death happens


Each time I sit down to write lately I become distracted. I can't quite get the hang of my life right now. Those two sentences have been in my draft box on Wordpress for a few days. Things happen that pull me away from sitting down and writing and sharing my thoughts and giving myself some mental space which I desperately need. This weekend it was the rain, which saturated the ground so much that our basement puddled. I don't want to say flooded because while there was enough water to cause damage if anything had been against that wall, it wasn't as though we were wading through water. Still, it was stressful. We did go through some towels (all the ones we own) but manageable.

And that's the thing. All of my stresses, my daily bullshit stuff is manageable, more manageable than it has been in a really long time. Still, I feel really tense at times, anxious. I feel unsettled because so many new things have happened suddenly in my life but not just my life, my family's life too. All these changes while fantastic and wonderful and challenging and exhilarating make me feel like I went to sleep one night and my brother was in college, my parents in Alabama, me still in grad school and I woke up the next day and Matt is married, and my parents are in Florida and I'm a professor with a Ph.D. It's all so good, but my body can't seem to get the message. I'm so used to the level of stress I experienced while writing my dissertation that I can't get used to what's happening now, to regular stress.

Then I read about David Foster Wallace's suicide. My first reaction was an overwhelming sense of loss, not in a personal way but in a way that I won't get to read any more of his scarily brilliant work. I felt sad for those who loved him, who worked with him and who knew him personally. Any death is hard to deal with, but suicides come with their own special brand of pain, questions, the search for clues. Many of the writers I love, the ones who are genuises seem anguished, tortured. The writing can do that to you. For a while, I convinced myself it had to. And I drank and smoked and tortured myself along with the best of them. I gave into the hauntedness, craved the dark and dank bars, the smell of stale alcohol and cigarettes. The myth of the tortured writer often comes true, sadly. So, I thought about the way our lives become unmanageable, the point where you just can't take it anymore. I wonder why we act as though that threshold doesn't exist for all of us. It does; we all have a breaking point. It may manifest differently, may break differently but it's always there. Those of us who suffer from depression know it differently. We know it more acutely, pushing against it, stumbling in the dark.

Then I read more and more and more stories, blogs, news reports about Wallace's death and, like Andrea Seigel, was surprised at how people (the media) seemed to treat and portray depression, mental illness in incredibly detrimental and unrealistic ways. Seigel says it much better than I could. But being someone who has experienced depression, who grew up in a house wrought with anxiety and guilt, it astounds me the way people (the media) paint those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression.

I'm lucky, I think. Most days are more manageable than others. I'm not taking medication. (It remains to be seen if that's good or bad). Every day I deal with my craziness and how it manifests itself in being unable to sleep, or concentrate or listen. Some days I'm mostly normal, self-aware, silly, grateful. Other days, not so much. It's a matter of degrees, of ranges of emotion, chemistry, daylight, temperature and who knows what else. It is not, however, cut-and-dried or easily explained or selfish in a purposeful way.

A close friend from my undergraduate life shot himself and I've known others who od'ed. And what I have learned is that there is no reason, none that will ever be enough to answer the question why. It's all a matter of breaking points, I think. Life is unpredictable. We are never sure how much we have within us. Is the world a bit less bright and humorous without Wallace around, absolutely. Is it horrible that his wife found him, yes. I think I feel most deeply for her, for having to face the unthinkable, for having to deal with the questions and the search for clues. As a fan, I can mourn the loss of a great writer but as a compassionate person I simply feel sympathy at the loss of a man who meant so much to so many.

re-discovering the twilight zone

When I was younger, probably fourth grade, I had a black and white TV in my room. It only got a few channels because though it was hooked up to cable, the dial only went up to 9. Still, one of the channels, I have no idea which one used to run The Twilight Zone re-runs late at night. I caught an episode one night after falling asleep to the TV. When I woke up in the middle of the night, it was the middle of an episode, one about a creepy hitchhiker. I missed the first part of the episode and picked it up where the girl is talking to herself after running out of gas. The episode stuck with me. I remembered it a few years later when I devoted my English project in seventh grade to poems about Death. I wasn't fascinated by Death but rather the metaphors which represented it, the way it had been personified, described, explained. Of course, I had no language to describe these thoughts and my parents were a bit concerned. My father, who had been taking me to hospitals and funeral homes because he had to work and take care of me and my brother, was less surprised by my interest than my fragile mother. What I couldn't explain just seemed weird to my mother; that I would think about Death in a literary way didn't occur to anyone.

No one close to me died when I was young. My great-grandmother Oswald was the first family member's funeral I can remember attending. I was a teenager. Even then it seemed surreal to me. It was, I think, the first dead body I'd seen. Though I'd accompanied my father to funerals before, I purposefully waited outside or in the funeral director's office, safely away from the "realities" of death. And all I remember about my Granny's funeral is that her fingernails were painted and I couldn't stop laughing about it. There is an incredibly absurd element to funerals. When Candace died, someone I loved and who died who was not a member of my family, I was overwhelmed with guilt, loss, fear. It was as if I had to face something, a truth about Death I was unprepared for. And still, I am intrigued by how I've explained the ending of life, how I have experienced loss and watch my closest friends experience it. We understand or come to terms with Death in various ways. What I think is interesting about the Twilight Zone and similar shows and stories, particularly in Science Fiction, is that they are often about surviving. I think that's why I love Supernatural so much. There are a lot of storylines that take an idea from the Twilight Zone and push it a step further. But ultimately it's about relationships and sacrifices and survival.

As I write about this now, after discovering Twilight Zone clips on YouTube (I love the Internets!), my obsession with forensic shows and mysteries makes a bit more sense. I could probably try to explain my love of most horror movies as originating from my psychology as a child who stayed up late and watched Twilight Zone episodes though most of my watching came in high school when the episodes aired on one of the local channels or maybe on Nick-at-Nite. When I was in my Master's program they aired some new episodes with Forest Whitaker as the host. And though some of the episodes don't have the same bit as Serling's original series, I loved them. When I saw the episode "Night Route," I was so reminded of that episode "The Hitchhiker" I'd seen at 10 only this time Life is personified and the woman seems much more aware of what might be happening to her as if she grew up watching Twilight Zone episodes. I prefer the black and white episodes and some of the storylines are better, and better acted.

Other favorites of mine are Mirror Image, Number 12 Looks Just Like You (if you've read Scott Westerfield's Uglies you'll recognize the theme), The Eye of the Beholder, which is also really interesting in terms of what we find beautiful and is an episode referenced frequently by other TV shows;The Bewitchin' Pool, Nightmare as a Child and of course, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street (I haven't seen the updated version of this yet).

If you have nothing to do for a few hours you should check them out. Or at least watch "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street":

Part Two:

Part Three: