Monday, November 15, 2010

Sad Enrichment

I try not to make too much eye contact in the waiting room of the therapist's office. It's a small town, people you know are bound to walk in. It's awkward, even though it shouldn't be. Twice I've emerged from the depths of the building with red-rimmed eyes, and wouldn't you know, there's always a familiar face to smile at me through snotty tissues and mountains of regret.

So, yeah, my strategy is to duck and cover.

Or to pretend to be so engrossed with the Al-Anon and La Leche League fliers pasted to the bulletin board that I cannot see or feel the anguish around me.

I got sick of looking at the announcement so my eyes shifted to the posters on the wall. One above the doorway caught my eye. In bright cheery orange letters the sign read "People with mental illnesses enrich our lives." Above the lettering were the names of famous people in history who apparently had mental illness but who, apparently, have enriched our lives.

More than half of those listed were writers. I nearly choked on my own spit. For starters, there was Ernest Hemingway, who continued to subdue and submerge his homosexual tendencies into his writing, where many of his main characters couldn't get it up and hated women and drank whiskey in profusion. And let's not forget Ernest's untimely end which involved massive amounts of booze, a double barrel shotgun and a very adept big toe.

And if Ernest hasn't enriched your life enough (he's certainly contributed to my depression and need to prove my masculinity), how about Sylvia Plath? Great poetry, tortured, mysterious. Oh and by the way, she shoved her head into the f*cking oven so as to asphyxiate herself. Now that's what I call enrichment. I feel so much better now.

Of course, Lincoln was on the list, as was Tolstoy, O'Neill, Keats, Williams, Dickens, you name it, they were there.

Gulp. And so, what am I, a writer, poet, journalist, dry drunk, mother supposed to glean from this list of brilliant people who've met a horrible end? Not just people, but MY kind of people; the weirdos and freaks who pursued risk as a lifestyle, who locked themselves up for years, who exposed their broken terrible hearts to the world in prose?

Is my only comfort that after I stick my head in the oven or drink a gallon of hemlock that my work will have enriched some dipsh*t college student's life for 5 minutes because he liked my chapter about the old man?

God, I hope not.

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