Conversations With Expiration Dates

I am now having conversations with expiration dates. Several times each week, as I check to see when an item expires, I have thoughts like the following:

“06.15.2020. Maybe we can consume you at a playground, string cheese.”

“07.27.2020. As you meet your demise, aged parmesan, I bet the outdoor pool will be open.”

“10.27.2020. I bet there’s a vaccine by the time you expire, vegetable broth.

“01.21.2021. By the time you’ve met your sell by date, can of black beans, I’ll be eating somewhere surrounded by strangers.”

“08.30.2020. We’ll have booked that vacation to Japan.”

I have no clue if any of these assumptions are true, but they are real thoughts and are taking place more and more frequently. And I’d like to consider this a positive coping mechanism instead of delusional one.

In Quarantine: A Video

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I decided that this song would be our “Quarantine Song”. We listen to it every night before bed. It’s also included in my running setlist and every time it pops on, I think to myself, “I’m going to pull images from this strange time and put them to this song.”

So, I finally did.

Dividing Depression.

The Wipers.

You’re doing 70 MPH on the highway. There’s a storm up ahead. The storm is moving toward you. Since you’re also moving fast, it hits you quickly. Suddenly, it’s absolutely pouring—one of those torrential downpours. You turn the wipers on full-blast, but they do very little. The rain is coming down so violently that the wipers simply can’t keep up with the sheets of water totally obstructing your view. You have no choice but to slow way down. If you’re the overly cautious type, you may even pull off and wait it out. The wipers failed to do their job simply because the amount of water became too overwhelming.

The Gasps.

You are on the shore of a natural lake. The lake is very cold. But you really want to go for a swim. You’re not one of those people who just dives right in. You tend to enter bodies of water more gradually. Your feet touch. It’s cold and your toes let you know but your toes have dealt with worse than cold water. You move deeper still. Your legs handle it just fine. They’re tough. But when the frigid water hits your torso, your body reacts violently—GASP! It’s the gasp. It’s uncontrollable, like a hiccup. Sometimes there’s a smaller one tucked within the initial gasp, sometimes three, like skipping stones. Hitchhiker gasps. They’re letting your body know that something isn’t quite right. The gasps are visceral. Only later will it translate into actual thought. “Do I really want to swim today? Maybe this is enough for me. Damn this water is COLD.” But you power on. You start to move. Your blood begins to circulate. Your body adjusts to the surroundings.

The Trampoline.

You are on a trampoline. You are weightless. You’re putting up a valiant fight against Earth’s gravitational pull. It’s miraculous. Your bones are singing. You are free—airborne. When it’s time to get off the trampoline, as soon as your feet hit the ground, you feel heavier than ever before. You find it difficult to move. There’s a new weight to the world around you. The ground below you doesn’t come with springs. You don’t naturally bounce. Your knees must once again hold the weight of your hips. Your hips must carry your torso. Your torso remembers the weight of your neck, your neck remembers your head which holds your brain, possibly the heaviest part of all. Why does everything suddenly feel so heavy?

Breaking Life Down Into Minutes. 

I recently heard an interview with a woman who works with those suffering from depression. This was right after Bourdain took his life. (She was also his friend.) She started off by speaking directly to all those who were currently, actively considering suicide. She suggested reconsidering doing so in a single hour. That’s it. Simply reconsider their desire to end their life in an hour. Just get through one hour.

This can come off as a little jarring, like a person is saying, “Well, OK. So you want to take your life. I hear you. But let’s reconsider that thought in 60 minutes.” Instead of simply saying, “No. You can’t do that.”

But it made a lot of sense to me.

When people wish to quit drinking, many do so by saying, “I am not going to drink today.” Some people splinter it down to the hour, some break it down in minutes. Because, let’s be honest: forever is a terrifying concept. Forever doesn’t exist. It’s a recipe for failure.

So, what if we wait a minute?

Ken Baldwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge back in 1985. He survived. He has said, that right after he jumped, he regretted it instantly. He said, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”

I believe (although, don’t quote me on this statistic) more women attempt suicide while more men actually succeed. This is apparently due to the fact that men use a more permanent and quick means (weaponry) whereas women tend to use a slower, less aggressive one (pills). A person takes a bunch of pills but a few minutes later they regret their decision. They call for help. They survive.

A person doesn’t get a second minute when it comes to using a gun.

You Are Not Alone.

This phrase comes from a kind, thoughtful place. And it’s true: you are not alone. We are not alone. None of us are alone.

This phrase is meant to let a person know that someone is there to listen. When you feel like you can’t go on, someone is there for you.  Someone will answer you. Someone will help you. You are surrounded by people who love you, other humans, and even if you don’t know the person, someone is there to help you. We are in this together.

You are not alone. This is true.

But we are lonely.

A lot of people don’t understand depression. When someone takes their life, you will hear people say things like,

“Didn’t she consider her kids?”

“What a waste.”

“He had everything. I would have loved to have his life. How could he give all that up?”

“He had a family. Why didn’t he think about his family? It’s unforgivable.”

“Didn’t she realize she’d end up in Hell for this?”

“What a selfish thing to do.”

I know that it’s impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t ever experienced depression what it feels like to suffer from it. I have learned that if a person says or asks any of the questions above, they truly don’t understand what depression feels like. And I don’t fault them for this. I don’t know what it feels like to run a 5-minute mile. I don’t know what it feels like to jump out of an airplane. I don’t know what it feels like to lose a child. I have never had a heart attack. I will never visit outer space. I don’t know what it feels like to perform open heart surgery, to have my hands inside of another human being. I don’t know what it’s like to pass a kidney stone. I don’t even know what you see when you say the word “Blue.”

There a thousands of experiences I don’t understand and all the words in the world, lined up in every different possible way, won’t ever allow me to fully grasp how it feels to experience any of those things. So I don’t fault anyone for not understanding what depression feels like.

But I’ll keep trying anyway.

Depression is like the visceral gasp the human body experiences upon entering a cold lake, only your body doesn’t adjust to it because it doesn’t know how. And it doesn’t translate into thought so your brain has no idea how to calm everything down. You are stuck. Something isn’t right, but you have no idea how to change that something because there’s nothing actually there. There’s just a great sense of unease, as if something terrible is just outside of view, on another plane.

Depression feels like the first few moments right after you get off a trampoline, only there’s no remembrance of any trampoline and therefore no sense of any previous joy.

Depression is like having a set of wipers that don’t always keep up with the amount of rain in the forecast.

I do keep trying to come up with the right string of words in order to try and explain what depression feels like to someone who hasn’t experienced it. My thinking is that if more people understand depression, more people will understand how to approach those who suffer from it and maybe, just maybe, we can all work together and keep people from exiting this great big beautiful world.

Because I’m getting tired of people exiting this great big beautiful world.

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P.S. I started writing this back in June right after Anthony Bourdain and Scott Huchison took their lives. I never made it public because something about it bugs me. But I felt like writing a bit today and so whatever. It’s a blog. 

Happy Memorial Day: DRONE!

This morning we took part in our local Memorial Day parade. At one point, I ran ahead to get a shot of the kids holding the banner of one of our local preschools and right as I took the shot a few of them gleefully screamed out, “DRONE! DROOOOOONE!!!!!”

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Sure enough, we all looked up and there was a drone, propellers spinning, eerily hovering hundreds of feet above our heads.

The kids waved and giggled and yelled, “HELLO, DRONE!” I waved, too. Everyone said hello to DRONE!

It was the most welcomed DRONE! in all of downtown Maplewood.

It got me thinking about how much has changed since we were kids, hell, how much has changed in 20 years. These kids can’t be older than 7 years old. But they know what a drone is. Walter is 4. He knows all about drones. We have one. Toby flies ours 450 feet above our heads and gets the most amazing images of our neighborhood. We can even spot the city. Drones are a part of life.

During my run home this morning, I thought about the DRONE! again. And got another chuckle out of the whole thing. But let’s say you rewind time. Let’s say today plays out the same way. Only it’s 1979 and it’s me and I’m surrounded by my friends and our moms and dads and something similar is spotted flying over our heads during a Memorial Day parade? Let’s say that happens? I reckon things would have played out much differently. I think there would be a few different reactions: you’d have the people who would simply run like hell; you’d have the people who would stop and wait for instructions; you’d have the folks who would immediately start to pray; and you’d have the guy who’d shrug and mutter, “I told you. No one listened to me. But I told you.” And that guy would probably follow that up by saying something about the Soviet Union and he’d probably look a lot like my husband only my husband was just 2 at that time.

DRONE!

I Say Ban ALL Straws EVERYWHERE.

But I’m cool with starting here.

NYC Will Consider Ban On Disposable Plastic Straws

Incidentally, my kids often become annoyed with me whenever we go out to eat and I ask the waiter to skip the straw. They roll their eyes and say, “But Moooooooom, we like straws! Why can’t we have a straw!?” And then I pull up awful images of piles of plastic washed up on our beaches and images of animals having straws removed from their airways. And my kids sorta stop whining for a bit.

Sometimes Toby gets upset with me because kids shouldn’t necessarily see these things. But I disagree. They are the future, after all; they will inherit this mess. And I don’t show them anything too graphic; I don’t intend to scar the poor bastards; most of the images and videos I show them have happy endings. For now. ;]

But the truth is, we are absolutely destroying our oceans. All single use plastics should be banned. Everywhere. And I explain to them what that means. Basically, every single time they order a new drink, they also get a new straw, that’s absolutely unnecessary.

Anyway, I have ranted about this dozens of times and I can become so angry, I run out of words and just sit there silently stewing. But we need to change, my fellow humans. If not for the creatures we share this wonderful planet with, we need to change for future generations. And if you don’t care about future generations, then you are a monster.

OK. I’m done. Thanks for listening.

Stay tuned next week when I cover: deli bags, Ziploc, water balloons, birthday goodie bags, and disposable razors! (Not really. All the Xanax in the world couldn’t get me through that post.)

The Circus Came To Town Last Night And I Fell On The Floor And Cried.

My son’s elementary school variety show took place last night. Every year they bring in a new artist residency, the medium changes, but basically the kids get to learn something new and present it to the community. 

This year it was a circus, which is nothing short of awesome. My son was to walk on stilts. There were also The Jugglers; The Plate Spinners; The Globes; the Chinese Yo-Yos; The Acrobats; The Clowns; The Balancers; and The Lassos.

All week long, they had been coached by four gentlemen. And these guys were amazing, with patience bigger than any circus tent. But last night? Let’s just say that our kids were less than cooperative. I’m not sure if it was because it rained all week and they hadn’t seen the sun in over 168 hours. Or because every single recess had been canceled all week long, along with every recreational sporting event. But whatever the reason, these kids were live wires by Friday evening. And when faced with the prospect of going on stage and performing ridiculously awesome circus acts alongside their friends in front of a live audience, well forget about keeping any sort of decorum.

Which is why several parents chose to volunteer in order to help try and keep the kids in line as they waited in the gymnasium for their acts to start.

So back up for a second. Let me try and give you a better picture of the gentlemen running the show. All four of them had big, boisterous personalities. They wore multicolored, decorative suits, some with sparkles. They wore patterned socks, kickass pointy shoes or collectible Converse sneakers. If they wore hats, said hats had a Dr. Seuss type personality. If hatless, their hair was perfectly sculpted (think Johnny Suede). Basically, picture Kids in the Hall meets Tim Burton meets David Lynch meets PeeWee Herman meets John Waters and you get the picture.

It was SPECTACULAR when you combine these four men with a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds. This was like watching a short story come to life, a most spectacular short story.

I LOVE when real life becomes more fictional than fiction. 

Anyway, us parent volunteers? We failed miserably at keeping these kids quiet. Within minutes it became a total shitshow. The clowns were taking selfies of one another. The Jugglers kept grabbing the props, which was a big no-no, our rule number 1 not to let them break. The Globes were playing with The Acrobats and The Chinese Yo-Yos were rolling around on top of one another. The Balancers were falling over. It was a circus in that of itself and those of us who had volunteered? We had absolutely zero control over what was happening. I now see how prison guards get overthrown. And if insects ever figure things out, like basic math, we’re doomed.

We tried everything. We tried idle threats, to promising to buy them all iPhones and puppies. I even tried crying. But they would not shut up.

Finally, one volunteer (a friend of mine) just up and quit.

“Screw this, I’m going to watch the show. We lost.” She said.

And we had. And I knew this and was pretty much totally ok with it. But we are their parents. So we are used to kids being little, independent assholes.

But the guys putting on the show, the artists who made it all come together, the ones who worked all week to make it happen? You could see that they were growing increasingly more upset with the lack of control. I wouldn’t say they were losing their cool, but I think it’s safe to say that they were losing their flare for all things that combine tweens with show business.

I snuck out to watch The Plates as one of the guys yelled at the kids for the 60th time to keep it down.

In the front of the house where all the parents were, they didn’t seem to have any clue that after their children were done putting on live circus acts in the auditorium, they were remaking a version of Apocalypse Now back in the gymnasium. They had no idea how bad it was backstage.

So, for the front of the house, there were two presenters, and both wore over-the-ear microphones that then came down around toward their mouth. They took turns presenting each group. So while one gentleman was on stage with the kids, the other was backstage preparing the next group. 

So I’m standing way off to the side with another parent volunteer (the same friend) peeking out over the tall wooden wall that separates a hallway from the auditorium, watching The Plate Spinners. The kids finish up and take their bows and one child doesn’t want to leave the stage, he’s enjoying the cheers and the applause and so he takes a few more bows and everyone laughs and the presenter leaving the stage goes back out and ushers him out the door and back down the hall with the others and then down into the gymnasium. The door shuts behind them and the next group is about the be introduced by the other guy also with a microphone. It is quiet in the auditorium and right as he starts speaking, his voice gets drowned out by another much louder voice. That voice is yelling, “STICKS IN THE BUCKET. STICKS GO IN THE BUCKET! PUT THE STICKS IN THE BUCKET! THE STICKS GO IN THE BUCKET! OH MY GOD, KIDS, THE STICKS GO IN THE BUCKET! PUT THE STICKS IN THE BUCKET!”

The voice begins to crack as it grows increasingly louder. It’s becoming more desperate with each request. And the words being heard by the members of the audience don’t match the lips moving onstage so people are confused.

Have you ever seen the movie Se7en? When Brad Pitt is pleading with Morgan Freeman, he’s saying, “WHAT’S IN THE BOX? WHAT’S IN THE BOX?” It was sorta like that. Only louder and it’s being broadcast over loudspeakers throughout an auditorium.

Clearly none of the kids are listening to the presenter backstage and I knew this because I’d been back there for most of the show trying to help out. The presenter onstage is desperately trying to turn that guy’s mic off from the controls on stage. The other volunteer and I are laughing. I’m laughing so hard, I’m literally on the floor. I am not kidding. I am ON THE FLOOR, tears are streaming down my face. I am paralyzed with laughter.

She looks down at me and says, while looking out across the sea of parents who are still trying to figure out what’s happening, she says, as if she’s trying to figure out what it is they might be thinking, “Oh! This next presentation must be called PUT THE STICKS IN THE BUCKET. PUT THE STICKS IN THE BUCKET MOTHERFUCKERS!”

Crying. Tears.

“This gives everyone a perfect snapshot of exactly how it looks back there.” She says.

Someone eventually figures it out and the show continues and aside from all the chaos and insanity the kids put those guys through, everyone put on an absolutely fabulous show. Some kids walked on globes. Some juggled. Some spun plates. Some walked on stilts. These kids did things I couldn’t even dream of doing. And most importantly, they walked away feeling really damn good about themselves. That is priceless. And the four guys who worked with them? I know it wasn’t easy, but I can’t even begin to thank them for all their hard work. I hope they know how amazing it was. Even if it was so damn hard.

I told my friend that I would probably laugh about this every single time I remember it. Life can be absolutely brilliantly funny sometimes. I just have to keep paying attention, I suppose.

Here’s to paying attention.