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Ann Lindsey

© 2005


I unzipped my skin this morning,
stepped out & stood it
at my side - arms flaccid &
stocky legs wobbly at the knees.
A Rorschach smudge of symmetry
Me and my suit of skin.

What others see resides on one side
the Me at home, work - the grocery store,
coffee bars + neighbors,
over chain link fences and useless suburban curbs.

The opposite side, the left hand paint splot,
Me 2 - new,
paradoxically unsure, but strong, stretching,

An insistent, repetitive urge,
like the pestering chatter of a newly independent
teenage wren outside my open bedroom window,
instructed me to strip -
my skin too heavy a burden
I ached to shed it,
scale row by scale row
zipper tooth by zipper tooth,
to extract myself from its

Me without skin, it without soul.
We’re both naked now.

the mirror’s reflection is painful, the
years’ wear on the suit
so pronounced, just staring at it I can
feel its weight on my back, chest
the soles of my feet.
Its torn knees worn from work.
Across my chest, old loves mended and patched,
rewoven cuffs, frayed by late night infant cries.

Is this how a snake feels seconds
after it sheds?
Does its eyes distinguish colors
it hadn’t seen before?
Does its skin tingle, prickle,
yearning to re-experience all its past,
pre-shed, without the layers of filters -
thick, old buffering dead cells?
Does it cry?

Reason whispers, “Throw the damn thing away.”
and that feels right.
To begin anew.
With knowledge to step differently
on the trail, dodging pitfalls of the mind,
to follow my intuition
remembering to listen.

Instead, I hang it next to my
grandpa’s favorite flannel shirt -
and all the smells of him,
his voice, reminiscences
held in its cotton, buttons, collar -
straightening the wrinkles in both so
they hang neatly in a row.

I’ll keep my skin there
Waiting for me to wear it again after a hard
day at work, a tiring talk with my lover,
an exhilarating new encounter that chafes my newness
Knowing I c an slip it, rezip it
Wrapping myself in the memories of marriage, the
tenderness of a tiny hand in mine as we’d walk, or
quiet of a lakeshore sit.

Then, easily, I imagine,
I’ll reemerge
without the twisting, contorting effort
it took to shed.


The United States of Depression

Walk with me. There are things to consider.

“I think, and my therapist agrees, that our nation has sunk into a systemic depression after the election," she casually stated over pinot grigio and turkey, chevre cheese sandwiches. “We can't accept reality of the final vote so we spin, and wrestle, day by day, draining all our energy. Some days even the meds can’t cut the sadness.”

I nodded, knowing we’d travel down the well worn conversational road I’d journeyed so often since November 2004; cajoling friends to delay an immediate move to Canada until calm returned, deleting e-mails without reading them at work because even the tag lines were too profane, and talking, typing, talking about feelings of isolation. She, me, and 216 of our closest friends organically created a “Hope” listserv as a salve for our post-election wounds. It became a touchstone of sanity those initial late fall and early winter days, first daily, then weekly...short e-mails, editorials, reflections, connections to each other, or webinks, sending us where we could feel less alone, less blue in a sea of red. Unlike the Florida 2000 results that left us dangling, the 2004 election results were unavoidable. No pundits could parse the statistics in our favor. No level of discourse could overcome Truth - we live in a time in our nation’s record book when those in power do not represent all of their consituents' beliefs. So, try as we might, even our Hope web did not offer much solace.

Bereft of solutions, our conversation wound to it usual, awkward silence.

“More wine,” she asked?

As Friday dawns in London, investigators are picking through the carnage created by a coordinated bomb attack on three of the city's Underground trains and a double-decker bus. (7.7.05)

A few days later, driving home from a late night, humid BBQ, and more Bush skewering, I remembered a conversation with another friend, a colleague, who was indecisive about whom to cast her precious voice, and vote, upon. As an Evangelical Christian, she was, to my surprise, baffled about which candidate would move “her agenda” along best. Resisting the slanted political averrments blurting in my brain, I listened to her plight with neophyte ears.

“I’m so very confused," she began, sitting on the Formica science lab station we met at each morning, with lattes and stories before the chaos and joys of our jobs arrived on yellow buses and flooded our school with hormones and intensity.

“I live my life with Jesus and the words his Father gave to me through the Holy Bible. I believe that my purpose is to make his ultimate gift, The Rapture, occur as soon as possible. It is what all Christians strive for - never-ending life with Our Father and the banishment of all sinners to seven years of Hell on Earth. But my congregation is unsure who’ll usher in the Rapture more rapidly.

Of course Kerry will continue to unravel the social network of our society, setting group against group as they fight about those who choose to live in gay lifestyles or abort their children. He’ll continue the divisive, excessive, welfare system that erodes the quality of life for those caught in its web while also angering the rich, perpetuating the divisions of class and race in our country.”

Jaw slack and heart pounding, I waited, not trusting myself to respond.

“President Bush, on the other hand, and his many appointees, are doing a wonderful job of destroying the natural resources - which is one of the most significant Apocalyptic portents. The past three Sunday’s sermons have specifically addressed forecasts on water depletion, global warming impact and the environmental consequences of overpopulation.

It must seem like a win/win situation, huh? Yet I’ve prayed and prayed for guidance, and all I’m left with is sadness - depression - over the slow pace of change in our world.”

My bleary eyes refocused on the road, realizing I’d swerved, not from the last daiquiri, but from the vivid replay of the conversation scrolling across my mind’s windshield. I hit play again, and confirmed her last words, “I’m depressed over the slow pace of change in our world.”

It’s exciting, isn’t it, when a new idea begins to brave, keep walking.

Irony flashes bright in the human crucible, and, during that early morning revelation, our quandary was illuminated. Despite our divisions and entrenched positions, we have one narrow splinter of common ground from which to build - depression. All points on the surreal, tautly stretched American ideological continuum can relate to at least one of the symptoms on the American Medical Associations Depression Checklist:

Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" moods, mood swings
Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed
Restlessness, irritability
Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Fatigue or loss of energy
Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless

So, it would seem Americans, cleaved by doctrine, are consumed by a myopic daily ritual of digging out of the state of depression, depleting our renowned, creative brilliance.

Since our berm of common ground is so small, let’s ignore the contemporary hot button topics and step onto firmer ground, ground all sides can accept as truth; let's turn to laws that are undebatable - Newtonian Physics.

Nervous? It’s ok......go ahead. Don’t worry - it will all be waiting for you if you choose to return. Newton proved that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sound familiar? The 49% to 51% 2004 Presidential race results? It’s the Third Law, textbook. For many, on the far ends of the sliding scale, the radical edges, America’s stalemate provides comfort. Like the U.S. vs. Soviet arms race during the Cold War, when masses meet in the middle and record wins/losses, a status quo keeps surprises at bay; neither side achieves victory, neither side is bombed into oblivion. Yet, The Blue vs. Red, Left vs. Right, donkey,elephants, Hell- or Heaven- bound demarcations have solved nothing. We have remained in this philosophical loggerhead for decades, stagnant, with billions of special interests’ dollars rotting around our ankles. Force against force has exhausted America. It’s depressing.

28,800 - The total number of intact nuclear warheads retained by the United States and Russia.

Newton’s Second Law takes it even one step further for us. Over 300 years ago, in his attempt to explain the natural order of objects, could he also have created a sociological road map out of the dark, depressing forest we find ourselves wandering, shouting at each other from promontories we protect at all costs? He stated, “Whenever there is an interaction between two objects, there is a force acting on each of the objects. When the interaction ceases, the two objects no longer experience a force. Forces only exist as a result of an interaction.”

"Every three seconds, a child dies because of treatable, preventable illness brought on by extreme poverty. In the two months since the G7 finance ministers met in London, 2 million children have died because of treatable, preventable illness brought on by extreme poverty. Every day, 8,500 people die and another 13,500 contract the HIV virus, nearly 1,800 of whom are children. More than one billion people including half the population of Sub-Saharan Africa live on less than one dollar a day.”

Is ending interaction the solution? Do the polar opposites have to interact with one another? In a day to day way, it may be necessary; materials must be moved, systems maintained. But does the voting record of the clerk ringing up my organic milk and wheat bread matter? Arguments could be made on each side for seceding from the fact, many websites seriously discuss conceptualizing just such dogmatic islands to polka dot our landscape. Complete separation, cocooning oneself amongst like minded individuals, is appealing. Alas, again, despite Sir Isaac’s best endeavors, we arrive at “been there, done that” examples from our history, from the Civil War right up to Timothy Leary’s exaltation to “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out." “No interaction” solved nothing. Neither Rapture nor reconciliation can occur in a vacuum of sameness.

The average employed American works a 46-hour work week; that’s equivalent to three extra days every month, over a month more in a year.

If Natural Law cannot capture all the variables in the contemporary landscape, what about the philosophers and prophets over the years? They strove to place the cultural puzzle pieces.

Taoists follow the art of "wu wei," letting nature take its course, allowing a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; erecting no dam which would interfere with its natural flow. Perhaps the attempt to manipulate the eventual outcome of the experiment called America is the catalyst to our depression. Maybe George Carlin had it right - “When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat. “ All we have to do is sit back and enjoy the show?

But the show is too loud! The colors on the screen too intense. We try to keep engaged, know the news, the state of affairs, laugh, from the good seats, when it all makes so little sense - keep a perspective. The cacophony doesn’t stop, though, does it? We can’t run fast enough to stay ahead of the programming, can’t protect our children, our homes, hell, even ourselves, from the random acts of surrealness.

Date Rape is the most common form of rape (78%) with 1 in 4 girls expected to fall victim to rape or attempted rape before they reach 25, and 3 out of 5 rapes occurring before a woman reaches age 18.

Between 50,000 & 250, 000 people in the U.S. die every year from conventional medicine mistakes. That's the equivalent of six jumbo jet crashes a day for an entire year. Statistics prove prescription drugs are 16,400% more deadly than terrorists

Again, again and again, no model, no paradigm fits, leaving us stuck- drained as we slowly sink , deeper and deeper.

Pause. . . . Stop. . . . Breathe. . . . Think. . . . It’s all inside you. . . . Listen.

What if logic no longer prevails? What if no model of humanity fits. What if time spent worrying about the trivial - what edifice we worship, who we sleep with, what we can invent next - has obfuscated the most critical, obvious point.

We find ourselves here, we, the collected whole, because we are literally depressed - mashed, surpressed, lowered, minimized. My listserv friends, right wingers, Evangelicals, atheist, me, you, us, we, America. We hide from the random acts we cannot control and barely understand, flying at us at such alarming speed. We cannot process it all. We do not possess the tools. Unable to deal with the volume of our lives, with what we have created- our little boys who’ve grown to make more and more complicated tinker toys, carrying us to Mars, and into Trade Towers, and our girls who’ve excelled, pushed, expressed themselves to succeed in a new order, becoming cynical and weary before they are 20- we become less. Become less and less mindful of the widening gap between the inventions with which we surround ourselves and their impact upon our lives, the consequences they bring, less and less willing to face the truth behind the last 10,000 years worth of development. We’ve careened off the path. We have failed in our quest for fulfillment, falsely beliveing that intellect would be our map.

Is this how Man felt just moments before his first spark ignited a fire to warm his family?
Did the first scribe tingle like this when he placed stick against clay tablet?

Ah, actually, yes, continue......

Like an Eastern water wheel, our bucket of ability to cope with what we have wrought upon ourselves - masticistically demanding more and better and faster, brighter, higher, with no new internal skills - is about to spill?

It has spilled, stop trying to mop up the mess....walk into new

It is time to journey within. To sit calmly and begin to understand what we do not yet know. To find within ourselves, and then share with others, a lost set of skills, like learning all over again how our tail bone helped our body. We are at the cusp of a new day - one in which we may choose to delve into ourselves, we, a nation, a world culture, as the Earth has never demanded before, abandoning that which we’ve held onto for so long - our security blankets of opposition, of you vs. me.

MRIs and PET scans have debunked the myth of using only 10% of our brain. Even in REM sleep, neurologists know that over 60% of our brain either flashes with activity or lies safely dormant, forming a redundant cranial safety net in case of injury. But what of the remaining 40%? Surely neither an omnipotent power, nor the flow of Evolution would allow up to 70% of the bodies' energy to be used by a single organ if its purpose was to function just barely over halfway each day. What is hiding there, unused, waiting to be created? Are we brave enough to abandon the battles of today, risking our positions on the continuum, to search for access into that gray space?

They are building a ship with the twisted steel girders from the World Trade Center. They’ve melted down thousands of tons of rubble, re-oxydized it, and are expertly molding it into a radically new, wave cutting prow of what will soon be the world’s most streamlined, advanced transportation. May we decide, as individuals, that we too will recycle the rubble within ourselves, sorting, sifting through the delayed emotional impact from our rush to expand outwardly, blindly. And as we begin to explore this newness, may we have the strength and insight to recognize all it may hold, to fearlessly decompress - rising, springing up, into our true potential.

Walk with me, let’s talk.