Sunday, March 16, 2014

Girl, Envisioned.

Hey friends! This one's a bit of a heavy one, so grab your Kleenex.
       I just finished viewing Girl, Interrupted. It has come on my radar many times, partially because it's a classic, and partially due to coincidence.

Before I go on, I do have to stress that there are many possible triggers in this film, and so if you have triggers of any kind, don't watch it. The film deals with very serious and very real issues, even if it is Hollywood. Respect yourself and don't watch it if you're worried you could be set off by something.

Moving on, the poster (one version of many can be seen below) makes it seem like a horror movie. Indulge me for a moment as I launch on a display of pseudo-knowledgeable-of- psychology expression.

         We see an image of a girl, her eye wide and frightened/surprised. Initially, we wonder what she's seeing, and then start to think that we probably don't want to even if we could. We see the title in an honest, "handwritten" font, and the poster appears to have been torn in the center like paper in order for there to be space for the title. Keep moving down though, and you see her lips. You realize that she's actually not afraid. If she was, her mouth would probably be open...even if it was a little bit, we'd believe her fear, that she was frightened. Her mouth isn't open though, is it? It's closed...almost puckered. This girl is in control of what she's feeling. So why are her eyes so open? Why are we a little on edge when we see the poster?
        Before we go into all that, let me tell a little about the movie in case you haven't had the pleasure of viewing it. Girl, Interrupted is about Susanna Klaysen (Winona Ryder), a young woman (probably 17 or 18 since we are told she had just graduated high school) in the 1960's who attempts suicide. She is hoping to be a writer (we're always going about making a good name for ourselves in the writing field, aren't we?), and so doesn't apply for university. She is constantly reminded of the fact that she is a failure (be it by parents, teachers or society), and is told by her principle that she is the only graduating student in her class NOT going to college. After attempting suicide, she is admitted to Claymoore, a private mental hospital for borderline personality disorder and the suicide attempt. She quickly realizes how well she is doing in comparison to her fellow patients. The film documents the ins and outs of her personal journey at Claymoore, and the relationships she develops (particularly with a long term resident, the sociopathic Lisa played by Angelina Jolie).
       Pretty standard set up for the genre, yes? Yes.
In many ways, the movie is predictable. One of the characters die, Susanna tries to escape Claymoore, and SPOILER, she gets out in the end.  But to me, this movie was more than that.
       I have been pretty up front with you guys regarding my battles with depression. I am this way not because I am seeking praise or hand outs, nor do I think I have it worse than anyone else. To be honest, I have had it pretty good compared to many. I had people calling me every day, asking me to tell them about my struggles that day and sharing a verse or two that came to mind when they were praying for me. I was on meds for awhile, and I had the support of wonderful people. Once, one of my friends LITERALLY pulled me out of bed (I was sleeping up to 18 hrs at a time at that point), shoved me into the shower and made me come to lunch with her. She knows who she is, and I am forever indebted to her. That's what friends do for those they love. I either cried all day, or felt numb and honestly didn't give a sh*t about anything.  I allowed myself to be used for my kind heart (I bought groceries for a couple of potheads I knew from class ALL the time...whenever they asked. I didn't realize how bad it was until I got called one night and was asked to order a pizza for them and I wasn't even in the same town! I rejected them, don't worry; I wasn't that gone), and I threw myself into a relationship that was never gonna work but I pursued it because it made me feel special...sometimes. Not everyone got to see me that way, not even family...but it happened. I was able to fake emotions most of the time, so I think most people thought I just had bad hygiene since I rarely showered.
      Watching Girl, Interrupted made me remember the times when I felt the things that some of the girls in the film talked about. I was never suicidal, but I understood a lot of the things that they talked about. For example:

"But I know what it's like...How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can't."


"Susanna: I'm ambivalent. In fact that's my new favorite word.
Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?
Susanna: I don't care.
Dr. Wick: If it's your favorite word, I would've thought you would...
Susanna: It *means* I don't care. That's what it means.
Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings... in opposition. The prefix, as in "ambidextrous," means "both." The rest of it, in Latin, means "vigor." The word suggests that you are torn... between two opposing courses of action.
Susanna: Will I stay or will I go?
Dr. Wick: Am I sane... or, am I crazy?
Susanna: Those aren't courses of action.
Dr. Wick: They can be, dear - for some.
Susanna: Well, then - it's the wrong word."


"Dr. Wick: Quis hic locus?, quae regio?, quae mundi plaga? What world is this?... What kingdom?... What shores of what worlds? It's a very big question you're faced with, Susanna. The *choice* of your *life*. How much will you indulge in your flaws? What are your flaws? Are they flaws?... If you embrace them, will you commit yourself to hospital?... for life? Big questions, big decisions! Not surprising you profess carelessness about them."

                 After getting over the relief that I was never so bad I had to be admitted, I realized how much I have going for me. That, even if my life ended tomorrow, I would have lived a good life. I have traveled, I am loved. I am publishing a book, and am still not perfect. It's cheesy, but why live if you don't have things to look forward to? To work on and be able to stand back and congratulate yourself on a job well done once you are successful?

                 I often ask myself if there's something wrong with me. Why do I never finish goals I set for myself? Why am I still overweight? Why don't I have a boyfriend? A job? But I don't think these things make me crazy or not worth anything...I think it means I have a life to live; that there are things to work on and be thankful for.
                    Susanna Klaysen's face looks the way it does because her eyes have been opened to a new life, much like my own have been. I have gone from being a Girl, Interrupted to Girl, Envisioned. It's not fun most of the time, and I will never forget the battles. I'll continue to talk about them, whether you like it or not. I'm not here to please anyone's ears, and I'm used to being told that I talk too much or do not act the way I should. Maybe I'll mellow out in time, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll win a Pulitzer prize AND get admitted one day (I hope not, but stranger things have happened!). My point is, I'm grateful. For everything. I'm grateful for the struggle, and I'm grateful for the pain. It makes my the bright moments brighter, and the people in my life that much more precious.
 I'm glad Susanna got out...even if people thought it cheesy. 

We often go about our day being upset about something. Maybe someone hurt you, or you made a mistake that can't be fixed by anyone. News flash: You're not alone in that. Sorry that you're struggling, but you're not alone. Do me a favor and hold my hand. Let's jump off the Self-Pity Bandwagon together and ask: What I am grateful for?

Peace and Love, Friends!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Frustration and Fruition: A Study in Focus (Ooh, look! A Chicken!)

As a struggling author, I often wonder why I continue writing. I am constantly starting things and not finishing them. My work always starts off great then I usually lose interest or get frustrated, resulting in my laptop's Document folder becoming a graveyard of unfinished possibilities.

One of the biggest sources of personal pride for me is my finished novel, Out of the Eater. It took me five years to complete (I started it in high school as a junior and didn't complete it until I was a sophomore in college), but it's finished and now on it's way to being published. Every time I struggle with a project, I try and be patient with myself and remind myself that I have written a book. Sometimes that helps, other times it doesn't.

I am one of  those irritatingly impatient people. If something doesn't get done by a deadline I have set for myself, I just want to drag the file of the text I'm working on over to the Trash and be done with it forever. My therapist says I may have adult ADD, but I think I just need to apply myself.

In order to address these frustrations, I've looked up ways to help me focus. I've found everything from taking a Facebook break every twenty minutes, to doing a chore when your brain is starting to shut down (or in my case, bubble over from overload!). As I scoured the internet for studies (old habits from an ex-Psych major) and blog suggestions, I remembered an old junior high school science of mine, Mr. S. Mr. S was a very eccentric man, but also very imaginative and supportive of his students. He was the head of D:I at our school, and even defended my group from a crazed mother when she visited us after we kicked her daughter out for not pulling her weight. He made us listen to "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash over and over again (I can't remember why was relevant at the time), and did a fill-in-the-blank bonus section on every test which were actually lyrics to "Galaxy Song" by Monty Python.

Yup, he was pretty awesome. Anyways, the reason I thought of Mr. S was because he required that we find a trinket of some sort (could be a rock, could be a tiny action figure) that we could study and take tests with. He actually docked points if you didn't have your trinket on your desk on test day!

This caused me to think: If contact with a physical object could help you focus, could a virtual item help with focusing as well?

I decided to test the theory with two different ideas. First with a photo, then with a song.

When choosing a photo, I tried to think of something that I would enjoy looking at, but that wouldn't be distracting. What made me relaxed? What colors were easy on the eyes? I decided on this photo of Benedict Cumberbatch in period dress:

Nice, right? Those who know me are rolling their eyes...bear with me, folks. The more I looked at the image, the more I realized how much I wanted it to come to fruition (Benedict, a non-believing man that I love and respect is preaching the Word to a group of people)...that was why I liked it so much. Also, the scenery and photo composition is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, despite the photo's aesthetic and what it represented to me, I quickly realized that the image was too large to focus on...too many details. So I cropped it to look like this:

Not only did this version help me see the details of Bene's costume, but it was easier to take in and have as a side-by-side with Word, like so:

I tried writing with this method for a few weeks, and it was very helpful. But then I realized I had been listening to music the whole time, and was kind of bummed because I realized that my "data" was now poisoned and would have to throw it out. Had I been thinking, I would've only used the music.

A little disappointed but not put off, I started testing the music theory.

I started by building a playlist of no more than 10 songs. They didn't have a central theme other than the fact that I enjoyed them. There fast and slow songs, and they branched every genre from club/dance music to jazz and acoustic tunes.

FINDING: It didn't work. I was too distracted by the changing tempos and feels that the music selections conveyed. So, in a last ditch effort, I tried listening the same track over, and over, and over again. I attached a different song to each project I was working on, and tried my darnedest not to stray from them.


And the best thing about it was, some of them were the most random songs; they were completely unrelated to the feel of the work (most of the time), and I was so productive! I was writing and editing 6 or 7 pages a day, whereas prior to the experiment I would complete 2 or 3 at best! It wasn't a big change, but it was a significant one!

Just for kicks and giggles, here are a few of the songs I've used:

1. "Evacuate the Dance Floor" by Cascada (WARNING: Some inappropriate lyrics present):

2. "Young and Beautiful" Cover by Postmodern Jukebox:

3. "Sweet Pea" by Amos Lee:

4. "The Growl" by Conway:

Do you have any techniques that you swear by to help you focus? Let me know by putting them in a comment! Have a great day, guys!