Goodbye, Goblin King

Bowie - Labyrinth poster

Nothing feels quite right today. It’s as if some of the light has gone out of the world. I’ve turned on all the lamps, but it hasn’t helped much.

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I’m not going to write a beautiful retrospective about David Bowie’s life here. There will be plenty of those around for the next few days, and they’ll be well-researched and well-edited, and if that’s the kind of thing that helps you through your grief or satisfies your curiosity, I’m pleased they’re out there for you.

I don’t process grief that way. I won’t be listening to Bowie tunes all day. I won’t be watching Labyrinth. (Now, that feels odd to say. I’ve seen that movie more times than any other. It’s my comfort-movie. But not today.) I won’t be reading any more about him than the bare minimum I encounter in tweets as I turn to social media to keep me connected to the world.

I need to keep my distance. I know that about myself. If I start to wallow, the ship that is my mental health will founder in deep, dark waters, and I need to keep afloat.

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I will say this though, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is my favorite album ever. I didn’t just decide that this morning (though that’s the kind of thing I might do); it’s been my favorite ever since I was a kid. It taught me the concept of a concept album. I hadn’t known you could do science fiction in music. I hadn’t known science fiction could make you feel so deeply. (I hadn’t yet discovered some of my SF favorites at the time, and even if I had, I don’t know if they ever affected me on a level like Ziggy did.)

I never did deep-dive into his entire canon. I loved a few bits intensely and left the rest for the folks who appreciated it properly. I was glad others did because a man with so much beauty and creativity deserved to have every ounce of his output passionately loved by someone.

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It was Bowie who taught me about panning (the music-production technique–not searching for gold in a river). The summer after high school, I worked at a dinky little movie theater as an assistant manager/projectionist. When I was alone, closing up for the night, I’d blast a Bowie greatest-hits tape as I cleaned and did the books. The music player was an old (even at the time) boom-box with one speaker in the office and one speaker out in the concessions area. I noticed some songs sounded completely different, depending which room I was in. I’d miss some vocals while I scrubbed the popcorn popper, and miss others while I filled out paperwork. It blew my mind, and I had to rush home to listen through headphones to experience it fully.

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And of course, there’s Labyrinth. The emotional connection I have with that film is still somewhat baffling in its intensity. I discovered it well after it came out. I was in the latter years of high school, I think. So by now, as I said, I’ve seen it many, many times. When life gets tough, and I need comfort, that’s what I most often turn to. During my freshman year of college, when I was away from home for the first time and really floundering in the not-even-quite-real world, I watched it almost nightly. My roommate was amazed (and a little disturbed) by my ability to fall asleep while watching but wake up for every. single. Bowie. scene.

It, and he, were perfectly keyed in to a part of my subconscious, a part of my soul, that wouldn’t allow me to miss a moment. Not of Jareth. Everything about that film was tailor-made for my tastes, from the Henson puppets to the shimmery sparkles all over the labyrinth set to the drama-queen main character to the girl-escapes-boring-life-into-a-magical-wonderland story.

But at the center of it all was Him. This man, this king, this creature of strangeness and beauty. I was drawn to Jareth like a helpless needle to the North Pole or the proverbial moth to a flame. And he was both cold and hot all at once. He was sad and lonely and every bit as lost as the girl wandering his labyrinth. And his music…oh his music.

I liked every song in the film; Bowie wrote them all, of course. But the ones Jareth sang to Sarah, they cut me. They were the ones I rewound to watch over and over. In a silly film about a girl and a baby and puppets, I found a character more damaged and flawed, beautiful and powerful, terrible and needy than any other I’d fallen in love with before.

I know I was supposed to root for Sarah to rescue her brother and live happily ever after, but I never did. I wanted her to see the Goblin King for who he truly was, recognize his pain, and do whatever it took to heal them both. In my mind, I took her place and did this a thousand thousand times.

And that was all down to Bowie. His performance and his songs elevated a sweet, lovely film to a layered, heartbreaking tale, that overflows the screen and seeps into the very soul of those who watch and understand.

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As I said, I’ve turned on all the lights. A monochrome day hangs outside the window. The extra light bolsters my flagging spirit, as do the stuffed, plush doggie leaning on my leg and the fuzzy cupcake pants I’m inhabiting and the even-fuzzier green blanket on the also-fuzzy couch. I’m surrounding myself with softness and light, joy and distraction, comfort and color today because I know that’s what I need right now. Sinking into solace: Yes. Wallowing in wounds: No.

I should be applying for jobs, but I think my cover letters might devolve (evolve?) into lyrics from “Life on Mars” and “Oh You Pretty Things” and “Five Years” and heck, maybe “I’m Afraid of Americans” would actually help now I live in Canada.

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Speaking of Labyrinth, I’ve read some of the other actors they considered for the role of Jareth. I thank my lucky stars things happened the way they did. I thank my lucky stars for every way Bowie touched my life. And I suppose his death won’t bring an end to that. His work, his art, is still out there, touching not only me, but countless others.

All of us, individually loving, consuming, appreciating his brilliance. And perhaps more importantly, all of us, together, doing the same. My love of Bowie brought me together with many amazing people. It brought me closer to the amazing people I already knew. And that can only continue.

So thank you, David. Thank you for all of it.

But I’m still crushed to see you go.

New Year’s Meh-solutions

2016

I’m fairly lukewarm on the idea of New Year’s resolutions. They don’t really work for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the year gone by and what I’d like to be different or better in the new one. I’ll work towards those things. But I know that my brain doesn’t like it when I promise things–even to myself. Yes, I suppose it means I’m not holding myself accountable for the things I don’t achieve, but it also means I’m not beating myself up for failing. And I know which is more likely to happen when it comes to my mind.

In fact, forgiving myself and letting go is at the top of my list for 2016. I tend to get obsessive about things like media. If I’ve subscribed to a podcast, I feel like I have to listen to all the episodes. I got a bit better about that last year, and I want to improve more this year. In fact, I just deleted a podcast ep I was only halfway through. It was a Doctor Who podcast, and while I was taking some schadenfreudeical delight in hearing cranky old fans moan about how “Hell Bent” was “a waste of Gallifrey”, there’s only so much of that kind of negativity I can consume without it affecting my mental health. It’s okay to beg off when that starts to happen. I’ve never actually done it before today, and I do feel a little guilty about it, but I’m trying to let that go.

Speaking of podcasts, Continue reading

Back in the Saddle…Sorta

rocking horse

After a long silence due to international and intercontinental travel, I am back home in Edmonton and working on re-acclimating to real life. Or something like real life. I have to admit, the re-entry hasn’t been entirely pretty. I’d never spent a month away from home before, and while it was exhilarating, it’s a weird thing to just stop. And picking back up at home is rougher when things aren’t the same as when I left.

I’m now sans job, so there’s not much structure in my day. That’s something I always struggle with. And the joblessness brings mild nervousness with it. Job-hunting in a less-than-ideal Edmonton economy isn’t the most fun thing. Nor is all the housework that awaits one after travelling for a while. Then there’s the feeling of isolation at being in a city that’s at least 1500 miles away from most of my friends and family. So while I meant to jump back into the blogging thing immediately upon returning home, that just didn’t happen.

Instead, I’ve been doing oodles of self-care in the week-plus that I’ve been back. Continue reading

Bad News and Board Games

I got some bad news today. I’m not going into detail because it’s not my news, but it’s health-related and regarding someone close to me. That gives enough context for the kind of helpless fear that’s got a hold of me right now.

In a weird way, the timing was excellent.* You see, last night Steven and I did something we hadn’t done in probably well over a year–we played a board game together.

I’d been having a so-so weekend (due to factors unrelated to the lousy news), and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do on the eve of the work week. (That in itself was making me more anxious than I like.) I’d been listening to episode 24 of Unjustly Maligned, in which Cory Casoni defends the board game Monopoly. It made me nostalgic for the days when my siblings and I played board games all the time.

We played LOTS of board games. As a family with limited means, games were perfect. They were cheapish and provided hours of re-playable fun. When one of us was home sick from school, Mom often let one of the other kids stay home to keep the sickie company. And that always meant board games–endless rounds of Life, Sorry, Careers, Chutes and Ladders, and, of course, Monopoly.

So yeah, board games conjure up a sense of comfort and safety and being-cared-for. That’s a difficult feeling to capture these days. I’d forgotten just how good it felt. Last night I got a reminder.

Solarquest Continue reading

Listing Towards OCD

I’ve talked before about some of my coping mechanisms for dealing with mental health issues: how I remind myself depression lies, how I use jigsaw puzzles to calm my anxious mind, how I focus on the good stuff. One other thing I do is try to harness my mental weirdness and use it for good when I can. I have more than a touch of obsessive-compulsiveness. Happily, it’s not enough to interfere much with my daily life. In fact, I’ve found a way to trick my compulsive brain into working for me instead of against me.

The key is randomness.

No. There are two keys: randomness and dice.

Continue reading

Focusing on the Good Stuff

Qui-Gon Jinn - focus - reality

Your focus determines your reality. – Qui-Gon Jinn

Say what you will about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (I’ve already said my piece), but that line is a killer. It may not be entirely accurate in a literal sense, but there’s some serious and deep truth there.

When I’m having a rough time or a bad day,* I try to meditate on the wisdom of Qui-Gon Jinn. I don’t always remember to do this, but the more times I do remember, the easier it gets. I suppose it’s like building any other habit. You have to practice.

So anyway, how do I put this into practice? Continue reading

Happy Birthday to Steven!

Steven interviewing Billie Piper

I was prepping a post about D&D for today, when I realized I had something much more important* to talk about. You see, today is a very special day. It’s the anniversary of the birth of the most important non-me person in my life. That’s right, it’s Steven Schapansky’s birthday today. As you may know, Steven is my spouse, and as of a week from Saturday, we’ll have been married for two years. As of March 2nd, we’ll have lived together for one. Yes, international romances play havoc with anniversaries.**

Anyway, I thank my lucky stars every day that somehow, out of the millions of people on the internet, I managed to electronically bump into him. I most definitely have Doctor Who fandom to thank for that, but I’m not going to go into that here.*** Maybe I’ll do a how-we-met post someday, but for right now, I just want to reflect on how insanely lucky I am to have the life that I do—specifically, the life with Steven. Continue reading