Hope Found In A Messed Up Year

I found this list I started back in April that made me think of the podcast I just started listening to, The Hilarious World of Depression.  It’s a great podcast for anyone living with depression, comedians discussing their experiences with this very real disorder. There are some episodes that are devoted to people calling in with their “go to” things that help them climb out of the darkness which has actually been really helpful.  It’s reminded me that, when in the trenches, it’s critical to have a go to list.  And I am surprised, it actually is helpful!
But this isn’t about that.

I voted today and it brought me back to a year ago, voting day, the hope…the confidence!
After months of watching a series of disturbing news reports about one of the presidential candidates, after watching disturbing debates between the two candidates where one was literally stalking the other around the stage with a rattlesnake-like venom pouring from his being that I’m sure gave most every woman watching clenching chills recalling their own situations of harassment and attack, after hearing this guy talk about grabbing women, adoring his wealth, hating most everyone who isn’t him….I, like many, assumed this guy was a joke and didn’t stand a chance. I…we, were wrong.
But this isn’t about that.

I was brought back to the night I watched the result come in with such certainty, only to feel the world beginning to close in on me as I began to see, still in disbelief, this man, this troglodyte, this person who exemplified everything we raise our children not to be, was about to take the position of POTUS.  I recalled curling up in my bed at 2am, before all votes were in, knowing, this country was not what I believed it was.
But this isn’t about that.

I cried.  I ranted.  I panicked.  I wallowed.  I feared. I hugged strangers and friends,  I felt sick, for months.  I recalled the nights following the inauguration when I stood, statue-like, in front of my tv, white knuckling my remote control in one hand and my Ball jar of red wine in the other until 3 or 4 in the morning, watching unbelievable news reports, talking to the tv, e-mailing friends, responding to facebook posts, enraged.  Those nights brought back the feelings of late nights in college, when under the right circumstances, the room would begin to breath and the music could take on the voice of God sending me messages about life.  But this didn’t have the feel of fun and adventure, like listening to Bob Marley singing about 3 little birds beside his doorstep.  This was like the bad nights that felt like they’d never end, Jethro Tull growling ‘eyeing little girls with bad intent’.  Sadly, this wasn’t a bad night in college.  This was happening.
But this isn’t about that.

After that day, I froze in my tracks.  I wondered what I cared about, why I cared about it and what was the point of caring anyway.  Why?  Why bother?  This was all I could think.  For months.
I stopped reading, I stopped listening to music, I stopped singing and dancing.  I stopped having fun altogether.  Life was draining from me quickly and I felt myself sinking into the deep dark trenches of my depression.  Again.  I’m familiar with the signs but this was different.  This wasn’t the normal sense of hopelessness I’d felt so many time before.  This was full on fear for humanity, the future, my neighbors, friends and family. My son, oh what had I done to him?  I truly believed the world was about to end.  At any moment.
But this isn’t about that either.

This isn’t about the day the music died.  It’s about the day it brought me back to life.

One night in April, my son asked if we could watch the youtube video of the people dancing in suits to Justin Timberlake.
“No, I don’t feel like it”, I said.
“C’mon mom, it used to make you so happy.  Can we please?”
I reluctantly pulled it up on my laptop and we watched.  And just then, something happened.

Watching the joy of the performers, I suddenly came to this new awareness.  These folks loved what they were doing.  They were having fun, using their gifts and talents to make a statement, the only way they new how.  A light came on.  I suddenly started thinking about all artists in a new way.  Artists were not all in it for the glory, they were not doing what they do for my personal entertainment, they were speaking their truth in the ways they knew best.  They were taking risks, they were putting themselves out there for criticism and rejection in order to send a message in which they believed.  I felt like I finally understood the purpose of the arts.

The arts keep us alive.

That youtube video made me really happy.  I danced and sang with my son for the first time in months.  Then we watched more videos.  I showed him videos of Michael Jackson, Nina Simone, Paul Simon and we had such a fun night.  I reawoke.

After that, I started writing down all of the videos I’d seen that had lifted my spirits during the dark months.  What I learned from the podcast I started listening to is we need a toolbox for depression, things to call upon when the world feels unkind and unwelcoming, when we feel hope is just a word.

So I wanted to share what I collected during those months that reminded me of the strength of words, of music, of any kind of expression, in doing what makes us feel real because it’s important.  Creativity, the arts, keeping our souls sparked…it’s important.

So here’s a short list of the things that kept me going those first many months of this last year and brought me back to believing in the value of keeping our artist selves alive and well.  Instilling value in arts in our kids is so critical, it’s what makes us unique, it’s what keeps the world changing and it’s what keeps us alive.

This is an incomplete list and I recognize it’s all well known people/famous people, but it’s what was passed through my feeds over the months that made me happy .  There are a million stories of hope and perseverance out there, I would love to hear what has kept you hopeful!

Lin-Manuel Miranda
http://www.vulture.com/2016/06/read-lin-manuel-mirandas-moving-tonys-poem.html
My wife’s the reason anything gets done.
She nudges me towards promise by degrees.
She is a perfect symphony of one.
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall, and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love;
Cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story.
Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.

Hillary Clinton Flashmob
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiCXnEWiXSw
(don’t even get me started on Justin Timberlake!)

Michael Jackson: First live moonwalk to Billie Jean
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lvsBBNV-U4

Tribe Called Quest: 59th Grammy Awards
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKYB0c3ZdFY

Ani Difranco: Joyful Girl
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y-1H9kAg3s

Ken Burns Stanford University Commencement Speech
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AjDHzEBPc0

Kate McKinnon SNL Cold Open
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG-_ZDrypec

Anis Mojgani performing Shake the Dust
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qDtHdloK44

Madonna’s Billboard Music Woman of the Year acceptance speech
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Xgbh2E0NM

Elizabeth Warren reads Coretta Scott King - Nevertheless...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBXYQGnABEc

Sharon Salzberg: Transformational Activism with Eric Schneiderman & Ethan Nichtern
https://www.sharonsalzberg.com/metta-hour-podcast-episode-41-transformational-activism-with-eric-schneiderman-ethan-nichtern/

Nina Simone; Sinnerman (Where you gonna run to?) Anything she performs is chilling!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r57J0jPyZRs

Dave Chappelle returns to wake us
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IS0XiNdpk

 

Why Persist?

Why Persist?

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting with one hundred or more Maine residents in a Town Hall meeting organized by Indivisible MDI, a group with whom I’ve worked closely  these last 3 months.  

Despite multiple invitations and great effort from IMDI, in the final days leading up to the event, we were informed Senator Susan Collins, our guest of honor, would not be joining us.

On The Push And Pull Of Parenting

I got to watch my 8-year-old son grow up a little bit more last weekend through a big picture window in the middle of the Maine woods.  It was a rather luxurious camping trip with 6 other families including 8 children ages 5-11, a unique opportunity for our group in that we had the grounds to ourselves including use of the yurts and and the full kitchen in the community dining building.