Friday, October 09, 2015

Accidental sungazer

Sungazing is the act of looking directly into the Sun.

I'm an accidental sungazer. I couldn't tell you when I started seeking out the glow of the rising and setting sun. I remember when I noticed it was becoming my daily salve, the strange sensation that I had done this before and, before and, again. I couldn't want anything more than seeking out the heat on my face of the direct sunlight. I liked it straight to the face, eyes stinging and puddling, staining my face with my make-up. Staring up became a habit, that turned me into a sky watcher, a rainbow chaser.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Waiting for the glow

On a particularly beautiful evening a few years ago in San Francisco I was walking home from work and snapped this photo. I remember how I felt when I looked up to be completely blinded by the beauty of the light. The sunset light climbing the hill to the Haight is unique at a certain time of a day, a glow emits, ethereal light exists for a few moments - I would never have noticed if I didn't dare to look up from the gum stained sidewalk. After my eyes stopped watering, the silhouettes revealed themselves as mysterious reminders to continue to look toward the light - let it soak your entire being - follow its path. Thus the beginning of the Glow Project.
Chantel Williams-Dickson all rights reserved.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dear Stacy Fucking Campbell

I found out about your passing online, on Facebook.

I met you in 2006 at one of the first BlogHer conferences. This community where I met the first of many bright, talented, beautiful, giving women. I had never been to a conference before, I had no idea what to expect - I had no idea women were so wonderful. Stampy, Amanda, Heather & Heather, Kris, SueBob, Lisa, Jory, Elisa - there are so many. Oh my god, you women made me love women - I found my tribe.

I never told anyone about my depression until you. I was in my 30s before I had the words to tell people what my life was like - slowly I overcame the shame.

That weekend I met you and your bestie, I met my own bestie's - women who I still know, women who have rescued me in real life and online. Your writing just like so many others gave me the first words, the first vocabulary I ever found that described the daily pain, struggle, confusion of the world we live in - our world shadowed with depression and mental illness. Even when I wasn't able to write or even tell anyone personally I knew, I too struggled living day to day with childhood trauma, the anguish and, turmoil of depression.

When you commented on one of my earliest posts I felt like I had been touched by the hand of Hemingway. Oh my god, Stacy Fucking Campbell thinks I might be on to something. I wrote in secret for the first year of my blog because my confidence in myself was non-existent. Oh my god, someone I admired so much gave me the first compliment - real compliment I've ever had in my entire life. We met just two times but, my god you made a difference for me. Just you.

It wasn't that you wrote a blog about the sad life of depression. You were funny, you were normal to me; I was in awe of your honesty, your beauty, your humor, your photography. Oh my god, your photography was sooooo indescribably beautiful and special.

Yesterday, when I told my sister that I wasn't sure if I could write anything for you because, "GOD, she was sooo good, sooo beautiful, soooo talented". What could I ever say that would be good enough?

When you moved to the Bay area, we met maybe once. I was living there, you were living there, we made promises to see each other but I knew that meeting new people scared the living shit out of me. Yes, even though I was a comedian, even though I met hundreds of new people every day. The thought of hanging out with someone whom I admired so much was overwhelming. When you moved back to Michigan I felt like I might have missed out on an awesome someone. But I continued to follow you, read about you, comment on your beauty, talent even if it was just to let you know, I always thought you were a rock star. You were still that awesome, even though we didn't have the balls to say hello. I know it wasn't easy for you there, it wasn't easy for me either.

I've been touched by a lot of suicide in my life - starting with my biological father and then followed by so many after that. Maybe 8 or 10 people I've known have ended their suffering - I've tried a couple of times. When I could find no solace, no comfort, when I was called selfish or stupid or even patronized and condescended by my ex for trying seeking help - I turned my depression back inside. I hid it again.

I've been in a pit of sadness since I found out about you leaving this planet. But, I understand. I've been there - I've stood on the side of the Golden Gate Bridge and I felt the fresh air of freedom. I felt the imminent possibility that I could be free from the constant pain, free from the fear of another moment where I would be overcome, overwhelmed, ambushed by my mind. The weight of carrying depression around fucking hurts like a skyscraper sitting on my chest. 

I understand. I understood. 

I also knew that went I went to work for the architect who builds big bridges and who designed the suicide barriers for that very same bridge that only YOU would understand the humor and irony I found in it. 

He asked me in the interview "what do you know about bridges Chantel?"

I replied in hysterical laughter, "I know nothing about bridges except how to jump off of one." 
You would have laughed your fucking ass off. 

I still tell that joke, onstage, it makes people uncomfortable. I don't care. 

When I woke this morning, I knew I still didn't have my own words. But a song has been playing in my head all morning. My instinct tells me that this is you - you will see us again - you will love us from afar, you will be watching over us. 

I put these lyrics here because I'm singing this morning. I can't sing unless I'm channeling Patsy Cline and then I turn into a mysterious chanteuse, a channeling. I'm not afraid to sing to my nephews so I've been singing terribly, at the top of my lungs, making them giggle.  I will sing it in my head or maybe out loud every time I think of you. Whenever I see a rainbow - I will know you're there. Thank you for being there, for hanging on all of those years. You made a difference, your life fucking matters - every step you ever took on this planet matters - every word you threw out into the ether matters. 

For you Stacy, I will love you, and remember you ever fucking day. You are loved and you fucking matter. 

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true ooh oh

Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Oh why, oh why can't I?

Well I see trees of green and red roses too,
I'll watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Well I see skies of blue
And I see clouds of white
And the brightness of day
I like the dark
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people passing by
I see friends shaking hands
Singing, "How do you do?"
They're really singing, "I...I love you."

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more than we'll know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world world

Someday I'll wish upon a star,
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high
And the dream that you dare to, why, oh why can't I? I?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Lords Prayer minus the Lord

I've got a lot to be pissed about - but, I'm still having chest pains. Instead of chest pains, I choose to sit into my center and breathe and pray that the pain is just my anxiety, and hope that this is not the moment I'm dying of a heart attack, and pray some more because damn, I'm tired of being crazy. But sometimes life is crazy, not me.

Its not me - it really is them.
I shall repeat this to myself every night before I go to sleep.
Like the Lord's Prayer
minus -
The Lord.

As my health over the past few months grew worse, I made a decision to take medical leave. Its important to note that being a restaurant manager is not the easiest job in the world. Especially, for the invincible woman with pneumonia and chest pain. I've been to see cardiologists and pulmonary specialists, and ran the treadmill until I literally had no air. I want to strangle every doctor who has never failed to bring up my anxiety; you know that imaginary rope I dangle from tightly wrapped around my neck day after day knowing my feet are only two inches off the floor and I'm going to die anyway -- THAT ROPE? Every time my anxiety symptoms were mentioned my heart pain was immediately dismissed - is just like a condescending pat on the head. I still took a medical leave.

I planned a night where my colleagues and I could gather; in a truck stop bar off of I-84. There, I planned a surprise comedy show. As the night grew on and I noticed my other booked comic hadn't shown; I knew that the time was now or never. I was going to get on the "dance floor" on the end of a ten foot microphone cord and entertain. (with my clothes on)  I was forced into it - I've almost thought of nothing else since I left performing almost 3 years ago. But you never really leave, its always there, almost stronger than the rope of anxiety. I was going to get on the "dance floor" - and I would decided right then an there.

In the midst of debilitating lows, one could not know how my heart smashed at every level while shuffling across a slippery dance floor telling jokes for 30 solid minutes. Just the memory makes my heart hurt. I know its hard to get my blood pressure up since I have the blood pressure of a fairly healthy zombie but, I've broken out into a sweat.

I actually did perform and I performed well, I performed like it was my best night and I never left. I won't say all 30 was rocking because there was a moment in the middle when I stopped and realized what I was doing and I almost threw up in the middle of my blow job joke. Like that hasn't happened to anyone before.  I performed like a robot, like a mad woman, probably better and way more open than in the past. I'm looking forward to the next and the next and the next. Just like blow jobs, my gag reflex will strengthen over time and I'll be up on the dance floor without my old dance partner, PTSD/Generalized Anxiety Disorder/Panic Disorder/Agoraphobia very soon. You know I'm not happy unless its a full blown circus.

It turns out its just going to take more time to heal from this broken heart. The pain is real but the muscles are weak. The will is there, the hard work will come but, I've been down a long time and this is just going to take a bit longer.

Chest Pain 1

Chantel for President

So you still think you want Trump for President. Sit down and tell me about your Step father.