With What You Have

I have sat down multiple times this week to write about the concentration camps on our border, about the separation of families, about how parents are deported while their children are flown as far away as New York, about how this is all policy and not law and could be stopped at any time – and I just can’t find the right words to express my horror and sadness. If you have people in your life that think this is okay or find a way to justify it, you need to get those people out of your life immediately. Family, friends, you have to draw a line, I’m sorry. There’s no more discourse to be had when we are keeping children in cages and failing to offer asylum to families already attempting to escape horrors in their own country, only to find more horror right here in the U.S. of A.

I have donated money but I don’t feel like it is nearly enough. I would volunteer to go and read to the children or something like that, but no one is allowed in. Not even the press or elected officials are being granted entry. Stories of sexual and physical abuse are already beginning to stack up, and more recently stories of children being injected with drugs and other agents are being released by leakers who have quit and want to get the word out.

The only thing to do when there is nothing to do is to volunteer your time or donate money or speak out and spread the word about the story so it stays alive. If you read this blog and you are wondering about reputable organizations to which you can donate, I have collected a few for you. You can trust that these orgs are on the up and up and are working tirelessly to not only protect families after the bullshit executive order that came out the other day, but also to reunite the children that were taken in the days leading up to the EO with their parents, some of which have already been deported without their children.

RAICES Family Reunification: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/bondfund

ActBlue, a collection of orgs: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/kidsattheborder?refcode=tweet

Pueblo Sin Frontreras: http://www.pueblosinfronteras.org/shelters.html

Border Angels: https://www.borderangels.org/

ACLU: https://action.aclu.org/give/donate-to-aclu?ms=footer_sitemap_donate&ms_aff=NAT&ms_chan=web&initms=footer_sitemap_donate&initms_aff=NAT&initms_chan=web

Also if you are wondering what some other things you can do are other than simply donating, this article from thecut.com as well as this article from refinery29.com outline some of the best ways to help.

If protesting is more your style there are several events going up nationwide for June 30th sponsored by Families Belong Together. Visit their website to locate the protest or march closest to you and plan to bring your best sign. I am still thinking about being brave and going to show my support, but my anxiety may have other plans for me.

Money, time, or vocal angry support are what we need. Oh yes, and please plan to vote and get everyone you know to vote too. I know that’s a solution, but when the last week felt like a year, November feels eons away when there is so much horror right now.

Stay focused.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

The Flight Attendant

The Flight Attendant

There are three major reasons I stop reading a book. Four really.

  1. I get bored.
  2. I don’t care about the characters.
  3. The story isn’t compelling.
  4. The library has a hold on the book and if I keep it any longer I have to pay money.

The Flight Attendant starts in a very promising way. It presents us with a flight attendant who makes a connection with one of the people in first class and goes with him to his hotel in Dubai. They drink A LOT, and when she wakes up the next morning she finds him dead next to her, his throat slit, and he has bled out. She wipes down everything she might have touched, showers, gathers her things, and runs back to her airline’s hotel in time to catch the van back to their returning flight to JFK.

The story asks us to feel the suspense building between Cassie’s constant fear that someone will discover she was with the murdered man, and the revelation that he was wrapped up in some kind of Russian conspiracy and was assassinated for skimming and now the assassin, Elena, who had originally decided to spare her life, now hunts her to tie up the loose end.

I made it to page 214. 60% of the way through. The story was compelling enough that I wanted to give it a chance to wow me. I was ready for some kind of twist or shocking event. What killed the book for me was that I simply didn’t care about the characters.

The main character is Cassie, who is so much of a drunk that her sister won’t leave her alone with her niece and nephew. She was so black out drunk that night that she is only 93% sure that she wasn’t the one to kill Alex in that hotel room. Every three paragraphs she’s talking about how she needs a drink, and every 4 paragraphs she’s having one. She’s very stupid and has no redeemable qualities. Half of my decision to put this book down was made when I realized that I didn’t care if that Russian assassin caught up to her and killed her. Tension lost.

Elena is the dumbest assassin I have ever heard of. She killed Alex as ordered but then left a person alive in the room? I expected it to take the turn that Cassie would then be set up and framed for the murder, leaving Elena to go unnoticed, but her stated reason was that Cassie was an innocent and just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her daddy issues fueled her compassion. Elena believes that the assassin agency had her dad killed, and is working to get revenge once she uncovers who is responsible, but is sidetracked to go to America and murder Cassie because the agency says it’s either Cassie or her to die because they can’t be connected to Alex’s death.

I’m so fucking confused. This whole book could have been solved in the first 50 pages if Elena had either killed them both or not killed either of them at that moment, but waited for Cassie to leave and killed Alex later. I have no respect for Elena as a character, and I don’t care if Cassie lives or dies, so the book is dead for me. When I saw those patterns would not be changing I just put the book down.

It’s marketed as a thriller but I am here to tell you that it is not thrilling at all. You are given just enough hope that it might become one, but honestly don’t waste your time. It’s a no from me.

Dance of the Gods (The Circle Trilogy #2)

Dance of the Gods

Morrigan’s Cross (#1)

It’s about this time that I get bored with Nora Roberts. Her books are so predictably formulaic that if you read too many in a row you start to hate them simply because you know what’s coming next like ten pages ahead of time. Dance of the Gods takes our circle of 6 heroes (3 couples) into Moira’s realm of Geall to prepare her citizens to fight Lilith and the vampire army in the Valley of Silence on Samhain.

There are a lot of moments in this book when the group decides to flex their muscles and make a statement by poking at Lilith’s forces that are hidden in the nearby caves in Ireland, which is where they are staying as of the first book. Each time they do this ends predictably – someone learns a lesson about not going it alone and making sure to work together. The person who learns this lesson the hardest in this book is Blair, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character that was ignored and then abandoned by her father and whose daddy issues cause her to want to always be alone. The “everyone I ever loved has left me” boo hoo pity party really makes her badass character a lot less believable, but you’ll make do I’m sure.

Roberts’s thing being a couple per book, Blair is destined to be with the shape-shifter Larkin, who is from Geall and came with his cousin Moira through the Dance of the Gods (the stone circle) to train with the other four members of Morrigan’s circle of six. He shifts into different kinds of animals and at one point he shifts into a hawk in front of Blair and she says something like “that’s so hot” and she does that a couple of times, enough to make me think she might be into bestiality, but I’m not sure.

He wants to care for her, she believes she’s meant to always be alone, and they fight through that tension to have sex a couple of times, until finally she admits she loves him after they return to his country and get ambushed by a bunch of vampires that are also preparing for the battle. I get the themes that Roberts really wants to touch on here: that you can be a tough woman and a sensitive one too, but in the way of romance novels the story doesn’t get much deeper than what gets them into bed. And that’s okay, if I hadn’t just read four other novels set up exactly the same way just before this.

After returning to Geall the group informs the country that (1) yes, women are in charge here and will be teaching you how to not die, (2) vampires are real, and (3) magic is cool and okay. I liked the way that the women dealing with other women was written here. Some women wanted to hold onto the “women’s work” but were brought to understand that anything is women’s work (small caveat: it takes Glenna asking how they might protect their babies to get them to fight, so I guess it’s not exactly 100% feminist but their lives were on the line so whatever works?).

The book ends with Blair agreeing to marry Larkin (again, I don’t understand why the ending for every couple has to be marriage) and Larkin agreeing that he will leave Geall behind to return to Earth with Blair so she can continue to be a hunter of vampires there, and they streak across the sky with a flame sword and I guess she writes an entire sentence in the air like a plane might? Again, this book is a lot of “LET’S SHOW HER WHAT WE’RE MADE OF” and a lot of it just ended with them getting their noses bent.

This is not my favorite book of the series. It makes a strong woman look weak and needy, and the actions the characters take are stupid and dangerous given the stakes. I’m going to wait a bit before beginning Valley of Silence, because it has my favorite pairing and the battle is cool, but I have to get this Nora Roberts taste out of my mouth so it doesn’t spoil it for me.

Those That Matter Don’t Mind

There are three types of people in the world today that absolutely infuriate me. They are people who, regardless of their intentions, slow down the solutions process. They are almost completely incapable of staying focused and are the golden retriever running around the backyard every time you yell SQUIRREL! For each group, squirrel is something different, but each time I just want to slap them and scream WHO CARES WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!

The Historian

Oh Twitter, you love to give me so much good shit, but sometimes you are so full of shit I can’t even stand it. And the shit that I can’t stand that my feed is rife with is the do gooder that just wants you to know things. The best example of this can be centered in the current horrific immigration situation happening at the Mexico border, where asylum seeking families are being separated. Children are being kept in cages and tent cities while the parents are kept in detention facilities I guess? I’m not here to discuss the horror because I just can’t, I’m here to give an example.

So someone says OMG THIS IS TERRIBLE THIS ISN’T AMERICA SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE.

~A historian appears!~

WELL ACTUALLY THIS IS AMERICA *states facts about Native Americans and Asians and schools and internment camps in some long thread with links and pictures*

While I am 100% here for having a historical foundation for understanding current events, what I am not a fan of is someone I have never met (1) assuming I am a fucking moron who doesn’t understand America is built on the blood and tears of native peoples, (2) assuming I didn’t pay attention to some of the most horrific linchpins of American history, (3) THAT I HAVE TIME FOR A FUCKING CONDESCENDING HISTORY LESSON WHEN BABIES ARE LITERALLY BEING TORN FROM THE BREASTS OF THEIR MOTHERS AND KEPT ~SOMEPLACE ELSE~

There is a time for being a “well, actually” smug liberal douche and there is a time for action and I think that we need to stop being assholes to each other online and start organizing and working together in the real world.

The Contrarian

You’re online and understandably upset about an issue. We live in the After Times so honestly you can take your pick. Shit is wild everywhere. Let’s say you’re nervous because Trump is stacking the federal courts with his judges that are 10 years younger than judges appointed by previous administrations and look to be affecting federal court decisions for the next 60 years at least. You’re worried about that moderate Supreme Court justice who is talking about retiring, and wondering if the Democrats in the Senate have the balls to hold up a Trump nominee like the Republicans held up Merrick Garland’s nomination (hint: they don’t). You are a long gamer and are worried about what life and laws will be like when you get old.

You post about this. You tweet or write on Facebook or whatever.

~A contrarian appears!~

HOW CAN YOU BE WORRIED ABOUT THIS WHEN CHILDREN ARE IN CAGES?!?!

HOW CAN YOU BE WORRIED ABOUT THIS WHEN EPA REGULATIONS ARE BEING DESTROYED?!?!

HOW CAN YOU BE WORRIED ABOUT THIS WHEN THE WELFARE SYSTEM IS BEING DISMANTLED?!?!?!

And on, and on and on.

The contrarian’s goals aren’t just to change your focus, they attempt to make you feel bad or guilty for wasting your time on one issue when there are so many demanding your attention. Or, conversely, the issue they care about is so much more important and they want to get you on their side and away from that other icky non-important at the moment crap.

Now look. I can care about everything but I can only truly understand a few things at a time, and I’m someone who reads a ton and is on the internet a good portion of the day learning things. I watch the news all the time. I ask questions. I want to be knowledgeable enough about a few things that I can consider myself to be up on it. I don’t need to know ALL the EPA regulations to be able to say “destroying the environment is bad” and so I can coast on that and spend more time on how the court system works or immigration law or even how far federal education officials can stretch before they hit the walls of state control. We all have our niche issues.

SO STOP SHAMING PEOPLE ABOUT THINGS THAT THEY DON’T KNOW AS MUCH ABOUT. Also LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE, LET THEM FIND WHAT THEY WANT TO CARE ABOUT AND BE PASSIONATE ABOUT IN THIS ABSOLUTE HELLSCAPE. We can’t all care about the same things all at the same time or something is going to fall through the cracks. Stop being so self-important and form a community of people who all know about different things and learn from each other.

Often Historians and Contrarians get into fights because historians won’t shut up about their topic and Contrarians want them to care about more things so it’s breadth and depth having a massive showdown which no one wins and kids are still being kept in cages and abortion might be illegal in the next ten years. But keep fighting on Twitter guys, you will discover who is the smartest person in the internet at some point.

The Denialist

Of course we wouldn’t be where we are today if (mostly conservative but some far-left liberal) people hadn’t cultivated the art of “prove it” online. “I don’t believe you, WHAT ARE YOUR SOURCES??” And then you scramble to basically make a works cited page for this stranger on the internet to show how smart you are and then they say “Those are all probably biased and it’s not going to change my mind. We’ll just have to agree to disagree OR I have a right to my opinion like you have a right to yours.”

These people will deny facts. They will deny your personal experience. They will deny your education and expertise. They will give you just an inkling that they might be open to understanding, but that’s just bait to tire you out so they can just walk away and leave you frustrated and jaded. We live in an era of ignorance, and it is a cancer that shows no sign of slowing down. It isn’t just ignorance either, it is willful stupidity and purposeful denial of reality.

The denialist will show up in your comments or tweets (if you haven’t blocked them already) and throw out some stupid fucking statement that anyone with half a brain would know is 100% false and conjecture. That’s the worm. I have learned not to bite and to just block them immediately BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO ME. I want to repeat that one more time to those of you who are reading this right now and thinking “come on Amanda, we have to keep an open discourse if we’re going to make anything better.” THEY. ARE. NOT. GOING. TO. LISTEN. TO. YOU. PERIOD.

***

These three types of people, whether you encounter them online or in real life, exist to make things all about themselves, or at the very least to distract you from whatever you are doing. The historian wants you to feel small because you might not have an encyclopedic knowledge of whatever. The contrarian wants you to feel like you don’t care enough and that they care way more than you. The denialist simply wants to turn you against yourself and walk away fed by your wasted and expended energies. All three are complete black holes of wasted time. All three exist to steal your focus and your energy away from the real goal.

What is the real goal?

The answer to this is honestly whatever you want it to be. Like I said, it’s the After Times, so take your pick. Racism, gun violence, school shootings, immigration, corruption, the environment, education, pay inequality, getting Flint, MI some fucking clean water – goddamn just throw a stone and whatever issue it hits first is totally yours! And chances are there are quite a few people and organizations already working towards the same goal that you are interested in.

You can give money, you can give time, you can write letters or call people. I imagine it’s kind of like working for a campaign only you are supporting an issue instead. We live in the era of the internet, and so you can literally type “how can I support gun reform” into google and it will spit out a million things you can use to help you decide what to do and how to act.

You can care about everything, but we have limited resources. Just because you aren’t talking about Flint doesn’t mean you don’t care about it. Just because you aren’t wearing an orange ribbon doesn’t mean you aren’t a proponent of ending school shootings and gun violence. But you have to pick something and find a way to give just a nudge so you’ve done your part to move this giant ball of shit in the right direction. If all we do is tweet and comment and argue online without actually doing anything, that shitball is just going to get bigger and smellier.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we can’t just sit back and do nothing anymore. Having a government that let us do that (for the most part) ended in 2016. Choose the issues that matter the most to you and put your time or money where your mouth is. Something as simple as ResistBot is free and will help you contact your elected officials on a consistent basis. Any of us can handle that. What you do above and beyond that is completely up to you.

Most importantly though, don’t let these three types of people distract you. STAY FOCUSED. If someone you suspect to be one of these three types of people pops up in your feed and starts to bait you, did you know that you don’t have to respond, and if they get too obstinate with you that you can even block them? It’s fucking magical! Find other like minded people and organizations that have your same mission in mind. Follow those people, join those groups, and go out there and make a difference.

The world is watching. People are counting on us. Children are counting on us. Let’s get out there and do something about it.

52 in 52: Go Someplace Alone

Week 24 of the year! I took the entire month of May off from this series and I AM SO SORRY about that. Honestly that entire month was a whirlwind of testing and waiting to hear if I was going to be transferred and then all the work that goes into ending the school year – it was a lot. So I wasn’t doing a lot of the things on my list.

Last week the husband was in Utah grading AP World History exams from all over the world, so I spent the week at home with all the chores and pet stuff to take care of on my lonesome. Granted since it was only me it wasn’t that big of a deal, but once he got back I knew I wanted to take a day or two to just be by myself with no obligations so I could get what I need so badly – solitude and quiet. I also knew I’d be working on my novel, and two days without interruptions would be absolute gold for me to make a big dent in that word count.

Here’s a short recounting of my weekend.

Friday night

I arrived at the hotel around 4:30pm, and upon my arrival I discovered that I had been named the hotel’s Guest of the Day! This honor bestowed upon me the right to 25% off a meal at the hotel restaurant and a free drink from the bar. Woo!

Instead of eating in the completely deserted hotel restaurant I ventured out to the small collection of eateries located just next to the hotel. The choices were Mexican, Family Italian, Fancy Italian, Beer, and Ice Cream. I was going to get Family Mexican, but the moment I walked into the place a 6 man mariachi band burst into music in this small restaurant and honestly I would rather eat at Beer than try to eat peacefully while a trumpet screams La Cucaracha in my ear, so I went across the street to Fancy Italian and filled myself with salt and also chicken.

I had the best of intentions about going to bed but then I found Avatar on HBO and then suddenly it was 1am and when I stay up after midnight I turn into a pumpkin so I did not sleep well.

Saturday

At breakfast I chased a couple of assholes out of the hotel restaurant via the manager kicking them out because they were rude to the waitress, not actually guests of the hotel, and breaking the rules about taking a bunch of food out. They didn’t talk to me because, as they stated to the waitress that they HAD to talk to, they didn’t talk to women. That was when I decided to have them thrown out.

I went out and got lunch and some snackies at the local Publix, and then managed to write another 1100 words for my novel. Check out #1000wordsofsummer on Twitter. It’s a pretty cool hashtag for motivating people to write so if you’re interested in joining me you are more than welcome. The hashtag is sponsored by Jami Attenberg, author of AAB favorite All Grown Up.

I also made progress in my favorite video game, read some books, and had my 25% off dinner and free drink down in the hotel restaurant. I actually got to bed at a reasonable hour this time, which led to a much better night’s sleep.

Sunday

When I went down to breakfast the waitress that was there on Saturday actually did an “I’m excited to see you!” dance and said “yay yay yay” when I arrived at breakfast. I’m not going to lie, that made me feel pretty fantastic. Never underestimate the power of helping people, even when that help is just standing up with or in front of another person so they know they aren’t alone. I treated myself to an extra slice of french toast.

I arranged for a late check out and wrote my thousand words. I packed, read a book, watched tv, and played some video games. Once it hit noon I could call our Thai place and order some food to take home, and then I checked out.

This was just enough time for me to feel alone and refreshed and I didn’t even have to go that far from home. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner and I will definitely be doing it again!

Taking Your Life In Your Hands

It is no secret that I grew up in rural Maine. The road we lived on was not paved until I graduated from high school, and even then only partially – it became dirt again before you would get to our driveway. Our road went from being called a “Rural Route” to an actual road around the time I made it to third grade. Our family vacations extended to visiting people that had houses in places that weren’t where we were from: grandparents, friends of my parents, and relatives. I spent a lot of my summers in other people’s houses, sometimes which ran exclusively on generators. I can flush a toilet with a bucket of water and have ridden a 4-wheeler for non-recreational purposes.

The first time I traveled outside of New England was when I was accepted into the Honor Band of America which was held in Indianapolis. That was also the first time I flew in a commercial airplane and the first time I saw African American people in real life. I was 16 years old.

I grew up in one of the whitest states in the nation and due to my rural location, attended one of the whitest high schools in the state. I then went to college at the University of Maine, located in Orono, which is a city just north of one of the largest cities in Maine (Bangor: pronounced Bang-gor not Banger), and it was not an internationally diverse student body. My exposure to other cultures or other people was severely limited through age 22.

Then I moved across the country to Arizona, and dove into an environment I was not prepared for but which opened my eyes to so many amazing things. I also learned about issues that did not exist in Maine outside of the small Somalian refugee settlements that everyone loved to complain and be racist about.

Because being dirt poor in a brand new very diverse place wasn’t enough of a challenge for me, I started my master’s degree that year and decided to visit a very close friend whose family had a house in Scotland. Yes, Scotland. Did you know that the majority of Americans don’t even own a passport? Well I had to get one and I have kept it current ever since. So I took myself to the airport and navigated flying, customs, and everything completely by myself for my first international trip in my entire life at age 23.

Granted we mostly hung out at their house, jet lag hit me pretty hard, and we did get out to see the sights, but my best memory was going with her family to a Scotsman’s house on the coast for New Year’s Eve. We sat around, ate appetizers, drank a bit, and then we all went out on the wharf to count down to midnight and there was singing and hugging and everyone was just having a good time.

This is the kind of travel experience that you can expect to see on shows run by Rick Steves or the late Anthony Bourdain. Sure now that I’m traveling more I can stay at hotels and see actual touristy sites, so I’m less likely to stay in people’s houses and share meals, but the message that these gentlemen bring to all of us through their shows is that travel increases knowledge, and the more you know and experience of other people’s cultures, the less likely you will fear them, and fear breeds racism and anger, leading to terrible decisions about how to relate to the rest of the world. I agree with this 100% and shudder to think about how I would be now if I had not ventured beyond the comfort zone of my upbringing.

While Rick Steves is my loveable nerd that lives in the attic of a quaint couple anywhere in Europe, Anthony Bourdain spoke to my angry heart. He was a bit more gritty than Steves, and his chef experience always meant that his episodes would be more about the food where he traveled. Food is the number one most exciting thing about traveling for me, so watching his shows was always fun and enjoyable because I could imagine what eating all those neat things might be like.

Connecting to the idea that travel is enlightening, Bourdain also tried to bring awareness to places that might seem so distant as to make us not care or not understand the seriousness of events that were happening in certain places. He was not here for anyone’s bullshit. One of his most famous traveling rants was his anger towards Henry Kissinger over the atrocities in Cambodia.

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”  – Anthony Bourdain, in the 2001 book A Cook’s Tour

God bless you, you fucking delicious angry angel. I love a good rant/take down, and it’s important to bring truth to the masses, especially when atrocities like this are happening half a world away and again, most Americans will never travel outside of the U.S.

Last week I was sitting down with breakfast and a cup of coffee when breaking news hurtled across my local 24 hour news station that Anthony Bourdain was found dead of apparent suicide. I said “Oh my God!” out of shock, and then messaged the husband, who was in Utah grading AP exams. This one hit us hard.

 

I thought of a lot of things to write about this, but every time I wrote something long and heartfelt, that involved my own personal experience with suicidal thoughts and depression, I deleted it because I know that my principal knows about this website, and the last thing I want to do is have my work life turn unbearable because the stigma attached to any mental illness is that I might be crazy or out of control. BTW I’m not.

And maybe the fact that I can’t write about my personal story is testament enough to the idea that mental illness is still so misunderstood and poorly treated that people have to hide it as best they can. If we don’t, we can’t get jobs, we can’t hold jobs, all because we have a treatable, manageable illness. Imagine not being able to get a job because you have asthma or irritable bowel syndrome. Mental illness is the same as physical illness – I am not crazy, I’m just depressed.

Adding to this stigma is the fact that the way people use the word “depressed” is to mean that they are very sad. Kind of like how people will say they are ADD or OCD without actually having those diagnoses – people think it’s funny if they like to organize their closets by color or can’t pay attention to their book long enough because they have to check Twitter, so they label themselves. This dilutes the understanding necessary for the actual diagnoses and only adds to the ignorance.

Depression is so much more than sadness. It’s hard for me to describe it because while some symptoms are the same, and of course the chemical imbalance is something you can google and read about on wikipedia or WebMD, the personal asshole that a depressed person has living in a small cottage in their mind is different for everyone, and the lies that they spout are dangerously, furiously individualized and specific to their victim. For me it’s not about being sad always, most of the time it’s about feeling nothing or what my therapist (who isn’t covered under my health plan anymore so I have to find a new one) called feeling numb.

Trust me, sometimes thinking about all the great things that are going on is a good way to manage the depression. If the symptoms aren’t very strong, thinking about happy puppies might be enough to get some feelings through the numb shell. But depression isn’t a thing that responds to “just cheer up!” or “Smile and you’ll convince your mind you’re happy!” Depression requires therapy, medication, or a combination of the two to make life manageable.

So when I started seeing statements about how Bourdain was doing what he loved and had everything, how could he take his own life? – these made me feel even worse. You can have everything and still suffer from depression. You can be a billionaire or a homeless person and suffer from depression. Anyone can get a broken bone or have heart disease and anyone can have depression. It is an illness, not a momentary sadness. It is treatable, it is possible to be okay and live with an illness. Imagine if someone died of cancer and we said “why did they die, they had so much going for them, they had it all!” Ridiculous, right? Replace the word “cancer” with “depression” and it means the same thing.

When I learned that not only did Bourdain give me insights into travel and food and how to love the experience, but that he also shared something more intimate with me than I could have ever guessed, I was heartbroken over his loss. When I see suicides in the news, it’s a terrible reminder that this illness I have could attack at any time, and that could be me on the tv, but no one would care because I’m not an Anthony Bourdain, I’m just me. That last part was written by my depression, and I let it write it because you need to see how quick and sneaky it can be.

I took some time to think about how Bourdain, Steves, and others show us that travel opens doors and prevents hate, and realized that the same could be said about depression. One of the clearest ways to get help is to communicate what you need, to not shut yourself up even when that’s your first inclination. Go out and tell someone you need help. If you see someone withdrawing, ask if they need to talk. Go out and be among other people, eat their food, listen to their music, and if we are talking to others about our shared experiences, that lying voice in our head won’t be as loud.

So while Bourdain’s suicide is a stark reminder that none of us who battle the illness are immune regardless of circumstances, it also reminds us that we cannot continue to retreat into our individual bubbles and force everyone else to fend for themselves. We must offer help when we can, and request help when we need it. Tell your story if you can, share your experiences with others. Be brave, and bit by bit the stigma surrounding mental illness will be chipped away. Travel into other places, even if that other place is simply your neighbor’s kitchen, and share a meal. This is how we will survive, by seeking to understand each other and to support each other while taking that understanding into consideration.

We have lost an angry angel, but his lessons are still with us. Read. Be Brave. Stay Angry.

Stay.

 

The Mars Room

The Mars Room

Synopsis here on Goodreads

A stripper goes to jail for killing her stalker to protect herself and her child. As she moves through the prison system we learn more about her past, the stories of the prisoners she interacts with, and the intricacies of the prison system itself.

This book is my own personal nightmare come to life. It’s like what would happen if the Cell Block Tango became a book about those women, but with the horrors of the prison industrial complex that exist today.

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t finish this one. I was having nightmares about being arrested or raped or stuck behind bars and unable to call the husband – being trapped anyplace is terrifying to me and being in prison in America is 100% a trap that hardly anyone escapes from. And I just couldn’t read about it any more.

Another book I’ve read this year that really strikes home the horror of our US prison system was An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and in that book you’re also given a taste of how the justice and prison systems are particularly unfair to PoC as well. Both books were extremely troubling to me, but I would say that The Mars Room was somehow darker and more revealing.

If you don’t know anything about how tangled a mess our prison system is you need to go read both of these books. It will make you furious and sad and scared all at the same time.

Also I do want to take this moment and remind you that if you have an initiative on your state’s ballot that gives felons the right to vote, please be sure to vote yes on that shit. Do it now. They deserve to have a say in the world in which they live, and that world should not be a prison that just happens to them. They did their time. We live in a democracy and everyone that shares a community with us should have a vote. I plan to vote to restore the voting rights for felons here in Florida this fall, and if you live in Florida you should too.

This book was very good, so good that I had to put it down because of my own fears. You should give it a try. It is well written and very revealing. Rachel Kushner definitely did her homework. Go get you some.