Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Love Me a Tropical Vacation, but...

...after 28 years of living in snowy climates*, I still react to snow like this:
...and that tells me I'm always going to live amidst snow and ice.

*  Yeah, you too, DC.  I'm not buying into that creepy mass amnesia you people get about the fact that it snows every damn year.

Our Love is Like Byzantium

I don't really like poetry generally, but when I DO like it, I love it.  Like this one.

Our love is like Byzantium
must have been
on the last evening. There must have been
I imagine
a glow on the faces
of those who crowded the streets
or stood in small groups
on streetcorners and public squares
speaking together in low voices
that must have resembled
the glow your face has
when you brush your hair back
and look at me.

I imagine they haven't spoken
much, and about rather
ordinary things
that they have been trying to say
and have stopped
without having managed to express
what they wanted
and have been trying again
and given up again
and have been loking at each other
and lowered their eyes.

Very old icons, for instance,
have that kind of glow
the blaze of a burning city
or the glow which approaching death
leaves on photographs of people who died young
in the memory of those left behind.

When I turn towards you
in bed, I have a feeling
of stepping into a church
that was burned down long ago
and where only the darkness in the eyes of the icons
has remained
filled with the flames
which annihilated them.

--Henrik Nordbrandt
(translated by Henrik Nordbrandt and Alexander Taylor)
The Theotokos of Vladimir

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don't Worry Everyone Awesome Hockey is Coming

As you know, I've been supportive of the Occupy movement, and I've been talking with a friend about what needs to get occupied (also when the guillotines should be deployed, but whatever, details.) and every now and then it's like "OCCUPY MOSCOW!" and then we remember that, you know, Putin.
So that's suppressive.  And then we think of some other things to occupy, and then eventually, "OCCUPY ST. PETERSBURG!"
Every now and then we try to switch it up old school with some "OCCUPY STALINGRAD!" action but it really always comes down to "nyet" and we kind of had to give up the dream of Occupying Moscow because the "ex" in "ex-KGB" is silent and no one wants to mess with Putin because he is terrifying.   It's hard to give up your dreams sometimes but that's what you have to do.  

Let's shelve that for a second and talk about another thing that we argue about, that being why the NHL All Star Game sucks.  There is general agreement that the All Star Game sucks because Gary Bettman is an ass, because that is the stock explanation for anything in hockey sucking for us, but there's also a consensus that the All Star Game sucks because there's no pride being played for.  The example that my friend usually defaults to is that of the 1979 Challenge Cup, which replaced the All Star Game and featured the NHL's best versus the Soviet hockey team, which was at the time one of the most dominant forces in the world.  In that series, there was a real us vs. them feel, and the hockey was spectacular.

This conversation usually devolves into "so if we could just get some Soviets back, we could have good hockey at the All Star Game again, even though everyone would get gulaged again and that would be bad."  And then we sigh wistfully because obviously with Putin (...nyet) in charge, things will continue to get managed because that is what he is good at.

And then this happened.
"No, YOU nyet!"
Russians are out in the streets protesting their faces off over the most recent election results, which featured extravagant election fraud and made everyone angry (and rightfully so), turning out up to 100,000 people into the streets in protest, which in Russia at pretty much any point in the past 100+ years is remarkable.  Needless to say, I decided that this would lead to an incredibly tight crackdown from the Putin government, leading to a new Soviet era and thus good hockey again.  How could this possibly go wrong??  I, for one, can't wait.

PS - effin' YOU GO, Russia!  Don't give up!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Get Help Early and Often

Last year, one of the Worcester Sharks committed suicide.  His name was Tom Cavanaugh and he was a local boy who came from a big hockey family in Rhode Island and played at Harvard.  After his death, his long struggle with mental illness came out in the open.  This was a huge shock for a lot of people, because Tom Cavanaugh was a uniformly charming, bright, sparkling person in public to most of us who had met him, be it in passing or more closely.  He seemed to genuinely enjoy his hockey community, and I think he probably did - but the reality of mental illness is that it is a rollercoaster: you can be doing something you love and have moments of real joy, but the next moment be dragged down into the murk.  This surprise, I think, speaks volumes of the way we think about mental illness.  We confuse putting a brave face on with being okay, and making it through the day with success or happiness.

I know this in part because I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life, and whenever I tell people this, they are surprised.  I'm generally an upbeat person, particularly so in public, so the idea that I get depressed is surprising to people.  My depression is not crippling, as it can be for others, but it is still something I have to be aware of and seek treatment for at certain times.  I have been lucky enough to have truly supportive people in my life who have encouraged me and borne me up when I was having a rough time of it.

I don't think there's a person on this planet who wouldn't benefit from some talk therapy.  There is something so helpful in having a neutral audience who can make suggestions based on knowledge and experience.  I mentioned the surprise that people express when I mention my depression, and that's part of why a neutral audience is so important; a therapist is trained to keep their personal connection with you (should they develop one) out of it.  As I said above, I have amazing friends and family who have been supportive of me, but when I express my persistent anxiety that I am not smart, or not smart enough, most of those friends and family brush that off, often saying that I am the - or one of the - smartest people they know.  That's awesome to hear, obviously, and intellectually I know that I am plenty smart, but that doesn't mean I don't stress about it.  My anxiety is not rational.  A therapist can help me talk through that in a way that's difficult for friends to do, because...they're our friends!  Friends think their friends are awesome!  It's a rare friend who can step back enough to work through depression and anxiety with you without judgment or instability, and I'm not sure that should be a friend's responsibility.

I encourage everyone to consider talk therapy, whether they are momentarily stressed or persistently traumatized.  You should also go into therapy remembering that the first person you see might not be the right fit for you!  I've been to many therapists, and not all of them have been effective for me - some wanted me to write things down, some wanted to trace back problems to the root, some wanted to spend a ton of time on building a history, some just wanted to get some coping mechanisms in place.  Therapists are people, and you might not click with them, just like you might not click with some coworkers.  Keep trying.  Don't be afraid to ask if an initial consult is free.  Don't give up!  And remember: mental illness doesn't make you weak and it doesn't make you not awesome.  Some of us who suffer with it are doing exactly what they love, looking like everything is perfect.  Happiness and opportunity don't exempt you from mental illness, and mental illness doesn't have to bar you from happiness and opportunity.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for free 24/7 at (800) 273-TALK or go to their website for help.  If you are looking for mental health resources, check out SAMHSA's lookup on their website.  You can also look for local therapists through Psychology Today, your health insurance provider's website, or even sites like Yelp.  Don't be afraid - they're there for you.
Rest well, Tom.