public perception

Professional heart emoji

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with the best coworkers anyone could every wish for. Some turned into lasting friendships. Some were limited to really solid interactions at work, and a general feeling of goodwill and fondness when their name pop-up on my social media feeds. I’ve been to the weddings of several former coworkers. 10 years into my career, the number of people that I’ve worked with that have completely changed my life for the better is somewhere in the thirties or forties, whereas the number of really terrible clashes (the kind that toxify the work environment) is limited to 3. I only hope that I can positively impact half as many people in my life. #payitforward #gottagetcracking Highlights include:

Its been two years since I started working at my dream job. And sure enough, the trend continues. It is my dream job because this company hires the most incredible collection of hard-working, fun, dedicated, smart people.

But most importantly? My coworkers are kind.


There was that time this past summer when my situationship with Hickster was coming to an end, and he called me while at work. I took the call in the parking lot, hidden from my coworkers. It was a short and brutal call. I felt something break in me – no matter what I did, or how much I showed I cared, it would never be enough. Good Hickster had skipped town, and Broken Hickster enjoyed bullying me.

For 45 minutes, I hid in that parking lot, unable to stop the tears of shame and grief, worried that my absence would be noticed, yet too distraught to sneak back into the office. I noticed I had a missed call from CSD (update: he is back at the office, periodically runs 10k, and is kicking ass. What a dude!) I called CSD back, still sobbing, and asked if could he pretend he wasn’t talking to Emotional Vanilla, but talk to Kickass-Accountant Vanilla about wtv work issue he wanted to talk about, to distract me until I’d calmed down? Without skipping a beat or asking me to explain, he did. We discussed operational vs financial issues, strategy and approach, and after 20 minutes, I was all fired up and ready to fix all the problems of my company, my face still red, but more Bad-case-of-Allergies red, not OMG-my-entire-family-and-my-dog-got-hit-by-a-bus red. I thanked CSD for not thinking any less of me professionally when clearly my personal life was a trainwreck. “Don’t mention it. Everyone has shit going on. I would never judge you. Sides, I know you’ll fix this, your way, some day.”


I came down with the flu on NYE. On Jan 1, I managed to leave my bed for a total of 1 hour, to go hang out at the kitchen table for 40 mins around lunchtime, and 20 mins around supper time – that so exhausted me I required a 2 hour nap after each adventure. On Jan 2, I fainted in the shower, yet still managed to make it to work: nobody and nothing stops an accountant from closing her year end! By Jan 3, I’d lost 10lbs from never eating.  Today was the first day that I didn’t cough my lungs out in the morning. Progress!

Last Friday I started feeling under the weather again. Like I had a hangover, without having drunk anything. Exhausted, apathetic. I had a quiet weekend, bailing on plans with friends, too tired to work. Monday, I woke up feeling completely wrecked. My kidneys hurt, specifically the left side. Like the immediate after-effects of getting a solid body hook. A dull ache. Bad enough that I chose to stay home – the last time I took an actual sick day for being too unwell to go into the office? Can’t remember. I napped, worked a bit, and drank 6L of water.

By Tuesday, my fever had subsided and my kidney pain had decreased from dull achy pain to discomfort. I went to work: I had some overdue deliverables that were causing serious bottlenecks for too many people.  Year-end, yo. No joke. The one time an accountant cannot be sick. My team was scandalized when they heard my kidneys hurt + fever + no doctor. Go see a doctor, they urged. CSD told me I was probably at risk of irreversible renal scaring which could lead to renal failure. GO SEE A DOCTOR.

Wednesday morning, I dragged myself to my clinic for the drop-in hours. As per my recent experiences, there was no space for me, because I had showed up at 9am. I should show up 15 minutes before doors open… at 7:30 if I was serious about seeing a doctor, obvi. Y’all. I am not even awake by 7:30 on a good day, never mind when I am sick and weak and tired. So I went to work. CSD shook his head and bemoaned my impending death. My little GAB team-member was so upset, she took my Medicare card and spent her lunch hour trying to find me a doctor’s appointment using the online health care system. She failed. She signed me up for automatic text messages for any last minute openings at nearby clinics. When I missed one because I was in a meeting, she became so upset, she gave me the silent treatment for the rest of the day. As she left work at the end of the day, she threatened me, “Vanilla if you end up in the hospital, I might not visit you and I definitely won’t bring you any homemade cookies. GO SEE A DOCTOR.”


Kindness, yo. When my brain seeks to tell me I am unlovable, I am incredibly touched that the people with whom I spend so many hours in a given week would care so much about my well-being. These people know me, like I let very few people ever know me. And they think I’m alright.

My kidneys might be failing, but my shadow can suck it. I matter. My coworkers prove it.

#dreamjob

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Angolan ballet

Let us play a guessing game. Who said these 3 quotes?

Quote 1: How does a dancer become more musical?

A person’s body first has to learn to sing in silence. Then you can talk about what you are doing with a musical phrase.

Quote 2: What life lessons has dance taught you?

Good work comes with team effort, not in isolation. Searching for truth in movement, finding intention behind movement is essential like it is in life. The pride of worldly success will not bring any lasting peace and can easily destroy a person’s soul. Anything exceptional requires great struggle. That the necessity in dance to apply strict boundaries in order to attain freedom can be a starting point for finding a similar truth in everyday life.

Quote 3: What do dancers have to learn on their own that no one can teach them?

Sacrifice. The desire to explore. You can inspire that, but you cannot teach it.

So. Was it Teacher who said those quotes? Could be, as each of his Fbk posts echo those statements. He has a few other maxims that he has drilled into the team’s collective consciousness:

  • “Repetition is the mother of all learning.”
  • “I don’t listen to the music, I learn the music.”
  • “Dance with punctuation.”
  • “There is no I in team.”

He grudgingly acknowledges that most of us work full-time, some team members even have two jobs, and cannot practice endlessly. I think it drives him bonkers, because he sees our potential and wants to work us to our max, but real world considerations limit him. The notion that we are not aiming to be professional dancers is a tenuous one in his mind. He approximately accepts it, but doesn’t fully understand it. His soul needs dance the way our bodies need oxygen. Without dance, Teacher would not be.

So. Was it he that said those quotes? Nope.

Gelsey Kirkland, arguably the greatest American ballerina of all time, whose career dominated international headlines in the 70s and 80s. She joined the New York City Ballet at age 15, at the personal invitation of Balanchine (aka the man who revolutionized ballet worldwide and gave it the aesthetic we recognize today), was promoted to principal ballerina by 19, had a dozen roles created in her honor, jumped ship at 24 to go to the rival American Ballet Theater, where she partnered for close to a decade with the great Baryshnikov. Unfortunately, terrible taste in men (she had multiple affairs with ballet dancers – men & artists? OYE!!!!) and paralyzing perfectionism triggered a self-destructive combination of cocaine, anorexia, bulimia and tantrums, which led to her quitting/getting fired from the ABT around 1980… only to make her comeback 3 years later at the Royal Opera Ballet in London. THAT’s how spectacular she was: despite a well mediatized drug addiction, one of the top ballet companies in the world wanted her back on the stage. She nailed her comeback, too.

Ballet. Kizomba. Worlds apart. Literally: Africa vs Western world. Diametric different styles. Teacher: male. Gelsey Kirkland: female. And yet. They are the same.  They are artists who must submit themselves to an all-consuming passion. They are dance. They lives are messy, Shakespearean tragedies. Their behavior can be alienating (Gelsey Kirkland published two infamous autobiographies, which outline in detail just how off-putting she could be), but they are ruled by the truth of dance. And because of that, because of their relentless pursuit of truth in movement, people respond to them. In a world that is confusing, often dishonest, invariably unfair, stumbling upon a person whose life is ruled by the need to capture truth – any truth – is a breath of fresh air.

As my shadow seeks to blot out the sunshine in my life, I feel a deep sympathy with these complicated artists. I cling to dance because of those moments of truth they reveal. And because each revelation is physical, experienced through my body, those moments are stored deep in the very biological makeup of my cells and give me ammunition to fight my poisonous brain.

The dance goes on forever. So shall I. So shall we. – Gelsey Kirkland

Blond depression

I attended a fundraising event yesterday in honor of a foundation that is dear to my heart, founded, managed and run by a quartet of fearless women, friends I’ve known since uni. There, I ran into a friend that I’ve known since 2009. She has seen me go through ups and downs and my various reincarnations, from kickboxer to boxer to dancer. She commented on my blond hair, and asked me if I’d been having more fun.“Oh definitely. I mean I am depressed, but even so, I’m having way more fun than when I was a brunette. Blond depression over non-blond depression, any day. There is no going back. I can smile even though inside I feel like death.” She laughed, telling me that there would no doubt be a new entry into the next edition of the DSM – blond depression, the cuter, flirtier version of normal depression. The version of depression guys still wanna fuck.

Am I depressed? Yup. Without doubt. I wrote Rough Patch on November 19th, almost 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve displayed all the symptoms associated with a Major Depressive Episode, except for suicidal thoughts. Although, I might not have suicidal thoughts, but I do most fervently wish I could fall asleep and never wake up. I consider with a twisted mix of admiration, pity and marvel those people that are capable of ending their misery. It’s not any form of virtue or morality that stops me from doing so myself. It is just that my apathy and fatigue are so deep I cannot summon the wherewithal to come up with plan that doesn’t seem like too much effort. #silverlining

I’m failing at keeping my shit together. My performance at work is alarmingly bad. My bosses wonder, irritated at my inability to deliver anything, be it so minor as to show up before 10am, or answer 1/3 of the emails I receive in a 72 hour window. I think we are all hoping that if I can just somehow make it to the holidays, a 4 day break with no computer might do me good, and I’ll return, miraculously cured of wtv it is I am going through. I wake up every day at 7am, and it takes me almost 2 hours to talk myself into getting out of bed. So really, 10am is a remarkable achievement, but not exactly something imma boast about.

I withdraw from everyone. I cannot keep up any sort of social front. I collapse into tears at the smallest comment, and frequently have headaches from trying to not cry in public. I am deeply worried about work, but somehow that worry never translates into anything, because I am so exhausted by trying to appear normal in public – which I am abjectly failing at – that I cannot concentrate on anything.

I cannot blog – I have no words. Nothing worth saying

I cannot read.

I cannot watch a TV show.

I try coloring, and I panic at the choice of coloring pencils – what if I get it wrong?

The number of horrifying social meltdowns at work and at dance are multiplying. I sense people withdrawing from my negative cloud. She’s such a drama queen. Crying, again?! What are you, a child? You do realize that if you keep acting up, people around you will reach their “fuck it” stage, and fade from your life? Why do you think you are so special – everybody’s got shit to deal with. These are not my paranoid thoughts. These are comments coworkers and my dance team have said. I remember now why depression is such a taboo. While all of these comments fail to demonstrate any compassion or kindness whatsoever, they are not wrong. People do tire of vortexes of despair. Public meltdowns are drama. Employers do expect a certain level of productivity. Everybody does have shit to deal with. I’m trying my best, I swear. Nobody wins a participation medal for life. Life is like the Olympics or boxing. There are winners and there are losers, and there are better winners, and there are bottom of the barrel losers. Who and what you are matters.

And right now, I am nothing but an exhausted miserable mess.


I know my close friends and family will panic when they read this. Please don’t. The panic just adds to the guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I am not suicidal; I am depressed. I can be depressed and still know that I am loved. Unlike the previous depressions, I am no longer ashamed of that love. This is my 4th depression since 2010. If they can sustain this rate of mental health bullshit, I believe that they won’t recoil in horror, be disappointed or bounce.

I can be depressed and still recognize moments of kindness. A guy at the gym last week told me, “Hey. I read the last few posts. I won’t ask if you are ok, because you know you’re not. It worried me, but I know you’ll work through this. I’ve been there before, it sucks, so I want you to know I care, and I’ll be cheering you on as you fight that shadow.

I can be depressed and want to be alone, yet know that Allie & William, Dynamo, Coach, DD, my squad, my darling cousins, my uncles & aunts, my father, my godmothers, love me dearly.

Why blog at all if it is just going to cause alarm? See? There she goes again being an attention whore. SO much drama! I blog because depression feeds off shame. When my brain tries to steal my words, replacing them by tears, silencing my voice, writing, no matter how uninspired or non value-added this post might be, is a way to tell my brain to politely fuck off.

This isn’t my first rodeo with depression. I know the ropes. I will get through it, not unscathed, but I will get through it nonetheless.

But… you’re so talented! Why blog?

Vanilla, I know this blog is important to you… but… but you’re SO smart, and talented. You’ve so much potential, both as an accountant and with your words. Why blog? You are aware, aren’t you that this could have an impact on your career, whether deserved or not?

There is a lot to unpack in those few statements.

I know this blog is important to you.

Major understatement. This blog is an essential part of my trusty toolbox that I use to fight my shadow every day. Therapy + exercise + blogging. My tripod. I can survive off of 2 out of 3. But less than 3 = misery.

You’ve so much potential, both as an accountant and with your words. Why blog? (Subtext: blogging is a waste of my talent. If I were writing poetry, novels, popular editorials or at a minimum free-lancing and earning some sort of revenue, that would make my writing an acceptable hobby for an accountant. Because credibility is apparently only dependent on the form (poetry/novels), the reach of the audience, or it’s income generating success.)

I blog because it proves I have a voice. My shadow seeks to convince me that I am nothing, that I am worse than nothing, I am a noisy distraction and annoyance. Every day, I fight that part of my brain that seeks to convince me that the world would be a better place if I were silent. I blog because it is an exercise in vulnerability, and without vulnerability I have no hope of ever vanquishing my shadow.

I blog because in this day and age of social media, with so many of my friends successfully adulting, I felt like a misfit. I share my story, so that others who feel isolated in their struggles to successfully adult may feel less alone. A virtual community is better than no community. I blog because of moments like this and this. For the dozens of times where an acquaintance or a stranger has written to me to say that reading my words made them feel less alone in their struggles, gave them insight, made them laugh on a day when the world was nothing but grey.

One day, maybe, I will write a novel, or I won’t. One day, maybe, I will be a wildly successful columnist for the Huffington Post. But that day will only happen if I continue to believe I have a voice. So I blog.

(Incidentally, I do freelance – I’ve drafted promotional material for three different international dance festivals. Does that make me more credible, somehow?)

You are aware, aren’t you that this could have an impact on your career, whether deserved or not?

Yes, I am aware. Obvi. People form judgements, their judgments inform their opinions, their opinions inform their decisions, and their decisions inform my life and my opportunities. I might be a fucking brilliant accountant, but knowing I suffer from depression, ADD and anxiety, and have piss-poor taste in men? Suddenly I am tarnished goods.

But here’s the thing. I don’t care.

I am that girl, the fucking brilliant accountant with mental health issues, and crazy baggage. That is who my company hired. I will NEVER bring up either the mental health issues or my baggage in a work context, because I firmly believe that to be irrelevant: everyone is dealing with shit of their own. I was hired to deliver, and I am evaluated on my capacity to deliver, baggage notwithstanding. I expect that of myself and of every other employee in the organization. That I chose to share some of my struggles on this blog is irrelevant. If any coworker choses to read my blog, and as such learns of my struggles – that’s on them. They chose to seek out additional information about me, and I cannot be burdened by their difficulty in assimilating it. I am too busy delivering the value added to the organization that I was hired to deliver. I’ve written this before: I carefully consider every single post, before publishing it. I consider the whether the impacts on myself, or those featured in the stories, are fair. Any post that is published, I am willing to defend and 100% own up to. I anticipate that anyone could read it, from the CEO of my company to the Arch-Bishop of Canada (who does, incidentally, occasionally read my blog), to influential promoters in the dance community, to politicians (true story, one of my followers is a former member of our House of Commons).

Traditionally, in the workforce, people limit what they show their coworkers and employers. They play the game of presenting their best selves, carefully packaging their image and brand. The fact that I do not play that game ruffles feathers and is sometimes perceived as vulgarity or an indication that I am too stupid to play the game. Wrong. I worked 5 years for a Big 4 accounting firm. I can play that game as well as anybody. I just hate it. By playing it, I’m tacitly implying that part of myself should remain hidden – feeding perfectly into my shadow’s game plan to convince me that who I am is not worthy of being. So I chose not to play that game. I chose authenticity and to believe that I will professionally get my just desserts based on my performance and my unquestionable intelligence. Besides, the people that do play that perceptions game? They inevitably end up revealing their true selves eventually, despite their best efforts not to.

Recently a dude in my professional network tried to cause shit with my blog, by sending a careful selection of posts to some individuals that would react unfavorably to them. He did so behind the scenes, thinking I wouldn’t find out. So. What does this tell me? It tells me that this guy, who knows I have a doozy of a story about him, is terrified that I will one day blog about it. And rather than chose to trust in my good judgment – writing about it would violate my principle that my right to self expression must not come at the price someone’s right to privacy – he attempted to force my hand, and create enough headache for me that I would reconsider blogging at all. How cute. He played the game, and he lost, since he revealed all of himself to me through his actions, whereas I have revealed nothing that wasn’t already public information.

You are aware, aren’t you that this could have an impact on your career?

Absolutely. A positive one. Just watch me.

How you doing? Oh, just like Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto

“So, how’ve you been doing? Whatcha been up to? What’s going on in your life lately? Anything? Nothing?!”

I hate those questions. They suck. They are only ok to answer if you have something to boast about, when your life is all gold stars, rainbows and unicorns. My first half of 2017? I LOVED talking about my life. I visited 5 different cities, and went on the most transformative trip of my life (Dubai). Work was exciting, dating was ok, dancing was incredible, I was happy. Then my shadow woke up from its nap, and the 2nd half of 2017 sucked, despite some pretty sweet moments:

“Everytime I wanna know what is going on in your life, I just read your blog.”

Ok, so then why are you asking me what I’ve been up to? I have not been up to much, although the above list of blog posts proves that I witnessed a fair bit of other people’s lives. If you read my blog then you should be aware I’m struggling with depression these past few month. Yes, still – that is what depression does, it robs one of one’s capacity to live for months, if not years. Reminding me that I am still stuck in this garbage zombie state isn’t doing me any favors. At best, I feel equally irritated and anxious about my inability to prove that I am living life in a manner worth living, in accordance to wtv standards of the person I am talking to. At worst, I feel shame, and my shadow goes off on a rant about how much of a fucked up train-wreck I am, still with nothing to show for all my talent, intelligence and privileged opportunities I’ve been given, just a disappointment to everyone, really. It is taking most of my energy to survive, and still be a semi-useful employee, worth employing. Just because I blog about my struggles doesn’t mean that I want to talk about them all the time. I am a depressive – I fucking hate vulnerability. Talking about my depression, unexpectedly, face to face, with acquaintances or not close friends? Ummm, no. And if y’all don’t read my blog… then I am just as unlikely to say “Oh hey nothing really has been going on, just fighting my way through my latest bout of depression. How about you? Still happy as fuck? That’s nice.”

“So, how you doing? Whatcha been up to? Work, work, just work? Anything else? Dating?”

Look, bro, I know at this point you are just fishing for a topic for conversation to make this less awkward, but I am not gonna make this any less awkward. YES. WORK. THAT IS ALL. THIS IS AWKWARD BECAUSE PERSONAL QUESTIONS ARE IMPERTINENT. Didn’t you ever read Miss Manners??


How’ve I been doing? Ok-ish. Work has been nuts – I am on my 3rd consecutive week of 65-70 hours. It feels nice to be given a challenge, and to feel myself stepping up. Just in time, too – my funk noticeably affected my performance at work from July-September. I really don’t have much time for anything else. I’ve been trying to stay semi-constant at the gym, my happiest of happy places, and manage to squeeze in 6-8 hours of dancing a week, down from 15+ in Sept-Oct. Work, with its series of definite goals (Nov 25, Dec 22, Jan 23) gives me structure. Every day is a new day, must continue moving forward, one step in front of the other, no time to think or feel too much.

Except that of course, I do. Feel.

While working yesterday, I put on some classical music (latest coup de coeur: Max Bruch’s violin concerto no.1). Youtube is a wonderful concept, really. One beautiful piece after another, old favorites, reliable staples. And then… familiar notes, forgotten from my youth. I stopped working, and listened from beginning to end.

To try limit my mother’s “favorite” piano concertos to less than all of them would be hard, but without doubt one of the top contenders would be Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. Rachmaninoff wrote it after a serious, almost career-ending depression that lasted 3 years. Friends and family urged him to seek professional help, which he did reluctantly. His therapist, an esteemed expert at the time, used hypnosis on Rachmaninoff with success. The result, a few months later, was the 2nd piano concerto. Rachmaninoff dedicated it to his therapist, and credited the man with saving his career and life. My mother always felt that the origins of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto could be heard in the score. A tormented first movement, an awakening of hope in the 2nd, and a verve, readiness and capacity for life in the 3rd.

An awakening of hope, she thought. “It sounds like a blind man seeing his first sunrise on a new day”, she would say. Then why does it make me weep with sorrow? Every time.

How’ve I been doing? I’ve been doing as good as the 2nd movement of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. In theory, I am headed towards a happier ending, but right now there is more sadness than joy.


It doesn’t help that this weekend was a true fall weekend. Cold, rainy, grey, with winds that cut to your bones. Bright leaves falling, turning into damp rotten mush on the sidewalks. Just as in years past, as the leaves fall, grief bubbles up, and I miss my Ma terribly. I suppose it is only fitting that I listen to Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto on loop. Memories of sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car, listening as it played on the drive home from the Pointe-Claire library (her favorite place ever – her body prevented her from physical travel, so she found solace for her mind by reading everything. No joke, she never borrowed less than 5 books at a time, every week). Of sitting parked in the driveway of our home, till the concerto finished. Of her sigh of contentment. Of the click-clack of her canes on the pavement, as she climbed slowly up the front steps of our home, while I carried her books for her.

I’ve not been back to Pointe-Claire library since her death 5 years go. A place I spent thousands of hours in, growing up.

“So, how’ve you been doing? Whatcha been up to? What’s going on in your life lately? Anything? Nothing?!”

Oh, nothing much, just the usual weeping whenever I hear a piece of music I strongly associate with my mother. That’s all.


Here is a recording of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. Although Arthur Rubinstein is primarily known for his Chopin, he does a brilliant job. Jack the volume up, make sure you have surround sound, and enjoy.

 

 

Depression and exit strategies …….. the holy grail of depression sufferers

I went for drinks with some friends and friends of friends last night. One dude, who I’ll call OG, recounted a story of how he broke up with his ex after her 2nd suicide attempt. How he’d felt trapped and tricked. She’d looked so normal for the first 2 years, emotionally volatile, sure, but normal. After the first suicide attempt he learned she’d tried other times, before him. This was a recurring mental issue, one that might kill her and would inevitably derail his own life. He felt he had no choice but to make the best decision for his own life and future, and leave her. Leaving her freed him up to focus on building up his own life, success and well-being. However, almost a decade on, she still refuses to talk to him. One of his friends hypothesized that his ex felt shame, “Sometimes, when you’ve acted in a way that was just too awful and unacceptable, you can’t face any reminders of that, the shame is too painful.”

I stayed quiet throughout that conversation, which I regret.

I didn’t say that I suffer from depression.

I didn’t say that OG’s comments confirms one of my deepest insecurities: anyone who gets to know the real me, and meets my shadow, will run, will deem me unworthy the effort of loving, I come with too much baggage.

I didn’t say that this is why I’ve chosen to remain single for 7 years now. I don’t think I can survive another instance of giving all of myself, working through the terror of vulnerability, attempting to build a life with someone, only for it to fall apart because the burden of my shadow is too heavy to bear. I chose a life of loneliness, limiting how much I inflict my depression on friends and family, rather than face the unbearable pain of being rejected. I also chose loneliness because I don’t ever want to be the reason someone holds back on living their life, choosing to stick with me & my sickness out of loyalty. My shadow stifles my dreams and happiness. I don’t think I could accept if it stifled anyone else’s too. I completely understand and respect OG’s decision to leave the girl.

I didn’t say that they’d gotten it all wrong. The shame is not derived from the “unacceptable” act of trying to take one’s life – only someone who has never suffered from depression would think that suicide is unacceptable or selfish. Without ever having met the girl, or been present in that decade-old saga, I would argue that the girl deems OG’s actions as concrete proof that she is unlovable, something to be abandoned once her true self is revealed. A depressive spends all day every day trying to survive, look normal, hide the mess from the world. On the rare occasions that a depressive reveals their true self to anyone – something incredibly traumatic and shameful – being rejected gives their sick brain all the ammunition necessary to convince them they are worthless. Having to face a reminder of that? Unbearably painful. I too would be incapable of facing such a reminder.

I didn’t say that I admired the girl – 10 years is a lot of years to put up with a sick brain, good for her for still being alive.

#weallhaveexitstrategies

black dog

I was speaking to another “depressive”(someone who suffers from depression – usually with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and possibly Stress thrown in for shits and giggles — I might have just made that word up, but it seems to work, so I am going to leave it there) a week or two ago and we were chatting about shit and things and really playing catch up.

We had not seen each other in quite some time, so it was a very nice catch up and we did spend a lot of the time laughing, and snorting.

The conversation took a turn and we started speaking about the fact that we both suffer from Depression — not the “here take one pill and call me in the morning kind” but the sort that takes you 13 years of therapy to really understand what it is you are working with.

Years of enduring…

View original post 1,128 more words

The show must go on

Moulin Rouge. Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical take on the novel La Dame aux Camélias & the opera La Traviata (my favorite opera). Nicole Kidman’s character is a blazée, beautiful cancan dancer who falls in love with a penniless but respectable writer (Ewan McGregor). Practical considerations (money) trap her in her lifestyle, subject to the patronage of a vain, occasionally violent, jealous, rich Duke. The decision to renounce her true love leads to heartache, and misery. She finally breaks free from the Duke only to die in Ewan’s arms from tuberculosis, contracted from a previous client.

Moulin Rouge is a movie about “truth, beauty, freedom and love“. It is also about the struggle to achieve each of those virtues, in the face of Life’s propensity to repeatedly sucker punch all of us. Those who dared to dream in this movie were rewarded by heartbreak or death. Watching it at 15 years old, I was swept away by the romantic pathos of it all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it is a very melancholy movie, albeit delightfully packaged with style, humor and dramatic flair. One particular scene that is not frequently cited (unlike Jim Broadbent singing Like a Virgin, or the brilliant/disturbing Roxanne scene) has always haunted me. It is the moment when Nicole Kidman gives up her fragile belief in her right to happiness.

Zigler: You’re dying, Satine. You’re dying. (…)

Satine: I was a fool to believe, a fool to believe. It all ends today. Yes, it all ends today.

Zigler: (…) You are a great actress Satine, make him believe you don’t love him. Use your talent to save him. Hurt him to save him. There is no other way. The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

Satine & Zigler: Today’s a day when dreaming ends.

Zigler: Another hero. Another mindless crime, behind the curtain in the pantomime. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance. Another heartache, another failed romance. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? The show must go on, the show must go on. Outside the dawn is breaking on the stage that holds our final destiny. The show must go on, the show must go on!

Satine: Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.

Zigler: The show must go on. The show must go on.

Satine: I’ll top the bill. I’ll earn the kill. I have to find the will to carry on with the show.

Zigler : The show must go on.

 

Watching it, 16 years ago, I felt an odd recognition – this scene captures how I see life.

“Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.” 

I didn’t know at 17 years old that my shadow would turn out to be my constant companion. But I did know how to appear normal, even though I felt anything but normal on the inside, like my heart was about to split open from the sadness it carried. As I’ve gotten older, this has become even more true: I’ve become an excellent actress so as to avoid vulnerability: nobody asks questions when it looks like you got your shit together.

“We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.”

A coworker asked me recently, after a few too many beers, “Vanilla, this is going to sound awful, I can’t find the words to phrase this properly, but you are a beautiful, sexy, smart, accomplished professional, with an amazing life ahead of you… why do you go for such losers in your dating life? Why don’t you find somebody with the same life situation as you?” My coworker was referring to Athletico, Beaut and Hickster. I pointed out that each one, although not as educated as me, nor pursuing a traditional corporate lifestyle, had risen to the top of his respective field, and was respected for his athletic track record; any athlete that can successfully monetize their skills has street smarts, dedication, perseverance, talent and work ethic. So however terrible their grammatical skills, they can not be fairly labeled losers when it comes to their careers. But my coworker didn’t mean that. He meant that they are living trainwrecks and haven’t mastered the concept of honesty.

It’s taken me months to figure out why I gravitate to these guys, and why I feel so alive in the boxing and dancing world. I belong. These guys all have good streaks, so much of their characters is worthy of admiration and respect. But they also have this dark side to them, and they are caught up in the struggle of their two sides. Often their dark side wins, causing them to act in ways that is harmful to themselves and those around them. I get that. Every day is an internal struggle -against my ADD, my shadow and the lazy, mean, irresponsible and cowardly Vanilla that constantly undermines the hard work of good, kind and sweet Vanilla. So many of my friends and coworkers appear to have mastered the whole adulting concept, lives cleanly scrubbed and responsible; while I kinda wish I could adult like them, I also know that I’d hate it. I love/hate the struggle, but it is my struggle. It proves to me I am alive. These men that struggle and periodically fail at realizing their best selves makes me feel less different. I relate. I too am a creature of the underworld.

“On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance.”

I haven’t found my purpose. I drift through life, too exhausted by the fight against my shadow to dream, or pursue proactively my happiness.

“The show must go on.”


Disclaimer: I know my posts sometimes alarm my readers, especially friends and family. My funk is still firmly in place, but it is not spiraling out of control: I’ll take treading water over being swept willy-nilly by the current of depression. I’m doing my best to fight it, but it’s hard. I promise I am trying.

Recap of the current funk: