That relationship between emotion and strength …

I think we tend to forget or ignore how important emotion is.

Some of us are able give into emotion easily, but a lot of us work hard to quell our emotions; mostly because we think that emotions make us weak. The irony is that most of us have no difficulty giving in to our anger, but when it comes to grief and loss and the sadness that accompanies it, we just don’t.

Thankfully, there are people (sometimes, luckily, in leadership positions) who understand how important it is feel. I attended a memorial service recently in which the officiant displayed an astute understanding of emotion and its role in the grieving process. I was touched at how he led the gathering through the grief, cried with them, and then led them out again into the joy of remembrance.

He started his address with funny anecdotes about how he’d met the deceased and how she made him feel as a brand new addition to the community. He moved on into a couple other remembrances of her with her family and the impact it had on him. He introduced a tear-jerker of a song next, dedicated to the family. He made sure to tell us that, “It’s ok if you want to cry. I probably will and I think I’m just going to sit right here while it plays because if I stand up here I likely will lose it”. And he did leave the podium to sit in a chair nearby while the song played.

We listened to a sweet song of love and remembrance and loss and we all cried – every last one of us. Even the officiant. There was not a dry eye in the gathering. Even the officiant was red-faced and crying. I was stunned because this was clearly a man comfortable enough to cry amongst strangers. How many of us can lay claim to that? I know I can’t.

After the song was finished, he launched into a 10 minute long remembrance that had us all laughing and nodding and grinning away. The woman who had passed was beloved and there were far more merry moments than there were heartache and he made us realise and remember that in a very visceral way. It’s an experience that will stay with me for a long, long time.

This preacher understands grief. He understands loss. And he understands that together they involve both tears and laughter, and that both are important in the grieving process. He played to those two expressions of emotion beautifully with his speech; by the time he was done, we had cried and we had laughed with equal vigour. And we felt better for it.

That experience taught me something. I think we need to spend more time allowing ourselves to sit with emotion. If you’ve ever been overcome by emotion, if you’ve ever cried like your heart was breaking, then you know how much better you can feel when the grief has passed. Better, lighter, stronger. There is no doubt … we are stronger when we let ourselves feel.

It’s a rainy, dreary day in Oly, WA today …

And days like today bring back memories of being back home in Jamaica on a cloudy, dreary, rainy day when we’d be happy for the chill and the wet so we had excuses to drink things like hot cocoa, or more coffee (you haven’t had coffee until you’ve tried Jamaican coffee, if even just once) and cornmeal porridge.

Ah yes. I miss cornmeal porridge. It’s a hot cereal-like meal – it’s made with cornmeal (as you might have guessed), milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. You have to be extra careful with it, though, because if it’s made incorrectly or you let it sit for too long, it can get lumpy and icky to eat. My father used to tell me that cornmeal porridge “put hair on yuh ches’ [chest]” or that it “coat yuh backbone”. Frankly, I think the stuff that put hair on your chest was more of the scotch bonnet (hot pepper) or alcohol (like John Crow Batty – which is an overproof rum that is near enough to pure ethanol that it burns green) type deal than simple, unassuming cornmeal porridge. Frankly, a little John Crow Batty would be welcome about now … a stiff drink is not something I’d refuse today.

Still, despite the dreariness or the potential bad news I’ve had within the last week or so, I am in fairly good spirits. It is odd – I ought to be so down in the dumps that it is difficult to get out of bed. Well … it’s difficult to get out of bed anyway – it’s so damn cold. Not as cold as my Eastern and Central U.S. neighbours, but certainly far more cold than I have been used to all my life. It’s so much more comfortable to lay under a duvet and a fleece blanket than it is to get out of bed … for anything.

Anyway – the reason why I am in fairly good spirits despite all the blows this week … a book that validated my way of thinking for once.

You know how you hear people say “Think positive” all the time? That “staying positive will help solve problems”? That “envision the positive outcome and that is what you shall manifest”? All that drivel. I hear it constantly. And to me it is drivel. Sure I want to think of the positive outcome. It’s what I want to  happen. That sort of goes without saying…. but what happens if what I want does not happen? What then?

Cue the “Oh come on! Be positive!” crap. That doesn’t help me. What helps me is to envision all possibilities so that I can at least be mentally (if not practically and physically) prepared for them all. Apparently, this kind of thinking is called “Defensive pessimism” and there is a book written about it. Yes; there are a few of us on this earth who actually benefit from being negative because it helps us prepare for all possibilities in such a way that no matter what the outcome is, we can take it smoothly in stride and move past it.

Whenever I am faced with a decision, my first question is always “tell me what the worst and best outcomes are?” I only finally got a doctor who understood that recently. Everybody else seemed to think I needed to be coddled and told to “think positive; it’ll work out … somehow”. I want to tell them “Stop coddling me; I am grown woman” but I am too polite to do so. At the end of the day, when the ish hits the fan, I am the one who is going to be able to manage the fallout because I have already imagined the worst and know, in my head, how I am going to tackle it if it happens. Of course, I am also the one who will cheer and celebrate just as loudly with you when it does work out  – because I also know the potential consequences of the best outcomes as well.

I am hoping to read that book so I can see just how much of my own patterns are mimicked by others the world over. I want to know, finally, just how “normal” I am.

Reading … no distractions, no fanfare – just me and the words

various e-book readers. From right to left iPa...

various e-book readers. From right to left iPad (Apple、2010) kindle DX (Amazon、2009) kindle 2 (Amazon、2009) kindle 1 (Amazon、2007) PRS-505 (Sony、2007) PRS-500 (Sony、2006). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am often asked my opinion on eReaders vs eReaders or eReaders vs Tablets.

Most people know me as a reading geek. All through my life, anyone who has ever met me will concur on one characteristic: “She’s an avid/voracious/crazy reader”.  So of course they’d turn to me to ask about tablets and eReaders -right?

At first those questions were basically “So … Nook or Kindle?” How amazing is it that technology moves so fast that within a 5 year span the choices for eReader has gone from 2 and a half (Sony being that half) to multiple? Now those questions are “So which tablet or eReader would you choose?”

Today, someone asked me if I was a Kindle user. I knew going into the conversation that at some point we’d have to clarify what they meant by “Kindle” because after the eReader wars have calmed a little, what remains are the dedicated readers on the one hand, and those people who like to read but also like to be able to do other stuff with their eReaders. (so tablet users who like to read).

As it turns out, I was right – this particular person wanted feedback on the Kindle Fire HD.

I have no experience with any other tablets other than the iPad because tablet use for me is simply mobile computing when a laptop is just not possible. So all I can offer is a vague idea based on limited exposure when someone allows me to “finger” their toys. (Oh boy – the double entendre there … whew!)

What I ended up saying was prefaced with a disclaimer which I think I have to coin for further use:

When I read, it’s *all* I want to do. No distractions, no fanfare – just me and the words

Poetic, yeah?

Tattoos … decorating the walls of my temple.

So, I have a couple tattoos. I’ve been working on them for a while. My tattoo journey started in … well, I don’t remember now. It was in my wild and crazy days. I was at a carnival event. Jamaican carnivals were just becoming “a thing”. I was in Ocho Rios, staying with a friend who lived there. A friend of hers was having a little party or something in her store. And there was a guy doing tattoos in the back of the store. He was high. I know that now. It didn’t matter much to me since I was a little drunk myself. Hey, it was carnival!

Anyway, I asked for a rose; he gave me the outline of a rose. It was good enough then. I wasn’t sure I wanted something that was going to last a long time. Plus, I was on my way to an epic party. I couldn’t be cringing in pain the whole night. I remember that night with a fondness. I wore jeans and a halter-top to an outdoor party, drank too much, and fell asleep in my car. But I digress…

Since then, I’ve gotten a heart wrapped in barbed wire on my chest (don’t ask – I went through a dark period for a while), and a pentacle on my ankle. I don’t know if it was the ink he used or if it was just time, but they faded. And I forgot about it. Fast forward too many years to count and I am sitting in Texas thinking maybe it’s time to finish the project. It started with a plan to re-do the rose. Then I redid the pentacle, adding a triple moon and a yin-yang. At the same time, I got the Leo and Aquarius symbols done on my hand. I’ve never been one to want to do the name thing. Leo and Aquarius was the nearest thing to “I <3 hubby-name” that I was going to get.

Soon after that, I had a dream in which the single rose outline (now 3 roses, and a bud up the side of my neck) became a whole vine stretching down the rest of my back, and down to my ankle. And thus the project began in earnest. I won’t go into detail about what the finished product will look like because that would just be … I don’t know – jinxing it? Let’s just say, it’s a HUGE project. I’ll post pictures when I’m done.

In the meantime …

There is a bumper sticker in the studio where I am working on my project. It says “Your body is a temple. Let us help you decorate the walls.” And for so many years I have struggled with how to explain my tattoo … obsession? … to people. Especially my mother. She asks me all the time, “I don’t understand. What is the big attraction?”

Well Mom? There it is. This is me decorating the walls of my temple. :)

DecoratingTheWalls

Sometimes, you just have to experience it for yourself

Sometimes, you think you know about something by watching it and reading about it to the point of obsession. I’ve watched legal thriller TV shows for years and I’ve re-watched the seasons of several of them many times over; I’ve read tons of legal thrillers as well – my father introduced me to Ellery Queen at an early age and I was a huge Nancy Drew buff. Asked, I would probably say I know a great deal about crime and mystery – more than I ought to know maybe.

The sad truth is, though, that there is absolutely no way to know about any kind of trauma unless you’ve been there. Broken a leg? No? You don’t know what it’s like. Been lost in the woods overnight? No? You can’t imagine what it’s like. Bitten by a rabid or wild animal? No? There is no television show, book, or blog that can help you “get it”. Robbed at gunpoint? No? You will never understand until it happens to you.

Sometimes we wish we could help prevent some of these incidents. And we think that by the virtue of telling our own stories we can help others recognise those patterns and clues in their own lives and thereby help them avoid getting hurt. But it doesn’t work like that. My story isn’t going to help you avoid anything and yours cannot help me.

The only real good you can do for me (or I for you) when you have experienced that one bad thing that no one should ever have to deal with … is to tell me how you feel, when you felt it, what it made you do or think, how you dealt with it, who helped you deal with it. Tell me your story if it helps you, but don’t tell me if you think it’s going to help me. Tell me instead what helped you get through the days afterwards. Tell me what you found to be a “normal” response to this. Help me recognise what will be “normal” in me if and when this horror comes for me. And then let me know that if and when it does come, you will be here to talk it over with me and help me through it. Because that is the only way you can help me.

I wish I could tell you my story. I wish I could help you “get it”. But I can’t. I can only listen to others who have been there and rest assured that one day I will be able to help someone else deal. Everybody’s story is different – including mine. It’s the aftermath that remains the same.

My biggest flaw, my biggest weakness?

One of the things I have noticed many writers around me saying over and over is how they recall incidents and events; they write about how those incidents and events have changed their outlook or enriched it somehow. They recall such detail about their experiences that I feel as if I am deficient somehow. And the reason for that is simply that my memory recall is not that lucid.

Those of you who know me, know that I am not young. I’m no spring chicken, according my fellow Jamaicans. Moreover, I’ve had a fairly colourful life. It’s not spectacularly kaleidoscopic nor has it been particularly dramatic, but it certainly hasn’t been boring either. Yet, I think I would be hard-pressed to recall most of my experiences in as much detail as everyone else seems to be able to.

For instance, my husband and I were talking tonight about the night before our wedding and neither of us can really remember what happened that night. We remember our wedding (of course; what kind of people would we be if we didn’t?), and we remember the day we had after the ceremony. But the night before is a complete lost memory for us. The only thing I remember clearly about that night was that I spent it alone. Everybody insisted that we spend it apart, and so he stayed with his family in their hotel.

We are the sum of our life experiences. We are the products of those milestones in our lives. That I can scarcely remember some of the less dramatic points in my life means what for me exactly? Does that mean that I forget the lessons I may have learned? Does it mean that I have less to share with the world because I’ve forgotten so much about what I’ve experienced?

My life right now is all about my now; and my now started just a few days over 4 years ago. And even though 4 years is not a long time, there are plenty of things about the last 4 years that I don’t remember at all. And I constantly wonder if what I’ve forgotten is important in some way and by forgetting I have lost a piece of me somehow. And I worry about that.

I’m that much less afraid of the dark now

Thanks to a dear friend and an impromptu Twitter DM conversation, I discovered that depression is something a lot of writers struggle with and that there is research that shows that there is direct correlation between depression and the problem-solving process.

 “If depression lives in the same place as creative thought, when you block out one, you’re going to interfere with the other.”

I think this just might be the first step I needed to find my way to understanding this process better now.

Maybe those Angel re-runs screened solely for my personal viewing pleasure was not the best idea I’ve ever had in dealing with my latest bout with despondency. The television is my medication and I think I’ve over-medicated enough.

One of things that used to give me great relief was a written journal. Maybe that’s what I need to do again – write the shit out of my head so it can stop stinking the air up there. Chances are seeing it on paper, in my own handwriting will help the process too. Who knows? It’s a start.