i had no idea

…that Louis C.K. is Lynda Carter kind of mixed!!  No wonder he is so authentic and astute in the funniest of ways.  Not because he happened to be born Irish and Mexican.  Nor because his mother went to the University of Michigan.  It’s more about wisdom born out of experience or something like that.  When your experience and your self image do not match the one projected onto you by the world around you, you have the opportunity to observe things from a more neutral space.  One in which nothing is really as it seems because, as the main character in your life story, you are not as you seem.  So there’s a kind of duality to the experience that has the potential to lead you right into the oneness of it all.  Simply because the duality doesn’t work.  It doesn’t make sense.

The same scenario could also afford one the opportunity to go bat shit crazy.

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Louis C.K.: I’m an Accidental White Person

The comedy superstar reveals how coming to the U.S. from Mexico shaped his artistic sensibility

APRIL 11, 2013

Where does Louis C.K.’s off-kilter comic vision come from? Turns out the answer may be “Mexico.” C.K. was born in Washington, D.C., but moved to his father’s native Mexico at age one – he and his family didn’t move back to the U.S. until he was seven or so. “Coming here and observing America as an outsider made me an observing person,” C.K. tells senior writer Brian Hiatt in the new issue of Rolling Stone. “I grew up in Boston and didn’t get the accent, and one of the reasons is that I started in Spanish. I was a little kid, so all I had to do was completely reject my Spanish and my Mexican past, which is a whole lot easier because I’m white with red hair. I had the help of a whole nation of people just accepting that I’m white.”

“Race doesn’t mean what it used to in America anymore,” he continues. “It just doesn’t. Obama’s black, but he’s not black the way people used to define that. Is black your experience or the color of your skin? My experience is as a Mexican immigrant, more so than someone like George Lopez. He’s from California. But he’ll be treated as an immigrant. I am an outsider. My abuelita, my grandmother, didn’t speak English. My whole family on my dad’s side is in Mexico. I won’t ever be called that or treated that way, but it was my experience.”

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19 again

Basically, I never want to hear about post-racial America again.  And I hope no one is left wondering why I would spend so much time and energy talking about race since things “are so much better.”  Because they aren’t.  We’ve just gotten comfortable pretending that they are.

Today would have been Jordan Davis’ 19th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Jordan Davis.

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I don’t know what else to say about it right now.

This lady did:

How Keeping Our Sons Safe Makes It OK for Whites to Be Racists

BY: 

The Jordan Davis case led some parents to give their kids “the talk.” But doing so absolves white people of their responsibility to unlearn stereotypes that scare them.

The slaying of 17-year-old Jordan Davis by a white man who didn’t appreciate his taste in music had some black people scrambling to give black boys “the talk” about how not to scare white people into shooting them…a lot of black parents who love their children are probably repeating it. I understand it.

But I don’t like it.

I don’t like it because as practical as it is, it inadvertently feeds the notion that black youths, and black males in particular, ought to capitulate to racist whites in order not to suffer at their hands.

And any white man who believes that black kids ought to turn down their music because he doesn’t like it, even if they are only sharing the same parking lot for a few minutes, isn’t seeking respect.

He’s expecting submission.

Any white store owner, or night watchman, who expects a black youth to take off his hood because it scares him, even though that black youth has no plans to do anything scary, isn’t asking for respect but for his irrational fears to be coddled.

Most of all, I don’t like it because we’ve been through this before.

In the 2002 book Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South, Charles Gratton recalled his mother’s instructions when she sent him to the grocery store. She told him, “If you pass any white people on your way, get off the sidewalk. Give them the sidewalk. Don’t challenge white people.”

Similarly, many black people who grew up during Jim Crow times remember being told not to look white people in the eye and to avoid doing things that might get them hurt or killed for being defiant or, as they would say back then, uppity.

A refusal to turn down music or take off a hoodie could translate into being uppity for whites like Dunn, who believe that black youths—who, like many of their white counterparts, are grappling with awkwardness and immaturity—owe it to them to suppress their attitude.

They don’t.

I get that it’s important to give black youths the advice they need to be able to live to fight another day, as Guns and others are doing. But we cannot forget the importance of fighting conditions, such as Florida’s “Stand your ground” law, that feed the idea that whites like Dunn can get away with fatally shooting a black youth like Jordan because he and his friends didn’t comply with their request.

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Jordan Davis’ friends

We cannot forget, because something is horribly wrong when, more than a half-century after legal segregation ended, when we have a black man sitting in the Oval Office, Jim Crow-era instructions are being revived to protect black youths. These instructions have little to do with young black people being respectful to white strangers and everything to do with them being submissive to whites—with black youths giving white strangers permission to cling to fears about blackness by not being so, well, black.

And when we make black youths solely responsible for not frightening white people with their music or their style of dress or their swagger, we absolve white people of their responsibility to unlearn the stereotypes that are scaring them.

Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy, The Butler) did too:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UL5awaQNNQE

i’m sorry but, no, they aren’t atlanta black star…

…They are biological parents of black and white children (if we’re going to identify by race) seeing as biological means they share the same DNA.  Doesn’t it?  Or does race really just mean status, leaving biology out of the equation altogether?  In that case, I guess the children are black because that’s how the world will perceive them whether their famous white parent is around or not.  Until all of that changes 😉

8 Famous White Celebs You Didn’t Know Were Biological Parents of Black Children

February 13, 2014 | Posted by 

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Bob Dylan

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Mick Jagger

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Ellen Pompeo

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Justin Chambers

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David Bowie

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Peggy Lipton

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Chris Noth

Robert-De-Niro-Children-600x321Robert DeNiro

curls are acceptable

Seeing as this is byeracial blog, it’s about time I posted about hair.  Not my own.  I really do love my hair and I suppose it’s the one physical characteristic that gives a clue as to “what I am.”  Nothing more interesting to report on that. However, this article below is much more about identity and not having a culture to fall back on than it is about curls and that is interesting to me.  More often than not, when you’re mixed, you really don’t have that soft place to fall.  The mixed experience has historically been ignored, making it nearly impossible to forge a cultural identity.  Good news:  We have the opportunity to transcend attachment to a cultural identity.  Bad news: This leaves us at the whim of the cultural identities projected onto us.

RACE AND NATURAL HAIR- “YOU’RE MIXED SO YOU DON’T REALLY KNOW THE STRUGGLE.”

105_2119-1About a year ago, I wrote an article about how much I disliked being mixed because of my hair. These last few months, I realized that I didn’t embrace the natural hair life because of others and not me. I liked my curls and had already transitioned not knowing it. I still didn’t accept the fact that my curls were acceptable. In my mind, straight hair was the ideal. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to take care of my hair yet but the main reason I thought this was because of negative comments. Comments such as…”You should relax your hair again.”, “Your hair looks messy all the time.”, and the last and most important one was…”You need to stop trying to look black”. They always ended up going back to that one.

The race topic is one that strikes me the hardest when it comes to my hair. Many people believe that natural hair is just for blacks. They forget that the world is not simply made of blacks and whites. Many cultures and races have mixed. The end result of that is people like me. People who share features of both races or may only have features of one but who feel attached to both. I am a born and raised Dominican. If you spend a lot of time with Latinos or Dominicans, you will quickly realize that we believe we are a different race. It’s actually very confusing because there are a lot of forms that will have Hispanic/Latino as a choice for race and not for ethnicity. A lot of people will tell you that Latinos are not a separate race. This doesn’t stop us from feeling that way. The problem with this is that even though they have a lot of african heritage as well as native american heritage…they refuse to acknowledge it. It’s not a lack of education, but a lack of acceptance.

So what does this have to do with hair? If you’re black or if you’re Latino, you were most likely raised hearing negative comments about your hair. Now, you might be saying…”Well, I know. What’s your point?”. My point is that I didn’t have one or two races/ethnicity telling me I looked undesirable, I had three. This had an impact on how I felt about myself. Even though black naturals may get a lot of crap from relaxed hair women or women who naturally have straight hair… they still have natural sistas. I had and some times still don’t have a culture to really fall back on and say…”You understand what I’m going through”. The reason is that my skin is white and my physical features are mostly European. My hair is pretty much the only thing that lets you know that I’m mixed. This causes a problem because white people expect an image of me that I don’t quite complete, black people expect an image of me and Latinos/Dominicans expect a certain image of me. In comments and forums, I have received things like “Well, you’re mixed so you don’t really know the struggle”. In school, I was told my fro was a distraction (I never told anyone that). In the streets, I’ve been told…”Your skin is far too fair for you to wear your hair like this”(it was in a fro). You can take a guess at which races/ethnicity said each.

What I would like is for women to realize that you can’t really know someone else’s “struggle”. Relaxed women and natural women should stop trying to debate about what is the right choice, because guess what? It’s a personal choice. This also applies for big choppers and transitioners. It would also be nice if business people realized that curly/kinky hair doesn’t reduce our ability to work effectively. The last but the most is important is that I would like for people of all races to realize how much it hurts to be pushed away because of your skin color or your features. Usually when people think of racism, they think of whites against the minorities. The thing that most don’t realize though is that we judge each other just as much as other races do.

hair girls1

Keturah Ariel

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And to include the boys…Something about the commentary on this photo of Pete Wentz reeks of nappy headed-ho…😡

white man afro: Pete Wentz ditches his straightener, looks unrecognizable

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After a seemingly life-long love affair with his hair straightener, Pete Wentz has debuted a more natural, afro-esque head of hair. Gasp!

The emo rocker was launching a a new car or something, no-one knows for sure – all eyes were on his frizzy head pubes.

We’ve got to give the guy credit – he managed to get that thing poker-straight every day for years!

hair boys

you don’t even know me

I posted this video on the vlog the other day…

…and then I found this clip of Tia/Tamera’s brother, Taj, addressing the same issue.  And i love it!  Makes me wonder if males are less sensitive to these things.  I mean, I already wondered that, but now i re-wonder.  Skip to 4:00 to catch the clip…

 

 

 

black (snl) history

Drake, I totally loved that isht the other night.  While I appreciated the black bar mitzvah skit immensely (it prompted this post after all), the Katt Williams! Oh my Jesus…. the Katt Williams.  Great night for SNL!88310f8ba419c42692e4dbd7d1019c0d.467x259x1

Saturday, Jan. 18 was a big night for Saturday Night Live. Not only did rapper Drake host and serve as a musical guest, but it was also new cast member Sasheer Zamata‘s first time on the show….The former Canadian actor-turned-rapper talked about having a Jewish mother and a black father in the skit where SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer (who is known for her recurring role as Bar Mitzvah Boy) played his mother and Jay Pharaoh played his father. Read more
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Ok. That hilariousness has been noted.  Now let’s take a look back in Black SNL history. We all know there’s not much of it, so this shouldn’t take too long. I like what Bond and Morris did.  I don’t like the fact that colorism is alive and well.

Julian Bond Regrets his 1977 ‘SNL’ Skit on Light Skin Vs. Dark Skin (Video)

via

With all of the talk surrounding “Saturday Night Live’s” new African American female cast member and writers, Julian Bond has come forward with a column in The Hollywood Reporter lamenting a skit he did during his hosting turn 37 years ago.

The civil rights leader was chairman of the NAACP board of directors from February 1998 to February 2010 and now is chairman emeritus.

Below is his column in its entirety, followed by a clip from the “SNL” sketch.

I hosted NBC’S Saturday Night Live back in April 1977, during its second season. I used to say that I was an SNL host when it was a comedy show, and people would laugh. More recently, I had taken to saying that I hosted SNL when it had black people on it. So as a former host, I was happy to read the news that an African-American woman (Sasheer Zamata) and two black female writers (LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones) were hired for the show because people of color, especially women, have been conspicuous by their absence.

I’m a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, so I’m delighted that Zamata is a UVA grad. But I’m also a civil rights activist, so I’m appalled that the circumstances of their hiring would lessen — in some viewers’ minds — the talent and skills they bring to the program.

There are sure to be those who think that their race, not their talent, won them their jobs. The women were hired after an explosion of outrage at SNL’s shameful record of minority employment. Before Zamata was hired, in the 39 years since SNL began in 1975, the show had 137 cast members. Only 14 of those were African-Americans, and only four of those were women. The tally for Latinos is even more negligible — only three in the show’s history, all of them men.

Looking back at the episode I hosted, I felt discomfort with a skit we did. Appearing as myself on a mock television interview show about black issues, I told Garrett Morris, one of SNL’s original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks. Morris, who is darker skinned than I am, did a perfect double take. I felt squeamish then but did the skit anyway, and I feel uneasy about this joke even today. I believed it treaded dangerously on the fine line between comedy and poor taste.

But that always has been SNL’s fine point, the line delineating comedy — and especially satire — from tastelessness. I always have believed that a skillful comedian — or comedienne — can make a joke out of anything. No subject is immune. Comedy is crucial in our lives, especially political satire. The ability to make fun of life’s vagaries helps us deal with them. That may be why there are so many black and Jewish comedians and why their presence on the air is so important.

SNL used to be on the cutting edge. Let’s hope Ms. Zamata helps restore some of its sharpness.

I heart New York!

I am so f’in excited about this that I can’t even organize my thoughts. But I’m gonna try.  So yesterday, just like the first time I voted for Obama, I ran to the school where I vote to mark my ballot for…

photo 1

deblasio ask anything

Now, I must admit that though I do like what little I know of his politics and am not shy about my democratic tendencies, I was really voting for…

deblasio fam

For the guy who prompted a good friend of mine to text, “Are those his kids!?” as de Blasio delivered his sagacious acceptance speech standing amidst his family.

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I voted for the man who once made the bold choice to give up some of his white privilege to live the life he wanted with the woman he loved.  For the guy with kids that remind me of me.  For the family that looks like mine did once.

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photo 1

I voted for a future where people have learned to see this:

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and think “family.”  A friend of mine once wrote in a wonderful novel*, “What a family is should shouldn’t be so hard to see.  It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.”  That is Truth. But for some of us it hasn’t been the truth of our experience.  And that doesn’t feel so good.

Now…maybe, soon… people will see this

New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio embraces his daughter Chiara during a campaign rally in Brooklyn, New York

or this 😉

photo 2

and think Father/Daughter, and not Age “Inappropriate” Interracial Couple?

I voted for the future I always wanted to be my present.  I left that school and I skipped up the block.  Just for, like, 17 seconds cuz I am 37 years old after all, but I just couldn’t contain the joy! I couldn’t have predicted that feeling either.  I think that even though we have the Obamas, it’s not quite the same and I figured it wouldn’t get any better than that.  It just did!   Thank you de Blasio Family and thank you New York City!  xo-Tiff

*The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

P.S. Here’s a fun, and totally non-political, article.  I love what Chiara says about seeing what other people have to go through.  She acknowledges her white privilege.  Yeah, we get a fraction of that too.

Chiara & Dante de Blasio: 5 Things To Know About New NYC Mayor’s Kids

Wed, November 6, 2013  by 

The newly elected NYC mayor’s teens are just about the coolest kids in politics — and their edgy fashion senses, trendy hairstyles, and enthusiastic participation in their dad’s campaign are just the beginning. Here’s what you need to know about Chiara and Dante!

Chiara de Blasio, 18, and Dante de Blasio, 16 are such stylish young adults that they nearly stole the spotlight away from their dad, Bill de Blasio, who was elected the new mayor of New York City on Nov. 4. Learn more about the new first kids of NYC!

5 Things To Know About NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Kids

1. Chiara and Dante are really smart! Dante is a high school junior at Brooklyn Tech, which one of the city’s elite public high schools. Chiara, is a sophomore in college at a private liberal arts school in northern California. She plans to major in environmental studies.

2. Dante’s afro is so cool that absolutely everyone is noticing! President Barack Obama even mentioned it at a Democratic Party Fundraiser in New York in Sept. 2013. He “has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” Obama told the crowd before complimenting his look. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” Chiara loves switching up her own style, from sporting floral crown hair accessories to trying out dreads.

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3. Dante was featured in his dad’s campaign ads, and his videos quickly went viral. Chiara also expressed that she loved being part of her dad’s campaign process. “I like understanding what’s going on better. In every way I think that I’m lucky to live the life that I live,” Chiara told NY Mag. ”I don’t have a lot of the problems that other people have. It’s very important for me to see what other people go through.

4. Chiara’s fashion sense is completely new for a first daughter of New York City. She has ear gauges, an eyebrow piercing, and a nose piercing.

5. Chiara has publicly said that her dad is not “some boring white guy,” and that his cultural awareness comes from his global projects and his own multi-cultural family! Chiara and Dante’s dad, Bill comes from German and Italian American backgrounds and their mom, Chirlane McCray is African American. “A lot of people could look at him and just see the color of his skin, but it’s so much deeper than that,” Chiara told NY Mag.

re: carol channing or, more rumors of blackness

One of the most popular posts on this blog is the one that includes direct quotes from Carol Channing “admitting” to her blackness.  Actually, “part negro” is the way they put it back then.  Sign of the times, I’m sure.  What hasn’t changed is that people by and large are ignorant of Channing’s “blackness”.  I think maybe Carol’s a little ignorant about it herself after viewing this Wendy Williams interview in which Channing denies “it”, yet ultimately says she hopes “it’s” true.  Oh, the conflict.  I dug around for a little more info.  I came up with this gem.  Total rumor, but…

Via Some Random Thread

 

Carol Channing and Diana Ross were secretly COUSINS

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diana_ross

Carol Channing and Diana Ross were secretly COUSINS

My elderly neighbor, who lived in LA since childhood and spent decades working in entertainment has told me some scrazy stories, but the craziest is that Carol Channing and Diana Ross were actually cousins, and that Carol’s machinations were a big part of Diana’s ascension to lead status in the Supremes.

by: Anonymous reply 3 07/11/2012 @ 05:51PM

Carol Channing had a black grandfather so it could be true.

by: Anonymous reply 4 07/11/2012 @ 05:53PM

Channing’s from San Francisco and San Francisco lead the way with mixed marriages. They were all the same race marriages, just some white people marrying people not so white.

by: Anonymous reply 5 07/11/2012 @ 06:02PM

The legs, the smile…they do look a alike.

by: Anonymous reply 6 07/11/2012 @ 06:11PM

Channing with her parents:

 ChanningFamily

by: Anonymous reply 7 07/11/2012 @ 06:26PM

Channing’s only child, Channing Lowe:

carol and son, channing, 1965 house and garden september issue phot by john rawlings

by: Anonymous reply 9 07/11/2012 @ 08:41PM

They both have the same smile, teeth, and large eyes.

evidence piling up:

Carol Channing Soul Sister

by: Anonymous reply 12 07/11/2012 @ 08:46PM

Carol

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by: Anonymous reply 13 07/11/2012 @ 08:47PM

Diana

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by: Anonymous reply 14 07/11/2012 @ 08:48PM

On the “Diana Ross and The Supremes Greatest Hits” album, there is a liner note from Carol Channing commenting on her love for The Supremes.

confessions

1) This one’s a confession of sorts because since the Adam Lambert debacle I have not really watched any reality contestant type t.v.  And by “really” I mean never seen a full episode.  One can’t avoid bits and pieces.  Therefore, I am surprised to find myself sitting here on pins and needles so hopeful that Zendaya will win Dancing with the Stars.  The first time I watched an episode of DWTS was last night.  It happened because my mom told me about this biracial girl Zendaya who is just fantastic and a judge favorite, but may need extra votes because her parents were shown on camera and that could cost her the support of… well… “certain” viewers.  The only sad thing about that statement is that the concern is not invalid.  So I turned the show on and lo and behold… I think that if I had more time in my life I would become slightly obsessed with this girl because I just think she is spectacular and her parents are so adoring and even if it cost her votes I’m so glad that that reality is being televised!  In such a mainstream way.  So awesome! Makes me happy and brings me peace!  I kinda want to be her when I was 16.

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2) As in second confession…. In addition to Mental Health Awareness Month, May is also National Hamburger month.  Apparently I’m not one to discriminate because in the last 2 weeks I have had 3 cheeseburgers.  That’s 1/4 of my yearly burger intake!  In the last 2 weeks!  Clearly I am celebrating National Burger Month as well as MHAM and just thought you should be aware.  If burgers were alive they would probably be depressed because there is really no hope for a burger.  It will be eaten.  That would be beyond sad.

nation burger month may

SadBurger

sad?

Since I last posted (where does the time go!?) I’ve been thinking about how the opposite of depressed is not happy.  Because depression is not sadness.  I fully realized this when I found myself experiencing great sadness over the fact that I was not able to witness a very, very dear friend’s wedding.  I was so, so sad about it.  I cried.  Then I stopped crying.  While I was still aware of the sadness around this though the tears were done, I noticed that I had been able to allow the feeling to pass through me and then I found myself back at peace in the present moment.  (Yes, I have been meditating.  More on that in some other post.) It was in that present space that I had a lovely aha moment in which for the first time I clearly felt the difference between sad and depressed.  I had just allowed myself to experience my sadness without it causing great anxiety and/or influencing my every thought and my outlook on life in general.  And this was awesome because I spent a lot of years trying to avoid my feelings because they were overwhelming and I simply had no earthly idea what to do with them.
i hid my deepest feelings so wellSo I resisted them.  I depressed (def: having been pushed or forced down) them.  The awareness of that internal shift made me truly happy, as in pleased and content, for this is a sign that my efforts to nourish and balance my mind, body, and spirit have been somewhat successful (with the help of my therapist(s)) in calming my nervous system, and in redirecting and reconnecting pathways in my brain that had habitually spun in anxious patterns of negative expectation so that I can experience my feelings without attaching my identity to them or getting carried away by them.  So that I can truly live.
After that mildly profound experience, I came across the blog post below for which Junior Seau’s death was the catalyst. Junior Seau committed suicide, but was not known to be suffering from depression at the time.  I am not implying that depression and suicide go hand in hand, nor am I  making any statement about race.  I simply like the way Miriam Mogilevsky differentiates between sadness and depression.  As I’ve contemplated my own depression, the part of me that is still resistant to it’s existence will every now and then pipe up with a, “But I’m so happy a lot of the time.”  And it’s true. Sometimes I am so happy.  Many times.  And sometimes I am not.  But, whatever, because happy is just an adjective (a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it.  Happy: feeling or showing pleasure (satisfaction/enjoyment) or contentment.  Sad:  Feeling or showing sorrow: unhappy.I believe that I can be not depressed forever.  If not forever, for most of it I hope.  Speaking of which, to me depression most plainly described is a severe lack of hope.  I know that one can experience a moment of happy in the midst of the hopelessness of depression. Likewise, without depression, happyness is not guaranteed.  Sadness will enter.  After all we are talking about the human experience here.  There is no way that I will always, 100% of the time, experience pleasure, enjoyment, contentment, or satisfaction.  I don’t even want that.  That would lead to complacency and boredom.  I do crave peace, however. That is my goal. I want to always know the way back to the peace of the present moment that I find in the center of my heart.  When I can allow myself to feel that. That’s huge.  Peace in the midst of sorrow and joy and all the rest of it. I can only experience happiness.  I don’t think it can or should be held onto.  I can actually be peaceful though.  That is a state of being that is sustainable and maintainable.  That’s what I’m working toward.

artful peace hand

Peace:

-freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility

-mental calm, serenity

-freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groups (now we’re getting loser to race)

DEPRESSION IS NOT SADNESS: JUNIOR SEAU AND PUBLIC DISCOURSE ON MENTAL ILLNESS

by: Miriam Mogilevsky

A few days ago I came across the story of Junior Seau, an NFL linebacker who committed suicide on May 2 (2012). He shot himself in the chest and was found in his home by his girlfriend. Although little is known of Seau’s mental health leading up to his death, he had apparently suffered from insomnia for the last seven years of his life.

Sportswriter Chris McCosky  wrote a beautiful column in the Detroit News about Seau’s death and continuing ignorance about depression and suicide. In the column, McCosky shares his own experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts and laments how difficult it is to explain them to people. He notes, as I’ve noted before, that one common reaction that non-depressed people have is to wonder what the hell we have to be so sad about. He writes, “It’s almost impossible to talk about it to regular people (bosses, spouses, friends). They can’t fathom how somebody in good physical health, with a good job, with kids who love them, who seems relatively normal on the outside, can be terminally unhappy.”

The unbearable frequency at which McCosky and I and probably everyone else who tries to talk about depression get this response could be a testament to the fact the most visible symptom of depression is usually sadness. So that’s the one people latch on to: “What do you have to be so sad about?” “Cheer up!” “You have to decide to be happy!”

Because of the sheer obviousness of our sadness, we’re often forced to try to use it to describe depression. We say that we’re just extremely sad, or unhealthily sad, or adifferent kind of sad. It’s sadness that never goes away like sadness is supposed to. It’s sadness that’s out of proportion to the troubles that we face in our lives. It’s sadness that we can’t stop thinking about. For those of us with bipolar or cyclothymic disorder, it’s sadness that comes and goes much too quickly.

The truth is that sadness actually has very little to do with depression, except that it is one of its many possible symptoms.

Based on the diagnostic criteria for depression, you don’t even need to be chronically sad to be considered “depressed.” Anhedonia, which means losing the ability to feel pleasure from things that you used to enjoy, could be present instead. Under the formal DSM-IV definition, you must have at least five of nine possible symptoms to have major depression–and one of the five must be either depressed mood or anhedonia–and only one of those symptoms involves sadness. (If you so some very basic math, you will notice that this means that two people, both of whom officially have major depression, might only have one symptom in common. Weird, huh?)

So, even if your particular depression does include sadness, it’ll only be one of many other symptoms. The others might be much more painful and salient for you than the sadness is. Some people can’t sleep, others gain weight, some think constantly about death, others can’t concentrate or remember anything. Many lose interest in sex, or food, or both. Almost everyone, it seems, experiences a crushing fatigue in which your limbs feel like stone and no amount of sleep ever helps. Then there are headaches, stomachaches, and so on.

So, depression doesn’t necessarily mean sadness to us. (And a gentle reminder to non-depressed folks: being sad doesn’t mean you’re “depressed,” either.)

Depression is not sadness; it’s an illness that often, though not always, involves sadness. No amount of happy things will make a depressed person spontaneously recover, and, usually, no amount of sad things will make a well-adjusted person with good mental health suddenly develop depression. (Grief, of course, is another matter.) And sadness, on its own, does not cause suicide.

We need to start talking about mood disorders as disorders, not as emotional states. McCosky writes:

Junior Seau wasn’t sad when he pointed that gun to his chest. He wasn’t being a coward. He wasn’t being selfish. He was sick. I wasn’t sad when I thought about swerving into on-coming traffic on Pontiac Trail some 20 years ago. I was sick.

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Junior Seau one month prior to his death

What he’s saying is that people don’t kill themselves because they’re sad. They kill themselves because they have an illness.

There is a tendency, I think, to assume that people are depressed because they are sad. A better way to look at it is that people are sad because they are depressed. That’s why, even if we could “turn that frown upside down!” and “just look on the sunny side!” for your benefit, it would do absolutely no good. The depression would still be there, but in a different form.

Junior Seau did not leave a suicide note, so only God knows what he was thinking when he died. I would guess, though, that he was thinking about much more than just being sad.

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