Two days ago we lost the greatest comedian and one of the greatest people I believe I will see in this lifetime. I saw the news on yahoo, right there on the front page, and before I saw the cause of his death at all, I was heartsick. Then I read that it was probably suicide and that he probably killed himself because of depression and my heart sank. My first thought was that it seemed a cruel joke that someone who brought joy to so many lives could not find a shred of happiness left to hold onto at the end. But I know the drill. Because I, like millions of others scattered throughout this amazing planet of ours, suffer from depression. For me it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, probably inherited from my amazing grandmother. Along with her attitude and her soft heart where anything soft and cuddly is concerned, I also inherited her despair and her occasional feelings of hopelessness, the ability to be there for everyone but myself, and, thankfully, her ability to hang on despite that. So while Robin's death and the cause and the fact that it occurred by his own hand is still a terrible tragedy to me and I still wish he had reached out to someone, anyone, that night instead of taking his own life, I know why he didn't. I know he felt that despair, that hopelessness, and the isolation that comes with it, as if there isn't a single soul in the entire world who could possibly understand why you are sitting there thinking of taking your own life when it appears to them that nothing is wrong. The truth about depression is that nothing has to be wrong the way everyone else defines it. Hell, the day need only end in Y to have you there, sitting on the floor, thinking about how much better everyone would be if you were gone...
I debated on whether to write about this. I thought that perhaps it would be best if I just focused on all the laughs and the work and the way that he touched so many lives. But everyone else seems to be discussing it. And I do try to keep it real on this blog. So it seems like the ultimate act of my pride to refuse to talk about it. The fact is, in addition to feeling completely isolated when the worst of the depression comes, I do not talk about how I feel as a rule because of my pride. I've told myself all my life that strength is keeping your mouth shut about your problems and dealing with them yourself, be they physical or mental. So when I have a bad day...a really bad day...I smile and I say I am fine and I wait until I am alone to cry and then I go back out to those who love me and I continue to smile, continue to say I'm fine, until I am fine again. I also crack jokes, sometimes about the most inappropriate things, terrible things that have happened in my life. Why? Because if you can't laugh about it how the hell will you get through it, right?
A lot of Robin's stand-up comedy was full of jokes like that, jokes about his divorces and his alcoholism and other fucked up things that happened throughout his life. I have no doubt that there were probably times when jokes like that saved him from hurting himself in the past. His work may have saved his life many times before because I know that no one thinks of suicide once, does it, and has done with it. Suicide is something that sticks in your mind, you hold the image tight, you know how you would do it and where you could do it so you won't be an imposition to your family, you think about what it might feel like to have the life slipping from you....but I, personally, never think about what it would feel like to stand on the other side and realize I had just fucked up in a BIG way. Then again, I never intend to do it. But I do think about it. On the worst of the days with Crohn's, when the worst of the pain is slamming through my body and I am telling myself I cannot take one more fucking moment of it, I close my eyes and....
"It was in the bathroom, with the kitchen knife, and the moron with the slit wrists in the tub did it...." Like some incredibly morbid game of Clue.
I nearly tried it once. I was eleven years old. It was about three years before I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, and it was one of the worst times of my life. I had this piece of glass and I still carry the scar on my arm where I tried it out to see if it was sharp enough to cut through the vein in my wrist. It wasn't. So I got up to search for something sharper, found a knife, and sat on the edge of my twin bed to finish the job. That's when my baby sister, two years old at the time, walked in with her eyes wide asking me why I was bleeding from the shallow cut I made moments before. That snapped me back into reality. Realizing this precious baby could have come in on her sister bleeding to death made me realize I was being a damned fool....and that afternoon made me believe I had lost my fucking mind.
It took me two years to recover from that bought of depression, mostly because I was too young to tell myself that everything, no matter how hopeless it seems, is temporary. One day you look back on the worst times of your life, those times that seemed like they would destroy you, and as long as you don't kill yourself you will have the chance to smile and tell yourself, "Look. I made it. I got through it." My life mottos became 'This too shall pass' and 'Keep on keeping on'. I still chant them in my head over and over like a mantra on the bad days. And that whole 'everything is temporary' thing worked well for about a decade. Until Crohn's and its buddy epilepsy joined the Rheumatoid Arthritis and the uterine/ovarian problems I have that may make it impossible for me to ever have a child....All of these things....so painful, so degenerative, and so very very permanent. Nothing isolates more than the pit of depression and nothing shoves you in that pit more than physical pain 24/7 and the total loss of your quality of life in your 20's. So again, I had to find something to tell myself to keep me from getting the kitchen knives out to test which one might cut through vein. I had to fight even harder with music and meditation and anything I could tell myself to make me go on another day against the depression. And I am still fighting. All the fucking time. But you know what? I'm still here. I have every odd stacked against me but I am still here. Not because I'm stronger or wiser or better, somehow, than Robin Williams and the millions more who have taken their lives, but simply because I have to see what is around every single corner. I am the person who will finish a book that sucks half-way through it because I have to know how it ends. That is why I am still alive. Seems pretty silly, huh? But it's true. I'll be damned if I kill myself the day before my life would have changed drastically for the best and any day could be that day soooo.....
I keep seeing comments from people pleading with those who suffer from depression to talk about it. Maybe some will. Look. It worked on me. But if you are close to someone with depression, I am pleading with you to see the differences in them when the despair comes. Notice the differences in when they are actually fine and when they lie to you saying they are fine. Because when your friend or your loved one is at his/her worst, she/he is feeling like there is no one on earth that will understand, no one else that ever felt this way, and no way to explain it. And when he/she is truly suicidal? You won't know until it's too late. It isn't easy to try to explain to a "normal" person that you woke up feeling like you would be better off dead and, what's more, that everyone else would be better off too because the typical response for that is "Why? What's wrong?" and we have no answer for that. So don't wait for someone you love to tell you that he or she is depressed or suicidal. Don't wait for answers we don't have. Notice the changes and just be there. Show the people you love that no matter what the depression is saying, it will get better, at least for a little while. It's always darkest before the dawn. And it is possible to make it through the night.
As for Robin Williams, I hope he is feeling peace today. I hope the memory of that beautiful man who tried so hard to make the world happy lasts forever. And I hope that if he taught the world nothing else, he taught us all how to laugh through the pain until the dawn comes again. He will be so missed...
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
In honor of the forty-fifth anniversary of Woodstock, I am giving the book away from August 15th through the 17th. There is a description for the book on amazon, of course, and I also have an entire blog that has stuff related to the book like music, parts of the story, etc. So, if you are interested, the link to the book is http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Made-Sand-Keair-Snyder-ebook/dp/B006K1YN2E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1407870469&sr=8-2&keywords=keair+snyder
And the link to the blog is http://castlesmadeofsandthenextstep.blogspot.com/ but keep in mind that it has been ages since I've done anything with that blog and it was worked on probably fifteen edits ago. haha
Also, Castles and Beauty and the Beast are both enrolled in the book lending program so if you have subscribed to that, it is always free for you. :)
Friday, August 1, 2014
Today is Lughnasadh or Lammas depending on what you prefer to call it. It is the first of three harvest festivals and it kicks off a month that I personally dread year after year. I have, however, come to see the purpose in the "curse" of August, as I call it. Looking back, it is clear that the things that have gone wrong during that month in the past have all related to the things that I needed to change or cast off. And that makes sense with the energy of this Sabbat as well. Today is a day to think about your life, to reflect on what has grown and what has come into your life that you wanted since spring, and to think about the things that you need to discard or let go of. It is not an easy ride, this letting go, but with me, I know that if I don't do it myself, August will do it for me in a very messy way.....
Lughnasadh is one of the Cross Quarter Sabbats that was celebrated by the Ancient Celts. It was a Harvest Festival, one of the fire festivals, and it was a celebration of the God Lugh. Lugh is a harvest God, as one might assume given the nature of this Sabbat, and he was also known as the Master of Skills for his mastery in things like Black Smith work. He is a very talented God and, like all Celtic Deities (or at least all that I know of) he was Tuatha de Dannan, at least partially (his mother was Formoian but in the battle between the two races, he stood and fought with the Tuatha). Traditionally, this Sabbat was a celebration of the harvest of grain.
Scott Cunningham, in his book'Book of Shadows' described Lughnasadh like this:
"Lughnasadh is the time of the first harvest when the plants of spring wither and drop their fruits or seeds for our use as well as to ensure future crops. Mystically, so too does the God lose His strength as the sun rises farther in the south each day and the nights grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow and joy as she realizes that the God is dying and yet lives inside Her as Her child. Lughnasadh, also known as August Eve, Feast of Bread, Harvest Home, and Lammas, wasn't always observed on this day. It originally coincided with the first reapings. As summer passes, Wiccans remember its warmth and bounty in this food we eat. Every meal is an act of attunement with nature and we are reminded that nothing in the universe is constant."
The correspondents for this Sabbat come from 'Season of Witchery' by Ellen Dugan:
Theme: First harvest, goal setting, creativity
Energy: Relaxation, reflection
Deities: Lugh, Rosemerta
Colors: Gold, yellow, green, golden brown
Crystals and stones: Ruby, malachite, blood stone, rutilated quartz (?)
Herbs: Rosemary, hyssop, artemisis, wheat, sage, lavender, thyme
Flowers: Asters, late summer roses, coneflowers, sunflowers, brown-eyed-susans, wild butterfly weed
Scents: Rose, orange, geranium, sage
Decorations: Sunflowers, dried wheat, corn, fresh fruit
Foods: zucchini, green peppers, tomatoes, squash, sweet corn, wheat, blackberries, barely, breads
Anyone who has read my previous posts knows the drill when it comes to the way that I write out the outline of the ritual I perform for the Sabbats. If you have not read any of my previous posts on Sabbats, I begin with Silver Ravenwolf's Incantation from her book 'Solitary Witch' and then I go straight into the ritual from Edain McCoy's book 'Sabbats'. These sources have been invaluable to me in the construction of my own rituals.
Lughnasadh Ritual Outline
"The King and Queen are wed at last while summer's kiss turns fields and grass/The harvest gold and garden gifts find sacrifices on earthen lips./ Witches gather hand and hand/Power raised along the band/Vortex spiral in its quest/force to form I manifest!/ Bonfires, dancing circle round, fruits and produce from the ground/ Offer up a feast of praise while shadows lengthen in the maze/Witches gather hand in hand/ Power raised along the band/ Vortex spiral in its quest/force to form I manifest!/ August sun turns all to bronze, golden children singing songs/ Fireflies flutter in the dusk touching all with faery dust/Witches gather hand in hand/Power raised along the band/Vortex spiral in its quest/Force to form, I manifest!/Dark Lord melts into the night, taking with him summer's light/Merging wishes, law, and might; removing evil from our sight./Witches gather hand in hand/Power raised along the band/Vortex spiral in its quest/force to form I manifest!"
For this ritual you'll need a loaf of bread and a Corn Dolly.
Cast the circle and call quarters. Say:
"Blessed be the season of Lughnasadh,time of the first harvest, time of the earth's bounty born. The womb of the Goddess is open and out spills the grain that sustains us."
Take the bread from the altar and say:
"Many blessings I have been given. I count them now by this bread of the grain of Mother Earth."
Name all the things you are thankful for one by one. With each thing you name, break off a piece of bread and eat it. When you are finished doing this say:
"Thank you, Great Mother. I ask of you humbly that you accept my offering of this bread. May it be used to feed your loved ones in nature."
Put the bread aside so that, when you are finished with your ritual, you can place it outside as a libation (offering) to the faeries and the animals. Take the Grain Dolly from the alter and hold it in your arms like a baby.
"This child of nature is the promise of the Deities fulfilled, the fruit of the union of the Great Mother and her consort, the Grain God. Blessed be the God whose seed plants that life. Blessed be the grain of the earth."
Replace the Dolly on the altar. If you are outdoors and it's night, star-gaze. When you are finished, close the circle and say:
"The circle is open, but never broken.
I understand that many of you may not have a Corn Dolly just lying around. I see no reason why you couldn't substitute it with an ear of corn or something along those lines. The thing about these Solitary rituals is that they can be modified to fit individual needs. As I said, this is only an outline of the way that I perform the ritual. I hope that this first harvest blesses all of you and I wish you all luck with discarding or letting go of those things that just aren't working for you anymore. That is the hardest part about this Sabbat and this month but it can also be a positive step in your life. :)