Monday, June 13, 2016

Like a Giant Push-Up

Last week I was veering dangerously close to a depressive episode. I felt it coming, heard the rumbling in the distance. The days leading up to Friday were fraught with events and activities that were draining any emotional energy I was trying to hold onto. I was running on empty. The temptation to hide under my covers until the storm passed was great. This happens to me on occasion. Sometimes I know why, sometimes I don't. This time I knew exactly why and I feared exposing myself to further energy drain and risking a deeper depression.

All of this is to say that Nashville surprised me. Nashville fits me more the longer I'm here.

Friday was a long-awaited burlesque show, which included dinner beforehand with new friends. Having to be "on" around new people is risky when I'm on the edge like I was. I know I was a little bit manic in my animation to make up for what was lurking under the surface of my skin, but it was manageable. (Manageable mania - oxymoron?) The show itself was wonderful and inspiring and full of acceptance and love, the way that burlesque is intended. There were hugs and laughter and beautiful costumes and quirky routines. It was just what the doctor ordered. If the doctor prescribed boobs and pasties.

Saturday the bestie and I went to see Stephen King speak. I wasn't sure how it would play out, I knew it wasn't a typical book signing with so many people there. SO many people. So MANY. People! The line wrapped around the building. Around the alley, behind the bars on Broadway. During CMA Fest. Cigarettes and drunk people and sewage liquid on the road. In the heat. The hot, hot southern heat. The Ryman was hot. Crowded. Sold out. Over-stimulating. Between the crowds, the confusion, and the odors, I was nearing a meltdown.

Ann Patchett walked out onto the stage. I feel a bit smug knowing that I can go into her business space any time I want at Parnassus Books. It's like my little nerd privilege. So I perked up. She introduced Donna Tartt to introduce Mr. King. Her small speech reminded me that it's okay to be different. It was beautiful and heartfelt and touching, without any pandering sweetness.

When Stephen King walked onto that stage, he was greeted with a standing ovation. There was an immediate sense that we all, in that audience, shared a common ideation in our love of writing, of books, and of a certain author, if not authors in general.

I want so badly to remember every word he spoke. He didn't only talk about writing, or his creative efforts, but he also gave us glimpses into who he is as a person. Someone who is not only a brilliant and prolific writer, but a humble family man with a wicked sense of humor. He curses in the exact appropriate places and he's just academically intimidating enough without being a boorish snob.

The whole experience of being in his presence, of sharing fellowship with others who chose to forego music festivals and street revelry to talk about a shared love of books, left me with a full heart and renewed soul, knowing it will never be duplicated because momentous events like that are rare and precious.

I woke up Sunday to the news of the tragic shooting in Orlando. Tragic shooting. Act of terrorism. Loss of lives. Devastation. How do I put what happened into words that make sense when the act itself doesn't? How to define the emotions. The anger, the fear, the complete what-the-fuck and why-is-this-happening-again. The overwhelming sadness and desperation to control something that can't even be predicted because who thinks of doing things that are so terrible when you're just going about your life and you're celebrating that life in a way that doesn't hurt another person and yet you and the people you care about are targets of something that can only be described as hate. Random hate because how can you even hate faces you've never met?

I don't understand it and I will never understand it and I'm tired of trying to understand it because there is no reason, no justification. Because it wasn't 50 people. It was 50 plus those who loved them currently plus those who knew and loved them last year plus those they were meant to affect and love and be loved plus the impacts they had that they don't know and we don't know and will now never know. 50 plus 150 times 18 plus infinity. It is indirectly countless people around the world. How does one person cause so much hurt?

Our mayor in Nashville, Megan Barry, posted on Facebook. She and other members of our local government and our police department organized a vigil for the victims. I knew I had to go. Whatever it meant on whatever scale, I needed to be among that support. I needed to contribute with my paltry presence. By that point I wasn't able to connect at an individual level with anyone there and had a hard time feeling like I belonged, but my body needed to be there.

Despite the disconnect, I was proud of the people who were there. The mayor. The police. The members of the city council. Those holding flags and posters. Those who changed what plans they had to show up and be present and to be heard. I know I planned on watching Game of Thrones last night and resting up for the week, not spending yet more emotional energy on things I can't make sense of.

Our city was beautiful last night. There were rainbow lights. Candle lights. Faces of determination. Hugs and displays of support. The noise came from the music in the bars, sounds of joy. Inspirational speeches and choir voices raised in community spirit.

Although I felt sad, the storm of depression had abated. I lay in bed feeling all of the support I had received over the weekend. The support that Nashville gives to the arts, whether it be burlesque or literature. The support of the LGBT community. I felt over and over that Nashville cares about the things and the people that I care about. In each instance I felt a sense of belonging and of validation. The connections brought me back from the loneliness of depression.

So, Nashville, thank you for being the giant push-up bra that held me together, that lifted me up, and that kept my emotions from sagging and dragging me down.


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