Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

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On January 8th, I received my nomination for the Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award from my friend and colleague, Katy, over at CoffeeTattoos. I am honored to have been recognized by her in this way, and excited to share the following insights with my readers, as well as nominate the writers whom I enjoy reading the most.


The Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who gave you the award and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the ten questions given to you.
  • Nominate 10 bloggers for the award.
  • Write 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Display the award on your blog or post.

My Answers:

  1. If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? Why? What would you talk about?
    My first thought when I read this question was, of course, I’d want to have lunch with my mom. It isn’t that exciting an answer, and it’s certainly predictable, but there it is. She passed away when I was 21, and I’ve lived a fair bit of life since then. I’m also more open now, at 30, to her advice and experience than I was before. I would love to be able to sit down with her and have a candid discussion about motherhood, marriage, and becoming your own person.
  2. What are your blogging goals for 2016?
    In 2016 I would like to be able to invest more time into the Real Sarah C and deliver some good content. Though this blog began as a personal venture designed to provide myself with a constructive way to sort out my thoughts and emotions, it has taken on a life of its own. Readers who have contacted me to say that they are inspired, comforted, or amused by things that I have written have, in turn, inspired me to write more and to write more meaningfully.
  3. How are you feeling, emotionally, about the year ahead?
    Excited. Scared. As 2015 came to a close, I made some big life changes in regards to my work as a sign language interpreter, and I’m thrilled to see how things manifest in the next year. By that same token, however, life is more mutable than it has ever been, which is a challenge for someone like me. I frequently crave stability, but find myself bored with the status quo.
  4. When do you think people should have to decide what they want to do with their life? Is 18 too young?
    I don’t think anyone should ever be required to set their life course down in stone. That isn’t the way that life works in general, so why should your career or your education be laid out in a brick path before you? And certainly not at so young an age. When I look back on myself at 18 (not that it was so long ago), I see very few similarities between that girl and the woman I am now. To be perfectly frank, I’m not sure that I would trust my 18-year-old self with any decisions that would have impacted my present or my future. In that way, I’m grateful that I waited a few years before I made concrete plans.
  5. Why do you think there is so much stigma surrounding mental illness, admitting that you need help, and getting said help?
    First and foremost, people are afraid of what they don’t understand, and I find that this commonality is the genesis for more social stigmas. Depiction of mental illness in the media also plays a huge part in the misrepresentation of those with mental illness, by propagating unrealistic expectations and stereotypes. For those who have a mental illness, or fear that they do, the perceived backlash from their community is often enough to cause them to delay or even completely deny any help. Cultural values and societal norms are also extremely powerful influences.
  6. Do you believe in love at first sight or soulmates?
    Yes and no. I don’t believe that you can really fall in love with someone at first sight — at least not in the way that I have experienced love. To me, true love, whether romantic or platonic, requires a great deal of trust to be established, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Soulmates, though, are easier to believe in. I have certainly felt that there are people in my life who have completed me in some sense. I am not sure, however, if I believe in the idea of one soulmate, one partner, out of the billions of people on Earth. I think it is possible, even beneficial, to have more than one soulmate.
  7. Is there anything you want to write about on your blog but you’re afraid to? If so, I think you should write about that for one of your next posts.
    I appreciate the encouragement! Fear bridles me, as desire pushes me forward — there are things that I have in my heart that weigh heavily on my mind, that may not ever be fully articulated. I’m afraid of hurting people, of revealing too much, or acting rashly. I never publish anything that I haven’t given a great deal of thought to. That said, there are also a number of things I have considered publishing that will need to wait for their moment.
  8. When it comes to kids wanting to dye their hair (any color) or pierce their cartilage or nose when they’re in middle or high school, would you let your child do that? Why or why not?
    Absolutely. I believe that your body is your canvas, and body modification, if that’s something you’re into, is an important method of self-expression, particularly when you’re young and looking for ways to express yourself. As a parent, I would rather my daughter dye her hair pink and pierce her nose than become rebellious and sullen. The only exception would be tattoos, which are permanent (or at least, very difficult to remove) and expensive. Save those kinds of modifications for later in life when you are more stable.
  9. When it comes to planners, what do you do? Do you use a bullet journal, Erin Condren, Filofax, etc? Or if you don’t use one of those, take a few minutes to research them all and tell me what you would like to start using.
    Every year since I was 16 I have purchased a Llewellyn Witches Calendar. I keep track of important dates, appointments, and family events alongside the lunar phases, astrological events, and other witchy data. Since starting my freelancing business, I also make use of the Google Calendar to keep track of all of my assignments, in addition to appointments, birthdays, and so on. This year, though, I added a Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook in order to have everything written down and in my purse with me throughout the day. I find it easier to plan and take notes when I have it on paper.
  10. What was your favorite nonfiction book that you read in 2015? How did you find it? Who wrote it? What was it about?
    I read Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree, a book of essays by the other based on his interactions with families with children that belong to separate cultures than their parents, due to a disability or other differences. I initially read a review of the book in the newspaper and was interested in reading it due to my work with the Deaf community. Solomon had, in fact, devoted a full section of his book to hearing families who are raising deaf children, and their search for identity. I enjoyed that part of the book immensely, and was able to use some of the information therein during my work with Deaf adults and children. The other sections of the book were also very eye-opening, particularly the parts about families living with severe mental illnesses.

 

My Nominees:

Undoubtedly, some of these lovely people have already been nominated by others, but I said I’d nominate those writers who I admire most, and so I will:

Sarah Fader
Nicole Lyons
The Bloggess
Van by the River
Caffffienated
Nomad
Blue Aventurine
Lori Schafer
Terminally Intelligent
Abby Has Issues


My Ten Questions:

  1. When you are inspired to write song lyrics on your wall, as many of us so often are, which lyrics are they, and why?
  2. What life achievement, thus far, have you accomplished that you are most proud of? Anything left that you dream of accomplishing?
  3. Do you believe that literature is a transformative force in one’s life? If so, which books or stories have been most impactful to you?
  4. Given the ability to grant yourself any superpower, which would it be and why?
  5. If you were able to transpose yourself into the body of another person anywhere in the world, who would it be and why?
  6. Describe something that has happened to you for which you have no explanation.
  7. Out of all the birthdays who have had thus far in your life, which one has been the most memorable? What made it so?
  8. Are you a collector of anything? If so, what do you collect and why?
  9. Where do you most want to travel that you have not yet been?
  10. If someone were to construct a magickal circle to summon you, what five things would they use to call you?
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In Defense of Sadness

Recently, M and I sat down to watch Inside Out together and I live-tweeted it, which was fun.

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I was excited to see the film for the first time — the previews looked great and as I mental health advocate, I had high hopes for this film that would be all about getting to know your feelings. As I watched, however, I felt that, as a person who lives with a behavioral disorder, the film doesn’t really do anything positive for the representation of people who have mood disorders, who are introverted, or who are non-nuerotypical in any way. Given the positive reviews this film received from the mental health community when it was first released, I was surprised and disappointed to see that this film actually promotes several negative stigmas, particularly in regard to the character of Sadness.

In the beginning of the film, there exists only Joy — that is the first emotion to come into being inside the main character, Riley’s, newborn mind. Sadness joins shortly thereafter, in a serious reversal that I believe any parent would attest to: what newborn shows an actual capacity for happiness in their first few months, let alone moments, of being? Sorry, Disney, but most babies are just crying, pooping potatoes for the first few months of life, with nary a giggle to be seen.

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Oh yeah, that’s the face of Joy right there.

Immediately following the arrival of Sadness, the two characters are shown to be in direct opposition to each other. While Sadness seems to be largely indifferent to Joy’s presence, Joy is persistently trying to be rid of Sadness. Joy’s constant attempts to undo the presence of Sadness are troublesome. In the beginning of them film, Joy says that she doesn’t know what Sadness does, that it seems that Sadness to serves no obvious purpose (at least, compared to the other emotions), and that Joy has checked and “there’s nowhere for her to go”. That’s a very sophomoric perspective on the role of sadness in the human experience. Sadness is a very important emotional function — just as much as joy, fear, anger, or disgust. However, Joy’s complete rejection of Sadness’ utility is continually played out as she persistently bullies Sadness for simply existing.

The other emotions, Fear, Anger, and Disgust, despite being negative emotions, seem to meet with Joy’s approval because they each serve a clear and present purpose in the life of Riley. The filmmakers and writers obviously tried to increase the utility of Fear, Anger, and Disgust by having each of them appear to be multifaceted in their expression of emotional states of being. While Joy appears to embody only that which is effervescent and positive, the other Emotions are observed to act both as their functionary titles and with correlated emotions. The character of Disgust, for instance, not only represents a biologically programmed aversion to new foodstuffs, but also cattiness, sarcasm, and social acumen.

This approach by the filmmakers allows the audience a fairly intuitive grasp of the purpose of each Emotion. The character designs were carefully planned out to reinforce the correlation of the given emotion to the personified character. Fear is thin, anxious, and prone to surprise. Anger is short, stout, and blocky. Disgust is green, for crying out loud! But then, there is Sadness. Sadness is depicted as dowdy, short, and plump. She wears glasses and she’s extremely soft-spoken. Despite appearing to be well-meaning, Sadness is revealed to be a trouble-maker in the eyes of her cohorts, if an accidental one. In every way imaginable, Sadness’ character was designed to imply that she is undesirable. Additionally, by casting Sadness as the foil to Joy’s character, the writers reinforce a harmful societal value: that sadness, introvertedness, and introspection are wrong and therefore we must all strive to be happy, one-hundred percent of the time.

It’s disingenuous to portray Sadness this way. Many people, myself included, don’t experience happiness in the over-wrought, excited way in which the character of Joy is portrayed. For us, happiness comes from time spent alone, in introspection, gaining energy from our communion with ourselves. In that way, Sadness might be in my driver’s seat — but that doesn’t make me perpetually sad, and it doesn’t make me wrong. It is simply the way I best interact with the world. But instead of making her dynamic as the human experience, Inside Out’s Sadness is written as a witless castaway, unworthy of merit.

Meanwhile, Joy is clearly made out to be Riley’s primary and most desirable emotion — of course, considering the only four other options: Fear, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust — Joy is the only character that doesn’t have a negative connotation to compete with. Of course you want Joy to be in charge! You wouldn’t want any of those other bad emotions to be responsible for your world interactions, would you?

This is heavily reminiscent to me of the way that I am often treated by well-meaning extroverts: Why would you want to stay home and be sad all weekend? Because I’ve had a busy week interacting with people, and I am out of spoons. Why do you listen to that sad music? It only makes you feel worse! No, this music jives with my soul, and it is healing me.

You see, just because I experience the world differently from you, doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. I am just different. Please, allow me to be different without fear of reprisal.


 

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“Being sad reminds us how to appreciate being happy.” Yeah, no.


By the end of the film, we begin to see that Emotions can work in tandem to create memories, which is meant by the filmmakers to be a redeeming moment for Sadness and Joy. I felt less resolved, though. The film still hasn’t given Sadness a purpose except as a foil to Joy. This is a harmful dichotomy for a lot of reasons, one of which we actually see play out in the film when Riley’s mother asks her to be happy about the move for her father’s sake. The end result being that Riley internalizes her negative emotions about her family’s move (with help from Joy) until she detaches from her family completely, almost running away from home. It isn’t until Riley is permitted to feel sadness that she is able to synthesize all of the feelings she has and move on from them. That’s an important lesson for us all, but the filmmakers failed to represent it as such. Instead, we are shown that Joy fights Sadness almost to the point of obliterating them both (certainly to the point of obliterating several of Riley’s internal mental structures, memories, and processes), only to finally acquiesce to Sadness’ presence, while still failing to validate Sadness’ reason for being.

In real life (read: in all of our lives) sadness actually serves a very important purpose. Though not highly valued in our current culture, sadness and other “feel-bad” emotions help us to slow down, confront troublesome circumstances, and come to a deeper understanding of ourselves. Sadness improves your memory, heightens your better judgment, increases your motivation to enact positive changes in your life, and can, in some cases, improve your interpersonal communication. Perhaps this is why, in the film, Riley’s mother has Sadness in the driver’s seat — Sadness isn’t just about feeling blue, it’s about feeling, period. Sadness allows us the increased capacity for compassion, discernment, and responsible decision-making that makes life fruitful.

To say that Inside Out was entirely upside-down wouldn’t be fair. It’s a cute movie, it was well-animated, and it is definitely a powerful tool to give children access to the language needed to talk candidly about their feelings. But as a representation of the depth and breadth of the emotional landscape within each of us, it falls short, particularly in the eyes of this gal living with bipolar disorder.

Someday, when she is old enough to have this conversation, I will have to sit my daughter down and explain to her that Mommy’s brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s brain. I may even need to have a conversation with her, in some distant future, about how her brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s brain. This film does not give us an appropriate schema for that conversation. After all, what good does it do to tell someone besieged by sadness to “let Joy takeover”? That would not be helpful, and it would not be fair to disrespect their experience so callously. Instead, we might say, “Sadness in taking the wheel right now, because it’s a road you need to travel.”