Guest Post: Things I Like by Henry

Today on the blog is Henry, a yeti who needs no introduction. Welcome, Henry.

L. Marie asked me to tell you about some of the things I like. . . . What’s that? . . . Okay, she said I needed to list at least 20 things. That shouldn’t be hard. I like a lot of things.

I like my friends. L. Marie is one of them. She thinks I’m upset because she asked Malik to do a guest post and not me. Maybe I was a little. But she asked me to do this one, so I’m not upset anymore.

Here are some of my other friends: Tuxedosam (penguin below), Olaf, Mint Kitty, and Bad to the Bone Kitty (in sunglasses). They like to talk. I am probably the quietest among them all. But that’s okay, because I like to listen.

 

Malik you know. I’m not sure he thinks of me as his friend (his friends are popular and shiny and often say things I don’t understand), but I think of him as mine. I used to want to be like him. But now that I think about it, I like being me. Just Henry.

  

Oh, and I just made a new friend.

Henry and newfound friend—the lamb’s head

L. Marie said that I’ve only named one thing so far. The seven friends I named go with the statement I like my friends. So here are more things:

•  Snow
•  Rocks


•  Whales
•  Candy


•  Cinnamon rolls
•  Birds
•  Flowers


•  Hope
•  Sunrises

Though that’s only seven things, L. Marie said she wants me to explain why hope is one of the things I like.

Hope is like a sunrise. At first, there’s just a little bit of light on the horizon. That’s what hope is like—a little bit of light you hold in your heart when everything is dark and you’re not sure how it will all turn out. It’s like when L. Marie asked Malik to guest post but didn’t ask me. I still hoped that she would ask me eventually. And she did, so everything turned out okay.

What’s that? . . . Oh. . . . L. Marie said two things: (1) She wants me to stop telling you about the Malik guest post, which she canceled anyway. And (2) she’s okay that I didn’t name 20 things. She’s satisfied with what I named. But she wants me to ask you what you like. If you feel like it, you can say what you like below.

Thanks, Henry.

P.S. Thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims in the New Zealand shootings. Here’s what I would like—for something like this to never happen again.

Photos by L. Marie. Tuxedosam is a character by Sanrio. Mint Kitty and Bad to the Bone Kitty are from the Pusheen Cats line of products that do not actually bear those names. Pusheen the Cat was created by Claire Belton and Andrew Duff. Olaf is a character created by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck for the Frozen line of movies. Rocks are from the Rock Garden at Highlights in Honesdale, PA.

Revealing the Darkness or Reveling in It?

The other day, a friend and I talked about how increasingly dark many stories seem to be across the board. By the bleak end of some of them, the chill of hopelessness had seeped into our veins and colored our outlook a dull winter gray.

2012-10-hopeless

I don’t need to read a book to learn that life is hard. My mother endured cancer twice. My dad had cancer. My sister-in-law had cancer the same year her father died. I can’t have children and have been unemployed a number of times. I’ve endured bouts of depression and I’ve been rejected more times than I can count. Are you getting the picture that I know how difficult life can be?

So when life is hard, I turn to stories that remind me hope exists. They don’t sugarcoat the bad things that happen to people (like concentration camps; bullying by sadistic kids at school). But the resilience of the characters and their determination to rise above the bleakness of their times spur me to do the same.

kung_fu_panda_2_2011-wideRecently, I watched Kung Fu Panda 2, a 2011 animated film by DreamWorks. In it we learn how Po, a panda, came to live with Mr. Ping, a goose. Though I’ve seen this movie many times and tell myself, I will not cry this time, I lie to myself every time. I won’t give you a play-by-play of Po’s early life. You can watch the movie to discover what happened. But here’s what a soothsayer (voiced by Michelle Yeoh) said about Po’s beginning:

Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story, who you *choose* to be.

This statement seemed hopeful to me. It acknowledged the sorrow of his past without negating the possibility of change in the future. It spurred Po to be the hero he was meant to be.

I found the following video by the Grace Foundation at Nancy Hatch’s blog in her post, “Sustainable Eating.” While Nancy had a different take on making the world better, the video was another reminder to me of the power of stories. This cow had a sad beginning too. But the video showed more than just a bleak situation. Just watch and see. It’s only a minute and a half.

Yes, we can write stories that reveal challenging times. But if that’s all we do—hold up a mirror to the corruption, the ugliness, the violence, the lack of hope—without once providing any kind of alternative thinking, where’s the power in that? Are we revealing the darkness or reveling in it?

Go ahead. Call me Pollyanna, Ostrich—whatever makes you feel better if hopelessness is your mantra and you want to spread that gospel. But I refuse to join your crusade. When it’s dark, I usually do what I need to do: I turn to the light.

under-the-oil-lamp-light-richard-mitchell

Hopeless image from barbwire.com. Oil lamp from fireflyfuel.com. Kung Fu Panda 2 from hdwallpapers.

Depression: Should I Post About That?

cloudDepression—when hope shrivels from grape to raisin size. (I wanted to use a watermelon for the size factor. But a watermelon doesn’t work for the analogy. Anyway, you get the idea.) Yes, I struggle with it from time to time. Like now. Not only that, I struggle with admitting that I struggle with depression. As I considered a subject for this post, depression was not my top choice. But it was the honest choice. You can thank Mishka Jenkins for that, because this post on her blog (A Writer’s Life for Me), prompted me toward honesty.

     bull_thistle003

Sometimes life is like this (left photo), rather than this.

As I consider my state of mind, for some reason “Duel of the Fates” by John Williams is playing in my head. Star Wars fans will remember hearing that music during the battle Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi fought against Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (episode 1). Depression, however, doesn’t seem as epic as that choreographed fight. But it is a battle, nevertheless.

Obi-Wan-vs-Darth-Maul-obi-wan-kenobi-20389038-1600-1200

Obi-Wan Kenobi (left), Qui-Gon Jinn (center), Darth Maul

When dust piles up in corners and you stop noticing, except in bursts of clarity when you realize you have not dust bunnies but dust warrens, that’s when you know the gray cloud overhead isn’t a raincloud.

GollumBut who wants to hear that? We want to hear stories of triumph not tragedy, don’t we? Don’t we? Hmmm. . . . So, as I debated over this post, I had a running conversation with myself like Gollum had with himself in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King—only mine was less psychotic.
Me: Depression? Nobody wants to hear that.
Me Too: But maybe if I admit I struggle with it, someone else will have the courage to admit that he or she does too.
Me: Still, I should write something cheerful or encouraging, shouldn’t I?
Me Too: But if I don’t admit to where I am and write about something else instead, it will look as if I’m having a party on the page that I’m not having in real life.
Me: Yes, but won’t the post seem like a downer?
Me Too: Life isn’t just a series of stairs going up. Some stairs go down too.
Me: I don’t really know what that means. . . . I want potato chips.
Me Too: Well, it means . . . Oh never mind. I want some too.

So that’s where I am. For some “fixers,” this admission might present a problem. Some might want to rush in with advice for how to get over this. “Why don’t you try . . .?” “Do this . . .” “Well, if you would only . . .” But you have to get through certain experiences. One of the best things you can do for someone going through depression is to listen without judgment before rushing in with advice, even if you can only listen for a short while.

E_B_WhiteWant to know something interesting? As I began this post, the latest Brain Pickings newsletter came through the email. In it was an article by Maria Popova concerning a letter author E. B. White wrote to a despondent man. Here is a quote from that letter.

Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

The entire letter is here. You can find the letter in this book. In the article on White’s letter, Popova included a link to an article on White’s belief in the “writer’s duty to uplift people.” That article is here, and contains this quote from White:

I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.

So you see why I debated about whether or not to admit to depression, especially if a writer’s duty is to be “lively” and “lift people up.” But White mentioned the need for truth also. Sometimes, you have to admit where you are in order to begin to move on.

By now you probably have “Duel of the Fates” going through your mind also. If you’re not familiar with that piece, check it out:

Weed photo from outsidepride.com. Gollum from wallconvert.com. Raincloud from stevecotler.com. E. B. White from Wikipedia. Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul photo from cwcgoodlife.blogspot.com.