What’s With The Blog Title?

It’s time for a little something on depression. There are lots of ways to be depressed, beside the one most people think of, feeling sad and hopeless and crying all the time. Feeling sad and hopeless and crying all the time is what drove me to see my doctor in 1997, when I got my depression diagnosis.

But it was only one of many ways depression had me in its grip, and to explain more about that I need to start with my blog title, Wish I Could Have Been There.

It comes from the song I Wish I Could Have Been There, by John Anderson, one of my favorite country singers. The song tells of a man reflecting on all the times his occupation (country singer on the road maybe?) pulls him away from his wife and children and all the important family events he has missed.

The song came to have profound meaning for me after my depression diagnosis. It explained something about my high school reunions that always left me baffled and disturbed.

I attended University High School in Norman, Oklahoma, a small, semi-private laboratory school for the College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. I was one of seventeen in the graduating class of 1962.

At one time many universities operated these laboratory schools; they were designed to provide students a solid, classical education from teachers who also could challenge each student to embrace learning in an atmosphere of experimentation and innovation. Most of the schools have closed by now, which I think is a shame. Most of my classmates to this day would testify we received a superior education at our University High School. Almost of us had at least one teacher there we absolutely revered.

Being a laboratory school for the university, UHS attracted a lot of professors’ kids, and the nerd quotient was pretty high. I was not a nerd.

My family moved to Norman in 1957 from Seminole, Oklahoma, when my mother accepted an invitation to teach first grade at University School. I entered the 8th grade at the high school. By the next year I was a cheerleader, and head cheerleader in my senior year. In my junior year I was homecoming queen. All through high school I ran with the really cool kids. I was very popular.

But later when I went to class reunions, other classmates would regale me with  their memories involving me. I had no memory of these incidents at all. I laughed with my old friends as if I too remembered the events, but inside I was gobsmacked at how their memories could be so different from mine.

After I was diagnosed with depression and learned more about the illness, I finally understood why.

Depression runs in both sides of my family. After my diagnosis in 1997 at the age of 53, I recognized I had had depression most of my life. It started manifesting subtly in my childhood and grew more obvious, to me at least, as I got older. I had lots of friends, I was popular, I had a successful career, yet often I was miserable inside. I would look forward to activities with friends and then find within an hour or I was dying to get away from them.

So one of the things about depression is that when you’re in it and feeling it, you are focusing on yourself and your own feelings, not on the people around you. Like a narcissist, except the self-absorption is not about how great you think you are, but about about how inadequate you feel.

Thus I may have been there physically with my high school classmates, yet far, far away emotionally. This emotional absence has been true for me much of my life. It cost me friendships I didn’t bother to maintain. It cost me my marriage. It cost me the love of my life.

Thus the title of my blog, Wish I Could Have Been There. I wish desperately now I had been more present in my own life in my younger years. There is so much I missed. So much that could have been different. So many costly choices and lost opportunities I have to regret.

I know, you’re not supposed to dwell on your regrets. It’s toxic.

But when you know your life could have been so much happier, richer, more fulfilled if  you just could have opened yourself to those around you. . . .It’s hard not to have regrets.

There’s much more to tell about how depression has shaped my life, but that’s for later.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you like this post, follow me and you’ll get notices when I post new ones.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie Beck

 

 

 

Do Animals Have Souls? Part One

My thinking on this question  has evolved.

I grew up with a succession of three small family dogs: Lucky the cocker spaniel, Skippy the wire hair fox terrier, Adolph the dachshund. We knew next to nothing about the breeds of the dogs we bought (yes, bought–back then we never even thought about adopting a homeless dog). Thus we knew nothing about the kind of behavior to expect from each one and whether that behavior would be a good match for our family. We got the dogs as puppies and we based our buying decisions on the cuteness factor of each pup.

Our dogs spent most of their time outside in a fenced yard and slept in the garage at night. They got cheap canned food and minimum necessary vet care. (Spay or neuter? Nobody did that.) We had male dogs because they couldn’t get pregnant.

Back then the dog training we knew emphasized punitive measures like rolled up newspapers and blasts from a garden hose, and when we employed such disciplinary measures we thought we were properly teaching our dogs how to behave.

Lucky and Skippy and Adolph were sweet pets, and we cried when each one died. But they were dogs, not people, and we thought them capable of only very basic thought and feeling.

I was an English major in college, and as a graduate teaching assistant I taught English 101, an introductory course for freshmen. One day we were discussing an essay that claimed humans were the only beings who could  understand that they and those they loved would die some day, and thus were the only beings capable of grieving. No members of the animal kingdom could do that.

Discussion followed. The freshman boys sat mostly silent and bored, but some of the freshman girls argued quite strongly that animals could understand death and thus did grieve, using as examples elephants gently caressing the bones of dead elephants they encountered, or chimp mothers refusing to give up the bodies of their dead babies, or old and weak prey animals going off by themselves to die, so as not to endanger the rest of the herd.

No, I countered gently, that wasn’t possible. Only human beings could feel impending death and grieve at the death of others.

I believed the essay’s author and I had the truth. The young women believed they had the truth. I don’t think any minds were changed.

After years of  amateur study of animal behavior, behind-the scenes encounters with zoo animals, volunteering at homeless animal shelters, and living with a succession of eight cats and four retired racing greyhounds, I know the college girls were right, and the essay author and I were wrong.  Animals are sentient beings. They have intelligence. They have souls.

I’ll share more on this topic in later posts.

But I’ll end with this declaration. I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in an all-seeing, all-knowing god, and I don’t believe people go to heaven or hell when they die. But I believe  there is a rainbow bridge and a kitty cat lane. All dogs go to the Rainbow Bridge, where they are young and spry again, with all their illnesses and injuries gone. All cats go to Kitty Cat Lane, where they too are young and healthy again, and the sun is always shining, and all the mice are slow and fat.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

He goes, I’m like, Well I mean

Today’s post is about language. I’m usually a pretty mellow person, but when it comes to language use I’m a curmudgeon.  Like all people growing up, I was surrounded by the slang of my generation, and much of that slang I liked and used. For instance, you’ll still hear me saying “Far Out!” when I really like something.

Slang is creative. Slang is imaginative. Slang is playful. I’m all for that. One of my favorite epithets is “God’s teeth!”, introduced to me in a novel I read in graduate school. I think it was Kingsley Amos’ Lucky Jim, but I’m not sure. The origin of the phrase is apparently Elizabethan.

What always gets my dander up and awakens my inner curmudgeon is hearing “I’m like” and “he’s like” (which seems to have replaced “I go” and “he goes”) for “I said” and “he said”.  It started as teenspeak, and now it seems damn near universal as those teens have grown up. To me it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

My latest outrage is hearing professional journalists and commentators on news talk shows start their comments with “I mean,” or sometimes “Well, I mean” or “Yeah, I mean”. Where the hell does that come from? More teenspeak? These are professionals  who ought to know better. God’s Teeth!

Thank you for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

Marjorie Beck

Welcome to my blog!

Here we go, world. This is a blog about my 74 years of living with depression, but also about lots of other things:  My life’s journey, my passions, my opinions on whatever I want to share: reading, writing (2 drawer novels), helping others with their writing (BA and MA in English, freelance proofreader and editor), history, politics, music (amateur flutist), Okie pride, cats, dogs, being in love, being in platonic heterosexual relationships, supporting same-sex relationships, our gun culture, our racist history, our dying planet. Just to name a few, , , ,

This is my first entry, and I plan to post about once a week.  If you like what you read, follow my blog and you’ll get all my posts.  Comments and likes are appreciated.

Stay tuned. Marjorie Beck