hell’s king, but the next
Bright as the sun’s mass, bursting from clouds.

–Ted Hughes
–from “The Rape of Proserpina” in Tales of Ovid

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Love’s Labour’s Lost, or Women Rule

o-LENA-DUNHAM-COVER-570On my way to writing this post about a Shakespeare play I got sucked in to Facebook where I discovered that most of my friends are against Black Friday or celebrated Chanksgiving or watch Terence Malick movies, or all three.  Which shows my demographic to the extent that is possible.  Also, I saw that McSweeney’s has out an interview with Lena Dunham and Judy Blume, “two cultural icons,” which I would love to read, though I flinch every time Lena is described as an icon as well as every time she is described as a feminist icon.  I would lie down in the mud to help ease a crossing for Lena Dunham – that is how greatly I love her –  but don’t you have to be at least middle aged before you can be an icon? Or maybe thirty? Like isn’t time put in a part of being an icon – and is she “feminist” simply because she’s a woman? I hate how people use that word.

I dunno, but I digress anyway because what I wanted to write about was Love’s Labour’s Lost and how it is an anthem to women and loving women, and I liked that a lot this week – I am Chankgsiving grateful for it. Which actually means that the Facebook/Judy Blume/Lena Dunham thing wasn’t really a digression. Continue reading

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the new milieu cure?

I am a very good depression patient – as I said yesterday.  I know the signs, I know what to do for myself, and I am good about asking for help – especially from doctors. My big hospital suicidal ideation fiasco came about, partly, because I didn’t report symptoms clearly enough (or, you could argue that I wasn’t asked about them clearly enough), so I try to get every possible thing out there. I make myself vulnerable.  I use correct language: hypomania and not mania; thoughts of suicide and not suicidal ideation; SSRI, contraindicated.

And so yesterday when I went to my new doctor she got a very thorough and responsible report. I told her about all the terrible things that went wrong five years ago and also about the recent the fogginess and the despair and the weeping.  I told her that I wasn’t having thoughts of suicide, but I was having thoughts of not getting up – which is sort of the gateway place to suidical ideation.  I told her that Effexor is bad for me because of my mood disorder and that Zoloft doesn’t work.  I told her that I had been on Lamictal but I was not anymore.  She asked me if I used Lamictal off label.  To which the answer is yes, because it is usually prescribed for seizures which it seems to me would be obvious since I was telling her about mood management. But I thought ok – she’s not a psychopharmacologist – I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Continue reading

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more casseroles. less S.A.D.

So why can’t depression (and its kissing cousin seasonal affective disorder) be like any other illness – you know the kind of thing where you get casseroles and cards and your friends go to doctors appointments with you and people knit you hats and other friends dedicate their 5k race to you and wear the t-shirt and post it on Facebook and with a soundtrack by Wilco or Alt-J like on “Parenthood” at the end of every episode when the person who struggled during the episode pulls it together in the soft California light and hugs people and behaves with courage whilst wearing hip denim?

I’ve been struggling with depression since before I knew that is what it was – since the days in my late twenties when I just thought I needed to have a better attitude or be a better person.  It’s always worse in the winter and it’s much much worse in northern climates. (Please note: Sydney, Australia is a great place to live if you want to dodge S.A.D.)  I felt it hit this weekend again -GROAN – the slipping focus, the thoughts that nag but won’t form, the tears at the ready, the absolute absence of humor  - right on time (late November) and likely to settle in until…well, at this latitude probably June.   Continue reading

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I suppose I should be grateful for the way it intensifies experience.  Everything scans as equally remarkable all day long all night long: heat, box, tissue, dust, lamp, cord, dust- bunny, glass edge, soap, wool, cotton, sunscreen, sun streaks, fan, taxi, train, duvet, book jacket, sweat, thigh, eyeglass, lipgloss, fingernail, granola bar, stick pin, air/con drip, blister, band-aid, smudge, towel, ant, grease, lotion, sheeting, hair elastic, cord, crumb – to start with.

And memories – which flood in at peak speed – barely time to nod to the one before the next crashes in, each with its emotional side-car.  Positive self-talk collides with self-abnegation, collides with childish impulse, collides with old wounds and coheres – the whole mass, joined together, careens ever more precariously around what used to be ordinary corners.  All day long the smells of mold and skunk and piss. A whiff of refrigerated air is a poor substitute for fresh.

What is it that brings up the panic? It’s just stuff, it’s just stuff in a slightly different arrangement than usual. It’s just an alternate version of cleaning or organizing or living.  It’s not that neutral is what it is.  It’s that all the stuff looks more like trash and, as a result, you’re closer to the existential cliff.  What are we doing? Wewith our individually decorated shopping carts full of trash, training through piss, shit and iron to work to make money to buy more and different shopping carts full of trash. Boxing it up, unboxing it, boxing it up again, moving along to the next pipe dream, each new corner awning a little more tattered than the last.

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The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals

Grasmere_1135256081I stumbled on these via the BBC Books and Authors podcast which is really my favorite book radio show ever because they just talk about the books they like and argue just the tiniest bit with the other people on the show who don’t like them, sharing favorite scenes and language, telling a bit about context, explaining what’s unique. Booktalk.  Simple.  Let’s not make a critical analysis mess of them

A recent one put me on to Dorothy Wordsworth whom I mistakenly thought was Wordsworth’s wife, but is instead his sister who lived off and on together with their brother John and Wordsworth’s wife Mary Hutchinson in the Lake District in England.

Such lovely evocative journals, so much love.  They are landscape portraits and sketchings of their village and the passersby, as well as glimpses into a writing life . She reads Shakespeares plays, brings Wordsworth his breakfast while he’s in the middle of a poem and does the ironing. “The morning clear but cloudy,” she writes, “that is, the hills were not overhung by mists.  After dinner Aggy weeded onions and carrots–I helped for a little-wrote to Mary Hutchinson–washed my head—worked.  After tea went to Ambleside–a pleasant cool but not too cold evening.  Rydale was very beautiful with spear shaped streaks of polished steel.  No letters! –only one newspaper.  I returned by Clappersgate.  Grasemere was very solumn in the last glimpse of twilight it calls home the heart to quiteness.

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Go Read Jane Gardam

jane_gardam_1208916cI’m really pleased with the Los Angeles Review of Books for being willing to publish my long form omnibus review of Jane Gardam’s novels.

They are the kind of books that become your friends – you know? Pure literary escapism.  I am so glad I found her.

If you read the article, I’d love for you to come back here and tell me what you think about it!

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Thom Yorke via Alec Baldwin (what?)

Alec Baldwin’s podcast “Here’s the Thing” is one of the reasons I love the era of podcasting. Only through this medium would get someone so inept that it’s an asset. I think Baldwin is a great actor, but truly, his gift is not interviewing.  He interrupts, finishes sentences, hmms and mmms in his famous, deep actor’s voice and overshares his own celebrity moments.  Sometimes I have to grit my teeth while he’s talking.

Thom-Yorke010 But I listen to almost all of his interviews (except the sports ones) and most of the time I listen twice.  The cast of characters is extreme:  Kris Jenner, David Brooks, Renee Fleming, Judd Apatow…are just a few. And the conversations he has with them are bizarre and wide ranging – these folks say things to him they wouldn’t say anywhere else. (Kim Kardashian got through the sex tape situation with her faith in God, says Kris. ) The interviews are raw and odd, and you almost always get something different to what is already circulating on the mono-channel popular culture.

My theory is that he’s so unprofessional that his interviewees open up to him – that since he doesn’t act like a journalist they don’t treat him like one.  Also, it probably helps that he’s famous too -they must relax around him.

The recent one featuring Thom Yorke is the best of these.  Yorke’s speaking voice is as mesmerizing as his music, and his answers to Baldwin’s screwball questions (if you could give up your fame in exchange for the world being measurably better in some way, would you?) are authentic and  forty-something wise.  He is sheepish sometimes, laugh out loud funny other times and then there are these flashes of analytical brilliance.  The way he describes what he’s trying to do when he sings is a poem.  What he says about “content” versus music.  I listen to it when I’m going to sleep at night, because I want my dreams to fill up with Yorke’s beautiful sayings.

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I hit a self-help trifecta this last month (and a good thing) too.

habitI mixed Adam Phillips‘ good advice to live the life you have (instead of the one you didn’t get or might sometime  achieve, maybe…) with The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brene Brown.

The first wrenched me into a reality check – living for an unrealistic and narrowly projected tomorrow while at the same time gnawing at my (to me) dreadful past was not going to be a successful life strategy.

The second gave me a massive dose of the goodness of neuroscience.   Continue reading

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day job

I dreamed last night that my job was to take a little Raggedy Ann type dolly and hold it up for an audience while I waggled its hands and called out “good job” and “great work” to my listeners in a high pitched, small girl simper.

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