Steps to Something Positive

by admin on December 16, 2012

It’s difficult to write publicly at sad times that lend themselves to private introspection, but because I have a means to speak publicly, I almost feel a civic obligation to do so.

News of the shootings in Connecticut hit home with so many of us.  Between written, televised, and online media outlets, and social media in particular, we’re all aware of the tragedy and the varying responses to it.  In some cases, though, there are responses so much more powerful than any of us know, and I believe it’s my job as a writer who shares pieces of myself with whoever chooses to read, to reach out with thoughts and information that I find valuable.  I hope others will continue to do the same.

As I sit in my living room with my husband and dogs, writing on my own personal blog, enjoying the scent of fresh pine that permeates my home this time of year, with the only light in the room coming from my computer screen, the gray sky outside, and the lights on my Christmas tree, I feel a twinge of guilt for the peace I feel, recognizing how many others are in mourning, in pain, in situations that may prevent them from feeling peace during the holidays – or at any time – ever again.

There are two issues at play here that I think warrant close examination.  There are actually many, many more, but I’ll leave those for other and later discussions.

First, this feeling of devastated helplessness is not exclusive to any specific time or place.  While our hearts are softened and our senses are heightened to questions about the state of humanity and issues of law after a major tragedy, we must recall that there are always tragedies, that people are always suffering, and that there are far more families who deserve our love, support, and compassion than just those involved in such a major moment of devastation.  Simultaneously, we must remember that the suffering of others in no way belittles that being experienced by those involved in major events, or vice versa.

Second, we must remember that feelings of guilt are not productive, but that the urgent feeling of the need to do something is essential and is worth acting upon.  What I think I can best do is help spread an important message that will, hopefully, lead to necessary reform.

We need to examine current institutions for dealing with mental illness and the challenges parents face raising mentally ill children.  Such tragic events as the Newtown massacre spark many varieties of ideological and political debates, but regardless of our views about issues like the role of God in schools and government, metal detectors, and gun control, we all need to carefully examine the institutions that deal with mental health issues in this country, as poor mental health is regularly a large factor in such horrific events.

While I have personal and strong feelings on this subject, my words are far less poignant than some others.  The most touching, pressing account I’ve read so far is “Thinking the Unthinkable,” a brilliant personal testament from a torn mother who desperately wants help she cannot find for her beautiful, brilliant, and frightening young child who suffers from a currently undiagnosed mental illness that leads to violent outbursts.

I ask that you read this dear mother’s words, consider them, and, if you feel compelled, share them and use them to help create a dialogue with those around you that addresses/examines the issue of mental healthcare in the U.S.  I don’t know what will happen from there, but I very much hope that engaging in an open conversation about this difficult, but pressing, subject will be a helpful first step to something positive.

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Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass

by admin on September 12, 2012

As I stood over the water in Brooklyn Bridge Park, overlooking the city of Manhattan, listening to the sounds of water ferries, jet skis, and barges, eyeing the progress of the construction of the new tower that will complete the memorial to 9/11, I was struck with a sense I haven’t felt in quite sometime.

I took the year off from teaching so that I could fully prepare for my comprehensive exams in the fall and spring, and I had planned to use this time to also get some writing done. For the first time in five years, other than the occasional blog, I planned to work on non-academic writing. I call myself a playwright, yet I haven’t finished a play in years. I call myself a blogger, but I rarely sit down to blog. I’ve produced immense amounts of writing over the past four years, but mostly to be turned in to a professor and read by very few eyes. As someone who has always wanted to be a writer, it seems so logical to take part of the unstructured time granted by my PhD program in – get this, English – to actually do some writing for fun. Great idea in theory, but the practice has been much, much more difficult than anticipated.

It seems my problem with non-academic writing hasn’t been only due to lack of time; it is also connected to the fact that I apparently don’t want to write. Feel free to gasp; I do every time I consider this possibility. Still, the fact of the matter is remains: when I set aside time to sit down and write, I don’t have the urge, and while I remember the day when I disciplined myself to keep a pen in hand for a full hour regardless of my mood, those days have long sense passed – or at least it has seemed that way recently.

And then it happened. I travelled to New York with two friends for a conference on the state of the academic profession, and the morning after the conference, I found myself standing in DUMBO (down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

Literally.

 

I imaged how different the view of the Manhattan skyline would’ve been for Edith Wharton, laughed at a friend’s joke that alluded to Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” and felt “the mist / and Liberty” which Marianne Moore says “dominate the bay.”

Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn Bridge Park

 

Artists began rushing through my mind. Jack Kerouac was inspired by this site, for God’s sake, and who wouldn’t want to follow in those footsteps?

And that’s when it hit me, the state I might forever, or at least for today, refer to as dumbo: a moment of longing to put pen to paper, jotting down sights, sounds, thoughts, visions both real and imaged, creating something – who knows what – anything on paper. The sad ending to this story is that I didn’t have any writing instruments on me, nor did I have the requisite few hours to spare, but the ignition was lit simply through the proof that the desire, the physical yearning to write, is not extinct within me.

At least I had good company!

 

So here I am, back in Atlanta, putting fingers to keyboard (a decent alternative to pen to paper, when necessary), taking my first step in a long time. Not vowing to write regularly, recognizing that some days I absolutely will not want to write, I determine to keep a pen and paper on me at all times, and I choose ahead of time to heed the feeling of being in dumbo, so that when it occurs, I take time, if only a few minutes, from whatever it is I’m doing, and give in to my heart’s call.

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All Over the Place, but Balancing It.

March 9, 2012

So…it’s been a few months.  Meh. You see, when I started this blog, I openly admitted that it was about my process of learning to be healthy.  Inevitably, two things happened. 1. I fell off the wagon.  Who doesn’t?   After a long year of losing loved ones, wedding planning, graduate thesis writing, and attempting to […]

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Healthified Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

November 9, 2011

Oh, blogging, how I’ve missed you.  Literally, I was doing school work earlier today (what else would I be doing, after all?), I fell asleep, and dreamed about blogging. Source If I had time to go to the beach, I would write this in the sand to my blog, to my readers, to cooking, and […]

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Cinnamon Spice Pumpkin Butter

October 14, 2011

Have you ever noticed that most of my posts begin with a colon in the title?  What are your feelings on this subject?  Does it bother you, or are you fine with it? This convention is an easy pitfall for me when blogging.  Why?  I’m getting my PhD in English, people.  This is what we […]

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What I Ate Wednesday: Glory in the Gourd

October 12, 2011

Nothing could be finer this time of year than the beautiful…the glorious…the gourd. Source Naturally, these fantastic fruits (gourds are fruits, right?) deserve their own What I Ate Wednesday post, so we’re joining the gang over at Peas and Crayons to love, to celebrate, to revel in the glory of the gourd. Want to join in […]

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Seasonal Suppers: Butternut Squash Farro Risotto

October 10, 2011

I love fall.  It’s an amazing season.  The weather gets cooler, my clothes start covering more and more body parts and, thus, more and more flab (hey, even healthy living bloggers can notice their problem areas!), football season gets underway, and I start preparing for Halloween and Thanksgiving and shopping for Christmas.  The only problem […]

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Happy Fall! Pumpkin Waffles, Anyone?

October 2, 2011

This weekend was a fantastic time to live in the South.  Lots of food weeks, football games, and our first real fall weather! As a cold front came through and the wind started whipping leaves around and acorns to the ground, I became very nostalgic for my favorite fall elements from childhood: pumpkins!  When I […]

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Immune System Fail: What to Eat with an Upset Stomach

September 24, 2011

Living a healthy lifestyle (or, in my case, learning to live a healthy lifestyle) can be deceiving.  It seems to give me the idea that I’m invincible, that sickness can’t possibly happen to me because I’m being too healthy.  I realize this is ridiculous BS, especially since I’ve spent the last two days skipping an amazing […]

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Homemade Waffles: Healthy and Husband-Approved

September 22, 2011

After being completely useless post-Journey concert on Saturday, I felt like being a good wife Sunday morning and making John some delicious, healthy waffles.  Peanut Butter and Banana Cinnamon Waffles with Blueberry Syrup, to be specific. John was really pumped when I told him what I was making, but then his excitement quickly subsided as […]

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