Tag Archives: emotions

Writing: The Green-Eyed Monster

Creative Commons--http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankhg/1457861005/

In writing, as I’m sure in other professions as well as life, the green-eyed monster can raise its hoary head. This is not one created (usually) for a story but the one that manifests at the successes of an individual. Yes, the green-eyed monster Jealousy, with its diminutive cousin Envy.

There is professional jealousy when one writer thinks another writer is unworthy of having a piece published or winning an award. Sometimes this is justified and if truly judged by informed peers, it would not win. Some awards are indeed popularity awards. One type of award is that you’re popular because you have fans or readers. The second is that you just need to get enough votes and anyone, including friends, colleagues and family, can vote you in because they know you, not on the merit of your work. This happens all the time

But in the realm of jealousy, a writer feels that: how could that person win/succeed when I’m so much better? My work deserves recognition. Why isn’t it being recognized?  Etc. This came up in a writers group today, where a friend of one of the writers and likewise a writer continues to cut down the more successful person, praising one moment, being scathing the next. Often jealousy is a sign of a person’s own insecurities and I’m sure many of us in writing have felt that we’re doing all that we can, we think we’re good, what’s wrong, why aren’t people buying my stuff. I know I think it at times but I wouldn’t say I’m jealous of someone else for succeeding. To me the sum of the parts strengthen the whole. I wonder how writer couples ever manage to make it work, though, if they aren’t both successful. In fact, I know that such a state has been damaging enough to the ego to have broken up a few couples.

Jealousy of course happens in all walks of life and did happen to me, but not so much in writing. A very important aspect of SFC (SF Canada; the professional speculative writers’ organization) is that we are supportive. Members can get advice, information, be silly, commiserate and congratulate. I’m sure some may be jealous but thankfully they never post such to our e-list.

I actually believe very seriously in supporting whenever I can the arts  and friends who are artists in any medium. This might be as small as saying congratulations and as big as cheering in the front row or buying someone’s work. If I had buckets of cash I would support the arts more. Without art in all its myriad forms the world would be a very drab place indeed.

Why do I feel I must support artists? For many reasons but I KNOW as an artist how difficult it is to create and create well. And then on top off that, to take that creation and make it into something to be viewed, read, watched, heard or otherwise appreciated. It takes a lot to complete something, putting blood, sweat and tears into it and then no one knows about it at all. And then to get any monetary acknowledgment for that accomplishment is very difficult, especially enough to live on. Being an artist is not simple and certainly isn’t the easy road, no matter what Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks about artists attending high-end galas (that they probably paid to get to or put in a lot of work beforehand).

On our list I try to congratulate everyone who has an accomplishment/sale. It’s good to give and show support and really doesn’t hurt at all. Sometimes people even reciprocate. We might not all be Picassos and Hemingways. We may never make a living at our art and we might not even be that good at it. But we are all, indeed, worthy of recognition. Whether the accomplishment is small or grand, it’s enough to be cheered on. Jealousy has never, anywhere or any walk, served anyone well. It’s as destructive as hate. Next time you feel the green-eyed monster riding your back, try to be generous with a complement. I bet you’ll get farther and feel better.

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Crazy or Batsh*t Crazy

There has been a fair amount of media attention about the mentally ill of late. CBC’s Current (in Canada) was actually highlighting depression two week’s ago with Steven Page hosting, formerly of Barenaked Ladies. And then the guy in Arizona shot and killed people and when arrested it’s reported that he’d been suffering from mental health problems.

Canada and the US are both suffering from the same disease and that is cutbacks in the field of health. What happens then is that the mentally ill are released from hospitals or other health institutions and end up living on the streets or in jail, becoming drug addicts, injuring themselves or injuring others. It’s important to stress that the number of mentally ill people who injure others is a very small number indeed. And mentally ill does not include personality types like sociopaths. By saving money in the health field governments actually put up costs of such things as administering the fight against crime, prisons becoming overfull, latent mental health costs, other crimes and injuries that fill up the system. I’m sure a cost analysis would show that this is not an economical way to deal with the severely mentally ill.

But in that gray area of gray matter, there are those who are not the dangerous. They can fit into society and are not devoid of regular sociability or being able to function in the day-to-day. These people fall into the other categories of the depressed and the phobic. Severe phobias limit people’s ability to do different things, and severe depression can lead to a decrease in being social, integrating with others, working as well as leading to death.

It’s a sad state and many people do not understand even the basics of depression. Steven Page talked about his own battle with it and it affects many many people. There is still that social stigma that should you mention you’ve been depressed or heaven forbid have a permanent condition schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. that you’re then branded as crazy. We’ve all used the term to describe people who might be clinically crazy or just too weird for normal society. We sometimes shy from them, are afraid of them and rarely do we understand.

I speak from experience, and will speak again and again about this because the only way to make this understandable is to talk about it and educate people. Depression often runs in families, some weird genetic fault. I don’t know the mechanism but I know it runs in my family. I’ve been depressed and I’ve been clinically depressed, the second being when you meet most of the markers by which they judge such things. There are different depths of depression and it affects people different ways. I have found that I have even been affected differently each time depression has hit me.

Some of my markers are sleeping too long, aching joints, boredom, flatlining on emotions, becoming overemotional, alienation, not eating, eating too much. Sometimes it’s depended on deeply I was sinking. I’ll overeat but in the darkest depths I’ll stop eating. It could be different for other people and of course suicidal thoughts and attempts are a big part of full-blown depression. Luckily, that’s one aspect I don’t really get though I came close a few years back and was probably scared out of it by the fact that someone I’d known for twenty years hung himself through a combo of a head injury, depression and the inability to pay for his meds. Anti-depressants are expensive and a depressed person finds every stress to be a very large stress.

The biggest part of depression that people don’t understand is that the illness isolates in many ways. Coping becomes difficult so that even answering the phone is too hard. Making informed and balanced decisions goes out the window. Hiding becomes the way to exist and a depressed person feels alone and unloved, isolated by their brain and the world around them.

It’s hard for us to know what to do if a person is depressed. After all, who wants to be around a sad sack who brings them down. Our society frowns upon weakness so even asking for help is hard to do. A coupe of times I would say to friends, “I’ve been depressed.” This was a close as I got to admitting or asking for help. What I was really saying was, “I”m depressed. I need you to do things with me. I need you to care. I need you to call me or pull me out of myself.” But how can anyone else know this? The language of the depressed person is circumvented by the illness itself. They may act like they don’t want/can’t handle company but they need to stop dwelling constantly on the whirlwind of darkness. This I do know but it is hard. It’s not just a case of “suck it up, buttercup,” it’s a matter of altered brain chemistry. This is why severe depression requires  (though sometimes there is an overmedication of people just feeling sad). They aren’t just feel good, happy pills. They have to fix the chemicals churning in the brain. Eating properly and exercising are also a big part of keep that brain floating on the pond instead of sinking.

Being depressed isn’t so much looking through a glass darkly as it is being in the bottom of a steep dark glass. The depressed person cannot see her/his way out and needs help and support. If you know someone like this, try to get your friends and family to help reach out, to show you care and perhaps you can just throw a lifeline to someone who will be able to climb out into the light.

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The Cornucopia List: May 27

(Some glitch happened with Facebook and this didn’t go out last week, so here it is a bit late.) I’m wondering if I need to differentiate the weekly titles or if it will get confusing calling them all the Cornucopia List. So I’ll start adding a date. The list of five things for which I’m grateful this week follows:

  1. Emotions–They are what makes us. Many animals (at least mammals) have emotions as well and this can

    From the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow

    be seen by their attitudes, such as contentment in cat when purring, or feeling angry or threatened in a dog by growling. There is a range that we may not even quite grasp in animals because we can’t truly ask them. But with people, yeah, emotions can run helter skelter, causing chaos, trauma and tragedy. Without them though we would be mere androids, with less attitude than Spock. I like that we can feel good or bad. With the bad we would not appreciate the happy times and everything would be pretty boring. People whose emotions are out of control can be scary but I like that we can change and feel a range of things. I’d rather a world with the vagaries of emotion than a world of robots. (I took the above picture while in Scotland.)

  2. Sun–Hello, Sun! It’s been somewhat sporadic for a mostly chilly and wet spring, but boyoboy do I love the sun. I don’t love it beating intensely down upon me. I have to move in it. But I love the way it will play light over things, making water sparkle, leaves adding shadows, warming the earth and giving us flowers and life overall, of course. It also takes us pasty white people to a color a little more robust. I wouldn’t want to stare at the sun, nor actually visit it (unless it was completely safe) but I do love the sun and I quite understand  how people would see it as a god.
  3. Limbs–As in legs and arms. Not everyone is born with them and not everyone gets to keep theirs and many people have ones that stop working. So I truly appreciate that I have two legs and two arms (though sometimes I wish I had three arms). They ache sometimes and they may not be the most beautiful out there but they’re functional, giving me a fairly normal range of movement and working in tandem with my mind. I don’t have to concentrate to move my arm; it will just go as I decide to pick something up. I don’t have to put each foot forward in a laborious process, I just do it. Limbs let me move faster, sometimes elegantly and I can crawl under things, or climb over them. I have known people who had limited to no use and those who were born that way adapted well but it made me more grateful for the ease in which our limbs work with us.
  4. Shells

    –They all begin as homes and exoskeletons for sea creatures and they are beautiful pieces of nature’s sculpture. The shapes are myriad and the color diverse. We make them into sculptures, jewelery, food and supplement sources. The ocean’s floor is a foundation of ground stone and millions of shells, corals and other aquatic debris. They hold the secrets of mollusks and of the sea and are worn as lingerie by mermaids.

  5. Babies–I’m fortunate enough to work in a place where there is always a baby or two.  I’ve come to learn much better the stages of development by watching the babies grow. And it’s fascinating to see how much of an individual personality they have from day one; everything from calm to fretful to mischievous to coy to angry. Babies are full of uninhibited joy and use their whole bodies to express their emotions, squealing in happiness, turning red and tense with frustration. They’re very pure, not yet formed by society’s culture and moires, not yet tamed or shaped by conventions and fads. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to attain this state again, but really only in the happy emotions. People do not take well to adults displaying rage and having temper tantrums, so yes we are constrained by society and manners, which isn’t always a bad thing. But babies are a true natural joy of the world.

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