This week has sucked. There are just no two ways about it. It’s sucked.
First, there was Robin Williams’ untimely death. It seemed like a sucker-punch to the country’s collective gut, losing such a gifted and talented person. Images and sounds of some of his roles are seared on my brain, like the scene in “Moscow on the Hudson”, when his character – a defector from Soviet Russia – collapses in tears in the coffee aisle of the grocery store, overwhelmed by too much choice. He made me laugh SO MANY TIMES, and he made me cry SO MANY TIMES, and always he was this brilliant gorgeous creature. We were so lucky to have him. As so many other people, he had his share of demons to battle – depression among them – and now news that he was also in the early stages of Parkinsons Disease. I know what it’s like to have a family member commit suicide rather than lose themselves to PD and, whether that was his particular motivation or not, it’s always sad to lose someone who meant so much to you.
We were all so sad at the beginning of the week (soon to hear of Lauren Bacall’s passing, as well as Charles Keating and others…), and it seemed like this week would be measured solely in its body count.
At the same time, I managed to get a free app from the App Store – the featured app of the week – Autodesk’s Sketchbook. Ever since seeing JC Little speak at BlogHer about the use of visuals in storytelling, even when those visuals are rudimentary, I wanted to find a way to draw. So, I grabbed a stylus pen I’d gotten from some conference or another (OH THAT’S WHAT THAT RUBBERY THINGIE IS ON THE END OF THAT PEN) and started drawing.
Day 1, I made this:
Day 2 wasn’t going much better, so I wanted to try to cheer people up. I’m still getting the hang of the app (more detailed Help files would really make me squee in delight), so I couldn’t make a rose, like I’d originally intended. But a tulip is one of my favorite flowers, and I think it works:
Day 3 and I’m just done with this week. I stayed up way too late last night seeing tweets and photos from reporters being illegally arrested by militarized police in Ferguson, Missouri. I saw a picture of a man picking up a tear gas canister and throwing it back at the police to get it away from people who’d been standing stock still, arms linked. I heard the deafening, unbearable silence from Martha’s Vineyard as President Obama partied rather than making calls to diffuse the boiled-over situation. I read the account from the editor of my hometown newspaper, The Washington Post, as he explained how one of his reporters was physically assaulted and then arrested by a police officer who wanted to keep him from recording, photographing or otherwise telling others what was taking place. And then today I read way too many posts of how the “thugs” who inhabit Ferguson are the cause of all of this mess. They’re no longer Americans or humans, to some; they’re just thugs. Dehumanizing these people doesn’t help and it doesn’t solve a damn thing.
And so today, this is what I drew.
There’s a part of me that wants to curl up in a ball and make it all go away, but I have to bear witness because my white skin doesn’t exempt me from feeling sorrow at a trampling of human rights. This week has reminded me of days when my depression hounded me, though never so much as the days when I considered driving off the road to end my pain. If I lived in Ferguson or if I lived somewhere that wasn’t as nice as where I am now – where I can smile and wave to the police without fear – my depression might be all-consuming.
I am lucky, and still I cry.
This week has been awful, and I’m lucky that I can shut it out by turning off Twitter and Facebook. Not everyone is so lucky.
This art is becoming a channel of sorts, and I suspect I’ll get better at it the more I do it, though I never expect I’ll be as good as my artist friends. But if it helps me channel my rage and fear and sadness, I’ll keep doing it.
So many thanks to whoever made that app free this week – and thank you SO MUCH to JC Little, because without her I never might have downloaded that little app and started making art of my very own.
Even your sadness.