What I Learned from // One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

“One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey tells the story of a group of Oregon men living in a mental ward and the staff meant to get them sane through cruelty and control. There is Randle Patrick McMurphy, who is new to the ward. He’s street-smart, stubborn, rambunctious, and ready to have some fun.

Standing in his way is Big Nurse Ratched who likes her ward kept quiet and is determined to bring McMurphy under control by any means necessary. We follow it all from the perspective of Chief Bromden, a half-Indian schizophrenic who can see the authoritarian gears grinding behind the walls and working through McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.

This book was definitely something altogether different. I can certainly see how it came to be one of the most banned books in America. The writing is intense from the very outset, and the imagery is vivid and often disturbing.

My heart raced along with Chief Bromden while he hid from the orderlies. I was afraid of Nurse Ratched and her way of breaking the will of anyone by using condescending kindness and patience. I was sad to see the way the “chronics” were treated, or the way “acutes” were turned into “chronics.” I wondered at the great big “Combine” working keeping us all in control and conforming. I wanted to fight the Combine, and keep it from churning us out, one by one, to the roles ready-made made for us.

I was in awe of McMurphy and confused by him too. I couldn’t understand whether he was supposed to be good or bad, but I know he stood for something big, and bold, and free.

“And later hiding in the latrine from the black boys I’d look at my own self in the mirror and wonder how it was possible that anybody could manage such an enormous thing as being what he was.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I learned that in the real world heroes and villains are bigger than right and wrong. That a person can save you and swindle you at the same time and that the best of intentions, the kindest smiles, and the gentlest treatment can make a prison out of a person.

Kesey reminded me that joy, spontaneity, and adventure are an important part of the quality of someone’s life and ought to be a part of their recovery, even if it leads to a little mess and the occasional setback. The alternative is worse.

I learned that a person needs to be free. A person needs to feel like a person. They need to know they mean something and that the way they see the world is valid. A person needs to be built up and loved the way they are. Yes, we are all special snowflakes and while that may not entitle us to any special privileges in this world is does mean the right to be our beautiful, unique selves. It means we have the right to joy and proper mental care free of someone else’s biased view of what it means to be “normal.”

But we can never claim those rights without first recognizing the way we allow them to be taken from us in the first place. In this modern world. Each of us has to make his mind for himself what rules he will and won’t follow, not because he is told, but because he agrees with the reasoning behind the rule.

“Rules? PISS ON YOUR FUCKING RULES!”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a reminder to us all not to place too much trust in authority and to never stop asking why things have to be the way they are. This book is about the ways we control each other and the need to constantly question that control.

This book certainly asks a lot of questions. In a world where any deviation of behavior makes a person crazy, does the word mean anything anymore? How do we treat people who are depressed, anxious, or unhappy? How do we treat people who we have deemed are beyond our help? How do we decide, why do we decide, that people aren’t worth seeing, helping, or caring about anymore? How do we recognize who is trying to help us, and what help looks like when we see it if we aren’t of sound mind? What makes a person good or bad? What makes a person a person?

“Papa says if you don’t watch it people will force you one or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Some of the other themes I wasn’t so comfortable with. There seemed to be a misogynist tones weaved below the action that threw me off and made it hard for me to fall head over heels with the book. It’s hard to cheer for the little guy when a big part of why he hates the figure of the authority is her womanness.

Nurse Ratched wasn’t a good person, but it wasn’t because she was a woman. There are plenty of men at the top of every one of societies institutions using physical violence and mental manipulation to keep the masses controlled. Men love destroying the masculinity in one another as much as any woman ever would.

This is my only gripe with the book, but maybe the book wasn’t written with someone like me in mind.

I recommend reading it regardless though. It was still an enjoyable and exciting read and, let’s be honest, no author is perfect, and no story can be either. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some good to get out of exploring it. This book is all about questioning, and just like we question the motivates and meaning of Nurse Ratched and McMurphy, we can certainly question Ken Kesey himself.

“But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured photo is by paul morris on Unsplash

Advertisements

If We Were Having Coffee // It Feels Like Fighting Winter

“What do you want?”
“Just coffee. Black – like my soul.”

― Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

Hello dear readers and thank you for stopping by for a bit of coffee and a chat. The weather is looking much better than last week but I will be honest with you, my mood is much worse. It’s been a long week and not just because of that man living in the White House now, though most of it is. It’s a combination of hopelessness, anxiety, and stress about huge and worldly issues and some tiny and personal ones too.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am still in a state of shock over the new president. I watched the inauguration events most of the day, and through it all, I still couldn’t believe it. I understand that Obama was not a perfect President and that are some valid concerns over war and deportation over the last four years but he was such and optimistic and hopeful leader. He made me feel safer. He made me feel like progress was always being made.

Trump, on the other hand, makes me feel very anxious! He makes me feel like everything we know is going to be disrupted. There is no certainty under him. We don’t know what will happen from minute to minute. I am preparing for a life where I have to be glued to the news to find out what new and horrible ways he is affecting my life and future. It is exhausting! I am trying my best to prepare for the next four years, but emotionally I don’t think I, nor the country at large, can continue at this pace.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that while I was so proud and happy to see so many people all over the world protesting together, I did not make it to my local Women’s March yesterday. I thought about going, but I just don’t know if it was right for me, or maybe it just wasn’t the right time.

I realized yesterday that I am still very angry. I feel betrayed, but my fellow Americans and I don’t trust the word of its people right now. I don’t trust that everyone who says they are fighting this administration is really doing so at heart. I don’t trust that the person telling me that they don’t agree with the new President’s words didn’t vote for him. I feel like I was abandoned and it will take a long time for me to trust again.

So, I spent the day with family, which is what my soul needed and sometimes I have to put my soul first. I will fight my own way for now, and I will join that public fight when I am ready. In the meantime I assure you I am watching, I am rooting for us, and deep down  I am so happy to see you all coming together.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am not giving up I am simply changing my perspective. I think fighting this administration feels a lot like fighting a hard winter. We can fight all we want, but it is still going to be winter.

It will hurt, and it will be cold. It will be so cold that people might die of exposure and we will mourn and cry, and still it will be winter. It will start to feel pointless, but we still have to fight, not, because we might stop winter, but because we have to keep warm to keep alive. We have to fight because winter can live in your heart and follow you into spring if you let it. We have to fight so that when the season changes we can meet it with warm hearts. We must be ready to get out there and plant beautiful flowers and trees. We have to get out and repair the damage.

I am doing my best to remember that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope the damage won’t be too great.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that my doctor’s appointment Monday went well, but I was so worked up over it that afterward that I was exhausted and stayed tense and nauseous for a full day.

I will need more testing and more appointments but so far I have anxiety, migraines, a problem with my right kneecap, and something is going on with my colon, maybe. For the anxiety, I am working on learning how to sleep better, since that is the area of my life impacted the most right now. For the migraines, I have a prescription to take as needed. For the knee, I have exercises and will need future x-rays. For the colon, they will have to take a look. Too much information, I know, but imagine how I feel! I am terrified!

I’m glad that I have finally started to figure out what is going on with me, and I feel a bit better knowing that whatever is going on I am not knocking on death’s door or anything, yet. I am okay for now, and soon I will be doing even better and knowing that feels so good.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had to put down Plato’s Republic this week. I know that book is a classic and a cornerstone of Western philosophy but so much of it sounded, well, dumb. I wish I could have lived back then and argued with Plato, the world might be a very different place today. Before anyone lectures me, I am trying to remember that those were very different times and in the context of history, Plato was a forward thinking man Still, it was frustrating.

So, I took a break and picked up My Ántonia by Willa Cather, who, it turns out was a lesbian. That, of course, has nothing to do with the story and no impact on whether or not this is a good story, I’m just trying to read more books by women and by women of color or queer women. It’s nice to make progress on that front even if it was only by accident.

So far the story is good. It’s different. I haven’t read much on the early American West, so it’s refreshing to explore a new world. I’m hoping to read this one quickly, I’m behind in my reading challenge already!

I’ll get back to Plato eventually.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had better get going before time gets away from me, and I don’t get anything done. I have laundry to wash and fold, a kitchen that is a shameful mess, and shopping to do for the pets. I hope to get a jump on a few post and look into starting a “life audit” later in the evening.

I hope you had a great week. Please, leave a love note below and let me know how you are holding up.

Until next time :)

Life lesson.

A post shared by Lisa Blair (@zenandpi) on

***

If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter on life, love, and suffering (:

Written in response to Part-Time Monster’s weekly event, Weekend Coffee Share

Featured image via Unsplash

Short and Sweet Reviews // Small Ghost by Trista Mateer

because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing

but it takes an awful lot of work to be nothing sometimes

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

I’ve been following Trista Mateer on Tumblr for a while now, and when she announced that her newest chapbook Small Ghost was free on Amazon for a limited time, I dropped everything I was doing to download it. I was not disappointed. This little book is packed with a ton of raw and real emotion. It left me in tears, both the sad and the happy kind.

Small Ghost is a collection of poems that tell the story of a girl, Small Ghost, who is coping with depression and anxiety. Smal Ghost has an apartment she can’t keep clean. She has shopping she can’t get done. She has emotions she can’t process. Small Ghost struggles to feel real. She wants to get better, but she isn’t sure how. She isn’t even sure exactly what is wrong. She is sad, but she is also kind of funny, kind of cute, and deep down, maybe a little hopeful.

she does something close to pacing in the fruit juice aisle
starts crying next to the cranberry concentrate
doesn’t remember why

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

Throughout the story, you will recognize a lot of Small Ghost’s feelings and predicaments as your own. You’ll remember all the times you felt lost and alone, and you will cheer for Small Ghost. You will want to hug her and tell her it will be okay and by the end, you will realize you want to do that for yourself too. You won’t feel so lost or alone because Mateer will have you feeling hope for yourself too.

for anybody who feels like they’d rather
pull the sheet over their head and play dead
than get out of bed in the morning

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

***

So yeah, I have a newsletter. Sign up, k? :)

Ask For Help, and Keep on Asking Until You Get It

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday is a bit stressful, but I am proud of myself for keeping a cool head. My driver showed up half an hour late, which means not only were we late picking up our kids, and the parent was mad, but everything else I had to do today has been pushed back too. I am doing my best to catch up, but I fear it may be a lost cause. I’ll be late to everything until lunch.

“It’s never overreacting to ask for what you want and need.”

— Amy Poehler

My childhood wasn’t a particularly good one, and I have grown into an adult who struggles with depression and anxiety, and more specifically issues with boundaries, trust, and relationships of all kinds.

I do not like to be close to people, emotionally or physically. I fear there is always an ulterior motive, even with friends and family. I have a perpetually feeling of embarrassment and confusion around social norms and etiquette. I feel ashamed and afraid most of the time, and I am sad nearly all of the time. I suffer from panic attacks and bouts of depression, flashing rage, and uncontrollable crying. In my own mind, I am worthless, weak, ugly, dirty, and pathetic. I am a failure and a waste of space.

Some days I feel like I am swimming upstream and close to drowning. Some days just getting out of bed, and putting one foot in front of the other is the very best I can do.

There have been days where I wondered whether it might be better for everyone if I were to never wake up again.

I’ve had some therapy, but for most of my life I couldn’t afford it, so I’ve taken the unsure and unstable route of “self-help.” I have improved a lot through self-awareness, honesty, and forgiveness. I still think all the things I always have, but now I recognize them for what they are, symptoms of my past.

 

Getting there has been a lot of hard work, but it all started with one very small, but very big, step. Simply telling myself, and everyone around me, exactly what I needed.

I may need to be heard, be hugged, or be left alone. I may need to hear that I am understood, forgiven, and loved. Maybe need to be told what I am feeling is okay and I may need to be given the space to feel it. Maybe I need someone to hold my hand. I might need to gather my thoughts, to get away, to figure out how I feel. I might need to feel needed. I might just need food, medication, or water.

I might need help, and that is okay.

We live in a society that tells us to be strong we must hold our own. We are told that needed help is weakness and asking for help is something to feel shame for. It is so deeply a part of who we are now, especially as Americans, that I still have trouble asking for help and I still have thought that those who asked were weak. It’s a lesson I have to keep learning, and I wish more of us were learning it too.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. You have found it in yourself to reach out toward another human being and trust them to hear you and help you. It’s scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Each of us would love to help a friend who needed us and each of us would love to be helped too. To feel needed, understood, and cared for are all feelings we are looking for, no matter what our mental health status. We crave that closeness, and long to be that vulnerable.

Being open about my needs, and asking for help, helped me build relationships and learn to trust. It helped me recognize the ways I was hurting myself by not getting what I needed and allowed others to feel close to me and show their love. It gave me a chance to feel in control of my mental state. It gave me the chance to learn to cope and to heal. Asking for help opened to door for me to be able to do everything else I needed to do to get to where I am: happier, healthier, and functioning. I could never have made it this far with the help of others. None of us can.

This week, tell yourself, and a few people you trust, what you need.

There is a lot more to healing and coping with mental illness, but it all starts with the act of openness and asking. Ask for help, ask for what you need, and keep on asking until you get it, and then ask again whenever the need arises. Offer help when you can and let everyone you know hear that it is okay to do the same.

The world needs so much more of that.

***

If you like this post, consider signing up for my newsletter :)

Featured image via Unsplash

 

Let People Know Where You Are, Emotionally

Hello and happy Monday dear readers! Welcome to the beginning of another work week. For most people, including me, Mondays are rough. It’s not easy to get back on track after a couple of days lounging in the sun and staying up late. Yeah, we’ll miss the weekend, but let’s not write off Monday just yet. Let’s try to see it differently.

You might feel sad and disappointed, but that’s no way to live. Instead, let’s try something new. Let’s think of Mondays, not as the first of five miserable days but the first of five days we get to make all the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world around us. Mondays are a new chance to get it right.

My Monday is off to a rocky start, as my Mondays usually are. I’m not too mad about it, though. I’m on an easy schedule this week just before I go on an even easier schedule next week.

This past weekend I was happy to see the hashtag #MyDepressionLooksLike trending on Twitter. Social media isn’t always for sharing pictures of your lunch and trolling. Sometimes you can find a community who understands what you are feeling or can offer advice to get you through your tough times.

I have struggled with depression on and off my whole life. I sometimes think it never really goes away, there are just times when I feel better and times when I don’t. No matter how I am feeling the demands of life never change. I am still expected to get to work, take care of my responsibilities, and conduct myself in a professional and friendly manner. I have always felt like I couldn’t let people know I was struggling because then they would know I was weak.

What if we did tell people how we were feeling? What if we let our coworkers, friends, and family know when we weren’t doing so good? You don’t have to give them your whole life story, just let them know that this week you aren’t in a good place. Let people know when your anxiety was a little worse. Let them know that you’re getting used to new medication. Let them know that the stress is getting to you and you may need a little space.

They may be able to take a little of the load off of you. They may be able to help. If nothing else you could at least stop pretending, even if you couldn’t get a break from life’s demands.

I’ve done this with my coworkers and they’ve offered to help out, let me go home, or to just keep the volume down in the office for me. Of course, I never take them up on any of it, but they do understand why some days I just need put my headphones in and enjoy some personal time while I work.

Never once have they made me feel like I am any less a part of the team. Never once have they made me feel weak or whiny. I think if I hadn’t told them what was going on they might think I was lazy or mean, or both. Or maybe not, that might just be my depression overthinking everything.

Either way, it’s nice to know that the people around me understand that I will have bad days where I can’t make decisions or complete tasks as well as I normally do. They know I may not be as social and I may be easily frustrated or irritated. They know the problem isn’t them and they know it isn’t personal.

They know the Lisa who gets shit done and makes the workplace fun to be will be back.

She just needed a little break.

P.S. Hey guys I’m still looking for a few people to check out my Spring Writing Contest entry, It’s Never Too Late, on the Writing Cooperative. Please read it, hit like if you feel I’ve earned it, and leave a note letting me know what you think. Thanks a bunch!

Featured image via Harsha K R

 

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This weeks Writer’s Quote Wednesday is dedicated to Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I read her (very) short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, earlier this week, and man, was that a good story! It’s written as a series of journal entries from a woman who’s husband, a physician, confines her to a house in the country. He believes she suffers from a bit of depression (read: hysteria) and prescribes a quiet life for her with lots of rest and absolutely no stimulation.

She tries to tell him she wants to write, and see family members, and, eventually, to leave the house all together but he assures her that if she would only rest and learn to control herself she would get better. Instead of getting better she slowly becomes obsessed with the ugly yellow wallpaper in their bedroom and loses her mind.

The work is considered a great piece of feminist literature. It highlights the views and treatment of woman’s mental health issues in the 19th century. I also think it reads as an amazing horror story. I mean it really gave me the creeps!* I highly recommend it for EVERYONE but especially for woman and especially, especially for women suffering from any sort of mental illness. I think we all could relate to it on some level and if not it is just plain entertaining. After you read it look up the writer too. This story was an exaggeration of her own experiences with mental illness.

“But I MUST say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!
But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.”

― Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper

I picked the quote from the part of the story when the main character is really starting to lose it. She has been secretly keeping a journal because her husband forbids her to write. It seems to me that she has a great need to say something but the isolation and the lack of stimulation are making something that she once found enjoyable quite tiring. Still though, she keeps on writing. It seems that nothing could take that away from her in the end.

I liked the quote because I have had my own struggles with mental illness in the past. There were times when things were getting really bad and I felt like I was going crazy. Writing helped me work out my feelings and get a better perspective. I will occasionally read over these old journal entries and I have the same tone of “I have to write, I have to say something, but oh the writing is hard”.

Or maybe it wasn’t writing that was hard. Maybe it is the way writing forces you to face your illness and move either out of it or further into it. Maybe it is only what the writing does to a mind already strained that tires us…But still we MUST say what we feel and think in some way right? Even when the effort has become greater than the relief, we must continue on.

*Pun intended but you won’t get it unless you read the book :)