(Who am I kidding, it's never over with).
One of the most frustrating parts about suffering from depression is that everyone, including a lot of those "how to help people with depression" guides, assumes that I want to talk about my feelings. That being helpful constitutes trying to hug me or getting me to talk.
Like, no....FUCK feelings. I would love for someone to physically help me do the things I am incapable of doing but need to do. Go to the grocery, or fill out important paperwork, or write a decent resumé. Eat food. I dunno. Things that actually might impact the state of my life for the better.
Depression is not "feeling sad." Depression leaches you of the motivation or will or actual mental capacity to help yourself. It's not that you're being lazy, or wallowing in your feelings. Sometimes you're not even aware of WHAT you are feeling - you just cannot perform up to the bare minimum standard of being a person for some reason.
You forget everything if it's not tied to you/written down in 15 places. You forget everything even if it IS tied to you/written down in 15 places. You misplace things. You forget what day it is. You lose track of time until suddenly all of these crucial things are happening all at once. You have random attacks of anxiety seemingly out of the blue - attacks which can make it uncomfortable or difficult to breathe, or leave you feeling like you're going to die or pass out. You start to fear and loathe social commitments, even "fun" ones. You randomly and frequently feel like puking. You lack physical energy. You put off/forget eating until you're starving and angry, then sometimes eat a lot all at once. You eat weird shit because it's "easier" or you think it will make you feel better. You find yourself literally unable to scrape up any interest in things you used to love, then have an anxiety attack about THAT. If you have a job, you start calling in sick because you can't get out of bed or are having anxiety. If you don't have a job, you have enormous difficulty in taking the steps to find one. You miss payments on bills. You don't return phone calls/texts/emails. It goes on. And the best part is that you constantly, eternally, either consciously or not, shame yourself for all of this.
And then you write some weird, rambling Facebook post about it and then log off and hide.
"Will I be gone, even when the music is turned off?"
"Will I be gone even when you can't see me or hear me?"
But understand that the vessel is not made to contain you indefinitely. It's in your DNA. Likewise, it can't sustain this openness for too long. There is nothing wrong with that - it's just the way it is. That's why, according to the translation of this experience by your brain's chemicals, it appears to have a beginning and an end.
The truth is, I did not come to you tonight, and you did not come to me - this [closeness, communication] is always happening. It never ends. It's just that you, in your earthly vessel, experience the phenomenal illusion of temporality. It is a way that you move in the world, and it lends a uniqueness that is very important to corporeal human existence.
But you can lift the filters of perception and you can exist in a moment that is always present, always occurring. There are many layers of filters on perception, and that is also important. There are levels that you can attain, by the progressive removal of those layers, but you will do that when you are ready to do that. There are boundaries of access and understanding that you set, and some that just are - although even those have partially to do with the limits you impose, wisely, upon yourself. It's complicated, but don't worry about it. Even complication is merely a boundary that you are facing, because the experiences and traumas and nature/nurture that have formed this self are also important; they are also a necessary layer of reality.
You may eventually face, or understand, different aspects of your self. But they are always there, just as I am [we are] always there. Just because your body grasps hold of you again, and those filters fall back into place - and they will, they must - doesn't mean that all of this is not still here. You will learn that you and I are still speaking, all the time - it's just that the translation becomes different - more difficult for you to understand in the same way you understand it like this. And even this - these words you are experiencing - are a translation. It is the way your mind sets it up. A sort of "meeting half-way." Practice. That's all it is. Eventually we may speak completely without words or any language at all. And of course, when your temporal, corporeal body ends, there will cease to be those limits or boundaries to us.
Death is like the big jumping-off point, the diving board into...all of this.
Yes, yes. You can put it like that. That's a good way to put it. Of course, at the same time, you are already here.
[And we continued on in a closeness so intimate and at the same time so boundless that tears flowed unstoppably from my body's eyes, and even as the walls of flesh closed back around me, slowly, toward morning, their voices spoke to me and I wasn't afraid or despondent.
I also asked them - and here, asking was less of a formulation of thought and syntax than a gentle movement towards something, like a ship tacking slowly in light wind - about the Warrior Aspect, but they counseled me to stay here, in the garden, in the shallows, for the moment, as this was my first waking foray with them. There is all manner of experience to be unfolded surrounding darkness and struggle and other Aspects, and that, too, is always present. In agreement, together, we set that aside for the time being. Looking at it now, I think that perhaps it is best to feed the fire that has been struggling against the damp cold of spiritual and earthly despair before charging into the fray.]
It can ruin your life in the most amazing way. You thought you had goals, maybe, or you thought at least, "there's time for that," and you got rid of belongings and said goodbye to friends and family and you started on this adventure. You thought, maybe, it was temporary. Something you just needed to "get out of your system" before you settled down to do the work of figuring out your place in the world. You were totally wrong. Because you can't get sailing a tall ship out of your system. It gets in you and creates a whole new system. You become a tall ship sailor, if you don't opt out fast enough. And being a tall ship sailor means that, against all logical and healthy decisions, you keep going back to these fuckin' boats until there is nothing else you can do. You are ruined for life on land, and not necessarily because of some romantic "my soul belongs to the sea" crap; it's just because now, for years, you have done some of the toughest and most endless contractual labor and when you go to apply for jobs on land you find yourself at a loss to describe to someone who wants three years of restaurant experience in order to hire you, how you cleaned up a passenger's puke off the main hold sole while choking down on your own, then resumed your boat check while getting slapped on the port quarter by sixteen-foot waves, managed not to throttle the passenger who kept coming up on deck and making "are we there yet" jokes, then furled both topgallants with the wind so hard in your face that you could barely open your eyes. So yeah, you're pretty sure you can handle some shitty restaurant at rush hour just to get through the next few months on land because dear God you cannot handle one more boat contract where you're paid barely enough to survive when you're not working on a boat.
They don't tell you that when you're working on a ship there is nothing else. Your days are generally 12-hour days at a minimum. Holidays for you are when you work 8. You get one day off a week (if lucky), and that day off is not nearly enough time to recover your own personal equilibrium. You worry about the boat. You obsess about it. You wander through the shopping district of whatever crap small town you're tied up in thinking that the novelty of unbridled consumerism might distract you, but that only really lasts an hour at most because you're pretty much broke all the time anyway, and sure enough, you find yourself at some coffee shop as physically near to the dock as possible, staring at your laptop with half a brain, trying desperately to "like" everything you can on Facebook in some misguided attempt to stay relevant to your non-boat friends, or your non-crew boat friends who are off living far more fulfilling experiences than you are able to. But that makes no sense, you say! How is anything more fulfilling than working some majestic vessel patterned after the much-fawned-over Age of Sail? What could be better than setting aside all personal needs and goals, year after year, for however many months at a time, and giving yourself entirely to the boat and its crew? To its never-ending parade of tourists and schoolkids, its eternal maintenance that you are expected to keep up with on a budget of barely anything, its long hours and repetition, the strange isolation of being cut off from the rest of the world even though you're in port more often than not because your boat cannot ever afford to make a trans-ocean voyage just for the hell of it. A boat is like an abusive relationship in some superficial ways: it takes all it can from you, it beats you up physically and emotionally, and you love it, and you would give everything you had for it.
Any other need that might stir in your soul (or in your beaten-up body) is put on a back burner, or relegated to a space of rushed inconvenience. Any work that you needed to do, on your own, for yourself, to make yourself a more well-rounded or healthier person, is pushed away to a closet in your brain with the label "do not open till after contract." If you are somehow privileged enough to come to the world of tall ships already whole and healthy in all your aspects, this does not apply to you. But God forbid you have something that needs looking after - depression, or physical therapy needs, unresolved family issues (good luck resolving them now!), or even sad little non-boat dreams like wanting to write your novel or create art or teach yourself an instrument.
That is not to say that there are not people who can take care of all of these things and still work on tall ships for ages. There are, and they are fortunate. They have achieved some kind of happy hobo Zen or whatever, or at least they have parental money to fall back on when they hit land for a while. But it's those stories that you're going to hear; it's that romantic rhetoric that dominates the conversations about tall ships (that and, "how is the office fucking up this time.") I'm talking about the folks who don't have the perfect balance and still give their blood, sweat, and tears (so many tears) to their ships. Who come back year after year because they realize that, while the pay is indeed terrible, and they don't get health insurance, this is one of the only things that they can do for money that seems like it could be going somewhere.
And it could go somewhere. I have more than enough sea time for my license, if I could get all those letters sent to me. I have enough experience do take a job higher up in the chain than Boatswain. But the Catch-22 of tall ships is that you have to sideline the entire rest of your life for long enough that you can make enough money to get the damn license in the first place. And with the license, come the better-paying (though still not sustainably-paying) jobs. I have the time, but not the money. And if money does come in from anywhere, it inevitably evaporates before I can reasonably see paying a huge chunk of it to a maritime school for my AB or certainly my 100-ton. It goes to other things, things that I had to pretend didn't exist while I was on the ship: car maintenance (and having a car helps not only to connect with family and friends who live outside of normal traveling distance, but also with finding and getting work); rent; health care that is becoming more and more of a necessity; mental health care because ignoring your problems in favor of constantly running away to work on tall ships doesn't actually solve them; and whatever left over to try and sustain some kind of human experience beyond the drudging and mundane. Perhaps there are things I want to do, or see, that don't involve tall ships. And perhaps I'll never be able to afford to do or see them ever again because I have figuratively lashed myself to the wheel and I know that I'm going nowhere but back to boats, again and again, while everything else I could have done or been withers and dies.
They don't tell you that if you really want to embark on this voyage, you should either have a really solid set of backup skills and experience for a fulfilling and sustainable job on land once you're too old/broken/tired to keep sailing for a "living," or you should be committed to pursuing the water-borne life with single-minded tenacity, because you're going to have to work your ass off for a long time for very little pay in order to be able to afford to get the licensing you need for a "real" boat job. And, during that time, you will lose touch with non-boat friends; you will disappear from movements and causes that you used to find necessary and important; you will become more alienated from your family, and if you're not lucky enough to have a family full of healthy, not-going-anywhere-soon folks, you might lose out on some of the valuable time that they have left; you will not write that book (unless it's a zine about sailing, and even then you'll have to wait till you're back on land because during your contract you're too tired and/or drunk); you will not spend meaningful time reclaiming your own mental health and figuring out why you are incapable of having healthy relationships; you will not go back to school; you will not pause for breath and ask yourself, with any hope of being able to spend time and effort on an answer, who you really see yourself being in ten years.
Instead, you will find yourself taking that contract because "there's no one else to do it," because you miss your boat friends, because you desperately need even the negligible amount of money it will get you (because you cannot find a sustainable job on land), because "the boat needs you," because you need it, that fucking oh-so-alive hunk of wood or steel - because you let it get to you, way back when you thought it would be a lark, when you still conceptualized it in terms of "adventure" and "romance" and "fun," before it became your life, your friend-base, your distraction, your home, your work, your play, your routine, your incomparable experience; before it broke open the doors to that wandering pathway in your stupid, stupid heart and said, you may move on but you will always know you felt most alive with me, in that moment between 3 and 4 a.m. when the wind picked up and there were buoys all around you that were somehow not noted on the chart and you climbed aloft with rain in your face, swearing at all ships and all seas and furled the fucking topgallant thirty minutes after setting it in the first place and then came down and felt slightly sick and laughed with your watch-mates and shivered and threw out your cold coffee and thought that if this moment could never end, you would never miss all the things you didn't, and couldn't, do with your life because you gave it all away the minute you stepped on that deck for the first time, and you knew it. You knew it would be this way, and now you're so much older and learning about all the things you lost because you live this life - the always-coming-back-to-the-boat and even though the damn boat will still be there waiting if you dared to take a year or two to get your life together, another part of you knows that the whole experience - sea, sails, friends, shitty passengers, awesome passengers, schoolkids, night watches - is made of impermanence, and that every time you step up onto deck it is the same but also entirely different. You will never pass this way again.
But you will always come back, even when it's the worst thing for you. You're afraid of missing it. A tall ship takes a promise from you in return for what it gave you. It demands the choice - the ship or yourself - and its pull will always be stronger, and it will pull until you, like a much-worn line with an ancient long splice, break.
Maybe I'm just old, but fandom is fucking crazy. Apparently, in the Supernatural (and Sherlock, though I know less about that) fan-worlds, some recent shit has gone down regarding folks "harassing" (depending on fifty-third-hand sources' opinions on the topic) actors about their slash ships.
I don't really know, and I don't care. But I do know that reading the Destiel tag on tumblr is like wading through an all-girl's high school superdrama that exploded all over the internet. (At least, I haven't noticed any guys weighing in, but maybe there have been.)
What I DO know, is that I love the term "ship" as applied to these fantasy slash relationships EVEN MORE THAN EVER, because the Good Ship Destiel is full of absolute shitballs-crazy, like many a tallship.
So like, some folks are all:
"OH NO SHITSTORM AHEAD! CLEW UP ALL STANDING!"
and others are all:
"The hell with that! Set all t'gallants! We're taking this thing around the Horn!"
and some people on other ships are going:
"TAKE NO PRISONERS, MEN! SINK HER! SINK HER AS SHE SAILS!"
and then there's the folks peering through their delicate spy-glasses from shore going:
"She's afire and headed straight for us! OH THE HUMANITY!"
And some folks aboard are all:
"She's a good ship, lads, but she'll never make port on schedule, now."
And some are:
"Shut yer heathen mouth! She's fast and weatherly under a good steady hand! She'll make landfall in no time!"
"There's no one at the helm, boys! Let's turn her around before it's too late!"
And then there are those of us like:
"FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUCK YEAH, SAILING!"
And I just amused myself and possibly no one else. WELCOME TO BOAT.
You carry it like a stone,
smooth and warm like agate
rough and heavy like shale
You carry it like water
swirling at your hip
a rising tide in your stomach,
dark ocean underneath
underneath all the roots
all the concrete floors
hiding in every corner
of you -
the bacteria divided
in the first water,
and it waited for geological ages,
for slow dark time.
When it split itself, it could not stop:
in the veins of the earth it became
and cooled the fiery blood
and bubbled up in fountains
divided fish from lung,
snake from lizard
dog from dolphin
divided fin from leg
and leg from arm
rock from bone
and tongue from tongue
divided houses and halls
peoples and nations
left on the side of the road
in the moment when everything becomes
an infinite fission.
The cry from the pain
where the needle slips
between skin and skin.
It is the days that point
toward distant hospital white -
a cancer cell resting
somewhere in the body
while it thinks of first things:
airplane flights and days of school
cigarettes and sex and cars,
and the old first things,
closed up in boxes in the dark,
itching at the heart with bitter
It will wait
all your life,
growing slowly without rush,
the inevitable one,
the one you shook hands with
before you were born.
It is all the things you found
that delighted you,
Friendly and dust-covered
when the boxes are finally
things put by,
surprises you - faded with years,
a childhood speaking
from a place no one can go.
It is a love grown rusty
familiar as a muscle
nestled to a bone,
the ache of a joint
the shape of an eye,
the thing you most loved
before you hid
it from yourself -
when you turned from childish things,
when you closed the door
Yes, it surprises you, even though
there it was,
It is the turning back
to things forgotten,
the paper trembling
beneath your pen -
afraid of the weight
it knows is coming:
that no word is new,
no image comes without
having been born,
nothing is sublime
but has a trail of years behind,
long and dark and full of corners
that no foot steps
without having stepped before,
nothing grows that
has not been divided,
a thousand, a million,
no stone that came from a mountain
was not the cell of the mountain,
no drop from the ocean
was not the ocean's own.
It bows the head
and it curls up the heart,
and it runs away
Grief is the long walk home.
Rating: PG (for swearing and hints of potentially sexual situations)
Notes: inspired by a prompt on spn_kinkmeme. Includes hurt/comfort themes, wings, emotions, and fluff.
Spoilers: Very vague mid-S6.
Summary: A vignette in which Cas may be the wounded one, but they both inhabit barren lands.
( 'Both fresh and mellowed fruits, my love, I have kept in store for you...'Collapse )
The Christmas holiday was okay. I feared a lot worse. I feared my mom's emotions and the inevitable endless dysfunctional powerplay between her and my grandmother. I did my best to zone all of that out, and had a nice time. We went to hear my sister sing in the choir at the midnight Mass, visited my step-grandpa in the rehabilitation center Christmas day. He has cancer and is electing not to treat it. His son Rick says that he seems to have much more dementia lately; I didn't notice when we visited. It's so strange to see people grow old. I think that when you're a kid with, say, your grandparents, you become accustomed to thinking of them as old already. It's not until you yourself get to the age where you can look back and say "it seems like only yesterday..." that you can really see them change. Some people seem to have old souls, and for a while, they're growing into a kind of grace and wisdom that seems to fit them perfectly, but I think that by and large, most people aren't particularly any more ready for it than they are for anything else in life. It's part of what happens to you, and you don't get a choice about it. You can either try to fight it or roll with the punches. It's funny to watch who fights and who rolls, and when. I see my step-grandpa's refusal of cancer treatment as part of going with the flow, but I can't be sure. Maybe he sees it as a fight he wants to fight on his own. Maybe it's both.
I've become sort of obsessed with old people in the last year. It manifests itself mostly as what I'd call "old guy envy." I find myself interested in old men, simply because they are old men. I watch them and wonder who they are, what they've done, what they think about. What they do now. How they feel about getting older. It has a lot to do with the loss of my dad, and the worst part of loss: that I will never be able to ask more questions, or get to know him person-to-person any better than I already did. I regret a little that my view of him has changed after his death; that I've learned more about the person he was all along, rather than just the person he was as I knew him. My uncle in Idaho, the one remaining brother, told me when I visited, "a lot of people lived because of what your dad did over [in Vietnam]." He was so proud of his brother. My dad didn't often talk about Vietnam, but not in that "Does Not Talk About Vietnam" kind of way. It was more like, it's over, no big deal. But he was awarded the Bronze Star by the Air Force. And that is no small award. So who was the guy who wrote poetry about the plight of Native Americans when in college, who drove a flashy car and wore the fashionable clothes that so amused his conservative family? The guy who earned a Bronze Star and quietly asserted his belief in a woman's right to choose? The man who seemed so eclipsed by my mother, all of my life, and yet had a world of experiences and convictions all his own? It's not that I never thought to ask him any of these things. It's that it was very hard to talk to him about serious stuff; before his stroke he was quiet and noncommittal much of the time, and afterward would easily get strident about politics, for which he caught general hell from my mom. I think that we like to believe that the people we so admire have some kind of great and eloquent wisdom to impart just to us. In reality, I suppose, they are just as baffled by the universe, just as unsure of themselves, trying just as hard to get through it all one day at a time.
It seems, though, that when people are gone, it's easy to lose the idea of them as themselves. They become everyone's personal spirit guide, their guardian angel. As though now, finally, all of that wisdom that we looked for from them is flowing freely, no longer bound up by language or issues of communication or differences of opinion. We can forget all the things about which we disagreed, and see only the reinforcement of our own beliefs and actions in what we imagine the person who's gone would give their stamp of approval. Sometimes we even try to grant our actions greater significance in the universe because we imagine it's what they would have wanted, or something we imagine they would like or condone. Sometimes we might be right. Sometimes, it's just a continuation of that never-ending search for something bigger and wiser than ourselves that can tell us where to go and what to do.
I do this with my father. To think of him as gone completely is maddening and horrifying - the person smiling out at me from his photographs, young and surprising in his Air Force cap, heart-breakingly familiar and older in his most recent pictures. The person who was, like we all are, his own universe, full of thoughts and analyses and feelings and concepts that I can never know. Because even though I will never know that mysterious inner universe of my father - or of anyone else - to think of it as all lost and dissolved completely is terrible. Yet, unlike my mother, I don't feel him near in some spiritually literal way, or necessarily think of him as simply continuing to live in linear fashion, only beyond some invisible veil. Because he looked for that wisdom, too, I'm willing to bet; he was human, after all, and he had a father and a mother whom he lost as well. What I hope for him, and for all of us, is a radically different medium for the seeking of that wisdom. Maybe not the spontaneous nirvana of becoming one with everything (though I don't disbelieve in that, either), but an accessing of further knowledge in some form, some conscious and growing way. To cease without knowing seems like some kind of cosmic mistake, after everything.
So I read aloud a short story for our new Christmas tradition, from one of my mom's books, an almost-forgotten compendium published in 1945 called something like The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories. The short story was called "The Realm of Midnight," by James Lane Allen. I've read it to myself almost every Christmas Eve of my adult life, along with Frederick Forsyth's "The Shepherd." "The Realm of Midnight" is about five turn-of-the-century Kentucky children who seek to question Santa Claus, and it is about the Great Night of Time, the eternal epochal darkness that rotates into our consciousness with every wheel of the year, that lingers in the spaces far north, south, and above, always hidden in our DNA. It is about the coming eternal darkness, and the hope of light that sparks even there. The story was written in 1910, and already it speaks of the darkness of long past, an era remembered by the author as dimly as we remember the 1980's, the 70's, or the 50's. A sense of time past, time moving under and around us like a strong tide that still leaves universal truths piled upon the shore of human consciousness. The mysterious Forest God in the darkened Kentucky parlor, hidden from sight, speaking from beneath the boughs of the Great Tree, plays upon the children's understanding of who they are in the living moment, where they have come from, and where they will be when that darkness comes to them. Each child is allowed one question, but when they ask, instead of an answer, the strange deity tells them that instead he will write a book addressing the question, a book that they will receive at a later time.
That's the way with knowledge, with the quest for wisdom. Even when we think we have found the right question to ask, we often don't realize, in the moment, that a question is just a footnote in a universe of questions, and that the answer changes, for us, through time. Our hope is that the answer bears us ever closer to the universal truth we want to comprehend, that when the Great Night comes, what we have asked and what we have struggled to answer will be a part of a consciousness that remains, like a candle in the darkness. That my father, a being made up of all the things he asked and learned and wondered, will stand out still, in some way, uniquely, even among the billions of other question-askers who have gone and are going.
When I first read the story to myself, at age 18 or 19, maybe, I recognized only that the language was important. I knew that it was part of a tradition of asking through a story, of opening doors onto the cold vastness of the universe and letting a reader glimpse a part of the sentence that all of humanity has been speaking to its gods since time began. Now, reading it back aloud to my family, at age 31, I imagine that I have glimpsed a little more. If I read it again at 51, or shortly before I die, maybe everything will have changed.
So I guess that's the year for you. There will be more to say, at some point, about the lighting of the ancient torch in the dark, of the turning wheel and the feeling of tentative new hope for the coming future. There will be parts about my own endeavor to write something that will open a door, someday, and there will be parts about sickness and failure and upset, too. The biggest piece of emotional flotsam on the shore of the new year, for me, is the slight deepening of my understanding of the cyclical nature of things in life. An understanding that has moved a bit more into my body from my mind, and is taking firmer root. We will never "break out of a cycle," because cycles are all that is, but we may be able to enlarge them, to jump to a new one, to change the angle and view a new horizon. In the house, there is a ghost scent of spring - a common feeling of hope for the next turn of the wheel, a concrete feeling, something that merits ritual, a few words.
I drove home from my mom's house tonight with Athena the one-eyed in her cage in the back seat, my one remaining pet rat who just narrowly survived the year as well, rustling around in her paper nest. I had to keep wiping the inside of the windshield because some kind of chink the car's armor lets in too much moisture, and the heating system still doesn't work right after eight years. Some things never change, as they say. But then, as they also say, you have to be the change you want to see in the world. And that, you have to hope, is where you'll be when the night falls again.
I don't personally know anyone aboard at the moment, but many sailors I've crewed with at Grays Harbor have sailed on the Bounty, and as a fellow tall ship sailor I feel for them and the ship. I feel nauseated thinking of the danger they are still in, and heartbroken thinking of the potential loss of that ship.
May the gods and spirits of the waters bring them and the Coast Guard rescuers all safely home.
Unfortunately, I think the writers just copy-and-pasted the entire thing from tvtropes.org. There's only so much painful stereotyping, whitewashing (it's OK to draw painful Civil War parallels only with black people as the slave drivers! It's fiction!), and Dead Horse Troping I can wade through for a glimpse of interesting character development. If anyone else is watching, come find me when this series gets its Castiel. Or when something legitimately gay (or revolutionary) happens.