On Being Blue

by childofwine

I’ve just spend two spectacular weeks
in snowy Lethbridge AB

with two of the best friends
a gal could hope to have

Exactly what I needed to ready me for the second half at The School
but it’s made me think of the bigger narratives of my life
one in particular that has the potential to both make and break me

A few mornings ago I woke with a eureka-like flash of clarity
something I have been doing frequently of late
always with the same realisation
which ripples through my conscious and unconscious
in a way that seems to ripple back in a constant state of

That I keep looking for
The Breakthrough
the one that propels me
to some magical “other side”
some “now everything is all better side”
but this moment does not
cannot exist
and when I remember this
in these occasional eureka-like flashes
I feel a letting go
a giving up
the brilliance of realising that I can give myself
freedom to relax

When I reflect on this I realize it’s not just The School
it’s not just about finding my way as An Artist
it is about the conversation I’ve been having
on so many clinical ‘couches’
because I will never
not be a person
who is manic-depressive

I am a lifetime polar explorer if you will

What can I do then
but learn to pack better
more efficiently
more mindfully
to better weather the storms of my erratic seasons
because they will always come and I would be a fool
to believe otherwise as I would be a fool
to pretend I didn’t have to worry about holding your cigarette
as I would be a fool to not know that there is little between
me being a famous explorer of the poles
returning home victorious and
a frozen half eaten victim
buried for posterity under some icy cairn

One night in bed
I was reading Salman Rushdie’s Ground Beneath Her Feet
Rai’s mother has died and his father is inconsolable
they share a moment of unexpected tenderness and retire for the night
the next morning he finds his father hanging from the fan
spinning slowly because the servants turned the fan on
to keep the stench of the corpse out of the room

Murder is a crime of violence against the murdered person
he thinks to himself
Suicide is a crime of violence against those who remain alive

Nothing ground breaking
nothing I hadn’t heard before
yet it caught me
stopped me
perhaps as something I was finally ready to consider
something I was ready to hear

The next day
I catch the headline that triggers this bout
of feverish coffee shop keyboard tapping

An article written by a university friend
about a grieving family’s choice to
truthfully state the cause of death
of a teenaged boy

An event worthy of the daily news
because no one ever says
so and so died by taking his own life,  no one ever says
our beloved child gone too soon by her own hand
because we have no idea how often this happens

because it’s a thing we collectively choose to ignore
singing “lalalalalalalalala”
with fingers in our ears
eyes squeezed shut
pretending this was not nearly as
indecently prevalent a way of
ending it all
too soon
so often

When I was all gloom and grunge in high school
there was a student at my father’s college who
attempted to commit suicide

Once she was safe and sedated in the hospital
a meeting was held to talk about
how people were feeling
how best to address this incident with
the other students
the larger college community

For some reason or other
they decided to record this conversation
somehow or other
I got my hands on this tape

I often joke that I have never been
a good enough depressive
to make a serious attempt at taking my life
(though I’m pretty sure my father will never
forget finding me sitting in my room
hacking at the rug with a kitchen knife)
just like I joke I have never yet been
a good enough manic to totally
fubar everything in my life
(thought I know this is not for lack of trying)

That being said
for a long time
I felt a strong visceral connection to
those who were so black
so lost that they had
the ‘courage’ to do
something I never could

Back to the tape
and my mother’s voice
cutting through the muddled conversation
condemning this girl for
the hurtful selfish act she had
to commit

I’m sure
that the way I understood mom then
was not the way mom intended
or maybe it was
but I was not ready then
to look at suicide with any emotional distance

How could she not understand
it was nothing to do with anyone else
that this girl obviously did it because
she felt that she was a burden
that it would be best for all
if she just wasn’t around anymore

Maybe seven years ago now
this kid I knew in university hung himself
‘this kid’
his name was Nate and he was
for a period of time
one of the most exciting people in my young life

He was part of this wild exciting gang
kids who made the start of my university days
the start of my life as it is now

They didn’t give a shit

They made wild music
and wild art
and wild theatre
and wild morning noon and nights

I fell in love with one of them
he with me
I got scared
ran away
I want to say it’s a regret
but I think maybe more a deep sadness
that I couldn’t be braver
to risk sharing myself
with someone who thought I was
just a little bit special
someone I thought was a lot special

Only a few months later
after I ran
before I built up the courage
to run back
we lost him
he died in a freak accident

Nate spoke at his funeral
we must step up
live better because Kyle’s gone

Nate and I fell out by the end of university

He got too wild for me
I know I got too safe for him
but I still loved him
still waited for the day
when I could apologize to him
for the things he did to me
Then he hung himself

Someone made a page on Facebook
the easiest way to spread the word
we all thought it was a bad prank
some sort of Tom Sawyer game
except it wasn’t and my phone started ringing
as I joined the bewildered search
for understanding

Later we decided
he must have done it on the Saturday
someone said they’d seen him the day before
his father found him the following Thursday
and on Friday we were calling around
to confirm
to break the news
to find ourselves falling into
long silences

The absence of understanding

Over the weekend
we hung out in parks
in the garden of his family home
most of all making music
as people drove bused flew in
from across the country

He’d been home two weeks earlier
for the birth of his niece
pictures of his beaming face
tenderly cradling this new life
filled the church
that was packed until
there were those who simply stood outside
and what empty space there may have been
was filled with a raw wet-eyed anger
such like I’ve never felt before

His casket was devastatingly simple
unvarnished white pine
a hand painted replica of one of those
ancient Mesopotamic carvings
the ones that can only be seen from the sky
the hummingbird maybe
a recording was played
Nate singing a song he’d written

He was so fucking talented


I realized then that I finally
had an understanding of
what my mother was trying to express

I don’t know why
I get to be a lucky one
not a lucky one even
a survivor
not a survivor even
just another body
fortunate enough to be
living well on this planet
because I am no different
from the boy in the obit
the girl at the college

Not when it comes down to it
because a depressed kid
is a depressed kid
a bipolar kid
is a bipolar kid
and the odds are ever
not in our favour

When I was getting ready
for this latest in a series
of incredible unbelievable adventures
I worried about
how long I would be away
from all my safety nets
my support systems
my nests and hiding spots
so a psychiatrist friend
offered to be my anchor

Not because there was any real worry

I have to trust that had there been
my regular couch advisor
would not have sent me off with
anything more than the well wishes
and reassurance I got

I made this arrangement
because I know that I have never
felt this solid on such un-solid territory
because it just seemed like
one of those things you do
because if you don’t you’ll need it
like taking your umbrella
when there’s just a small chance of rain
because I don’t yet know how to live
how to trust that I can live
without the fear and anxiety
being the foremost presence in my
every waking moment

Mostly I think because I knew
that this work here puts me
in a place that can seem
almost impossible
to distinguish from the place where
I’m in trouble

Why every week
I want to write about
the amazing artistic explorations
but end up talking about
My Feelings

I wonder if actually
we’re not really making work yet
and this is why the dialogue
lives in the exploration
of pure research
a world of stripping away
the noise and
mud of the untrained
body and mind

Then I go off to Alberta
and I can a new person
and I fool myself
I forget myself
I think
yes I got it now
I’m ready to own this mess
I’m ready to be dive right in
no more fear
no more silly tears

Silly me

I get back to school
and sure enough
the carpet is pulled
out from under me

We are currently exploring

How do you blue?
Excuse me?
How. Do. You. Blue
How do you Orange


What do you do
in physical theatre school
when you realize that you
are not
a person who expresses themselves

That you
are a person
who has locked down
her body
and you realise
you come to know that
perhaps this is because
the body cannot lie

I can think my way
through just about anything
I can logic
bullshit my way
through just about anything
but expressing the
Universal Poetic
of a colour
through my body…

Remember when
running through
a forest on fire was
the worst thing
I could think of doing?

This is worse

What do you want
we cry
how are we supposed to do this

As if
we’ve forgotten the past three months

As if
we’ve forgotten there are no answers
no right nor wrong

Be blue
Did it work?
I don’t know, ask those watching
Did you see blue?
Yes? Good!
No? Oh…
but I thought I was…
but you didn’t get…
Oh… hmm
I guess I just have to try something else

I don’t think I trust myself
not my brain
not my body
or at least it seems I decided long ago
I shouldn’t
and even though I think differently now
feel exist differently
old habits are hard to kick

Is this why I keep hearing
variations on the ‘let it go’ theme
more of Monsieur Gaulier saying
‘You want it too much’

even more than learning to let go
it’s about giving up
giving up trying so hard
wanting so much
trying to just hold on to that breakthrough
that will make everything make sense
make everything get easy
that breakthrough that doesn’t exist

Because there is really no
special reason I’m here
when Nate isn’t
or the obit boy
the college girl
or Kyle, for that matter

No reason why
I wasn’t the subject of conversation on that tape

No reason why
my parents haven’t had to choose how to phrase
those unimaginable words in the obit section

The thing with luck is
that you never know
when it’ll change only that
inevitably it will
I could still end up like them
don’t want to
don’t intend to but

maybe for the first time
I am proactive

because I have not forgotten
about all those others
because I’ve been privileged
to look at the alternative
I am maybe
for the first time
in more than fifteen years able
to say that maybe
maybe bi-polar
is not the first thing
on the list of descriptive qualities that define me
it is possible to buck the trend
to overcome stigma
to be ‘other’ than the problem
to live not as a diagnosis
but as another person in the world
who’s got this but not that
who’s great at this and bad at that
who’s a bit brave and a bit scared

Maybe I think about this too much

That article was written because
a kid was so down that
despite all the love in the world
he could not see for the blackness suffocating him
the kindest thing he could think of doing
for himself
for everyone around him
was to eliminate himself from the equation
in their grief his family chose to look outwards
because luck has nothing to do with it
because it takes one tiny little action
for everything in the world to change
irreparably for both good and bad
and the worst thing we can do
is pretend none of this exists

I’ve been trying to understand
where this leaves me
perhaps not lucky but maybe
it’s just how I get to fit into the statistical pie chart of life
how do I get on with it then
if I’m in a place that’s moving beyond diagnosis
beyond crisis
beyond Just Surviving

We all deserve good in our life just as much and yet no more than anyone else

We are all unique one of a kind creatures who are
just as normal and unremarkable as the next person
so I suppose it just remains for me to make something with what I have
however I see feel hear from day to day
how I can
best I can

I’m struggling to end this now
because I don’t know where the conclusion is
and maybe that is the point
that we cannot conclusively end this conversation
because it must remain active and ongoing
because if we ignore it
if we pretend it doesn’t exist
or is exaggerated and indulgent
if we do that then we continue
to lose people we didn’t need to lose

We miss the chance to bounce around
trying to be the colour yellow

We miss the chance to do more than just exist

We risk forgetting the possibility that we
could be the next one to slip
just another soon forgotten tragedy