The other night at the coffee shop, I interrupted something that a woman was saying about creativity to hand a man a business card.
Well, not so much a business card. More like a card with my name on it. My name, and the words …remember me… written just like that.
It had my email and my number on it. The other side was blank – left that way intentionally, ordered with the thought that I might draw a picture there, or tape a flower, or even spit, depending who the card was given to.
“Thanks, I enjoyed talking with you.”
He looked a little befuddled, then said, “Did you see my jacket?”
“Yes. I did. It’s a leather piano jacket.”
The emblem on the back was some sort of ornate crest, two names and then Piano. It was a Mason and Hamlin jacket.
“I was a piano tuner from age 13 on. The jacket was given to me.”
I hadn’t expected to discuss the leather piano jacket and the woman beside me still hadn’t finished what she was saying about creativity.
The man continued, “I’ve been around some of the, you know…” He waved his hands around a little, gesturing important people and important pianos.
“Well, I appreciated our exchange earlier.”
He appeared to want to leave. I understood the reasons. The coffee shop was loud. He had been talking for hours.
Earlier, he had said to me:
“You just have to ask people. You think about all the people who love you and who you have in your life and ask them. Find mentors and tell people what you need help with, focus what you’re passionate about.”
I had only spoken to him for a minute, but knew all sorts of things about him. We share a diagnosis and an auditory processing issue, though I’m sure that his experience is much different than mine.
I don’t know how to tune a piano.
“Could you speak more slowly?”
“I talk quickly because people only listen for so long.”
Earlier, someone said they’d had to take more pills because they told their doctor that they hear the end-of-side tone from old Memorex cassette tapes playing in their head constantly.
“What is that hum?” A woman asked.
“The technology was developed as part of a project, some kind of emergency alert system. The project is given space on every tower. It can alert individuals, whole groups of people.”
“I hear the electricity running through my refrigerator. It is a high pitched whine.”
“I think we all have signals, radiowaves.”
“Really, it’s everywhere.”
This was a casual conversation in a coffeeshop, with some 1/2hearted laughter about a world filled with waves and sound and impulse. The chuckling was dull at the edges, where there was a quiet knowing that it was all a little outside of what was considered to be real.
It’s so real. You can even hear it. It sings and squeals.
I bought a ticket to an of Montreal show, because when the dj tried to play their song on the radio this afternoon, the signal dropped off to nothing but a hiss and small looping sound as I turned the volume up and down, up and down, wondering where the radio went off to.
“What’s the difference between people who manage to live by their art and who actually end up having cult followings and all that and the people who…you know…don’t?”
“Is it just luck?”
“No,” head shaking, “it’s not just luck. It’s a matter of people showing who they are, they give a piece of themselves, they leave little pieces and all of the people whose lives they touch become a part of them.”
Someone interrupted, “It’s audacity. The people who really make it as artists have the audacity to believe that they could do something and then to do it boldly.”
“That takes a lot of bravery.”
Those who have little to lose have the privilege of near fearlessness.
Is there some madness in any form of audacity…is believing that one might be capable of bringing some unseen truth and beauty to the world audacious, when we all see truth and beauty differently and thus anything that we offer of ourselves in sharing who we are and what we see and feel is an act of art in itself, a small human triumph?
This started out as a letter in response to a letter, but – clearly – I’ll need to start that letter again.
I do take it as a sign of good luck that I saw a leather jacket all about pianos.
We were bears and we were friends.
That was all.
That was the game.
We’d build things together, gather food. When boats would pass on the river, we’d make a terrible racket, shaking the trees and growling as loudly as we could.
We were wild animals, but when we were calm we spoke English, interspersed with grunts.
I didn’t speak in my voice, nor did I talk in the way that we might assume that bears would talk. My bear-voice was a high-pitched gentle squeaking, lilted upward at the end.
It was okay, I could still be a bear and I can see the world through a bear’s imagined eyes. I thought I could understand the way a bear might see more in a tree than I would, how the ground might be full of treasure.
There was a loneliness in knowing, even young, that I understood nothing of what it was to be a bear, that I could never really be a bear.
I could pretend though.
Sometimes, after I was bear, I would be a treasure hunter with the future of a girl who might find treasure, some ancient artifact, an old chest of sand-caked gold.
When I threw the message in the bottle into the river, after seeing an episode of Gilligan’s Island, I totally believed that someone would find it.
I learned how to live, in moments, within the belief of being something else, someone else, with a different future, something golden and waiting right under the surface of the broken ground, the rippled water.
I’ve been doing this sort of thing my whole life.
I don’t think I ever thoroughly grew up.
If this were a myth, the scolding that made me a child again would turn out to be the gift of a lifetime.
After spending a couple of days futilely trying to instigate a strong response from over-scheduled and winter-tired mental health advocates, @faithghost started experimentally reaching out to metal bands and post hardcore artists, asking them to say something to their fans about the death as a way to both honor Keith Vidal and to raise awareness of the growing problem of angry, brilliant, sad teens being subjected to life-wrecking harm under adult authority.
So far, reports are that no hardcore/metal/post-hardcore band has committed to saying or doing anything big or involving fireworks on stage or other ceremoniously awesome performance rituals in response to this young person’s death – a small death among many.
However, more than a few bands and musicians have responded and followed back. They’ve shared music, links, and various exclamations of “badass!”
How can bands and labels support their fans in having access to resources of support and perspective that may help them to cope with the brutal realities of being a brilliant, pissed off young person in a crazy world?
What would it look like if labels and bands had a simple page, or even just a text box, on their sites, directing fans who may be struggling to resources like The Icarus Project?
What if there were some way for young people to get in touch with other kids who are struggling, to share stories, ideas, and encouragement?
What if people started talking more openly about the tendency for deeply feeling anti-authoritarians to get diagnosed with mental illness? What if we talked about reality of trauma in people’s experiences of craziness and distress, or about how impossibly harsh the world can be in the realities of the sensitive and honest ?
What if we made room for the view that the world is cruel to youth and that young people have every right to be pissed off?
What would that look like?
Well, here I am.
It’s interesting to me that the ways such times come about really haven’t changed too much. The trajectory is fairly clear, though it tends to arc over a few time, overlapped with all sorts of tangles and smooth spaces where I really did think that maybe, just maybe, I could pull off some life of consistent function. Which is what it comes down to – function, what one can do, wants to do, is doing and cannot do well. It is also an issue of demands and whether or not one’s life is aligned with one’s optimal function, as self-determined. It’s been fairly clear that I’ve been having a hard time for a while. I’ve been saying it, telling people: “I’ve been having a hard time.” “There’s a lot going on.” “I’m trying to adjust to a new job role.” “I signed up for too many classes.” “I’ve been sick and I don’t have health insurance.” “I need to make some appointments.” “I cancelled a meeting.” With some, I have been very honest. “Something had to give. I’m pissed off! I feel sad and tired. I have too many feelings about this.” In regard to other things, I have no feelings. I am calmly considering easing out graduate school. It’s amazing how many of my periods of functional/experiential crisis correlate with graduate school. Usually, if I’m having a hard time, I’ll shift some of my energies toward minorly outlandish scenarios on twitter and other digital outlets of expression. It helps me to think that maybe a metal band might honor a kid with schizophrenia who was killed by police. It helps me to reach out to people and try to imagine that they care, to believe that they do. It helps me to draw and to clean my house and to play with my kids and to write long emails to myself that hold some core of everything that I would hope for, to orient and take inventory, to feel deeply for long moments where I am in space and time and just how truly okay everything is. I don’t feel like I am crazy. To me, it all makes perfect sense. One can only do so much. In my case, when I do too much, I get stressed and when I am stressed, I have a difficult time with certain aspects of emotion and cognition, which then impact the nature of my expressed behavior and activity. This isn’t because of a “vulnerability” – it’s because of a “sensitivity.” Being sensitive – in the sense that you deeply feel, experience, and are affected by the world around you – is not a weakness. In fact, the amount of strength that is required of me to tolerate and adapt to a hundred million everyday situations – a bright light, a strange ringing noise, the chatter of a television, the movement in a store – is…is…well, I’m really quite tremendously strong. In spite of the fact that I don’t write academic research papers well, I know I’m smart. I know, after all, why academic writing is a challenge for me and I know, also, that it doesn’t much matter if I am good at writing formal reports about other people’s formal reports. I’m at a juncture that feels a little dicey. I have, at most times throughout the day, a near constant internal blaring of “You need to do something different. You need to figure this out. You have to find a way.” It is a quiet desperation and determination. So much of my audacity during times like these is more a matter of desperation and determination. I really can’t afford to make any big, swooping changes in my life right now. I have to stay the course. I channel my instinct to do something big to make a change into small actions, experiments in ideas and the imagined alchemy of art. I have to let go of whatever I can let go of and pass things off to others and find ways to maintain my ground by making sure I take care of the most important things. I need to do the things that only I can do. Mostly, that involves being a mom, doing art and showing up for the people and projects that feed my heart and value of my work. I need to use every scrap of my ragged and beleaguered brilliance to find ways to dovetail my work and to use more art in my work. I need to use art in my work, because I need to bring myself to my work. I need to bring myself to my work, because who else would I bring and what would the effort to bring them be? I’ve been lucky to find jobs that accommodate who I am. I need to find other jobs. Just being who I am is a job, as it is for everybody I suppose. Actually, it’s probably not. Some people probably have a real easy time of it. I don’t feel like I’m crazy. I feel like I’m exhausted and that I have been sick and that my house is chilly and the dog is old. I feel like I’m running this same old arc of fatigue and wounded purpose that leads to despair and audacious desperation, resentful numbing toward the conventions of communication and activity that impose themselves upon me and pull my mind away from where it may have wandered, seeking refuge. It’s so frustrating to me that among many of the people who would like to support me, there is the supposition of mental illness in their understanding of what it means when I say I’m having a hard time. If not mental illness, then mental health disorder. If not mental health disorder, then some psychological distortion or flaw, like I am not trying hard enough, or am being lazy or a baby and that other people can manage to have consistently functional lives and so what’s my problem? My problem is this: I am having a hard time. I have little support that is genuinely helpful, because other people cannot support me in this beyond simply allowing me and helping me to do what I need to do for myself. People have no clue what I walk around with everyday and thus they have no means by which to have even the slightest clue as to what I may or may not be able to do. I know what I can do and I know I know what I have to do. I know how to take care of myself and just the sort of life that would suit me and within which I might thrive. I am trying to make that life, to bring in little elements of it where I can. The constraints are pretty significant, and mostly stem from my capacity to simultaneously heal from a life, maintain a life, and create a new life while contending with the stress of it all as one life, which make it hard to even think.
My Great Fortune Reading From Strange Wren
Anyways, here’s the reading (its a really good one). If you don’t get around to sending the files, whatever I guess.
The situation/issue is based around home, a place where people gather in community, some type of social utopia (four of wands/four of clubs)
Further more the situation rests on getting carried away, maybe for your or someone elses benefits. This is also the card of the Thief. Its a positive card because it suggests that if you are getting carried away and no one cares or catches you, then by all means, commence (six of swords/six of spades)
What crosses the issue is a general air of kindness and compassion (king of cups/king of hearts)
The past is represented by the authority of passion and creativity. This is also the card of the seducer (King of Wands/King of clubs)
The future is represented by an influx of nothing but good things, seemingly out of the blue (seven of wands, seven of clubs)
What you need to do to improve the situation is have less negative, evil, or manipulative intellect in terms of the issue (ace of swords overturned/ace of spaces)
What you need to do to improve the situation also is to embrace more warmth, vibrancy and determination (Queen of Wands/queen of clubs) This is also the card of witches, besides the meaning, moreover it is the card of a matriarch who is passionate, creative, and instinctual.
The card at the bottom edge of the cross we just went through is the Five of Hearts/Cups, which represents you, the querrant. It is the card of despair, marriage, but also the card of having the general attitude of what you have besides past loss, also what you can repair and regain.
The people or environment you are interacting with is the card of faith. It also represents art and or magic. It is the three of diamonds/pentacles.
Your hopes or fears are represented by heartbreak, which is the three of swords/spades.
Should you continue on this course, the outcome will be one of friendship, love, acceptance, and positive compromise (Two of hearts/two of cups)